Just Plain Bill, radio humor by Murray Morgan

Here’s a little humorous puzzle. Among the reels of audio tapes made by historian Murray Morgan is this short, obviously satirical mock radio drama that is set in the 1890’s but almost certainly is poking fun and 1950’s and 60’s relations between Seattle and Tacoma. The names and events are the clues along with the political era of the Rossellini hearings, Slim Rasmussen and civic graft in both cities. So what am I missing in terms of hidden characters, witty comments and Morgan’s inimitable sense of humor?

Murray Morgan worked for KMO radio in Tacoma for decades and was a familiar voice on the radio during a time when Tacoma was both prosperous and corrupt. Murray was the perfect witness to it all with his sometimes cynical perspective but always generous attitude toward his home town. Among Murray’s papers at the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room are his personal collection of magnetic recordings on reels, an audio scrapbook of his work on the radio and his love of the spoken word. Lane Morgan, Murray and Rosa’s daughter, thoughtfully saw to it that the recordings went to the Northwest Room and an effort has been underway to transfer them to digital form before the increasingly brittle tapes are unplayable. This funny little gag is a sample.

I think Murray and Rosa would appreciate the similarity between the audio tapes and the Northwest Room itself. In one sense, they speak for themselves over time telling us our own stories and reminding us of the events and ideas that shape our present and future. But like the brittle tapes, the Northwest Room needs our attentions and upkeep or someday it will be too fragile and inaccessible to be used. But enough of this mirthless commercial about watching what the City Council does in the coming library budget, on with the radio program and the inside jokes.

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