Flogging the Collective Memory: Salty Brine

Flogging the Collective Memory: Salty Brine

Head shot of Salty Brine.

A genuinely nice man.

For over half a century, Walter Leslie "Salty" Brine, Jr., was a cheerful and comforting presence on local radio and television. He helmed WPRO-AM's morning show from 1943 to 1993 and was the popular host of Channel 12's children's show, Salty's Shack, from 1955 to 1968.

Most of us on the staff of Quahog.org regrettably did not grow up with Salty, so we'll just state the facts, then defer to the people who knew him best—that is, everyone within the range of his broadcast signal—to explain what made him special.

Notable dates

  • August 5, 1918, born in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 1941, graduates from Staley College for Radio in Brookline, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor of Arts in Oratory.
  • September 1942, hired as a staff announcer at WPRO-AM in Providence.
  • 1943, begins hosting the morning radio program on WPRO-AM.
  • June 1943, marries his first wife, Marion E. "Mickey" Owens.
  • 1949, son, Walter L. "Wally" Brine, Jr., is born.
  • 1955, begins hosting a live children's television show, "Salty Brine's Shack," with his collie, Jeff, on Channel 12.
  • August 1961, Jeff passes away and is replaced by Little Jeff.
  • June 21-27, 1964, Salty appears as Captain Andy in a Providence Repertory Company production of Showboat.
  • 1968, "Salty's Shack" ends its thirteen-year run.
  • 1979, admitted to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
  • April 1988, named Man of the Year by the Rhode Island Advertising Club.
  • June 23, 1990, Galilee State Beach is officially renamed Salty Brine State Beach.
  • April 28, 1993, hosts his last morning radio show on WPRO.
  • October 1997, WPRO's Wampanoag Trail studios are rededicated as the Salty Brine Broadcasting Center.
  • March 2000, Mickey Brine dies.
  • 200?, marries Roseanna L. Bishop.
  • November 2, 2004, dies quietly in his Narragansett home at the age of 86.
  • May 22, 2008, inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.

Distinguishing features

A skipper's hat, a warm voice, a contagious smile, a folksy style, and a perpetually sunny disposition. Oh yeah, and a prosthetic leg!

Catch phrases

  • Brush your teeth and say your prayers!
  • Rise and shine with Salty Brine!
  • No school, Foster-Glocester!
  • Nobody beats Cardi's! No-ho-ho-body!

Trivia

  • His family name was actually Brian. Friends gave him the nickname "Walt the Salt." Soon after he began his career in radio, he changed the spelling of his last name to "Brine."
  • When he was nine or ten, Salty lost part of his right leg, trying to hop a train near his childhood home in Arlington, Massachusetts.
  • During the thirteen-year-long run of "Salty's Shack," there were two Jeffs. Both were collies that Salty said he got from the pound.
  • Salty and Mickey's only child, Walter L. "Wally" Brine, was co-host of the Loren and Wally Morning Show on WROR-FM in Boston from 1981 until his retirement in 2016.
  • Salty was born and died in years in which the Red Sox won the World Series.
  • Salty is buried in Christian Brothers Cemetery in Narragansett.

Hear Salty voice a commercial for Providence Wallpaper Company, circa 1950s. The commercial was recorded on a cellulose nitrate lacquer disk, and was meant to be played specifically during the "TNT Revue," a WPRO news program helmed by Salty:

Salty profiled on PM Magazine in 1979:

A tribute to Salty's later years:

If you have a story about Salty that you'd like to share, send it along to us at stuffie@quahog.org. Please include your first name and your current town and state. We also welcome submission of any Salty photographs or memorabillia.

Last Edited
2021-08-07

Betty, Okeechobee, Florida

I was born in Pawtucket some sixty-nine years ago [1940—ed.] and I grew up listening to Salty on the radio way before TV. My Aunt Ruth was the "diaper lady." He talked about her often on the morning show. She called in to request songs and talk to Salty and she would tell her woes over the diapers frozen on the line or something, and so he began to call her the diaper lady as she had a new story about the diapers every day.

Many years after the diaper lady thing my cousin was a dancer on the TV show WPRO had. It was mostly kids. I don't really remember how old he was—around 12—but he sure could tap dance. Salty had something to do with that show or stopped by and finally met the diaper kid. We all thought this was funny. If you can find a faithful listener from the '40s they may remember the diaper lady.

WPRO Great Scott buck.
A WPRO Great Scott buck featuring Salty and Jeff, undated. Great Scott was a supermarket chain. In 1955 it had two locations in Providence, and one each in East Providence and West Warwick.

Salty's radio program was over at 9am and the Don McNeill show came on and we marched around the breakfast table. Of course that was when there was no school.

During the late '50s (1958, I think) they [WPRO] had a green stamp campaign to buy Christmas toys for children who would not get anything otherwise. All you had to do was send the green stamps in finished books or part finished books and they would get the toys. Well, this was a huge success and they had tons of loose stamps. Then they asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to put the stamps in books. I took a bus many days to Providence to help with putting the stamps in books.

I never did forget Salty and he did not forget my Aunty, the diaper lady. I remember best The Little Rascals, my favorite part of the Salty Brine's Shack show. Also his wife's stuffed pork chops. Boy, he could make your mouth water with his description of many of his favorite meals. My cousin found your web site. It sure was great to read and it brought back many memories of great times of my childhood, and then later my children's childhoods.

Received via email, November 15, 2009.

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 20:33

armymanchance1947, no location given

I grew up with Salty Brine and Jeff, his dog. I used to watch his program, Salty Brine's Shack. Woke up every morning with Salty on WPRO AM hoping to hear our school was closed because of a snow storm. If I had a bad day I came home and watched Salty on my black and white TV with 4 channels only and felt better. Growing up, he showed me how nice some people are and I always wished I had a dad like him to this day and I am 68 years old and miss him. God bless Salty, we miss you.

Received via email, March 1, 2015.

Sat, 06/29/2019 - 20:31

Lynn, Long Beach, New York

I can contribute two anecdotes that really give a sense of the man and his "people" sense and values. When I was a grade school girl in Barrington, R.I., in the late '50s, the boy in the apartment upstairs, whose name was Henry, was accidentally hit and run over by a big road surfacing truck. With the tar ground into the terribly wounded and fractured leg, my small friend ended up losing the limb above the knee and was despondent. Salty somehow got word of it and came to visit, to show Henry his own leg, and give him encouragement to learn how to use his prosthetic. He also of course sent Henry good wishes and updates on his Shack show.

Later, when I was in High School and listening to Salty on WPRO radio, he did something that showed his principles and high standards for programming that would be listened to by a young audience. He had received a broadcast copy of a new song called "They're Coming to Take Me Away," which if you remember it, was humorous but kind of negative, and he put it on. About a minute into it he pulled it off the air and said, "Well, that's enough of that, we can do without a song like that." Funny or not, Salty found it was in poor taste and ridiculed the mentally challenged, not good listening for his very large young pop music audience, and he wouldn't give it exposure.

I'm seventy years old now, and I remember these two things about him with great clarity. Along with the Leo Laporte "Christmas Candlelight" readings on WPRO, Salty was one of the enduring voices of my childhood.

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 19:52