1940s Radio - True Family Entertainment
It started with me kicking a box. It was at the top of a flight of stairs, and what I did not know was that there was a radio inside. The cabinet cracked, but the radio still played. I was only 5 at the time, but from my parents' reaction, I realized that radio was important to us.
In fact, it was very important. The year was 1940 and radio was our major source of information and entertainment. My mother listened during the day while she did the household chores (very few women worked outside the home in those days). And at night, my mom and dad and my sister and I gathered around the radio in the living room to listen to all kinds of wonderous shows. Even though I might be tired, when they said it was time to go to bed, I would protest. I always wanted to stay up and listen to more.
What I could not have forseen then, was that my first job out of college would be in radio - selling advertising. And so would be my last job - and it wasn't just to sell advertising, it was also to write the commercials and sit in when they were produced.
But I digress - my career is another story. What I want to write about is many of the programs I remember fondly.
Music in those days was much more general, much less specific. Where today we can choose from a dozen different kinds of rock music - classic rock, new wave, hip hop, acid rock, etc, etc, and outlaw country, country from the 80s, current country - on and on. In those days music was mostly popular, or pop as it later became known as, or country or classic. That was it. It made life simple. And what I really liked, that most stations got away from long ago, is that the announcers - later called "disc jockeys" - told you who was going to sing,or who just sang, or maybe both.
The way I remember it, the most popular music show was YOUR HIT PARADE. Every week, on Saturdays if memory serves me right, this program came on. They would count down the top ten songs of that week, determined I suppose, by record sales. We would all guess which song would be number one each week.
Recording Portia Faces Life
Recording One Man's Family
Soap operas began back in the early 30s, and were a mainstay of radio throughout the 40s, and eventually evolved into television soaps, which are still going strong today. They usually ran during midday, and because wives were in the homes rather than in the work world in those days, they had many loyal followers. They were serials - the stories went on, seemingly endlessly, portraying romances, betrayals, love, lust, life, death, drama.
They got the appellation “soaps” because they were usually sponsored by soap companies. One sponsor was Super Suds, and their jingle is as fresh in my memory as though I heard it just yesterday: “Super Suds, Super Suds, lots more suds with Super Suds”. Another was Rinso: “Rinso White, Rinso Bright, happy little washday song.” And then there was the slogan, “Duz does everything”.
Some of the most popular, and longest running soaps were ONE MAN’S FAMILY, POTIA FACES LIFE and MA PERKINS.
Afternoons were kind of kids’ time. When we got home from school,, if we were not outside playing we would be listening to JACK AMRMSTRONG, THE ALL AMERICAN BOY, if I remember right, sponsored by Wheaties, “Breakfast of Chanpions”. And then there was the famous flier, HOP HARRIGAN and I LOVE A MYSTERY. They all had intriguing stories to keep us tuning back in the next day.
Harold Peary was 'THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE"
William Bendix as THE LIFE OF RILEY
Comedies are the radio shows I recollect the most fondly. They were evening shows, usually between 7 and 10 at night. My favorite was FRED ALLEN. Fred would always take a walk down “Allen’s Alley” and talk with Senator Claghorn, Mrs Nussbaum, Titus Moody (what’s up Bub?) and others.
Another favorite was JACK BENNY, who was always 39 years old. He always had the company of his faithful chauffer, Rodchester, his wife, Mary Livingston, and the sweet but slow witted singer, Dennis Day.
Then there was THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE, played by Harold Peary. His buddy was Peavey. His character name was Throckmorton P Gildersleeve and he started many of his sentences with a giggle. Some claim this show was the forerunner of all the situation or family comedies that followed on both radio and television.
Other comedy shows my family and I listened to with some regularity included DUFFY’S TAVERN (“Duffy’s Tavern, Archie the manager speaking, Duffy ain’t here”), THE LIFE OR RILEY, starring William Bendix, who later appeared in many movies and television shows, FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY, AMOS AND ANDY (where the main characters usually were Kingfish and Sapphire) A DATE WITH JUDY and OUR MISS BROOKS.
OTHER MEMORABLE SHOWS
THE ORIGINAL AMATEUR HOUR, started by Major Bowes in 1934 and on the radio through the 40s, and carried on on television by Ted Mack was the forerunner of today’s popular “Idol” shows on TV.
INNER SANCTUM was pretty scary if you were a kid. It always started with the sound of a squeaking door, followed by the announcer saying “This is Raymond, your host.”.
GANGBUSTERS, was on Saturday nights. When I was 11 and 12, my sister, Barbara, a year younger than me, and I would listen to it. We were always alone that night at that time because my mom had gone to meet Dad and buy groceries for the week. At the end of the program they would always give clues as to bad guys they were wanted. We lived on a dark alley, and I would always try to scare Barbara by telling her one of those wanted criminals was probably lurking in our alley at that moment.
SUSPENSE was another frightening radio program. It was sponsored by “Auto Lite and its 50,000 dealers”.
THE LONE RANGER What kid growing up in the 40s - and later - never listened to these radio dramas? Remember Tonto called him “Kimosabe”. He always left a silver bullet behind, and someone was sure to ask, “Who was that masked man?”. And who could forget the stirring music that introduced the show - The William Tell Overture?
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES Maybe this was a forerunner to today’s television quiz shows.
Radio works in the theater of the imagination. It can create images and impressions like no other medium. If the commercials are clever enough, and aired enough times, they stick in your mind forever. Advertisers may gain life-long customers from effective radio ads.
I’ve already mentioned a few memorable sponsors from the soap operas, but one of my favorites is from Pepsi Cola. Their jingle still resonates in my mind: “Pepsi Cola hit’s the spot, twelve full ounces, that’s a lot, twice as much for a nickel too, Pepsi Cola is the drink for you”. (Incidentally, in those days we thought 12 ounces was a lot - quite a contrast to today when marketers sell cola drinks up to 44 ounces. And we wonder why people today are fat.)
Then there was L A V A soap. And Brylcreme’s “A little dab will do you”.And remember “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”.
Radio has changed, but now, thanks to radios in every room in the house, in our cars, boats, on motorcycles, on MP3s and Ipods, it is bigger than ever. But when it comes to programming, I still think the old days were better. And the technology was so much easier. Just two knobs. The one on the left turned the radio on and controlled the volume. On the right, the knob was to change stations. Now, the radio by my bed has no knobs, but about a dozen little slides. Once, in the middle of the night the alarm went off. My wife, who understands this radio, had to get up and come around the bed to shut it off. Even if I had turned on the light, it would have taken me a long time to figure it out. There are slides for AM or FM, for the clock, the alarm, for a CD, and who knows what else. All these new fangled electronics are oo complicated for an old man like me but that's anotjher hub to write about.
If you enjoy nostalgia, you may like to read my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS. It is a collection of short stories and articles published in the 1960s in motorcycle magazines. It is available from Amazxon.com. I also have written two other books about motorcycling availalbe from Amazon.com. You can read all 3 of them on your computer for just $2.99 each. Go to motorcyclenostalgia.com.
And, if you enjoyed this hub, you may want to check out some of my others. I have now posted over 50 "hubs". Go to hubpages//dongately. To see them all, click on more.