Remembering Providence’s “Compose for Dollars” TV Show

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Last weekend, I shared a full Providence newscast from 1986 that I stumbled upon while going down a YouTube rabbit hole. This led to other memories that came to mind about WLNE 6 when I was growing up in the 1980s, and one of my favorite programs in particular: Dial for dollars.

I moved to Plymouth in 1985 at the age of seven, having lived in the Randolph-Brockton area for most of my life up to that point. It was in Plymouth that I discovered Providence television stations and fell in love with WLNE because at the time I had no television in my room – only an old bakelite Emerson radio which I could use to tune in to the WLNE simulcast on the radio.

I listened to all the CBS shows (WLNE was a CBS affiliate then) like Kate and Allie, Newhart, Murphy Brown, Magnum, IP, wise, The equalizerand just play them like old-time radio dramas in my head, imagining the action in my mind.

However, when I got home from school, I could usually get by by tuning the living room TV to some Dial for dollars with George Allen, the afternoon block in which WLNE would show a movie (heavily edited for daytime TV, of course) with Allen offering cash for people to call and win.

I didn’t care about money, because I was too young to follow and win anyway; for me, it was all about movies, and movies that I wouldn’t be able to watch otherwise. I remember watching some of my favorite 80s horror movies for the first time on Dial for dollarssuch as The howling, Halloweenand Cujo.

John Methia of Fairhaven worked at WLNE’s New Bedford studio on County Street at the time and worked with George Allen for Dial for dollars.

“I can tell you that on many of those calls he was either sworn at or hung up. George always handled it like a pro, ‘OK sir…thanks for watching Dial for dollars and better luck next time,” Methia said.

The Dial for dollars The program proved so popular that other local stations knew they had to find ways to keep viewers on their own channel while Allen was on the air.

“The show was so popular that Channel 12 started superimposing the ‘account and amount’ on its airwaves so that the viewer could watch Channel 12 and still know the ‘account and amount’ if George were to call,” said Methia.

At that time, I couldn’t have enough films. Whenever I slept at my grandparents, I usually spent my nights watching The Cinema Loft with Dana Hersey on WSBK TV-38. All these years later, I’m still secretly obsessed with being on the radio on the same station where Dana Hersey also does voiceovers (he’s the voice of The Howie Carr Show). And who could forget Dual creature function Saturday afternoons on WLVI-56?

Even on weekends, I watched TV-38 to see the program Ask the manager, in which people wrote letters to station management and revealed the inner workings of a local independent television station. I was obsessed with it all. If you had asked me when I was a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said “the booth announcer for WLVI 56” or “the next host of Dial for dollars.”

As I got older I got more into things like Nickelodeon and MTV and Dial for dollars eventually disappeared anyway. I went from afternoon movies to late night movies with Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear on USA all nightbut I still give George Allen credit for helping to fuel my love of cinema throughout my life.

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