If I ever found myself in a car as the hour approached noon, I would surely be scanning the AM radio dial hoping to find the right station in time for the oaken voice of Paul Harvey saying, “Hello, America, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news.”
You could practically hear the italics when Harvey said news, which is appropriate since Paul Harvey news wasn’t really news in the conventional sense. Or the contemporary sense. I don’t personally know if there was a time Paul Harvey seemed contemporary. By the time I became aware of him in the late eighties, he’d already been on the air for decades. And he’d continue well into the twenty-first century.
For me what Harvey offered was a voice from the distant radio past. Since I was usually driving when I listened I didn’t actually do this, but I imagined if I closed my eyes I could picture myself tooling about some back country highway in dust bowl era Oklahoma, the reception crackling with each bounce on a washboard road surface, sweat soaking into my detachable starched white collar.
I suppose that was his gift, creating those word pictures, and nostalgic longing. Longing for a time and place that may or may not have been part of your personal experience, or, in fact, may or may not have ever existed at all.
Forgive me for appropriating Harvey’s “Page Two” transition to commercial content. It was always a good heads up, because his live read commercials usually had the same narrative structure as his news. Instead of learning about some couple in some small town somewhere celebrating “75 years on their way to forever together,” some other couple in some other small town would be delighting in the quality offered by the Bunn (b-u-n-n) coffee maker. It’s possible they were the same couple. At least it seemed like the Bunn (b-u-n-n) coffee maker would definitely add to marital longevity and a wholesome life. So too the Wahl (w-a-h-l) electric razor, and the magic music box from Bose (b-o-s-e).
So, here, with a voice appropriately enough sounding as though from beyond the grave, is the late Paul Harvey’s most recent, the Dodge Truck ad that’s among many people’s Superbowl ad favorites:
If you watched this, I hope you’ll understand, that despite my nit-picking above, really despite myself, I can’t help but love Paul Harvey.
I mean, even as I think about it rationally (On the eighth day, God created a farmer? How does the honorable toil Harvey describes fit in the lush paradise of the Garden of Eden?) I can’t help but be drawn in to, and buy the narrative. That undeserved inclusion is underscored by the tagline: “To the farmer in all of us.”
I have none of the qualities described in the ad, but I could buy that truck to honor them.
Sometimes, when I’m recording a voice over for a television story I’ll think about Paul Harvey. I’ll wonder just a long a………………………..dramatic pause I can pull off. On how much of a dime can I change my cadence?
And now, when I imagine that long lost Oklahoma highway with the washboard surface, I’ll be driving a Dodge.