Serials: (Part 1) - Juvenile Radio Programsby Terry G. G. Salomonson
One of the nice things about collecting old time radio programs is that there are a lot of them to collect. Indeed, more are being added to the ever growing list of available shows from the "golden age of broadcasting." However, that growing list is not expanding in the area of juvenile radio programs at the same rate that other areas are enlarging. It's sad but true. For some reason, the juvenile radio programs just do not seem to be available like the comedy and drama programs. As a collector you should really have copies of these juvenile programs. This was one of the reasons that so many hundreds and thousands of hours were spent in front of the family radio listening to all of the adventures that kids before only played out in their minds. Now they could hear such adventures as their radio friends "lived" through such action packed lives.
As an example, out of the thousands of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE shows that were produced and aired over the radio in the 1930's and 1940's, why are there only six or seven available to collec- tors? Thousands of JACK ARMSTRONG, THE ALL AMERICAN BOY broadcasts filled hundreds of listening hours for well over a decade of programming, but there are only about 116 of the 15 minute shows and a couple of the 30 minute programs available. Where are all of the rest of these programs?
While we wait for some of these programs to surface and be made available, I thought that I would write a little about several of these shows for those of you who may never have heard some of them. I will also list many titles of juvenile programs that I would be willing to bet most of you have never heard of.
Going back almost to the beginning of commercial broadcast radio is LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. I have seen three starting dates for "ANNIE." Some references list December 1930, or January 1931 as the beginning. April 6, 1931 is most often listed as the beginning. ANNIE was the beginning of children's adventure and drama serial programming. An earlier program titled THE ADVENTURES OF HELEN AND MARY started on CBS in 1929. It would later change its name to LET'S PRETEND in 1934. This program, however, was not in the serial format.
LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE was there in the beginning, even before the radio networks had all of their connections completed for a true national network. So for the first few years of the program, there were two casts, broadcasting from two dif- ferent national locations, with the same scripts airing on the same days. From 1931 to 1933 LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE broadcast from WGN in Chicago from 5:45 to 6:00 p.m. six days a week on the NBC-Blue (later ABC) network.
Shirley Bell won the role when she was only 10 years old, and played ANNIE from Chicago for East Coast and Midwest listeners. Floy Margaret Hughes appeared as ANNIE from San Francisco for all of the West Coast audiences. Beginning with the fourth year on the air in the 1934-35 season, ANNIE reduced its schedule to five times a week.
The program was fairly close to the comic strip ANNIE created by Harold Gray. From 1931 - 1940 Shirley Bell played the lead role and then Janice Gilbert assumed the role. (In 1933 the coast-to-coast Blue Network lines were complete and the productions from San Francisco were discontinued.) The 1937-38 broadcast season LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE was offered also on MUTUAL at the 5:30 - 5:45 p.m. time slot. During Shirley Bell's broadcasts, the show was sponsored by Ovaltine. The only other major sponsor was Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies beginning its sponsorship in 1940.
Character and cast credits were Mr. Silo (Jerry O'Mera), and Mrs. Silo (Henrietta Tedro) who took in and raised Annie. Her adventures took place in and around Tomkins Corners where the Silo's lived. Some additional adventures took place in Sunfield not far away. Later as Annie grew older, her adventures would take her to many exotic locations where she chased pirates, criminals, and gangsters. Annie's friend and pal was Joe Corntassel (Allan Baruck and later Mel Torme). Clay Collier (Hoyt Allen) was the inventor of the famous decoder ring and badges.
Oliver (Daddy) Warbucks (Henry Saxe, Stanley Andrews, and Boris Aplon) was a capitalist's capitalist. There was also Aha, the Chinese cook (Olan Soule). We certainly can't forget Punjab the Giant and the silent Asp.
Announcer Pierre Andre also lended his talents as Uncle Andy who sang the famous opening song.
By the way, Shirley Bell did the whining for Sandy, the dog, while Brad Barker was the voice (barking) for Sandy.
In 1940, when Wheaties took over the program, aviator Captain Sparks became Annie's friend. Unfortunately for Annie, Captain Sparks took over the central character making Annie disappear all together in time. Some friend.
Many famous and now valuable radio premiums came from the LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE program. In 1933 the Annie's Radio Secret Society was formed and started the premium give-aways with a mask of Annie. A Secret Code Badge was offered in 1935. Sunburst Membership Pin was available in 1937. This enabled you to stamp out secret messages to friends. 1938 offered a ring with a secret compartment. There were also different aluminum Annie shake-up mugs over the years.
Shortly after LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE hit the airwaves a second children's serial BUCK ROGERS IN THE TWENTY-FIFTH CENTURY began on 11/07/32 at 7:15 p.m. MONDAY - FRIDAY, East Coast over CBS. This program was as futuristic as you could get during those early years. The series centered on Buck Rogers (Curtis Arnall, Matt Crowley, Carl Frank and John Larkin) and Wilma Deering (Adele Ronson) his female friend.
Dr. Huer (Edgar Stehli) was a scientist whose inventions were often stolen sending Buck into the universe to recover them. Some of the good doctor's inventions included a psychic restriction ray, a mechanical mole for burrowing deep into the earth, the molecular expansor and contractor beams, radio transmission of power, force rays, ultrasonic death rays, robot rocket ships, the teleradioscope and the atomic disintegrator. Pretty heavy stuff for the 1930's.
Bucks' arch rivals were Black Barney (Jack Roseleigh and Joe Granby), Killer Kane (Bill Shelley, Dan Ocko and Arthur Vinton) and villainess Ardala Valmar (Elaine Melchior). Buddy (Ronald Liss) and Willie (Junius Matthews and Walter Tetley), Black Barney's child protege.
Sponsors were Kellogg 1932-33, Cocomalt 1933-34, Cream Of Wheat 1935. The serial left the air May 1936 and returned in April 1939. Sponsorship was for Popsicle and the program was on 3 days a week. In the summer of 1940 the format was changed to a half hour broadcast once a week. The last attempt at airing this program was started on 09/30/46 and aired until 03/28/47 over Mutual for General Mills.
A QUICK SHORT LOOK AT A FEW MORE EARLY CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS:
DR. DOLITTLE (Blue Network - 1932)
5:15 p.m. twice a week. Drama stories for children based on stories by Hugh Lofting.
KALTENMEYER'S KINDERGARTEN (NBC WMAQ Chicago 10/14/32 - 40's)
Bruce Kamman as Professor August Kaltenmeyer, D.U.N. (Doctor of Utter Nonsense). Originally aired 3:15 - 3:30 p.m. once a week. Quaker Oats started sponsorship of the program on 01/04/35. Also featured were Marion & Jim Jordan from the beginning until their last appearance on 09/28/35. In 1940 the program became Kindergarten Kapers because of the anti-German feeling in the U.S. The Professor's name was changed also to Ulysses S. Applegate.
THE LONE RANGER (MUTUAL WXYZ Detroit 01/31/33 - 09/03/54)
This program really needs no detailed information about it. It has become part of American folklore. It is also one of the longest running three-times-a-week programs ever broadcast.JACK ARMSTRONG, THE ALL AMERICAN BOY (CBS WBBM Chicago 07/31/33 - 1951)
This was another of radio's longest running juvenile adventure series. Jack was leader of his class and Captain of the football team at Hudson High. His Uncle Jim Fairfield, a former Captain in Army Intelligence, owned The Silver Albatross a giant amphibian airplane, and the schooner Spindrift. These craft, along with the dirigible Golden Secret, would take Jack and his friends Billy and Betty to adventures all over the globe.
This program jumped networks several times - starting on CBS 1933 - 1936, then on NBC until 1941, Mutual in 1941-1942 and then the Blue Network (ABC) from 1942 until 1950. The 15 minute programs lasted until 08/22/47. The 30 minute format was used twice a week until 1950. On 09/05/50 ABC opened the show again for one last twice-a-week attempt under the title of ARMSTRONG OF THE SBI (Scientific Bureau of Investigation). Sponsored by Wheaties it lasted only until 06/28/51. Many radio premiums were offered on this program also: the Jack Armstrong ring, bombsight, pedometer, the medallion, luminous bracelet and the famous luminous dragon's eye ring.
St. John Terrell was the first Jack Armstrong (1933), followed by Jim Ameche (1933-38), Stanley Harris (1938-39), Charles Flynn (1939-1943 and 1944-51), Michael Rye (Rye Billsbury)(1943).
TOM MIX AND HIS RALSTON STRAIGHT SHOOTERS (NBC Chicago 09/25/33)
Artells Dickson played the first Tom Mix followed by Russell Thorson and Jack Holden. Joe "Curley" Bradley became the last Tom Mix in 1943. The radio Tom Mix lived on radio ranch T-M Bar Ranch in Dobie Township. Tony, the Wonder Horse, his trusted friend, was forever saving Tom at the last minute. By 1936 the show was on 5 times a week. Ralston sponsored all except the 1939 season, which was by Kellogg. Starting on NBC in 1933, the show moved to the Blue Network in 1937 and continued until 1942. In 1944 it aired over the Mutual network daily for Ralston until 1949. On 09/26/49 the show started a 3 times a week 30 minute format that lasted until 06/23/50. Harold Peary and Willard Waterman (of THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE fame) played Sheriff Mike Shaw in the late 1930's.
BOBBY BENSON'S ADVENTURES (CBS 1932-36)
Played by Richard Wanamaker, Ivan Cury and Billy Halop, the program started as a 3 times a week show and moved to 5 broadcasts a week. It was originally set on the H-Bar-O Ranch because of its sponsor Heckers H-O Cereals. After moving to Mutual in 1949, the show was renamed BOBBY BENSON AND THE B-Bar-B RIDERS and aired twice a week, finally airing on Sunday. The show ended in 1955.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (NBC 1933)
This program aired at 4:45 p.m. and starred Nancy Kelly as Dorothy, Parker Fennelly as the voice for the Tin Man, and Jack Smart as the Cowardly Lion.
ROBINSON CRUSOE JR. (CBS 1934)
Lester Jay as a rich little boy shipwrecked on a mythical island with his less fortunate playmates.
BILLY AND BETTY (NBC 1935)
Billy (Jimmy McCallion) and Betty (Audrey Egan). Sponsored by Sheffield Farms Grade A Milk this was a children's adventure program.
OG, SON OF FIRE (CBS 1935)
Alfred Brown starred in this prehistoric adventure effort. The effort was over before anyone noticed.
DON WINSLOW OF THE NAVY (NBC-Blue Chicago 10/19/37 - 1939)
Starring Bob Guilbert as Don Winslow. 10/05/42 NBC Blue started the program again with Raymond Edward Johnson as Don Winslow.
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT (Developed by WGN-CHICAGO and aired regionally in 1939 for Skelly Oil Company).
MUTUAL run from 09/30/1940 and ended in 1941. This was a replacement for LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. Last broadcast was 12/15/49 while airing 5 times a week.
Now do you remember any of the following titles? Some of these programs have no known circulating programs available to today's collector. A few of these titles have all of the epi- sodes available. The titles are not in any particular order:
SUPERMAN (MUTUAL 1940-51), OMAR THE MYSTIC, FLASH GORDON, INSPECTOR WHITE OF SCOTLAND YARD, JUNIOR G-MEN, DAVEY ADAMS, KING ARTHUR, JR., MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN, FLYING PATROL, SMILIN' JACK, SECRET CITY, WILDERNESS ROAD (CBS), DICK TRACY, TERRY AND THE PIRATES (NBC 1937), TENNESSEE JED, CIMARRON TAVERN (CBS), SPARROW AND THE HAWK (CBS), CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON, THE GREEN HORNET, SKY KING, STRAIGHT ARROW, BLACK HAWK, MARK TRAIL, CLYDE BEATTY, WILD BILL HICKOK, SPACE PATROL, TOM CORBETT - SPACE CADET, MAGIC ISLAND, JERRY OF THE CIRCUS, JERRY AT FAIR OAKS, BARNACLE BILL, BETTY BOOP FABLES, LAND OF THE LOST, BIG JON AND SPARKIE (CINCINNATI 1948 ABC 1950-58), SMILIN' ED MCCONNELL'S BUSTER BROWN'S GANG (NBC 1943), COAST-TO-COAST ON A BUS (FORMERLY THE CHILDREN'S HOUR), JUVENILE JURY (MUTUAL 1946), LASSIE (ABC 1947), LATITUDE ZERO, MALCOLM CLAIRE (CHILDREN'S STORIES), THE MICKEY MOUSE THEATER OF THE AIR (NBC 1937), THE OLD SKIPPER, POPEYE THE SAILOR (NBC 1935), RAISING YOUR PARENTS (Children's Panel), REG'LAR FELLERS, SAFETY LEGION TIME, SKIPPER JIM, SKIPPY, THE SINGING LADY (Children's stories and songs), STORY TO ORDER, UNCLE DON, UNCLE REMUS, UNCLE WIGGILY, HOP HARRIGAN, ACE OF THE AIRWAVES (ABC 1942-43), TERRY AND MARY, SECRET CITY (1942), THE HORN AND HARDART CHILDREN'S HOUR, THE AIR ADVENTURES OF JIMMIE ALLEN, GAME PARADE.
I hope that I helped you get interested in trying to collect and listen with enjoyment to some of these programs. Many collectors have never appreciated the juvenile program, and thus do not collect or search for them. They really should. They are fun to listen to and maybe you might add to your slang a few of these gems from these children's shows of the past:
Gosh-all-hemlock!, golly whiskers, ice water freckles, and two fried holes in a blanket.
Silly, yes. But that is what adds to the charm of these programs. Besides, you just might be transported back to a few long forgotten memories of your youth.
Next Part VII - Serials: (Part 2) - Soaps On Radio.
If there is an area of information that you, the new or well established collector, would like to see in this series, please feel free to write me. Any questions, comments, or suggestions will be carefully considered. I can be reached through this internet web site or the following addresses:
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Last Updated: 04/27/15 07:37:41 PM