Summer is drawing to a close, and schools are up and running in many areas. If it’s too late for you to take a vacation, you can at least enjoy virtual travel through the magic of old-time radio.
“Papa Wants a Vacation”
Mama Bloom’s Brood, Unknown Date, 1934
“All work and no play makes Jake a dull boy.” About Mama Bloom’s Brood: This pleasant 15-minute comedy serial focuses on a Jewish family with two grown daughters. Story: Papa doesn’t want a vacation, until Mama works on him. Destination: Yellowstone National Park. Wish you were there? Sure, if you can tolerate Mama’s malapropisms.
“Beach House” Baby Snooks, May 19, 1938
“A daybed’s a sofa that’s made up at night as a bed, and during the day it’s a couch, which nobody sleeps on, so a daybed is really a night bed except it’s not a bed at all.” About Baby Snooks: Throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, Fanny Brice played her famous Snooks character in variety show sketches like this one. Story: Snooks wreaks havoc on the family’s vacation home. Destination: The seashore, to Daddy’s chagrin. Wish you were there? With Snooks? No way! She does $400 in damage at the vacation rental. That’s more than $6,000 in today’s money!
“Vacation from a Vacation” Vic and Sade, August 15, 1944
“It’s the hot weather, as much as anything.” Story: Uncle Fletcher is driving Sade crazy on his “vacation” at her home. Destination: Three blocks away. Wish You Were There? Maybe—but you’d probably need a vacation from Uncle Fletcher before long.
“Going to Grass Lake” The Great Gildersleeve, September 2, 1945
“Why, I could be busy every minute if I wanted to…I just don’t want to.” Story: The kids try to talk a reluctant Gildy into a weekend at the lake. Historical Footnotes: The references to the war’s end and reconversion to a peacetime economy are interesting. Destination: Grass Lake, obviously.
Wish You Were There? Only if you have a burning desire to share Judge Hooker’s bed in a honeymoon cottage.
“Morgan Vacation Travel Bureau” Henry Morgan, May 28, 1947
“Their slogan is, “Fellows are rarin’ to go on lovely Lake Schmoe.” Story: In a series of sketches, the travel bureau one is the highlight. About Henry Morgan: Morgan was edgy and irreverent by the standards of his time, and he drove sponsors crazy by making fun of their products.
Destination: Lovely Camp Schmoe. Wish You Were There? Sure–you get a great “cherce” of activities. I’d avoid the snake hunt, though. Bonus Feature: In their tone, Morgan’s shows have always reminded me of early David Letterman, so I was excited to find this 1982 clip of Letterman interviewing Morgan.
Vintage Halloween Postcard from The Public Domain Review
Today, I present a selection of Halloween treats–some lighthearted old-time radio episodes that capture an interesting period in the history of Halloween.
(On Tuesday, October 30, I’ll post some Halloween”tricks”–spooky holiday offerings and classic horror stories.)
European immigrants to the United States popularized Halloween celebrations in the late 19th century.
By the turn of the century, there was a move to downplay the scarier aspects of the holiday. According to History.com, “Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.”
By the 1920s and 1930s, pranks were a big part of the holiday, “often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence.”
Most of these radio shows date from the 1940s, when trick-or-treating was just beginning to transition into a community-sanctioned, kid-friendly activity. I’m guessing that’s why so many of the adults in these shows seem ambivalent about Halloween–looking back fondly on their own parties and pranks, but wary of letting their children participate in trick-or-treating.
Unknown Date Air Castle, Halloween
Air Castle was a children’s show that ran in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was entirely the work of Baron Keyes, who starred as the “Story Man” and provided voices and sound effects to represent various fanciful characters. This Halloween episode is cute!
October 19, 1933 Martha Meade Society Program, Halloween Parties
October 24, 1939 Fibber McGee and Molly, Halloween Party at Gildersleeve’s House
This would be a good starter episode for a new Fibber listener. It’s filled with typical wordplay and punning humor, and most of the classic supporting characters appear.
October 31, 1940 The Aldrich Family, Halloween Prank Backfires
Just about every episode of this family comedy involves a misunderstanding that snowballs out of control. These Halloween hi-jinx are typical.
November 2, 1941 Jack Benny, Halloween with Basil Rathbone
I’m in love with the Jack Benny Program. To really appreciate the series, you need to listen to a long run of consecutive episodes. Characterizations and jokes build from week to week. This is my favorite of several Halloween episodes–Jack annoying his Beverly Hills neighbors is always a win.
October 29, 1944 Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Halloween
Guest star Orson Welles is quite amusing, especially when he ad-libs.
October 29, 1944 The Life of Riley, Haunted House
Near the end, this takes a surprisingly sharp turn into patriotic messaging. You’ll have that sometimes in World-War-II-era programs.
October 31, 1944 Lum and Abner, Discuss Halloween Pranks
Lum and Abner has been growing on me lately, and this episode is a cute one.
November 1, 1946 Baby Snooks, Halloween
Fanny Brice’s mischievous Baby Snooks is a natural for Halloween pranks. This episode has a strong start, but a weak finish, in my opinion.
October 29, 1947 Philco Radio Time, Boris Karloff and Victor Moore
Boris Karloff was the go-to guest for variety-show Halloween episodes. Here, he’s the guest of Bing Crosby, and he and Bing actually sing together (along with comedian Victor Moore)!
October 31, 1948 Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Haunted House
I always found the TV version of Ozzie and Harriet bland, but the radio episodes I’ve listened to have been surprisingly chuckle-worthy.
October 31, 1948 Adventures of Sam Spade, The Fairly-Bright Caper
I’m not a huge Sam Spade fan–ditzy Effie gets on my nerves–but this has a nice Halloween flavor.
Oct 31, 1948 Jack Benny, Trick or Treating with the Beavers
This is another good Halloween episode, with an inventive way of bringing the supporting cast into the story.
October 31, 1951 The Great Gildersleeve, Halloween and Gildy Finds a Lost Boy
I’m not the biggest Gildy fan, but this episode has great warmth.
November 7, 1951 The Halls of Ivy, Halloween
I really enjoy this series, which stars Ronald and Benita Colman. Having spent plenty of time in academia, I appreciate the college setting, and the Colmans are just charming.
Oct 29, 1953 Father Knows Best, Halloween Blues
Robert Young’s character is in preachy mode, and the end doesn’t work for me, but this is an interesting look at those changing Halloween customs.