Like many others in Connecticut and beyond I was saddened and shocked to hear of the sudden death of former WTIC broadcaster Arnold Dean. Hearing the news was one of those times that makes you stop and think and realize that bit by bit, day by day what you grew up with and have fond memories of is fading into the past. Like many folks in New England I grew up listening to WTIC radio and its personalities. Bob Steele’s voice was always one of the first things I heard when I came down stairs in the morning to get breakfast before school. The radio was always on in the background at my parents house. That tradition lives on today. It’s on before work while I eat, during dinner preparation after work, (during dinner often, turned down low, especially if there is a UConn game on) and even before bedtime when I’m making lunch for the next day. In fact it’s on now in my office as I write this, still on WTIC. Old habits are hard to break.
I’ve always been a big listener of AM radio especially the news and sports variety. I was 10 years old when Arnold Dean started his sports talk show. Much of my life then revolved around the fates of the Whalers, Yankees, Red Sox and Patriots. So when I found out there was a whole show devoted to this stuff and sports in general I was hooked. I Didn’t have a TV in my bedroom but I did have a radio. Homework done, the radio would go on. Many nights, especially during the winter, it was Sports Talk with Arnold Dean followed by Whalers hockey. In the spring and summer it was Arnold Dean followed by Red Sox baseball (even though I was a Yankee fan) My dad and I would listen to WTIC often out on the back deck or in the kitchen until bed time. My mom worked nights then at the Travelers Insurance Company, so I often fell asleep to the sounds of sports on the radio.
I only had one occasion to meet Arnold Dean. But it is something I have never forgotten. Back in the 1990′s I was working at the Old State House Museum here in Hartford. Part of my job there was as a costumed interpreter, reenacting the lives of famous persons from Connecticut’s past. On occasion I was George Washington. Yes, that George Washington, who did in fact visit Connecticut several times during the Revolutionary War. I was chosen to be him basically because I was tall, thin and fit the costume.
The Old State House was and is still today big into hosting community events of all kinds. One such occasion when I was there was a Wiffle Ball home run hitting contest for local businesses. A small-scale version of Fenway Park was put up on the lawn (even with a mini Green Monster!). Well, a few of us working there decided we wanted to play in costume. So we put together a small team to play. John Brown the Abolitionist was there, so was Mayor Cheney of Manchester and of course the clean up hitter was the man himself: George Washington. Calling all the action? Arnold Dean…….
I still remember stepping up to bat in costume. Then Arnold spoke over a loud-speaker in that voice I had been listening to since I was a kid. “Now batting for the Old State House, we have General George Washington. Here’s the pitch…. And General Washington hits one over the Green Monster! Who knew the General was such a power hitter?” I was in heaven. Even though I was in this goofy costume, I hit a home run called by a Connecticut radio legend. I went over and thanked him afterwards and told him he made my day. Arnold smiled and said he never thought he would see George Washington hit a homer. Gracious, kind and utterly professional. Just as he was on the air when interviewing famous athletes from around the world.
Arnold Dean’s kind, professional legendary voice has been silenced. Except for those of us who had the pleasure of listening to it over the years. In our minds it will live forever as a part of our youth turning into adulthood. His voice sounded great on any radio: car, kitchen whatever. Probably on this one below. Dedicated to Arnold Dean here is the Connecticut Patent of the Day. A Design for a Radio Receiver from 1946 by Frederick D. Schnoor of Stratford: