By Bob Burnham
One of my best friends in both broadcast engineering AND “old-time” radio was H. Edgar “Ed” Cole then of Lakeland, Florida. Barely in his 50s, Ed passed away just a week after the 9/11 tragedy, apparently due to alcohol-induced multiple organ failure and other health problems.
Ed worked for many years in central Florida as a broadcast engineer and later did many odd jobs as a cab dispatcher and for that matter, cab driver, until he found less dangerous work tapping into his technical and computer skills.
Like myself, Ed was an old-time radio dealer and traded extensively and had many complete runs of more “recent” shows such as the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, Sears Radio Theater, etc. I never got a complete “set” from Ed – just a few samples.
One year, Ed and I as a team, worked to record the Friends of Old Time Radio convention in Newark NJ… or reel to reel tapes!
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I visited Ed more than once at his Lakeland apartment and we would always talk radio, equipment, and broadcast engineering almost until morning. In terms of a raw technical theory, Ed could run circles around me, but I had practical hands-on experience. Together we could design, build, program and maintain a broadcast station from the first bolt to flipping the PLATE switch on the transmitter. Ed had a collection of Mitch Miller albums (i.e. vinyl!) that he would have loved to air if given the chance.
Although he also had "On-Air" experience, he also held an FCC First Class “ticket” which had been updated to a “General” class license -- something that had been discontinued by the time I was ready to take the test myself. He introduced me to some of his engineering friends in Florida – some of the sharpest people in the business – and we all contributed to each others knowledge and experience in the biz.
When people ask how I learned what I know about radio – both past and present – and both the technical and programming aspects, I recall only a few select people like Ed that make up the foundation of people I have been lucky enough to work with.
Ed Cole had nothing but a deep-rooted passion for fine-quality sound and what it took to achieve it both at home and at a broadcast station. He had a CD player and a “hi-fi” video deck when that type of equipment was still expensive.
Ed was also one of the contributing writers to the books I published mostly in the mid 1980s, “A Technical Guide to Old Time Radio.”
(Thank you Friends of Old-Time Radio for the Allen Rockford Award in ’84)
Ed and I also briefly co-published a techie trade publication “Radio Forum Newsletter” for the broadcast industry, specifically for engineers. Engineers are not used to paying for anything, however, and it never really went anywhere, but we learned and had fun in the process.
Ed had stacks of old Radio World newspapers (a trade publication), and in was in Ed’s stacks that I had first heard of and read the early columns of the Barry Mishkind “the Eclectic Engineer.” Barry (who is now former Radio Guide editor), has an ambitious project , The Broadcasters Desktop Resource www.thebdr.net that is drawing growing attention of those of us out in the trenches. You could say in a sense, Ed introduced me to Barry.
Barry IMHO remains one the finest broadcast journalists in the industry today. My best written stuff came through Barry’s guidance, encouragement and expert editing. It’s kind of an indirect and vague connection to Ed Cole, but it’s there, nonetheless, at least in my mind.
Thank you Ed Cole (belatedly) for sharing everything you shared with me.