The Voice: The Unparalleled Life of Roger Huston

The Voice: The Unparalleled Life of Roger Huston

by Victoria M. Howard

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Overview

The Voice: The Unparalleled Life of Roger Huston is a blockbuster book about the life of the number 1 horse racing announcer in the country-Roger Huston-which many agree on. Huston has called more than 178,000 races, covering at least 144 tracks in nineteen states and eight countries.

Known as the Voice because of his booming vocal crescendo, when one hears that sound, you instantly know a trotting or pacing race is imminent. Whether he calls an overnight or the Little Brown Jug, Huston makes each and every race exciting.

Through these pages, the author takes you face-to-face with the classic races of the era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781728306551
Publisher: Author Solutions Inc
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Pages: 294
Sales rank: 306,483
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

It All Started In Xenia, Ohio

THE BEGINNING OF A REAL-LIFE FAIRYTALE

Every fairytale has a magical beginning and in the case of Roger Huston, it was no different. It is said that the good Lord bestows a special talent on each and every one of us. Some are born with exquisite beauty; others artistic talent or music ability, and some people are blessed with a brilliant mind.

In 1452, in the Tuscany region a baby boy would grow up to be an Italian painter, sculptor, architect and inventor. His name was Leonardo da Vinci / aka The Italian Renaissance man.

On January 4, 1643, a boy was born in London named (Sir) Isaac Newton. He grew up to be a physicist who would develop the principles of modern physics, including the laws of the motion.

On January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, The King of Rock and Roll –Elvis Aaron Presley--- rocked his way into the world. Elvis would become known as a film and music icon that drove women wild with his signature 'Hip Shakes and Gyrates'.

On February 27, 1932, in Hampstead, London, England, a girl named Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born who would be known as, "The most beautiful woman in the world". Every man lusted after the violet-eyed, raven-haired beauty and every woman wanted to be her.

Ten years later on a balmy September 16, 1942, in a city called Xenia, Ohio, (pronounced /zeen-ya) a son was born to Cecil and Stella Irene Huston named Roger Eugene who would grow up to be known as "The Voice." Throughout his career Huston would call more horseraces than any other announcer in history. (And is still going on)

MY FAMILY TREE

As far as my lineage, I asked my grandfather Ross Huston what nationality we were and he matter-of-factly replied, "Buckeyes." For those of you who have never heard of a "Buckeye," it's a nickname for residents of Ohio — the Buckeye State.

My grandmother was a Gardner whose family tree was traced to a man named Henry Tiffin. Henry was the first Governor of Ohio in (I believe) 1803. I don't know for certain but we guessed our ancestry to be English and Scottish.

I made my debut into the world in a place called Xenia. It is a quiet city in Ohio that has a history of severe storm activity. According to local legend the Shawnee Indians referred to that area as "The place of the devil wind" or "The land of the crazy winds." So it was no surprise that the day I was born Dr. Rayburn McClelland asked the attending nurse if there was a racetrack nearby for it seemed someone in the room---most likely me--- was heard to bellow out, "WAGER NOWWWW!"

As Dr. McClelland stared in disbelief he told my mother, "Ma'am you're baby has an incredible set of lungs! I bet someday he will be a radio show host, auctioneer, or perhaps a race announcer!"

(Perhaps that is why Huston would grow up to become one of the most renowned and instantly recognizable voices in the world of Harness Racing?)

THE GLORIOUS 40s

My dad was a hard worker who always provided well for his family. He started out working as a milk deliveryman and also drove the city bus before eventually going to work on a farm for his Uncle Ert Huston.

In 1945-1946 dad took a job as manager at the Shoemake Dairy Farm, located in Alpha, Ohio. There he raised crops such as wheat and corn and milked 75 guernseys a day.

The milk was shipped to Dayton, Ohio where it was bottled, being that Shoemake was the only dairy farm supplier in the area. The dairy business was good and by 1952 the number of guernseys increased 60% to 125. That was a lot of milking!

My father hired a man named Ted Ater to run the combine. I often got to ride with Ted and occasionally he would let me steer. One day Ted's help didn't show up for work so he asked if I could steer the truck between the two gates.

He placed a stone on the gas pedal allowing the truck to creep 4 to 5 miles per hour. Ted told me once I got the vehicle between the gates to kick the stone away, which would stop it.

Being a young boy my feet didn't reach the pedal so I had to stand up and stretch my leg out.

I did exactly what he said and all went well, but when we reached the barn my mother was waiting there, arms crossed and screaming at Ted for allowing me to drive, for I was only five-years-old!

But Ted said to "Be there," and there I was!

* * *

We were a very close family, so when my granddad, Stanley Matthews' (on mothers' side) health began to fail, he came to live with us.

Our house was plenty large enough to accompany another person, so my parents converted our dining room into a bedroom for him.

I remember granddad and I spending a lot of time together. These were great memories, for we always had fun.

One winter day during one of our many walks we went to the cow barn. The cement floor was cold, dirty and soiled by the guernseys waste.

Granddad looked at me and said, "Butch, don't ever drink beer!" (Butch was the nickname he gave me)

I thought that was a strange thing to tell a young boy and asked him, "Why?"

He looked at me with a serious look on his face and said, "Don't you know what beer is made of? It's cow piss and sawdust!"

I guess that's one reason I never liked drinking the brew!

My granddad was quite a character. The memories of him are warm and loving, except for one: the day he passed on. It was probably the most traumatic thing I went through as a child, and one I will never forget.

I woke early one morning as I heard a car pull up in front of our house. I looked out of the upstairs window and saw a long dark vehicle I'd never seen before pull into the driveway. My dad let two strange men inside as I heard mom crying.

The men walked into granddads room wheeling a stretcher. Not exactly knowing what was happening I watched as granddads covered body was placed inside the ambulance.

Although I dearly miss him, I know one day I will see him again.

* * *

One of the things I still look forward to is summertime, for that's when I make my rounds to the county fairs to call horseraces.

I guess one reason it's so special is because as far back as I can remember I'd accompany my parents to the Greene County Fair in Xenia to watch the horseraces.

I'd listen to the announcer as he called the races and tried my hardest to memorize all the horse's names. I was in awe watching these large, four-legged athletes hooked to a sulky go in a circle at a fast speed.

When we got home I would take out my tricycle and pedal around the house trying to reduplicate the race I had just watched, but my tricycle wasn't sufficient so eventually I designed my own sulky.

Young children have wild imaginations and mine was no different. In our house we had an overstuffed chair, so I placed the pullout section for the dinner table on top of the chairs' arms to make a seat and attached two belts to a kitchen chair that served as driving lines.

I went out to our yard and broke off a branch from a weeping willow tree that acted as a whip and imitated a driver steering a horse in a race.

(Of course I wouldn't actually hit the horse, for I could never hurt an animal, so I hit the shaft.)

Little did I know that seventy-years later I would be getting paid for doing what I consider to be "The best job in the world!"

* * *

As a young boy my parents instilled in me a good work ethic; saying anything I wanted I had to work for. As a youngster I helped my grandfather Ross Huston mow lawns in Xenia. I also had a paper route with over 100 customers for the six-day-a- week delivery.

My paper route was from The Xenia Field House to Greene Memorial Hospital. The area was developed in the early 50s so when we moved from the farm we built a house in that section of Xenia.

I was a firm believer in putting the newspaper inside the screen door, so my customers would always have a dry paper and wouldn't have to trek out to the yard to get it. This kind gesture really paid off with good tips--especially at Christmas.

One year I was a bit obstinate and let my temper get in the way as one of my customers failed to give me anything for Christmas, so I started wrapping his paper and tossing it on the front porch.

Well that act of rebellion came back to bite me in my behind because one of those times the paper broke the glass in the man's storm door. That was a hard and costly lesson, for the price to replace the glass cost me two or three weeks of my hard earned money!

But overall, it was a very good time for many of those customers became lifelong friends and remained so until I moved away in 1967.

* * *

My next job was at The James Super Value Grocery Store.

There was a man named Butch Green who drove the Johnson Cab in Xenia. Butch would pick up shoppers after they were done shopping and drive them home with their groceries.

Even as a young boy my mind was always thinking of different ways I could earn some extra money; so I worked out a 'deal' with Butch where I would phone him when someone needed a ride and in return, he was to pay me a quarter for every customer I got him. Well, I got Butch a lot of fares but he never paid me a cent.

Thinking back now I imagine if I got half the money Butch owed me, I could have bought myself a nice horse or maybe that motorcycle I always wanted!

THE NIFTY 50s

Children inherit personality and hereditary traits from their parents or family members. I guess you could say that I inherited my talent as an announcer from Uncle Don.

In 1953 Uncle Don started announcing horseraces at The Allentown and York Fair in Pennsylvania.

Steve Phillips, the brilliant man who invented The Mobile Starting Gate, got Uncle Don the job. (See pg. 20) Uncle Don was so good at calling races; eventually he went on to call the races at Lebanon Raceway.

At the time I was eleven-years-old and would accompany my uncle three to five nights a week to the races. I remember riding with him in his car while he puffed on cheap stogies; gagging from the smoke but thrilled to be there, so I kept my mouth shut.

When I was thirteen-years-old, Uncle Don and I went to Miami County Fair in Troy, Ohio, for he was to call the races. I kept looking at the clock as the time ticked by, afraid we would be late; but Uncle Don told me not to worry for we had plenty of time. Well wouldn't you know it but on the way to the fair we had a flat tire and had to stop and change it. By the time we pulled into the track The National Anthem was playing, so being strapped for time Uncle Don asked me to park the car.

I watched as he ran like a bat out of hell to the judges' stand. That incident is most likely the reason I always arrive at the races two hours early.

* * *

I was always taught, "To be the best you can at whatever you do and never ever look down on yourself." How you see yourself is how people will see you and how they will treat you. See yourself as the WINNER you are, no matter what, and a WINNER you will always be!

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning, and Uncle Don was the best teacher anyone could hope for. I owe him a lot and hope and pray he realized how much he meant to me.

As far as school goes, I was a good student. I received good grades without having to exert too much of my time; thus my parents allowed me to dabble in my hobby, which was attending the races and practice my race calling.

One day Uncle Don took the plunge and purchased a filly named Ginger D Direct who was by the great sire Billy Direct.

Like many boys I wanted a motorcycle, but of course like most parents they wouldn't allow it, so I began hanging around the barn jogging Uncle Don's filly and discovered I really enjoyed it.

There was a horseman named Johnny Bush who owned a fifteen-year-old mare named Emily Martin who he had retired. Poor Emily was always a bridesmaid — never a bride. She never won a race in her entire racing career, but placed many times.

From the money I made working at the grocery store (no thanks to Butch Green) I saved a substantial amount. Instead of buying that motorcycle I always wanted, I bought Emily from Johnny and began training her. I would pretend we were racing in the Hambletonian. (Of course, we always won!) In our world, Emily never lost a race. I even went as far as to pretend she got her picture taken in the winners' circle. Hopefully, it made her feel like she was a winner!

Not long after we bought Emily we decided to breed her to a sire named Waybloom by Dean Hanover. Her first foal, a filly, was on the small side so I named her Midgeway, who we eventually sold.

I learned a lot from working with Emily and she will always hold a spot in my heart for she was the one horse that really got me involved in the wonderful world of Harness Racing.

* * *

Wherever there are horseraces, there is gambling. Although I'm not the gambling type I have to give credit to my dabbling now and then in betting horses to a man named Herman Scott.

Herman owned a trotter named Wampum. Many times when Wampum was in to race, Herman would tell me, "I think my horse has a shot tonight, Butch. Maybe you should throw a few bucks on him."

Of course I wasn't old enough to bet, so Darbyshire a real estate insurance agent, would buy the tickets for me. Well more times than not Wampun won.

When Darbyshire would hand me my winning money I thought, "This is easy."

Little did I know how hard it really is to pick a winner!

CHAPTER 2

The Beginning of A Lifelong Career

THE SWINGING 60s

My career as a race announcer could have been over before it ever got started if my cousin Olive had anything to do with it. In 1960 I was a senior at Xenia High School and cousin Olive taught a speech class there. She wanted me to enroll in her class, but I felt it wouldn't be a good idea because we would most likely butt heads, so I declined.

At the time I was the P.A. Announcer for the high school team, The Buccaneers. When I refused to take my cousins' class she got mad and went to the school board, asking them to pass a motion that the P.A. Announcers had to be members of her class. Once again, Uncle Don came to the rescue and helped me get out of it.

Uncle Don had taken a job at a new local radio station, WHBM-FM 103.9 as Sports Director. The station was in the need of other employees, so he recommended me for a part-time job spinning records that eventually led to my becoming News Director. I also worked with my Uncle doing play-byplay football, basketball and Babe Ruth baseball. At that time I was a senior working forty hours a week-- after school and weekends.

In the early 60s the radio station became involved with WHIO Radio in Dayton (along with The Dayton Power and Light Company) in a 15-minute news broadcast.

I was a co-anchor, along with Phil Donahue. Yes, 'the' Phil Donahue who was also starting his radio career before he went on to television. Eventually, Phil became an American media personality, writer, film producer and creator of The Phil Donahue Show that ran for 29 years. He also married beautiful actress Marlo Thomas, the daughter of Danny Thomas.

When Winston Haner, a talk show host on WHIO who did the afternoon segment decided to retire, they asked Phil and me if one of us wanted the job. At the time I was going to Wilmington College and unable to take it, so Phil took the opportunity that led to a brilliant career in broadcasting.

I often wonder if I had accepted the job would the same thing have happened to me? I mean---Can you see it? The Roger Huston Show! (Just kidding!)

But if I had taken that job I wouldn't have the life that I do now. And I'm a believer that nothing in life happens by coincidence and everything that happens is supposed to happen, so I have thankfully embraced the blessed life I was given and wouldn't change it for anything.

* * *

Doing play-by-play football and basketball was a huge thrill. The station couldn't afford to pay two guys for each game, so when we had doubleheaders, Uncle Don would do the prime time game and I would do the other. Talk about announcer bloopers!

One time Uncle Don and I were doing a Central State University football game when the quarterback dropped back into the end zone to throw a pass and got sacked. In describing the action Don said, "Oh, they nailed him to the cross!"

I had a similar instance when calling a race in Australia in the 90s at Adelaide Raceway. Back then most tracks had a hub rail and one of my favorite sayings was, "So and so is nailed to the rail." The only problem was this particular time the horse's name was Messiah!

Getting back to my early days. ... I distinctly remember one Sunday in April or May of 1960 when Uncle Don was set to call the matinee races in Wilmington, Ohio. He asked if I wanted to accompany him and of course I jumped at the chance.

After he called the first race he paged me and asked if I would announce Post Parade in the second, as he had to excuse himself, for Mother Nature was calling.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Voice"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Victoria M. Howard.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Dedication, iii,
Preface, iv,
Acknowledgements, vi,
Table of Contents, vii,
A Word From The Author, ix,
Preface, xii,
Present Day, 1,
Chapter 1 It All Started In Xenia, Ohio, 9,
Chapter 2 The Beginning of A Lifelong Career, 22,
Chapter 3 Pompano Park Racetrack: The Winter Capital Of Harness Racing, 32,
Chapter 4 The Red Mile, 46,
Chapter 5 Sam McKee: My Friend and Protégé, 61,
Chapter 6 The Meadows, 74,
Chapter 7 The Little Brown Jug, 99,
Chapter 8 The Adios: The Pace for the Orchids, 119,
Chapter 9 The County Fairs, 144,
Chapter 10 My Driving Career, 159,
Chapter 11 Falcon Seelster, Dragon's Lair, Nansemond & Wiggle It Jiggleit, 172,
Chapter 12 The International Races, 199,
Chapter 13 Pittsburgh Sports Announcing, 209,
Chapter 14 Special People and Places, 224,
Chapter 15 My Life Today, 239,
Chapter 16 P.S, 245,
About the Author, 249,
Index, 250,

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