Scott Hanley's Blog

A Tale of Two Twinkies

4 years ago, just after the Hostess company sold off assets and a "new" Hostess came out of the process, this "do it yourself kit" showed up at a Walgreens in Birmingham.

It was the holiday season, and I was at a phone store next door. While there, I stopped in for ribbons and bows and such.

2013 Twinkie Maker

2013 Twinkie Maker, Birmingham, AL. Credit Scott Hanley

Twinkies are still for sale. This device is not (except on eBay and from resellers of used stuff).

Scott Hanley Returns to Pennsylvania from Alabama

After four impactful years, Scott Hanley is ending his tenure as General Manager of Public Radio 90.3 WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama. 


During his time in the Magic City, WBHM advanced its local news effort, and instituted new community outreach and partnerships. WBHM saw financial support from individuals and businesses grow to record highs. WBHM became home to the Southern Education Desk, and WBHM staff were increasingly featured on national news programs from NPR and other networks.

“We’ve done some important and often fun work, winning awards, smiles, and most importantly, helping make Birmingham and Alabama better,” says Hanley. “We have engaged in conversations and told stories that have changed how people see and understand each other and Alabama.”

Hanley has returned to southwestern Pennsylvania, where he will be busy with  media, consulting, and family business interests. “Over time, the 700 mile commute between Birmingham and my wife and family in Pennsylvania was not sustainable,” he added, “but I leave Alabama with great pride in our accomplishments and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with over these years, with confidence in the even greater things these folks, UAB, and Birmingham will do, next.” 

Photo credit: Beau Gustafson, Big Swede Inc.

Remembering Bob Hanley

This is an expanded version of the notice of the passing of my father, Bob Hanley. There are so many stories he told me, and so many stories worth telling, so this is just a start.

In this past decade or so, I made the decision to spend more time with them both of my parents, to learn their story, better, to understand them, their times, their ups and their downs. My mother’s path with dementia made this all the more difficult, but as a journalist and a son, I found the process of discovery very meaningful.

So - here’s a start.  I will add more in time, and have scores if not hundreds of hours of conversations recorded, and what I find to be amazing stories and a degree of nuance to an era that we in media need to better understand if we are to better understand ourselves.

Hanley, Robert (Bob)

Robert Hanley

HANLEY, Robert John, Ann Arbor, MI, Age 87 passed away Monday January 5, 2015 at his home. Born January 14, 1927 in Detroit, son of Edwin H. Hanley and Anna Martinek Hanley. Attended Wilbert Wright Technical School in Detroit.

After graduation, he found himself in the service of the US Army in the last months of WWII, including tours in China and Korea. 

Upon the landing of his troop ship to Shanghai, China, Bob remembers General AC Wedemeyer exclaiming to his new arrivals, “what the hell are you guys doing here?"

He was stationed near the racetrack in Shanghai, almost got to go home after a fairly short tour of duty - but then, the ship to San Francisco took a detour to Korea.  There, he and his fellow troops helped convince (sometimes under fire) a good number of Japanese soldiers that the war was, in fact, over.

He enjoyed the company of a Japanese barber who had been a submarine captain, learned how to drain the alcohol from decommissioned torpedo engines (and the alternative uses for that fuel), and learned to never, ever, drink Aqua Velva.

After two years in the Army, Private, then Corporal, then Sergeant, then Corporal, then Sergeant, then Corporal Hanley found that there was more to life than what he might find working in a factory. Having never been more than 50 miles from Detroit, his two years in the Army taught him there could other things to do, see and learn. Finding new and interesting things to do and places to go and people to meet would be major forces for the rest of his life.

He later helped drive an efficiency expert away, in disgust, at Ford. While working in the leather upholstery Department, Bob and his work partner confused the numbers by being super efficient in sewing leather car seat covers with creative solutions at some times, and at other times, performing at a normal pace according to how they had been told to work.  

After an industry slowdown in the late forties led to Bob’s getting laid off, he and his partner were hired back to repair those same upholstery sewing machines. As a sideline, he sold radios and televisions with friend Ray Miller, installing TV antennas in often less than ideal conditions (including an antenna installation on the ice-covered rooftop of the house of a customer who insisted that he be able to watch the fights that night). Bob brought TV auction items to WXYZ TV during those early days, too.

In 1950, he married fellow Detroit west-side native Bodil Ree. They were married for 63 years, until her death in 2013.

In the early 1950’s Bob went to work for Westinghouse in the appliance repair division for metro Detroit, learning repair skills that would hone his handiness, and sharpening his already keen ability to get along with a diverse range of people. 

A few years later, he took on a job with the Ex-Cell-O Pure-Pak division, installing milk carton machines at dairies across the United States.                                                                                                                        

After the birth of daughter Peggy, Bob came back to Detroit to work, again, for Westinghouse Appliance. By 1959, he went into business as Westinghouse appliance repair franchisee for Jackson and Washtenaw Counties. Hanley Appliance had Bob on the road with customers, Bodil Hanley at the home office doing the accounting and picking up parts in Detroit once a week (with special side shopping trips to Hudson’s, Crowley’s and Sanders for she and children Peggy and Scott), and phone calls taken by a sultry voiced (but matronly) woman at an asnwering service in the former Ann Arbor City Hall. For a decade, the company took care of the appliance repair needs of executives and laborers, U of M luminaries and retirees on limited budgets.

By the late 1960’s Bob was recruited to work in the physical plant at the University of Michigan. Soon thereafter, he became a foreman of mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning. During the next twenty years of rapid growth at the U of M, Bob and his crews helped install and keep equipment running in dormitories, medical labs, the presidential residence, and offices on the main and north campuses. 

A prolific storyteller and listener, Bob was privileged to know and befriend average folks and university presidents, acclaimed musicians, sheriffs, politicians and more. A resident of Ann Arbor since 1960, Bob was active with the Michigan Theater, the Golden K Kiwanis Club, the Motor City Theater Organ Society, the American Theater Organ Society and the Detroit Theater Organ Society. 

Upon retirement, Bob and Bo purchased at 24 foot travel trailer and a Ford van. For the next fifteen years, they traveled the country, camping in 39 states, visiting friends and family and enjoying the diversity and natural treasures of America.

He is survived by his loving family: daughter Peggy Hanley (Mark Gavard) of Forks of Salmon, CA; son Scott Hanley (Laura Tuennerman) of Birmingham, AL; grandsons Michael Hanley and Jonathan Hanley, and their mother Donna Hanley of Pittsburgh, PA.

A memorial event is expected in the Spring. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorial gifts to the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor  and the Detroit Theater Organ Society in Detroit .

 Photo Credit - Scott Hanley, 2005

Sears - website is too busy, please visit a store..

Sears website on friday november 29 2013

Friday.  November 29th, 2013.  I just wanted to shop for tires.   Sears’ website is so overloaded, they encourage you to visit a store.  Including a map and FAQ page.

It happens.   Chill out.

But it is kinda funny…

Fifty Years and a Day

During this, 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, many people have been giving spin and perspective.  Some of it has been predictable, some, outrageous. 

It has been a special gift to turn my internet feed onto my television screen and experience the news and programming of CBS from 50 years ago, a time when I was far to young to really remember much  of it.

CBS News has been running a non-stop feed of their televised coverage of 50 years ago, on the event and after of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  

As I type this blogpost, CBS has ended the feed and will begin again at 9am ET on Sunday, November 24, 2013.

It is fascinating to see the perspective of journalists (pretty much all men) on the rough draft of history they were wrestling with.  A concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra hastily recorded by CBS on videotape with Eugene Ormandy conducting, Bass-Baritone McHenry Boatwright, Soprano Phyllis Curtin, and the Rutgers University Chorus performing the Brahms German Requiem. Those were different times, but not too different from now, really.    

And then, the closing for tonight. A brief essay by Harry Reasoner.   I heard it and knew I had to find it in writing - which I did, thanks to the 2007 book about Mr. Reasoner by Douglass K. Daniel, “A Life In the News.” It is well indexed and footnoted.

Here, as cited in footnote 26 of chapter five, Mr. Reasoner’s closing remarks of tonight’s broadcast (Script dated November 23, 1963.).  

On tonight’s rebroadcast of November 23, 1963, here is what Harry Reasoner said:

At the end of this second day of concentrated national grief and attention to one event, it may be time to stop for a moment and think about our own attitude. Introspection is proper in sorrow as it is at any time, because mourning—if it becomes a fixed and purposeless moan at the cruelty of fate—can be habit-forming.

In Norwalk, Ohio, today a fire burned up a home for the elderly, and about sixty-three old men and women died.

There is a way of thinking about our knowledge of God which might make you say that in His sight that event was sixty-three times as important as the death in Dallas. In the national attention those sixty-three have scarcely had a place. They get six inches of type in the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News, for instance, just above a little item about a man who stole some money from a department store. You might think that we are out of proportion, that the national dirge that fills these days is inappropriate. Either we should do more, mourn all the time for everybody, or maybe do less.

There were, for instance, some calls last night to CBS in New York from citizens complaining about missing their normal Friday night programs.

Our operators, I understand, were polite.

We are not out of proportion. We are not dishonoring the sixty-three old folks or the thousands of others who died yesterday and today and will die tonight and tomorrow. We are not God. We are a nation of men who tempt with honor and reward all kinds of men to serve us. When one is especially worthy, especially important to us, and becomes a sacrifice as well as a leader, it is entirely appropriate that we do him great honor. We are all dying and what we feel about John Kennedy is not so much sadness that he met his appointment a little sooner, but a gratitude and love for a man who would make that appointment for us.

There is only one reservation: It must not be a habit. When President Kennedy announced the quarantine of Cuba, one reporter suggested that what he wanted from his countrymen was intelligent support, not intoxicated belligerence. It seems likely that what this man would want from his martyrdom would be a considered dedication, not a pointless self-pity.

The CBS “Time Capsule” of real-time broadcasts will continue Sunday morning, November 24, 2013 at 9am ET.   I hope they keep those archives active for generations to come.


iOS Everywhere

Spot-on speculation by Bob Cringely about that new "workstation-class 64-bit processor" you may now have in your pocket. 

Bob looks at the "win at first, then lose" path as outlined by Clayton Christensen in the "Innovator's Dilemma." Innovation becomes profitable, ubiquitous, and then a low end commodity where cost cutting and efficiency make it very cheap.  The world gets changed in the process.

The already deep pool of powerful iOS apps makes me ponder how much longer I have to keep lugging my "Truck" (the MB Pro) or the sedan (the Air) on my shoulder.   

I'll keep my reading glasses, though.

But for tonight, I think I'm going to play with the Apple TV….

The Krumkake Chronicles

This is a revisitation to a blog I wrote in 2011.  Since then, I am back in Public Radio, but now in a very "foodie" town of Birmingham Alabama.  

In the holiday season of 2012, I have new friends and colleagues who've never heard of Danish rolled, begin, again.  Traditions can help you rekindle good things that deserve to be repeated. Publix and Piggly Wiggly have supplied me with many eggs, much, butter and other needed supplies.

When I first came to Pittsburgh in 1995, I found the city filled with kind people, civil driving, and a staff at WDUQ that tended to be the generous, gift-exchanging kind of folk.

Early on, when we were fewer in number, as I was the General Manager, I would try to find special gifts like books and things. But, over time, as the years passed and the station grew, I ran out of book ideas unique enough for a burgeoning staff. There were only so many editions of “Life’s Little Instruction Book.”

Food became the next thing to share. Cub Scout Popcorn, given my association as Pack and then Troop Committee Chair. Later, as my sons moved on to adulthood, what next?

Little did I realize that a longstanding Hanley family tradition was in need of extending.

For decades, my mother made Krumkake. A not-widely known Norwegian rolled cookie. Owing to my mother’s Danish heritage, she had taken up making this cookie as her primary holiday baking activity back in the 70’s. It uses a lot of eggs and butter, and has some special features.



A Scandinavian Christmas cookie from the Danish side of the family

3 well beaten eggs

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c butter

1/2 c flour

1 teaspoon extract of choice (I use vanilla and almond)

You melt the butter, blend it all together and bake it on a special iron (from Norway, of course!). Roll and let cool.


For years, my mother had used a single iron that was placed over a stovetop burner. While the cookie you make and then roll was perfectly round in this iron, the process was very time consuming and less than perfect at keeping precise heat.

Later, my mother bought an “electric” two-sided iron. Instead of one cookie every 90 seconds, you could make two (In a PIttsburgh Christmas Miracle, I found one of my own in Pittsburgh at Wholey’s in the strip)!

As cookies go, this recipe uses a LOT of eggs and butter. The batch I show here was using 9 eggs and three sticks of butter.

The “roll and let it cool” part is what gets you. Despite what you may see online (and in the box of my electric krumkake iron), the wooden roller is not something we’ve ever used.

You take the hot baked cookie off the iron, put it down on a counter and quickly and with some danger, roll the cookie by hand. Or should I say, by fingertips!  Hot.  Hot. Hot. Burn. Careful!

They can be served with whipped cream, sprinkled powdered sugar or just plain as is. I have seen variations, like the mix of flour doubled up, which makes for a doughier cookie.  More sugar makes the cookie crisper (which seems to help in my new, more humid, Alabama environs).  What I've listed is the basic recipe I’ve settled on, with maybe a dash more sugar.

One trial effort last year, from Laura’s suggestion, was to take an unrolled cookie and use those tiny SOLBRÄND plastic bowls from Ikea to make a tasty pastry bowl out of the new shape. But those are in Ohiopyle, and this year most of the baking has been back in Birmingham. 

More testing to be done…but whipped cream, ice cream, fruit – it is all good.  One of the best features of making Krumkake is the mistakes and left over extra cooked bits can all become tasty snacks…

I started baking these cookies on my own a few years ago, also around the same time that my mother was no longer able to make these cookies. It has been good to keep the tradition going. And share them with my mother, father and their neighbors, too. I even taught my youngest son, Jon, how to make them.

Krumkake is what I started to share with my “family” at WDUQ. Hundreds of cookies, a dozen or two at a time. Many plastic containers, carefully packed with festive paper towel wrapping.

Like my mother before me, December is now a month where eggs and butter fill the fridge, the smells of melting butter and vaporizing almond and vanilla extract fills the air. 

I’ve managed to go through several dozen eggs, share Krumkake with friends and family in Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, California and Michigan.  And, now, Birmingham, Alabama and my new colleagues at WBHM.

I don’t plan on letting the tradition fade anytime soon.

All the best of great food, friends, family and the holidays to you now and every day.

Disney, Lucasfilm, Anticipointment, and Snow White. It will be fine. Really.

This week's announcement about Disney buying Lucasfilm has led to a lot of speculation.  

To me, it is simple: The Lucasfilm deal is about copyright and trademarks.  

Disney built its empire on a mouse and a few other characters of note from the mind of Walt Disney and his crew.  They do entertainment superbly and own what they do.  Everything else has been built from that.

220px-Snow White 1937 poster

A substantial amount of Disney content came from the realm of public domain.  Folk tales or stories so old that no author had to be paid to use them. Snow White was the first "full length" Disney cartoon.  This was in 1937.  It was a great risk to the studio when it was launched. 

Snow White was produced, well over budget at a cost much higher than expected.  It was called "Disney's Folly" by some.  But on its release, it became a sensational hit.

NOTE: 1937.  40 years later, George Lucas would release Star Wars

In 1944, Snow White was re-released.  It became a new film for new viewers. With subsequent reissues every 7 to 10 years, Snow Whilte now ranks among the top selling movies, ever.  

Over the 70-plus years of release, Snow White has had gross sales of more than $400 million (probably much more, depending on how you count the money with inflation). 

Snow White led to a building catalog of Disney versions of public domain stories over many decades which are now a fixture in popular culture; Pinnochio, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Jungle Book, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast.


Back before the dawn of Disney, copyright law in the United States protected the ownership of creative works, but it was limited to 28 years after creation.  Through changes and revisions starting in 1831, the protection of copyright expanded, now all the way to the life of the author plus 70 years.   

Content OWNERS are king. By purchasing LucasFilms, Disney has taken ownership of iconic content that they will be able to extend, exclusively, for generations to come. Disney is getting control of the story and the characters.  

Here's a video and blog that was produced about a year ago that talks about much of this - and about the creative works of George Lucas.

The blog and video are a breezy run through of the reason for copyright and complaints about the current law.  There's also a snappy discussion of the "Anticipointment" of the three newer Star Wars films that Lucas released starting in 1997.  While those newer movies may not be as beloved by some fans, the story and characters were created and owned by Mr. Lucas.  He could do with them as he wished.

Under current copyright law, those characters and stories will be owned by the Disney Corporation for 70 years after Mr. Lucas leaves this mortal coil. The trademarking of characters is a different issue - characters are trademark protected as long as they continue to be used commercially by their owner.  

Comcast, Apple, AT&T, Verizon - they all sell us things that we may want or need, for now. But if you want Star Wars in your future, you will have to turn to Disney.

Big Bird, the Peacock and the Kangaroo vs NASA and Honey Boo Boo

The unexpected attention to Sesame Street and Big Bird this past week has caused a lot of discussion in various places.  It is not like we haven't been here before.   

But having public broadcasting become a prominent part of the current political season before an election is a bit more unusual.  And it is also coming when a lot of public radio is in the midst of pledge week.

To put this into perspective, Brian Palmer at has written a very good "Explainer" column on why Big Bird and Sesame Street are on PBS to begin with. There is even more background on this story, but the Captain Kangaroo connection is worth mentioning.   CBS had the Captain back when NBC was busy with the Today Show  

Palmer writes,"PBS desperately needed a winner in the late 1960s and was willing to take a chance. Some PBS programming was so poor that the New York Times television critic noted, “congressmen could scarcely be blamed for wondering if a huge permanent investment in noncommercial video is warranted.” Sesame Street was exactly the kind of innovative show that could change the narrative about public broadcasting." 

Around the same time that PBS was taking shape and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was coming into being, the Appalachian Community Service Network was also created (1972) in partnership between NASA and the Department of Health Education and Welfare.  This channel became The Learning Channel in 1980. By 1991, TLC was bought by what is now Discovery Networks.

A current Internet meme is floating around that this network, TLC, founded by HEW and NASA, is now bringing us "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."  This is true.  The network and the programs it carries are paid for, largely, by your cable or satellite fees.

Another cable channel from the 1970's started as a non profit (like TLC) and is still non-profit, today.  CSPAN was created as a service to be paid for by cable fees, with a 2011 budget of around $60 million.  The board of directors features many representatives of the largest cable television companies.   

The free market gave us CSPAN and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS brought us Sesame Street and a lot more. If things had gone differently with NBC in the late 1960's, who knows what might have happened?

This is the kind of remarkable mix that we have in media in the United States. This not to say what is right or wrong, but just what is.  

Changing Planes, Changing Plans

Changes in my life mean I'm back to flying more often.  The couple of years away from frequent air travel has reminded me how much it has changed.  

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Midfield terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport.   

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a very good retrospective on the "new" airport - and how the world changed in less than a decade to make for a decidedly less ambitious current state.  

IMG 3169IMG 3171

The "new" Pittsburgh International was unique in its time - I liked to call it the most secure shopping mall in America, since, before "9/11," anyone could come in and peruse the scores of shopping mall-type stores at the AirMall.  I recall buying my first sound card for a computer at PIT while on a visit with my sons.    

The walk to make connections was far easier than most airports.  The baggage claim system was "state of the art," though that art had a way of not always living up the promise...

IMG 3170

I remember flying into the old Pittsburgh airport long before I ever thought I might live in Pittsburgh.  It was a grand old place in its own way.


In January 2001, NPR's All Things Considered sent an entire production team to Pittsburgh International to follow what went on in the course of the 24 hour workdays at what was still, then, a very busy airport.

This NPR project was about a dozen years ago.  It is interesting to hear how much like every other airport operation PIT was back then. It is a transit hub, so there are things that have to be done. People working at 3 in the morning face many common issues, so this was a good, generalized set of stories. PIT was still very busy with USAirways traffic, there were many direct flights. The events of 9/11 were still many months away - and the subsequent downsizing of airline activity in Pittsburgh.  

Still active, but not very busy

I remember coming to the "new" Pittsburgh International not for a connecting flight, but for business. That trip took a very sad turn the day I arrived.  The crash of USAir flight 427, near the airport, took 132 lives in September 1994. This was less than two years after the opening of the new terminal. 

This was also not long after the Pittsburgh newspaper strike of 1992-93, which changed the landscape of media in that city. The media coverage of crash of flight 427 was a bellwether event for a city ready to head into yet another era of change.  The much investigated accident led to changes in how all Boeing 737's would be maintained, too.

Fast forward to now, and Pittsburgh still has a fairly busy airport for a community of its size.  It just isn't as busy as what planners had expected. PIT appears to now be serving fewer travelers than Cleveland-Hopkins International.  

The evolution over time of Detroit Metro Airport is a good indication of what a difference the travel needs of 4 to 5 million people can do for business as opposed to a market of 1 or 2 million. With more international travel and a larger base population to originate flights from, Detroit Metro continues on a pattern of increased passenger visits.

The downturn in USAirways activity, the reduced air travel from several recessions and the very nature of being in a smaller city meant that whatever USAir would or would not do in Pittsburgh would have stronger impacts on the airport than one would see in a much larger market.  

I now live in Birmingham, AL, where the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is the largest in the state with about half the traffic of PIT.   

Which brings me to a topic I hadn't thought of at all when I first contemplated writing this post,   As of this week, the Birmingham News is changing, too, cutting  print editions from 7 days a week to three, and renaming the enterprise the Alabama Media group.  

My station, WBHM, and our Junior Advisors Board is holding an "Issues and Ales" event this week, bringing together media experts of different backgrounds to discuss what is next in the realm of information and journalism in transition.

Thursday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cantina at Pepper Place in Birmingham, AL.

Hope to see you there - as we get started on the future.

John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans," and I tend to agree. But if you are paying attention and choose to act, perhaps you can have a role in whatever comes next.

But fasten your seat belts, put your tray in the appropriate position, and be mindful of the exits!   © Scott Hanley 2016