Wednesday, March 06, 2024

101 Reload- regarding Ron Ashburn (originally posted in December 2008)...

 101 received a lot of info regarding Ron Ashburn, the Ktown news anchor staple for decades. We hear from Your Dave, Bill Beason, and Sir Bernard~

"Hey Greek. To SS who asks about Ron Ashburn here is the story. Ron was from Kansas where he attended the University of Kansas. At the end of WW II, Ron was discharged from the U.S. Army and arrived in NYC. His goal was to work in New York possibly on Broadway, in an agency or for a network. He applied at all the networks and was told there were no openings at the time. At CBS, Ron was well received and was told about an opening in Knoxville at WNOX. At that time there was auditions for a national account at an ad agency. Not knowing who the client was, nor the pay, Ron auditioned for the read. It was a short read only 4 words, but, those 4 words are probably the most famous in advertising history. For his work, Ron received $50.00 and a carton of the product. The last line of the commercial.... Pell Mell famous cigarettes, "Outstanding", AND THEY ARE MILD". Ron arrived at WNOX in the late 40's where he remained until he retired in the 80's. He had a sweet delivery and nothing you could do would shake him up while on the air." (Dave Young)

"Hey 101! I remember Ron Ashburn! He was a very professional newsman that serviced in the Pacific Theatre covering World War 2. After the war, Ron worked for United Press International before moving back to Knoxville and becoming a newsman for WNOX. Mr. Ashburn's famous tag line; "And they are mild" was for Pall Mall cigarettes. Someone else spoke the word "Outstanding" which proceeded Ron's statement to make the complete tag line; "Outstanding! And they are mild". For his part, Ashburn was given a carton of Pall Mall a week for life. As far as working with Ron Ashburn, I considered it an honor! He never failed to meet me in the hall or come into the control room to say hello or ask how my day was going. If Ron liked you he would do anything for you. One day while I was serving as interim PD at WNOX, Ron got word that a new Program Director had been hired and he got upset that I would be fired. He went to then GM Pete Dryer and told him he would leave if I was fired. When I was let go, along with Dryer, Ron retired several months later. I lost touch with him when I went to Nashville and have often wondered what became of him. Ron Ashburn was a great newsman and I often think of his professionalism and warm personality." (Bill Beason aka Buzz Dailey)

"Hi, it's 'Sir' Bernard or plain old Bernie Quayle as I am nowadays. SS asked if anyone had memories of Ron Ashburn, I certainly do. I was doing the breakfast show on WNOX one Saturday morning, I think it was 1970. Ron Ashburn was the duty newsman. Like every Saturday we were expected to test the Emergency Broadcast System. A simple procedure that went like clockwork - except this morning. Ron came into the studio, the colour drained from his face, his hands were shaking as he asked me to hand over to him. I could not believe what happened next. The message was so grave, I truly believed World War 3 had started. NORAD had once before detected what it believed to be missiles headed towards America but they did not alert the population at that time - we were now on full alert. I've reproduced part of the text from the Knoxville Sentinel the day after the event. It was almost as if they had a war and nobody came. Only it wasn't a war. It was a mistake on the part of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), at Colorado Springs. Instead of the regular test message NORAD sends broadcasting stations across the nation every Saturday morning, NORAD sent the real thing. "This is an emergency action notification directed by the President. Normal broadcasting will cease immediately. Only stations holding NDEA (National Defense Emergency Alert; may stay on the air. WNOX was the NDEA station for the area, the one that stays on the air to broadcast at such times and is what I had to broadcast: "The President of the United States has directed that we interrupt our normal program. This is the Emergency Broadcast system; Normal broadcasting has been discontinued for an indefinite period during an emergency action condition. This station WILL continue broadcasting to furnish news, official information and instructions." I can tell you that until the correction came half an hour later, Ron and I were quaking in our boots. The most amazing thing was that all the other stations seemed to have either not noticed or ignored the alert. As SS stated, Ron's news delivery was awesome." (Sir Bernard)