Providence, Rhode Island radio personality.
Size: 1 lin. ft.
Catalog number: MSS 1029
Processed by: Robin Flynn, February 1999
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Rhode Island radio broadcaster "Salty" Brine was born Walter Leslie Brian on August 8, 1918 in Boston, Massachusetts, the last of four children. His parents were from Nova Scotia; his father was a carpenter. For over 50 years the morning host on popular AM-radio station WPRO, and for 13 years (1955-1968) the host of Salty's Shack, a live children's television broadcast, Mr. Brine has become somewhat of a cultural icon to thousands of Rhode Island residents.
Mr. Brine lived in Massachusetts until he obtained his position as a staff announcer at WPRO in September of 1942. He had prepared himself for a radio career by attending a four-year program at the Staley College for Radio in Brookline, Massachusetts, graduating in 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts in Oratory. He met his wife, Mickey (Marion Owens), at the college; they were married in June, 1943. His first jobs in radio were all in Massachusetts, at WNAC, WESX in Salem, and WCOP in Boston.
In 1943, Mr. Brine began his 50-year run as WPRO's morning announcer on a news show called the TNT Revue, short for "Time, News and Temperature". His radio name derived from the nickname his friends gave him, "Walt the Salt", and a question a listener had about the spelling of his surname. Mr. Brine was as popular with advertisers as he was with regular listeners, as sales tended to increase in response to his presentation of product advertisements.
Breaking into television in 1955, WPRO broadcast a nautically-themed children's program called Salty Brine's Shack, produced live, which Mr. Brine hosted with a collie named Jeff. Both Salty and Jeff evolved into local celebrities. The show ran until 1968, when the station changed ownership from Capital City Broadcasting to Providence Television and became WPRI. That same year, Mr. Brine was asked by Providence mayor Joseph Doorley to run for United States Congress to fill the vacancy of Democrat John Fogarty, who had died. Brine agreed on the condition that he receive the endorsement of the Democratic party, which did not happen, and he withdrew from consideration.
A severe leg injury suffered when he was 10 years old made Mr. Brine especially sensitive to people challenged by physical and mental handicaps. In 1959, he began long-term involvement with helping the causes of disabled Rhode Islanders after meeting with Congressman Fogarty, Arthur Trudeau, and Roger Wheeler. The meeting initiated a local fund-raising carnival, run in conjunction with WPRO, called "Salty Brine Fun Days", which benefitted the mentally handicapped. The event was repeated several times throughout the 1960s, and ultimately led to the establishment of the Trudeau Memorial Center in Warwick in the late '60s. Many other state and national charitable organizations have benefited from Mr. Brine's endorsement and fundraising participation over the years.
Mr. Brine became a member of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1979, and was the Rhode Island Advertising Club's "Person of the Year" in 1988, the first time in twenty years the award went to a radio personality rather than an industry executive. In 1989, he won the "Lifebeat Top Jock Award", a contest run by the Providence Journal. In 1996, the Big Brothers organization distinguished Salty with the Robert "Cy" Killian Humanitarian Award.
In April, 1993, ownership of WPRO-AM and -FM was taken over by Telemedia Broadcasting Company of Pennsylvania, at which time Mr. Brine decided to retire from the station. Mr. Brine's last regular morning broadcast took place April 28th, 1993. He still does winter-storm cancellation announcements for the station.
Mr. Brine and wife Mickey have one son, Walter Brine Jr., who is a radio personality on WROR-FM in Boston.
Providence Sunday Journal TV Weekly, "Salty's Bike Safety Club", May 19, 1957
Providence Journal, "The disc jockeys - Salty: informal friendly", October 8, 1961
AdEast magazine, "The tide runs strong for Salty Brine", July, 1970.
East Side magazine, "Salty Brine just keeps rolling along", April, 1977
Providence Journal, August --, 1982
The NewSection, "A conversation with Salty Brine", January 1985
Senior Times, "Life with Salty: Mickey Brine reflects", December 1991
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Scope and content:
The collection consists of correspondence, biographical newspaper articles, broadcast scripts and advertisements, award certificates, travel itineraries, and miscellaneous materials, including articles pertaining to Rhode Island and popular Rhode Island media personalities. The correspondence reveals the extent to which Mr. Brine's radio presence has influenced Rhode Island residents, charities, and businesses since the 1940s. Researchers may also gain insight into the symbiotic relationship between business and the media, especially for the 1940s and 1950s. The newspaper articles are a great consolidated source for biographical material.
Some extracts from typical letters:
2/27/1950, The Rumford [Baking Powder] Company: You will be pleased to know that I have heard many favorable comments on the way Salty Brine puts over our commercials on his TNT Review....This morning Mr. George Penny, our Vice President and General Sales Manager, came in as pleased as punch to report that a listener had called in, stating that he had heard our Noctil commercial over Station WPRO, and the net result was that the listener...is now a bulk Noctil customer.
7/8/1957, Fall River Police Department Safety Instructor: I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your cordial hospitality on my recent visit to your "shack"....Through your fine personality, enthusiasm and crusading spirit which you possess, I now know why "Salty Brine" is the favorite of "little shipmates" everywhere.
7/28/1959, John G. Smith, Ladd School: ...your stimulating visit of last Wednesday is definitely one that will long be remembered....One of our residents is George who came to the Ladd School in 1908 at the age of fifteen. He remained excited for the rest of the day and he is still singing your praises about your songs and dancing. He told me that you can do anything because you even "sat down to the organ and played a tune."
circa April, 1993, "Carol": My brother watched Salty's Shack every day so you have been familiar to my family since 1956. Years later, my sisters husband fought in Vietnam. He was wounded and sent to Hawaii where my sister and their sons joined him. They were there for two and a half years before being sent home....My sister had been very homesick and the drive from California seemed interminable. As they drove through Connecticut the radio was on and she turned to WPRO. She told me that she knew she was home when she heard Salty's voice.
Unsigned letter, circa April 1993: This mornings show (your last one) really made me sad. You see, I have always listened to you in the morning --- I can't remember not listening. My Mom always had you on. I can still smell my Mom's coffee and hear your voice. I carried on the tradition. Well, my Mom has passed on and my family has all moved out...I'm alone each morning but your voice has been my hold on the past.
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Gift of Walter "Salty" Brine, January 1999.
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The papers were placed into archival storage, arranged according to type. The correspondence relating to Salty's departure from WPRO Radio in 1993 arrived in a separate folder, and was left in that arrangement. For preservation purposes, newspaper articles and faxed documents were copied onto archival paper; the originals were kept by the donor.
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Box 1 of 2.
Folder 1. Activities and functions, 1955-1998 and undated.
Folder 2. Awards, 1937-1994 and list of citations, 1961-1993.
Folder 3. Biographical newspaper articles (copies on archival paper), 1954-1998.
Oversize: Newspaper clippings re: local radio schedules and events, ca 1931-1939.
Folder 4. Broadcasting ephemera and scripts, WPRO radio and television, circa 1950-1994 and undated; WHJJ radio, 1994.
Folder 5. Correspondence, 1949-1972.
Folder 6. Correspondence, 1974-1998 and undated.
Folder 7. Correspondence: departure from WPRO, March 30-June 14, 1993.
Folder 8. Greeting cards, departure from WPRO, 1993.
Box 2 of 2.
Folder 1. Greeting cards, 50th wedding anniversary, 1993.
Folder 2. Greeting cards, various occasions, circa
Folder 3. Rhode Island.
Folder 4. Rhode Island radio and television personalities.
Folder 5. Social and cultural.
Folder 6. Anecdotal and humor.
Folder 7. Religious.
Folder 8. Mixed topics.
Folder 9. Programming, WPRO: newspaper clippings (copies), 1930-1939.
Folder 10. Salty Brine State Beach, 1990.
Folder 11. Theater productions (Theatre-by-the-Sea), 1990-1993.
Folder 12. Travel: brochures and itineraries, circa 1960-1988.
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Brine, Walter Leslie ("Salty") (1918 -)
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