David Cunningham Garroway was born in Schenectady, New York on July 13, 1913. While a young boy in the Schenectady area, Dave began to develop his lifelong interest in things mechanical; his grandfather Tanner (on his mother’s side) briefly ran a bicycle shop, and his grandfather Garroway had a shed full of tools that he used in roofing and plumbing. His love for cars also began about this time, when one grandfather built him a small car that he drove around town. Several members of the family, including Dave’s dad, worked for General Electric in Schenectady.
When Dave was seven, his father made a small cylindrical gadget with some attachments and coils on it. “This is a radio,” he told young Dave. “Come over here and we’ll listen.” Through the radio’s earpiece Dave heard Fritz Kreisler playing a violin at the Union College station, and from that moment a lifelong fascination, and a future career, came to be.
When Dave’s father was let go from General Electric and took a new job, the family moved to Brookline, Massachusetts. After his father took him on a visit to the studios of WNAC, Dave built his own little home studio. He enlisted a friend to join him in building a code relay between their houses, using Morse code to send regular broadcasts to each other.
The Garroway family moved to the Philadelphia area when Dave was 13, and then to St. Louis the following year. Although Dave dreaded the city’s hot summers, he remembered it fondly. When his father’s job let him join the Algonquin Golf Club, Dave asked his father to teach him the game, and golf joined the constellation of Garroway’s lifelong interests. It was also in St. Louis that Dave’s love for astronomy grew, and he spent many nights gazing through his beloved one-inch telescope.
After graduating from University City High School in 1931, Dave began studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Not joining in the social scene very much, Dave took a lot of other courses “just for the fun of it,” and found himself with enough credits to have his choice of any of four majors. In the end, Dave earned his degree in Abnormal Psychology. It was at Washington University that he first met Adele Dwyer, who would later become an important figure in his story.
After graduation Dave and his family went back to Boston. Through a connection his father had, Dave took a job as a salesman for the Chance Piston Ring Company. Doggedly going from garage to garage and doing his best to sell the company’s wares, Dave had no luck. “Never did unload one single piston ring on anybody,” he later remembered. “Couldn’t even give the samples away.”
Dave’s next gig, through another of his father’s connections, was selling a book for schoolteachers called You Don’t Say – Or Do You? Though he and his partner had good luck selling the book to schools in New England, their plans to sell the book to New York City schools didn’t work. But during that stay in New York, everything would change.
Next: A career begins