Vernon Corea’s 10th Death Anniversary falls on the 23rd of September 2012 – Sri Lanka will remember this pioneering broadcaster on Saturday 29th September when a Memorial Service will be held at 5 pm at St. Paul’s Church Milagiriya in Colombo.
He pioneered so many innovative radio programmes over the airwaves of Radio Ceylon and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. One such radio programme was ‘Kiddies Corner’ the English radio programme equivalent of ‘Lama Pitiya’ a children’s Sinhala radio programme co-hosted by the legendary Karunaratne Abeysekera. ‘Kiddies Corner’ was hugely popular over Radio Ceylon.
Vernon had asked Craig Thompson, a young, talented community worker with the American Peace Corps if he would present the programme. Here, Craig Thompson recalls his days with Kiddies Corner:
I have such fond memories of Vernon and I working together from mid-1963 to
mid-1964 on Radio Ceylon’s Saturday morning children’s program, “Kiddie’s
Corner.” On the program, I was known as “Uncle Craig” or “Craig
Maåma”…where I would join in and read stories, sing songs like “Gilly,
Gilly Ossenfeffer, Katzen-Ellen-Bogen-By-the-Sea” “Tickery, Tickery Leea” and
other fun activites.
We even spent several weeks putting together a playlet called “The Necklace
of Truth” …and had children participate in the various parts on the program.
As a member of the first Peace Corps group to come to Sri Lanka, in 1962, I
had first been assigned to Dharmaraja College, in Kandy, then to Thurston
College, Colombo. Upon moving to Colombo, I met Vernon when he was
Commercial Services Director for R.C.–May 30, 1963 (according to my old
diary). We recorded my first episode on Thursday, June 6, 1963 and our
second episode on Friday, June 14, 1963.
We hit it off immediately. What wonderful days those were. I always looked
forward to Fridays or Saturdays from then on…when we would record our shows
On Saturday, September 7th, 1963, we began recording the children’s program
at 12:30 p.m. for a new broadcast time of 4:15 p.m (instead of the usual
3:30). Parents had been writing to Vernon, saying that they would like us
to come on the air at a later time so that “the whole family can listen.” As
3:30 seemed to be nap time for many children, they wanted us to change the
time for everyone to listen.
A warm greeting and a friendly smile always came from Vernon. In fact, I
don’t ever remember him in a bad mood. Always cheery, even when things might
not be going quite right.
Also fond memories of appearing on the “You Call the Tune” show on May 26th,
1963 with Shirley Perera interviewing me. That’s how I first got asked to
consider the Kiddie’s Korner show with Vernon.
I also want to mention that I still hold a souvenir “keepsake” ticket from
the July 6th, 1963 broadcast of “Two for the Money.” Vernon invited me to
sit in on the broadcast and be a judge for the show…held at Radio Ceylon’s
Studio 6, that evening. The studio audience was packed to the brim.
In a surprise move, just before the broadcast began, Vernon announced the
birthday of a 73 year old contestant–and that “Uncle Craig” from Kiddie’s
Corner would lead in the singing of the Birthday Song to her. It was a
surprise to me, too.
When “Uncle Craig” was mentioned, about 20 children in the audience gasped
happy gasps and one boy stood up and said, “I see you on the radio!” Vernon
and I were both delighted. The audience roared with laughter. Then they
asked me to lead the children in singing the “Gilly, Gilly” song. It was
such a fun evening.
The ticket reads “The Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon, in association with
Harischandra Mills, Ltd., invite YOU to the most exciting Quiz Show on the
“TWO FOR THE MONEY.”
Inside the fold-out ticket is an ad for Sal Bar Soap…”For the
Milkiest–Silkiest wash! The genuine Sandalwood Soap for genuine
beauty……Kumari. Along with pictures of the product it says, “Firm Family
Favourites From the Friend of the Family.”
On the inside flap the ticket reads,
1. Be in your seat by 7:15 p.m.
2. No smoking in the Auditorium
3. This ticket admits ONE of our valued customers to the show
4. Children under five are not permitted to enter the Auditorium
5. The show is on 6 JUL 1963 at 7:30 p.m. at Radio Ceylon Studio 6.
On the back cover of the fold-out ticket it says:
* Coconut Oil
* Kurakkan Flour
From the ultra-modern factories of the friend of the family
HARISCHANDRA MILLS, LTD.
One of the most difficult requests anyone has ever made of me, was when
Vernon requested that I record a 30 minute tribute of condolences following
the death of President John F. Kennedy–shortly after the assassination. It
was all I could do to “hold it together” while I read the sad messages that
had come in from all around the world. But Vernon was there to help me get
through it all.
I tried to get in touch with Vernon several years ago, but could not track
him down. We were in London in 1993. I only wish I’d known he was there,
then. I feel so sad that all these years passed without being able to tell
him how much I appreciated his friendship. There were many good times and
good food we shared together (including my favorite food like stringhoppers
and other Sri Lankan goodies).
It has been said that “…laughter, joy and kindness are the herbs to gladden
the heart and delight the soul.” That being the case, Vernon had a special
herb garden that spread around the world. His kindness brings tears to my
eyes, even today.
United States of America