Thursday, September 26, 2013

Look up in the sky! It's flashing, it's news. Fort Lauderdale 1948

Goodyear blimp, a common sight above
Fort Lauderdale beach today

By Jane Feehan

For three days in January and three in February 1948, residents of Fort Lauderdale, Dania and Hollywood could look up to the sky to read local, state, and national headlines. The Goodyear blimp* flashed news in five or six line bites each day from 6 to 9 p.m.

The blimpcasting event, a public relations initiative, was sponsored by Robert H. Gore’s Fort Lauderdale Daily News.  Most of us today probably have seen blimp messaging from one of the tire company’s three airships but it was not a common sight in the 1940s. Many residents called the newspaper to express congratulations and to ask if the flashing news was the product of post-war technology. It was not; blimpcasting was first developed by Goodyear airship operations in 1930.

Incandescent signs were adapted for use on the curved sides of a blimp through the development of special light-weight equipment. Early signs, according to the Fort Lauderdale Daily News (Feb 8, 1948), were “boxed-in letters of tubing.” By 1948, eight by six feet frames “were a universal composite type of sign containing all the letters of the alphabet and numerals in one frame.” Equipment was simple: “a typewriter-style tape punch and a translator.”  (People then would be amazed by the simplicity of today’s digitized banners!**)

The Daily News phoned in headlines to the airship where it was translated for broadcast. Ten letters  were posted in five or six lines at a time but there were no breaks while reading. It took between seven and eight minutes to go through the news that could be viewed 1,000 feet below and as far as a half mile away.

Robert H. Gore bought the newspaper in 1929 and sold it to the Tribune Company of Chicago in 1963. Once governor of Puerto Rico, Gore helped shape the political landscape of Fort Lauderdale for decades. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

*Rides on the Goodyear blimps are available at the invitation of the company only. Most of the lucky riders are Goodyear customers, winners of local charity auctions, local dignitaries, or members of the press.
** After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a Goodyear Blimp flashed emergency messages to disaster survivors. It may be a viable way of communicating in the aftermath of another disaster when/if conventional methods of communication are unavailable. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

And search on Jane's Bits -

Fort Lauderdale Daily News, Jan. 28, 1948
Fort Lauderdale Daily News, Jan. 29, 1948
Fort Lauderdale Daily News, Feb. 8, 1948
Gore, Paul A. Past the Edge of Poverty: A biography of Robert Hayes Gore, Sr. Fort Lauderdale: R.H. Gore Co. (1990)

Tags: Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s, R.H. Gore, historical researcher, Fort Lauderdale historian, Miami historian

1 comment:

  1. I always loved seeing the Goodyear blimp. For some reason. growing up, it was fascinating, I still remember looking at a house on the beach in Manalapan. I was on a second story deck, looking at the ocean and the blip passed only a short distance above my eye level It was a great close-up view. (The estate was for sale after the owner gave up during a renovation for only $500,000. There was too much work to be done for me to consider it even as an investment to flip.)