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Friday, November 25, 2011

Small Town or Big City Life?

On Thursday, December 26th, 1946, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., the American Broadcasting Company presented an episode of America's Town Meeting of the Air from TV station WRGB (GE) in Schenectady, New York entitled "Would You Rather Live in a Small Town or a Big City?" This debate, moderated by George V. Denny, featured Granville Hicks of the Town of Grafton who authored Small Town. Other participants were Charles Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend and The Fall of Valour, and Reagon (Tex) McCrary, radio commentator and his wife Jinx Falkenburg.

This 15 minute clip (cut from the full hour broadcast), includes Granville Hicks's "argument" on the virtues of small town life. The first four minutes of the clip provide an interesting trip back to the pioneering days of TV as the announcer states "We are experimenting with a new type of production designed to bring you the images, as well as the voices, of the participants in our nationwide town meeting.... this 454th session of America's most popular radio forum will be witnessed by several thousand owners of television sets...." The moderator then states "Let's hear first from Granville Hicks, resident of Grafton, New York, population 850,* author of a celebrated new book called Small Town."

America's Town Meeting of the Air was a public affairs discussion program broadcast from 1935 to 1956 mainly on the NBC Blue Network and its successor ABC Radio. It was one of radio's first talk shows and was originally an experiment with no expectations of longevity. The program became extremely popular. The studio audience was encouraged to express their feelings, booing, hissing or clapping as the mood struck them. This episode, unlike most, was broadcast on television rather than radio.

A Life Magazine article, "City vs. Country," in the March 17, 1947 issue provides a report on this debate and includes photos of the Town of Grafton at that time.

*The 2010 population of Grafton was 2,130.