Remembering A Milkman
Monday, August 14, 1939
Milkman Stan Shaw
Dunkers in all-night coffee pots and diners, cabbies dozing on the late-trick hack lines, night watchmen, charwomen, belated motorists, bakers, lighthouse keepers, lobster-trick pressmen, the boys in the bars and all the other sun dodgers standing the great night watch in Manhattan and all along the eastern seaboard have one companion that never goes to sleep on them. That cheerful stayer-up is WNEW’s Milkman’s Matinee, a 2-to-7 A.M. program of requested recordings, small-fry commercials and chummy gab conducted six mornings a week by a young announcer with a haberdasher’s voice named Stan Shaw, “your very good friend, the Milkman.”
In a studio perched high above Madison Avenue, Stan Shaw, with an engineer and an assistant, stands watch over two turntables, a microphone, 10,000 records and two telegraph receiving machines. He gets anywhere from 150 to 250 request telegrams each morning. Most come from Manhattan’s metropolitan area, but some regulars click in from far-away Florida and Ohio. Once Walter Winchell, whose favorite selection is Star Dust, sent Stan a 794-word telegram. One mysterious regular, Little Caesar, has sent as many as 20 telegrams in one morning, usually hailing Stan with “Hiya Skipper” and requesting selections to be dedicated to “Gloria, who is as sweet as the days are long.” Stan reads them all, palavers to the regulars like an old school chum, has time for about 100 recordings a program.
Last week the Milkman’s Matinee was four years old and far & away the most successful of U. S. late-trick radio programs. Since most radio men believe that the hours after 11 p. m. are poor sales time, few U. S. stations run a 24-hour schedule. Of these few, WNEW, with its very good friend, the Milkman, has conclusively proved that the after-midnight audience are spenders. Last year 40,000 of them telegraphed requests, at a minimum of 20¢ a wire.
Stan Shaw’s sponsors now number eleven, have been as many as 14. They and the studio net him between $7,500 and $10,000 a year. In his first year he broadcast ten chop-licking plugs a night to the lunchroom circuit for doughnuts and buns made by Fischer Baking Co. Sample “It’s permissible to dunk Fischer’s doughnuts up to the second knuckle.” In that year Fischer’s opened two new branches, added 19 new delivery routes. His first sponsor, in 1935, was Krueger Brewing Co. In 25 days, with no other advertising, the output of Krueger Beer had to be upped 125%.
But the importance of the Milkman’s Matinee during its five small hours can be reckoned in other terms than sales figures and telegraph tolls. One Newark trucking firm has equipped all its trucks with radios, on the theory that Stan keeps night drivers from drowsing. When a murderer last year eluded the New Jersey police and hit for the highways, Stan sounded the alarm between recordings of Mexicali Rose and The Very Thought of You; within 15 minutes a lunchwagon proprietor had the fugitive cornered. Anxious parents like to have Stan broadcast his all-is-forgiven patter to runaways. To date he has brought 17 back.
Stan Shaw is a skinny, jumpy, 31-year-old ex-teacher of psychology and ex-orchestra leader from Kansas City<. He and his aides never hand records back & forth, they throw them. With a great play at keeping everything Grade A on the Milkman’s Matinee, Assistant John Flora prepares pots of refreshing black coffee for all hands, takes over the mike now and then if Stan’s mouth is full. When 7 a. m. rolls around, the crew go out and have dinner; if the weather is right, they ride out to Floyd Bennett Field and hire a plane (all three are licensed pilots). By afternoon, Stan is usually in bed for the day. He gets up in the middle evening, has breakfast at 10 p m. while his wife, Dancer Gloria Garcia, has dinner, usually makes a round of the night clubs until 2 a. m. calls him to his records and turntables.
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Editor’s Note — “Milkman’s Matinee” with Stan Shaw premiered on WNEW Aug. 6, 1935. The show’s time slot was 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Art Ford took over the program in 1942.