Archive for The Radio Program

Polio’s Last Gasp – The Iron Lung


Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century.  It left its victims profoundly weak, often to the point of paralysis and unable to breathe on their own.Listen to Stitcher

And during the 1950s, epidemics were common, mostly during the summer months.  In 1952, 58,000 cases were reported, mostly young children.

That same year, Dr. Jonas Salk reported a vaccine developed in his laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh had successfully stopped the polio virus.

Three years later, millions of children had been immunized and polio epidemics stopped, one of the greatest public health accomplishments ever.

But not every child got immunized and a few contracted the disease despite being vaccinated.

In many of those unfortunate cases, the only way the patient could breathe was by using an “Iron Lung.”

The “Iron Lung” was a cylindrical steel drum, weighing several hundred pounds, with a door at one end that would allow a person’s head and neck to remain free after the door was closed.

The Iron Lung would enclose the rest of the person’s body in a sealed, air-tight compartment.  Pumps would then control the air pressure inside the chamber, mimicking the action of breathing.prx-logo-B (2)

Martha Lillard is one of the very few remaining polio victims who depend on an Iron Lung.  That means she lives with the constant anxiety of mechanical failures or power outages.

Few stories are more compelling than what she has endured for over 60 years.  Give it a listen and tell me what you think.

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Ghost Stories


Halloween will be here sooner than later.  And it’s one of my favorite holidays.Listen to Stitcher

Nothing is better than haunted houses, ghoulish goblins and ghost stories.

Here are some short but very scary ghost stories to get you in the holiday spirit.

First up is a prank hatched in 1952 that works far better than expected.  That’s real panic you hear in the reporter’s voice.

After that is the story of how a young girl – she was 8 at the time – was scared by what she thought she saw and heard.  But doesn’t every child get scared by something while they’re growing up?  That might be true for this story but listen to the details she describes.  Could this be something more than a bad dream?

If you want more, there’s a cat story that comes next.  It’s the story of two people who were taunted by their cat while it was alive.  So, is it a surprise that they’re haunted by this cat when it’s dead?

Last but not least is the story of a plain, ordinary door that squeaks.  It’s the door to the pantry.  And why can’t it stop squeaking?  You’ll find out.

And don’t worry, there are more Halloween surprises coming your way.  Public Radio Exchange

And it’s all right to hide under the covers if it helps you listen to these stories.

How much did you put in my Brownies?


Oregon’s voters have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

And starting July 1, Oregonians can do that subject to some limitations and rules that most people don’t understand or may or may not be enforced.

The question we’re asking is how can – or should – marijuana be used?

The short answer most people give is, “Well, you smoke it, of course!”

But that may not be the best or most complete answer.

How about adding marijuana to your favorite recipe?  What would that do for your brownies?

But how much to add?  What’s the right amount?  Too little and there’s no buzz.  Too much and who knows what might happen.

And what do we know about the potency of the various types of marijuana that you could add to your brownies?  Is there some sort of “calorie-count” that will tell me how much – or how little – to add?  Are these potency tests accurate and reliable?

Mid-Term Exam Review (2)The very talented folks at WNYC in New York City tried to answer these questions in this program’s podcast.  Don’t miss it.  It’s funny, serious and informative.  Thank you very much to WNYC for letting us use this piece.

After you hear it, banana cream pies will never be the same again.

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We’re off for Woodstock. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.


For three days in August of 1969, a dairy farm in upstate New York hosted a festival that would become one of the most memorable times in music history.

It was called “Woodstock” but the town of Woodstock, New York, is sixty miles away.  The organizers tried to stage it in Woodstock.  But the town wouldn’t give them a permit.

When they approached the mayor of Bethel, New York, they told him that only about 50,000 people were expected.  They actually thought about 200,000 would show up.  Eventually, over 500,000 people came.

And the festival was a financial disaster.  The organizers lost nearly $1.4 million and had to settle several lawsuits with neighbors upset over the trespassing and other “activities” that went on.  Fortunately, movie and recording rights eventually produced enough money to pay all of Wookstock’s expenses.

Despite what Arlo Gutherie said on stage, the New York State Throughway never closed.  Traffic was a mess and several exits were closed for awhile, but the Throughway itself didn’t close.

It rained during the festival and turned it into a muddy mess and the sanitation facilities were overwhelmed but there were no fights or violence.

Public Radio ExchangeThere have been reports that two births happened during the festival but no one has ever claimed to be a “Woodstock Baby.”  As you can imagine, lots of people claim to have been conceived during Woodstock.

We’re off for Woodstock.  We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

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Three Commencement Speeches You Won’t Forget


In case the commencement speech you gave or heard didn’t inspire you or your audience.  Or worse yet, you can’t remember who was the speaker or even what they were talking about.

Commencement, or graduation if you prefer, is a significant milestone that deserves a good speech.  Most speeches don’t measure up and probably should be forgotten.

But here are three commencement speeches you won’t forget.  And they’re speeches you will want to pay attention to or, even better, listen to more than once.

Here’s who speaking and when they start if you want to hear only one or two of them or don’t want to listen to all three consecutively.

  • Robert DeNiro (didn’t graduate from High School but has done all right anyway) – 4:40
  • Admiral William McRaven, former Commander of US Navy Special Forces and now the Chancellor of the University of Texas system (don’t miss learning what it means to be a “Sugar Cookie”) – 22:26
  • Steve Jobs, Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Inspirational Genius of Apple, speaking to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford.  Jobs tells us that his cancer has been cured, but I think he knows that it hasn’t.  If you want to know what should be a well-lived life, listen to this – 46:06

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