"The Professor's Speech" - Historic WW 2 Radio Performance by Enid Professor

July 30, 2017

Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, possesses quite a history avocation. In the course of a fascinating lunch discussion at Kamps 1910 Cafe, he enhanced our growing repository of remarkable Oklahoma-related World War 2 stories that will grace that chapter in our upcoming OKLAHOMANS 2 book. Following is the story, as related by Pastor Wade.

Darkness is all around England on December 25, 1939. The citizens of the British Empire are immersed in another world war, a few months before the events depicted in Christopher Nolan's new film epic DUNKIRK. Amid the gloom, King George VI resurrects The King's Christmas Message to all inhabitants of the vast Empire. He first spoke to England via radio in his famous talk "The King's Speech" just 15 weeks earlier (September 3, 1939), as he declared war on Germany. Now, during this Christmas Day speech of 1939, the king says that the Empire shall remain undaunted in the face of war in a speech that would become almost as famous as his earlier one. King George VI, not usually a compelling speaker, inspires and reassures his people by quoting a poem: "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way. May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.'"

King George VI's legendary wartime 1939 King's Christmas Message radio broadcast.

Just the day before, Christmas Eve 1939, the same radio stations in London aired a short wave radio broadcast from Enid, Oklahoma. Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" was dramatically read for that town's citizens by Earl W. Oberg, Professor of Expression and Dramatic Art at Phillips University, in the university's auditorium. It was Oberg's 500th time to perform "A Christmas Carol" publicly since 1919 in various places around the world. In honor of the occassion, the Mutual Broadcasting Radio Network broadcast Oberg's "A Christmas Carol" live coast-to-coast in the United States. Mutual then transmitted the performance via short wave radio to London, England, where radio stations broadcast it throughout London, drawing listeners that included the Royal Family and Sir Winston Churchill. Professor Oberg’s reading of  Dickens' classic had been acclaimed as one of the best in the world. 

The original 33 RPM album cover of Enid-based Phillips University Professor Earl Oberg's remarkable, internationally-broadcast World War 2 radio performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

A decade later, in December, 1949, the largest recording company in America released a set of five double records which took nearly a year to produce. These records, now rare, contain Oberg's reading of "A Christmas Carol." His friend, musician Ken Wright, a radio organist in Enid, wrote original music for the album. The last musical piece was the traditional “Adesta Findeles" ("O Come All Ye Faithful"). 

 

As a gift to our community and the state of Oklahoma, Emmanuel Baptist Church of Enid is digitally remastering this classic and offering it on the Internet for free so that Oklahomans, as well as citizens of America and Great Britain, can enjoy this timeless classic during the 2017 Christmas holiday season. We are currently doing our due diligence on all copyright restrictions. Utilizing Associated Press newspaper articles and several independent U.S. newspaper articles that featured stories on the broadcast, I've crafted a biography of Professor Oberg that will accompany his radio drama. 

 

How remarkable that a couple of fellows from a small town in Oklahoma shared the radio airwaves with King George during the dramatic Christmas season of 1939.

 

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