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Appeared on radio showHoward Culver (Jun 02. 1918 - Aug 04. 1984)

Red Bearded Howard Culver (1944)

 


Height: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
Sister: Cora Jane Culver (b. 1920)
Marriages
:
(1) Maxine Maude Born 'Miki'  (March 14. 1939 -
      1949) (divorced)
      daughter Pamela Joan (b. Jun 26. 1941)
(2) Lois Hayes (1950 - Aug 4. 1984) (his death)
      daughters: Patti and Kathi Culver (twins)
      (b.Oct 4. 1953 - )

Born as Howard Brasfield Culver Jr. in Larimer County (a rural area near Fort Collins), Colorado. His father Howard Culver was a farmer, his mother was Mabel Eva Ogden. Howard's publicity said that he learned to ride on the family's ranch, but actually the family moved to Pasadena, California while Howard was a tiny tot as Howards's mother didn't cotton to farm life.
Howard and his sister Cora Jane grew up in Pasadena schools, where they both joined a dance group which did exhibition ballroom and adagio dancing. This may have given him the "performing" bug.
 

 

The Culver family moved into Los Angeles where Howard attended Manual Arts High School. He became active in the school theater group, not only acting, but assisting in building sets, and the other many needs of a theater group. He was a popular young man, whose antics kept things lively when he was around. He was in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps for two year while in High School.

At that time, in Los Angeles they observed Boys' Day, when boys from senior classes of the various high schools would "work" for the day in the profession which they were preparing for in school. Howard was chosen with three others to represent the theater department and was invited to have a speaking part that day on a "real" radio show on CBS in Hollywood (KHJ). His deep, mature voice and his professional performance in that small part caused the producer to ask him if he'd like to appear in some more shows for them. To his surprise, the following Sunday he got a call from True Boardman to do a part on the KHJ program, "Annals of the Ages." Howard was thrilled at this possibility and readily agreed.

For about six weeks, he was called once a week for a small part in a CBS show. Then he received a phone call from CBS Payroll Dept wanting to know if he was going to pick up his checks, or should they mail them? Howard was flabbergasted! Checks?? He didn't know he was actually being paid for having fun! Yes - $ 5 per show - a fortune to a young man in 1936.

So Culver worked all summer in radio, planned to start back to school again in the fall. When fall came, he was doing so well he decided to postpone school for another year. By the time that year was ended, the recession had set in and Culver decided that inasmuch as he was firmly established in one career, he'd be silly to drop it, so he's stayed in radio ever since, a decision he's never really regretted.

 

According to Lois Hayes Howard graduated from Manual Arts High School in June 1936. He had entertained thoughts of being a doctor, but college seemed a long way off, as his sister wanted to go to college and it was necessary for him to earn money to help with her college tuition and costs. His father was not well, and it was up to Howard, as the other "man" in the family to go to work. One of his jobs was as the proverbial "night watchman in a mattress factory". He worked there quite awhile, before getting fired for being asleep on the job!

 

In the summer of 1938 Howard worked at Yosemite National Park in the laundry, and met a young lady named Maxine Born from nearby Merced, who was also working there.

 

Howard fell back on his love of radio to earn a living. His first radio station job was at KMTR in Hollywood in 1938 where he had his own half hour show, Happy Dalton's Ranch, for which he wrote, directed, handled sound effects and played the four parts required by the script!  All this five shows per week! He became involved with their news department and they had the first mobile news team, Radio Newsreel, complete with trick and mikes with long, long cords! He became Editor-in-Chief of Radio Newsreel, a subsidiary of KMTR.


On March 14. 1939 he married Maxine Born in Los Angeles.

 

Culver's distinctive baritone and straightforward delivery worked in his favor. Working regularly at KFI, KNX and Don Lee-Mutual both in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

He moved to San Francisco at the beginning of World War II, and he worked as newsman and announcer for Radio Station KFRC (Mutual Network), and did free-lance acting. By this time he was father to baby Pamela Joan (1941). He grew a beard, which was fiery red, and it became his trademark, as few men wore beards at that time.

He was also working nights at a General Electric short wave station which was beaming information to the troops overseas, when he got his "Greeting" from the War Department, and the invitation to join those troops. He joined the Navy in 1944, and went to Boot Camp in San Pedro, CA. Since he was an "older" man, he was put in charge of a group of younger men.

On the numerous papers he had to fill out, he listed "Radio Actor" as his profession in civilian life. True to their colors, the "powers that be" looked at the paper, saw only the word "radio" ,and sent him to radio school to be a radio technician at the Great Lakes Training Center! They could no believe that he almost flunked out, and though he was doing it on purpose! When he graduated from there, he was put on a ship and sent to the Philippines, where he was stationed in he jungles of Luzon for the rest of the war. He earned medals for Philippine Liberation, Asiatic Pacific, American Area, Victory Medal, and was Honorably discharged February 1946.

After the war this experience aided him to quickly continue his career in both Radio, as well as early Television. 


The 1944 serial  "Lady of the Press," told the adventures of a girl reporter and her pals of the press, starring Janet Waldo, Eddie Mare and Howard Culver.

Culver made many appearances in Strange Wills (1946), All-Star Western Theatre (1947), Mystery in The Air (1947). Juvenile adventure fans will also recognize Howard Culver from his role as the announcer in the Chandu The Magician (1948) radio series.
In April-May 1948 Howard became the last actor to play Ellery Queen in the US radio series. Jokingly he later his told his daughters he 'killed" Ellery Queen.

Howard Culver (R) and his wife Mimi (L) going over some photographs (1947)Howard with daughter Pamela showing her some modelling in clay (1947)

For busy actors such as Howard, each day was a challenge. Each show was in a different building, perhaps different parts of town, and it was necessary to rush out from one show, race madly to the next site, run up or down stairs, and appear, out of breath, just in time to pick up his script and calmly speak his first words in the next show. 

 

He also took Civil Aeronautics training in his spare time, and got his Pilot's License for Single Engine Planes, and enjoyed flying as a hobby. He also was an ardent hobbyist: modeled in clay, wrote, photographed, did woodwork, interior decorating, collected knives, hunted and camped.

 

Howard and Maxine ('Miki') were divorced in 1949, after having been separated for several years. He soon after met Lois Hayes, who from 1940-44 worked in radio at small station KWLK in Washington, (jack of all trades), and also was National Traffic Manager at Radio Station KFI in Los Angeles, a station where broadcast many of the NBC radio shows.

 

Howard also had a nightly poetry show of KFI, where he read poetry and Robert Mitchell played the organ. He had begun doing this show in San Francisco, and was asked to reprise it in Los Angeles. Called at first "Stairway to the Stars", it later became "A Joy Forever", from the line of the Keats poem, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," and it was one of his favorite projects.


On Jul 15, 1949, Mr. Culver auditioned for the radio version of Gunsmoke, and the lead role as Marshal Mark Dillon. He might have become famous in the role were it not for the fact that he was also playing Steve Adams—the secret identity of the Indian known as Straight Arrow—on the popular Mutual radio adventure that ran from 1948 to 1951. Culver was selected for the title lead. In the juvenile adventure of a Comanche impersonating a white man who wore Indian regalia as he crusaded for justice in the old West he used his regular voice for Steve Adams and then lowered it for Straight Arrow. At the time, he had a small goatee, which would be later be shaved off before his first personal appearance as Straight Arrow. Frank Bingman was hired as the announcer. Bingman was surprised to find out that Culver occupied his spare time at the studio by knitting. While on the Joan Davis Show, Verna Felton had taught Bingman to knit, but he was a "closet knitter," since he was embarrassed to knit in front of other men. "Well, I don't give a damn what they say!", Culver told Bingman, sounding very unlike Straight Arrow. Thereafter, they both knitted in the studio, and later these two buddies donated their time at local military hospitals, teaching wounded vets to knit.

Howard Culver in costume for his radio role of Straight Arrow for a parade.Gangbuster episode called The Unholy Three (1952) with Howard Culver as bartender.

Culver’s contract stipulated that he couldn’t do any other western while performing on Straight Arrow and so he missed out on the opportunity to be “the first man they look for, and the last they want to meet.” in Gunsmoke. The show wasn't aired that year, but in 1952, William Conrad played the part of Marshal Matt Dillon in the extremely successful series. Some years later, the TV series Gunsmoke appeared. Culver was given a job in the TV version that extended through the entire duration of that series. He played ... the desk clerk (Howie Uzzell) at the Dodge House.

       A wedding picture of Howard Culver and Lois Hayes (Courtesy of Katherine and Patricia Culver)
                                               (Picture courtesy of Katherine and Patricia Culver)

Here is a picture of Lois, as she is carried into Ray Kemper's sound stage by her new husband, Howard Culver, in 1950.In 1950 shortly after being chosen to play the dual lead in "The Straight Arrow" he married Lois Hayes. This show ran three days a week, then five days a week, and was sponsored by Nabisco Shredded Wheat. It enabled Howard and Lois to buy their first home in Sun Valley, California.

Television had slowly crept into the scene, and Howard made his first TV appearance in 1949 on KHJ-TV in a local dramatic series. From there one, he was busy with such shows as  Dragnet, Mr. District Attorney, Perry Mason, Zane Grey Theater, Defense Attorney (with Mercedes McCambridge), 77 Sunset Strip, Death Valley Days, Untouchables, Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Adam-12, The Brady Bunch, Marcus Welby, M.D. , Mannix, Hawaii 5-0, General Hospital, Chips, Barnaby Jones, Eight is Enough, & Hart to Hart, among others.

In the Los Angeles area, there are many unincorporated cities , many of which have Honorary Officials from the entertainment world, who officiate at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, community appearances, and the like. Howard was elected Honorary Mayor of Sun Valley, the town in which he lived, in 1954. Follow a year of these duties, he begged off the following year, but was elected Honorary Sheriff, which did not consume so much of his time.

During this time, Howard was suffering loss of hearing in both ears. He and Lois bought a hobby shop in Montebello, CA. hoping to have something to fall back on if the hearing gave out. The hobby shop had been owned by friend and "Straight Arrow" announcer Frank Bingman. They owned and operated the show for seven years. Howard was a natural "fixer", and was very successful in the hobby business. In the meantime, three ear operations restored his hearing.

Culver as Dr. Bill Hawley in Perry Mason's 'Case of The Crimson Kiss' (1957)The Jury Foreman (Culver) in Shadow Play (1961) an episode from the legendary The Twilight Zone series

In 1963, Howard joined the news staff of Radio Station KLAC in Los Angeles, and in 1969 he became news editor for Radio Station KGIL in the San Fernando Valley, where his close friend Frank Bingham was also working. All the while, he was working TV shows, doing voice-overs, narrations, and movies, which included Disney's The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Barefoot Executive, and Million Dollar Duck, as well as Shampoo, Bad News Bears, Cattle Drive, Halloween II.

The reporter in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's  'Man of Many Faces' (1967) was played by Howard CulverCulver was given a job in the TV version that extended through the entire duration of that series. He played ... the desk clerk (Howie Uzzell) at the Dodge House, seen here in an Gunsmoke episode from 1974 called The Fourth Victim

Culver seemed even more in demand as a character actor the more he matured. He retired in 1980, and only acted in a few pictures and TV shows which offered parts which he found interesting. This gave him time to do more stage plays in the local community theaters in the San Gabriel Valley, and he dedicated much time to reading and recording books for "Reading for the Blind" in Hollywood.

    In the popular TV-series Chips one 1980 episode 'The Strippers' had Howard playing an auctioneerIn an episode from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century called 'The Guardians' (1981), Howard played a mailman

He and his wife were just completing a 3-week tour of China, when, on their way home he contracted a respiratory illness, and died in Hong Kong after a week's illness, in August 1984.

Lois, Howard Culver's widow, remained active in the OTR community as actress/historian. She passed on, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2011
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References
(1) Wikipedia

(2) IMDb
(3) The Digital Deli Too

(4) Oldtimeradiodownloads
(5) Patti & Kathi Culver
(6) Lois Hayes, biography of Howard (Courtesy of Katherine and Patricia
     Culver)

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Gunsmoke - Audition Episode with Howard Culver (July 13, 1949)
Page first published on May 21. 2017 
Last updated May 1, 201
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