Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Love and the Orphanage Matron: The Way It Was, 1 November

1937: "DEDICATED TO THE WOMEN OF AMERICA"---"The story of a woman who must choose between love and the career of raising children." Thus the introduction to a new soap opera, Hilltop House, starring Bess Johnson as orphanage matron Bess Johnson, on both CBS and Mutual, with the two networks carrying the soap together for its first season on the air.

Some of old-time radio's more distinguished performers appear on the soap regularly, including Jan Miner (Julie Erickson), Estelle Levy (Stella Rudnick), Jackie Kelk (as Marny), Carleton Young (Dr. Robby Clark), and Lamont Johnson (Ed Crowley), joining a considerably large revolving cast in following Bess's grappling between finding romance and tending the children in her charge until or unless they are blessed with adoption.

The show is also distinguished for having been the first soap opera ever to have been sponsored by Palmolive products (of the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet company), introducing the products and their parent company to a long-term broadcasting relationship that will extend well into the television era.

As Hilltop House, the show is written by Addy Richton and Lynne Stone under the non de plume Adelaide Marston. Bess Johnson also delivers the commercials for sponsor Palmolive, one of the very few women announcers in old-time radio at the time.

Only four episodes of Hilltop House are known to have survived, and these may have been repeated in the early 1950s. However, old-time radio fans in the 21st Century also have a remarkable source to hear a Hilltop House episode---a remarkable surviving recording of CBS affiliate WJSV (Washington, DC)'s entire broadcast day, scheduled as follows:

6:30: Sundial (Music; host: Arthur Godfrey).
8:30: The Certified Magic Carpet (Quiz).
8:45: Bachelor's Children (Serial).
9:00: Pretty Kitty Kelly (Serial).
9:15: Myrt & Marge (Serial).
9:30: Hilltop House (Serial).
9:45: Stepmother (Serial).
10:00: Mary Lee Taylor (Serial).
10:15: Brenda Curtis (Serial).
10:30: Big Sister (Serial).
10:45: Aunt Jenny's True Life Stories (Serial.)
11:00: Jean Abbey (News).
11:15: When a Girl Marries (Serial).
11:30: The Romance of Helen Trent (Serial).
11:45: Our Gal Sunday (Serial).
12:00: The Goldbergs (Comedy-Drama).
12:15: Life Can Be Beautiful (Serial).
12:30: The Road of Life (Serial).
12:45: This Day Is Ours (Serial).
1:00: The Sunshine Report (News).
1:15: The Life and Love of Dr. Susan (Serial).
1:30: Your Family and Mine (Serial).
1:45: CBS News.
2:00: News special: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress.
2:40: News special: Edouard Daladier, Premier of France.
3:00: News: Commentary on the President's and Premier's addresses.
3:15: The Career of Alice Blair (Serial).
3:30: News.
3:42: Rhythm and Romance (Music.)
3:45: Scattergood Baines (Comedy-drama).
4:00: Cleveland Indians vs. Washington Senators (Baseball).
5:15: The World Dances (Music).
5:30: News.
5:45: Sports news.
6:00: Amos 'n' Andy (Comedy).
6:15: The Parker Family (Comedy).
7:00: Ask-it Basket (Quiz).
7:30: Strange as it Seems (True stories).
8:00: Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour (Variety).
9:00: Columbia Workshop (Drama).
9:30: Americans at Work (Documentary).
10:00: News.
10:15: Music.
10:30: Albert Warner (News).
11:30: Teddy Powell (Music).
12:00: Louis Prima and His Orchestra (Music).
12:30: Bob Chester and His Orchestra (Music).

Hilltop House will become popular enough that its lead character will be moved from running an orphanage to a boarding school, where she will be its superintendent and the serial will be renamed The Story of Bess Johnson in March 1941 . . . and moved to a new network, NBC. And, among the new show's cast, will be Agnes Moorehead as Mrs Townsend. Joseph Curtin, who plays Steve Cortland in Hilltop House, will also move to the new version as Mr. Jordan.


1946: TWO FLAGSHIP CHANGES---The two New York flagships of two of the three major radio networks change their call letters. The original WABC becomes WCBS; and, WEAF becomes WNBC.


1942: JACK AND PHIL GO TARGET SHOOTING---Live from Camp Elliott (USMC), San Diego: The morning after Phil (Harris)'s Halloween party keeps Jack (Benny) up all night and Phil and his boys in the jug, Phil and Mary (Livingstone) tag along with Jack for a little shooting at the camp rifle range, where Phil and Jack make a bet but all bets are almost off,
on tonight's edition of The Grape-Nuts Program Starring Jack Benny. (NBC.)

Additional cast: Eddie Anderson, Don Wilson. Music: Dennis Day; Phil Harris and His Orchestra. Writers: George Balzer, Sam Perrin.

1942: TROUBLE HEARING THE SHOW---That, apparently, is what wry Robert Benchley has, for reasons having nothing to do with the material, on tonight's edition of Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen. (CBS.)

Cast: Portland Hoffa, Alan Reed. Music: The Merry Macs, Al Goodman and His Orchestra. Announcer: Arthur Godfrey. Writers: Fred Allen, Harry Turgend, possibly Herman Wouk.


1880---Grantland Rice (sportswriter/sportscaster: Sports Stories), Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
1908---Harry Ellis Dickson (violinist, Boston Symphony: Boston Symphony Rehearsal), Cambridge, Massachussetts; Felix Knight (singer: The Schaefer Revue; The American Album of Familiar Music), Macon, Georgia.
1922---George S. Irving (actor/singer: Screen Guild Theater), Springfield, Massachussetts.
1923---Gordon R. Dickson (writer: X Minus One; Exploring Tomorrow), Edmonton, Alberta.
1929---Betsy Palmer (as Patricia Betsy Hrunek; script transcriber, Mutual; actress: The CBS Radio Mystery Theater), East Chicago.


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