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Parks Johnson (at right) in New York, July 1935, at the beginning of the VOX POP program on national NBC network radio. PHOTO via HAYS COUNTY HISTORICAL COMMISSION



SUBMITTED REPORT

Next week, the Hays County Historical Commission will screen its newest documentary, Vox Pop: The Story of Parks Johnson.

The event, free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m., Nov. 10, at the Price Seniors Center. The center is at 222 West San Antonio Street in San Marcos.

Parks Johnson pioneered the man-on-the-street and audience-participation style of radio programming that became so popular across the nation in the 1930’s. Johnson began his VOX POP (which means “voice of the people”) at Houston’s KTRH radio station in 1932. Three years later, the program was picked up by the national NBC radio network, taking the Johnsons to New York City.

Using early recordings of the show as well as photographs, the documentary traces the history of VOX POP, including some original recordings of the program. Nine interviews were completed around the country with people associated with the show or with early radio; four of the interviews took place at the Library of American Broadcasting in Maryland. Excerpts from a rescued interview with Parks and his wife, Louise, from 1958 is also featured in the program.

After his success in radio, Johnson moved to Wimberley, where he and his wife, Louise, spent the next 20 years working with the Wimberley community. Their son, Bill Johnson, and his wife, M.F., still reside at the family’s Sabino Ranch; Bill is among those who were interviewed for the documentary.

Directed by Richard Kidd and produced by HCHC chairperson Kate Johnson, the documentary runs just over an hour. DVD copies of the program are available for purchase.

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