by Artie Richard
The radio days were a very brief, fleeting period in
time, perhaps 20 years. I still consider it a privilege to have lived during that time,
especially as a kid. Before that were the days of the "Penny Dreadful" and
"Nickel Novels" not of much use to kids before they were able to read. What the
printed word and radio did have in common was the liberal use of the imagination.
I had a vivid, mental picture of Capt. Midnight
who, as a purely radio creature, had no real appearance. There were few things more
sobering than seeing photos of the actual (actors) Shadow, Green Hornet, Lone Ranger, etc.
Also radio was economical. The mere mention of being surrounded by thousands of Indians,
or pirates, or Nazis was enough to fulfill the vision in one's mind. You did not need
thousands of actors to complete the image.
One of the main ingredients of radio was the use of "catch words" or
"catch phrases" and the one that stands out in my memory, done in thick, Jewish
accent was: "Pickle in da middle vid da mustard on top, just the way you like em and
they're always hot." It belonged to Mr. Kitzel on the Jack Benny program. The
"catch phrase" was the trademark of a character and it was used each time the
character appeared. Today's audiences probably.would not appreciate such repetition but,
besides kids, consider who were the audiences of radio.
They were the survivors of the Great Depression and the terrible days of WW II. They
had suffered through awful upheavals both at home and abroad. They came home after that
war and went back to work without bitching and moaning. Of course if they had, who would
listen? People like this need and desire stability. They did not need newer, bigger,
better every day.
The radio days were followed, in about 1950, by the "Age of TV." We are still
mired there. Some of the radio programs made the leap to TV; few were successful. Without
a doubt the standout radio program of all time was "Amos n Andy." Everybody
listened to "Amos n Andy" and it is unfortunate that it came under a black cloud
later during the civil rights movements. It is curious that TV almost immediately had its
"Mr. Television" in Milton Berle and he surely was worthy of the title. But in
over 20 years there had been no "Mr. Radio." The radio audiences could be
considered like an undisciplined mob of guerrilla fighters while the TV audience was more
like an organized army marching in lock step.
|The single most famous one time broadcast was 1938's
"The War of the Worlds" broadcast by "The Mercury Theater on the Air,"
the brainchild of the great Orson Welles. The invasion by aliens was so convincing that a
large portion of the populace thought it was really happening. Pandemonium ran rampant.
Oddly enough this escaped me. I was only four so it was, more than likely, past my
Some of my most vivid memories of growing up in Gerritsen Beach are of the radio
programs that held me captive as I tried to do homework. It's probably because of their
distraction that I never became s doctor or lawyer. Come to think of it, maybe they did me
During radio days, programs fell naturally into three major groups: 15 mins. and on 5
times a week. 30 mins and on once a week. One hour and on once a week. The "Lone
Ranger" was 30 mins. but was on Mon., Wed. & Fri. at 7:30 PM.
Here are some of the ones I remember and the year they were first heard, and some catch
- Dick Tracy: Mutual,1935. Would have been my favorite had it followed the strip.
- Bulldog Drummond: Mutual, 1941, 30 mins. An English detective. These were his
- Boston Blackie: Chester Morris, as in the movies. "Enemy to those who would
make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friends."
- Mr. District Attorney: NBC, 1939, 30 mins. for Ipana. "Champion of the
people, defender of truth
- Ellery Queen: CBS, 1939
- Sam Spade: CBS, 1946. Howard Duff was always getting hit on the head (similar to
Richard Diamond) they must have had noggins like rocks. "Effie
note." Instead of cases he had "capers."
- The Shadow: Mutual, 1936, 30 mins. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts
of men?" "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit
- Gangbusters: CBS, Wed. 10 PM 30 mins. for Palmolive. "A Phillips H. Lord
- Green Hornet Mutual 1935 30 mins. Many people are not aware that Britt Reid was the
grandnephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger. Also his Japanese sidekick Kato morphed, in
1941, into a Philippino. "Get the car Kato."
- I Love A Mystery: NBC, Red, 1939, 15 min. My all time favorite. Jack Packard, Doc
Long and Reggie York traveled the world for A-1 Detective Agency. "No job too tough,
no mystery too baffling." Who could forget the severed arm in the icebox. Rough stuff
in those days.
- Capt. Midnight: Mutual, 1940, 15 mins. One of the best remembered. Hero with the
Secret Squadron fought evildoers all over the world.
- Jack Armstrong: CBS, 1933, 15 mins. for Wheaties, breakfast of champions. Here is
where one got "whistling rings" "secret decoders" and even
Adventures in Exploring
- Terry & The Pirates: NBC, 1937, 15 mins. Right out of the famous comic strip.
- Hop Harrigan: ABC, 1942. "America's Ace of the airwaves." "OK.
This is Hop Harrigan coming in."
- The Bickersons: 15 min. John and Blanche (Don Ameche & Frances
Langford) were always bickering, usually about Gloria Goosby of whom Blanche was very
- Jack Benny: CBS, 1932, 60 mins. Canada Dry. Another who needs no intro. One of a
kind. "Now cut that out." "Oh Rochester, Rochester." "Anaheim,
Azusa, and Cucamonga." "Hiya Buck." "That's what I like about the
south." And many, many more.
- Amos n Andy: WMAQ Chi., 1928, 30 min. Really the antics of Andy and the
"Kingfish" They were both always getting in trouble with their wives, the
sisters, Ruby and Sapphire.
- Lum and Abner: NBC, 1931. 15 mins. for Quaker Oats. Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody
a couple of real rustics.
- Spike Jones: 30 mins. Musical nonsense with the "City Slickers."
- Truth or Consequences: NBC, 1940, 30 mins. "You did not tell the truth so
you must pay the consequences." And that could be hilarious.
- Answer Man: 15 min. Answers to any questions.
- Baby Snooks: Starring Fanny Brice. Her little brother Robespierre and daddy.
- Can You Top This? Mutual, 1940, 30 mins. People sent in jokes and the panel, Sen.
Ford, Joe Laurie Jr. and Harry Hershfield would try to top them.
- Duffy's Tavern: NBC, 1941, 30 mins. for Bristol-Myers. Duffy was never heard but
Archie always answered the phone : "Hello, Duffy's Tavern where the elite meet to
eat. Duffy ain't here. Archie the manager speaking."
- The Aldrich Family: NBC Blue, 1939, Jell-O, 30 mins. "Henry
- Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy: NBC, 1936, 60 mins. for Chase &
Sandborn. What can I say?
- Fibber McGee & Molly: NBC, 1935, 30 mins. for Johnson's Wax. Who could forget
McGee going to the hall closet and getting buried in stuff? "Not funny McGee."
- Burns and Allen: Need no introduction. "Say goodnight Gracie."
"Sure, Goodnight Gracie."
- It Pays to be Ignorant: WOR, 1942, 30 mins. The panel was never able to answer
even the simplest questions.
- Buck Rogers: 1931-39. Kids could become "Solar Scouts" and get maps of
- Tennessee Jed: ABC, 1945, 30 mins. "There he goes Tennessee, get him. Bang.
Got him dead center." Can't remember much about the actual stories.
- The Lone Ranger: WOR, 1933, 30 mins. This was a real heavy weight. "Kemo
Sabe." "Who was that masked man/" "Why, it's a silver bullet."
"Hi yo Silver, get em up Scout."
- Tom Mix: NBC, 1933, 15 mins. "Straight Shooters always win." Ah, that
it were really so.
- Cisco Kid: Mutual, 1943, 30 min. Adventures with lots of humor.
- Death Valley Days: NBC Blue, 1930, 30 mins. Narrated by the "Old
- The Whistler: CBS, 1945, 30 mins. Mysteries narrated by the Whistler.
- Uncle Don: WOR, 1928, 15 mins. Don flew a "puddle-jumper" autogyro.
King of the kiddie shows, did not much impress me too tame. Not one monster or
- Lets Pretend: CBS, 1934, Sat. morning, 30 mins. for Cream of Wheat. Absolutely
- Pepper Young's Family: NBC Blue, 1936, 15 mins. for Camay Soap. Trials
& tribulations of the Young family.
- Portia Faces Life: CBS, 1940, 15 mins. Trials & tribulations of the lawyer
- Stella Dallas: NBC, 1937, 15 mins. Also an important motion picture. Trials &
tribulations of Stella.
- Suspense: CBS, 1942, 30 mins. "Tales well calculated to keep you
" you know what.
- Inner Sanctum: NBC Blue, 1941, 30 mins. for Palmolive. Raymond was your host at
the squeeky door. "This is Raymond, your host."
- Lights Out: NBC, 30 mins. "Lights out
There were, of course, many others that I remember, how about you?
Believe It or Not
Abie's Irish Rose
Arthur Godfrey Time
People Are Funny
Famous Jury Trials
March of Time
Date With Judy
Queen for A Day
Road of Life
Stop The Music
Casey Crime Photographer
FBI in Peace and War
This is Your FBI
Bob and Ray
Grand Central Station
Casebook of Gregory Hood
Our Gal Sunday
My Friend Irma
John's Other Wife
Pursuit of Happiness
Challenge of the Yukon
One Man's Family
Romance of Helen Trent
Fred Allen Show
Man Against Crime
Strike it Rich
Just Plain Bill
Life Can Be Beautiful
Life of Reilly
Life With Luigi
Right To Happiness
Front Page Farrel
Mr. & Mrs. North
The Thin Man
Your Hit Parade
To name but a few.
TV is surely, in many ways, superior to mere radio. But in some
other subtle, elusive ways it does not and will not ever come close to the magic that was
the Radio Days.