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Susan Stamberg On NPR's 50th — A Memory Made In A Closet


May 3 may not seem like much, but it is the date that this show first hit the airwaves way back in 1971.


TV news aired on three networks.

CHANG: Milk cost 50 cents a gallon.

CORNISH: Lew Alcindor had just led the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title.

CHANG: National Public Radio may not have had many listeners that first broadcast, but those who did tune in tended to stay around for more.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: I may be ALL THINGS CONSIDERED's longest listener. I was on the very original staff. That's right - 50 years ago.

CORNISH: NPR's own Susan Stamberg - she went on to become the first woman to anchor a nightly national news program. We asked her to share an on-air highlight.

STAMBERG: The early days were wild. Sometimes, they were brilliant, sometimes, not. By the time this favorite 1970s memory aired, we were having a lot of fun. This recording is from July 1979. Ira Flatow was substitute hosting with me that day, and he brought in a story about Wint O Green LifeSavers - that they made sparks when you chewed them in the dark. This intrepid science reporter, Ira, had bought two packs of Wint O Greens and invited me into the closet next to our studio. We had long cords on our microphones, and we went into a very dark closet.


IRA FLATOW: OK, now we have to get to where we can see each other crunching.

STAMBERG: Yes. OK, who's going to chew?

FLATOW: I will...

STAMBERG: Are we both chewing?

FLATOW: I'll chew one first.


FLATOW: And then you watch and see what happens. I'll put it in my mouth. (Crunching).

STAMBERG: I saw it. I saw it (laughter).

FLATOW: What did you see?

STAMBERG: I saw a flash of kind of greenish light just for a fraction of a second. Oh, I want to do this, too, Ira.

FLATOW: All right, you try it. You try it.

STAMBERG: This is very bad for your teeth, though. I hope we're not encouraging - (crunching).

FLATOW: Yeah. Oh, goodness.

STAMBERG: Did you see it? (Laughter).

FLATOW: It looked like a little bit of lightning, a little sparkle of lightning.

STAMBERG: I mean, nobody could explain this. It's very hard to talk and chew at the same time.

FLATOW: Nobody could explain this. And they said they've done some research on it, but they really have no explanation. It's one of the mysteries of science that never gets explained.

STAMBERG: Have another LifeSaver (crunching). You think Walter Cronkite started like this?

FLATOW: (Laughter).

STAMBERG: And that's the way it was - ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, age 8. And I have to tell you that my mother heard that. And what she said to me was, Susan, what were you doing going into a closet with a young man?


FLATOW: And for this evening, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

STAMBERG: Public radio stations KVLU, Beaumont, Texas, WUOM Ann Arbor contributed to tonight's program, which was directed by Maury Schlesinger. This match is starting to burn my fingers. Hurry.

FLATOW: Closer edited by Ted Clark and produced by Neal Conan.

CHANG: That's NPR's Susan Stamberg with a favorite memory from our program's first decade. Tomorrow, she has a very different memory from the 1980s.


Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Art Silverman has been with NPR since 1978. He came to NPR after working for six years at a daily newspaper in Claremont, New Hampshire.
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