Merry Christmas from Embarrassing Treasures!

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Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Joyeux Noel! Buone Feste Natalizie! Feliz Natal! Kala Christouyenna! Boldog Karácsonyt! S Roždestvom Khristovym! Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia! No matter where or how you celebrate, may you make magical memories. Please don’t pin these photos. Advertisements

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Christmas, Part 6

draft_lens18469959module153045571photo_1315361292MerryCatsI didn’t post an installment of Spin Again Sunday this week because it seemed too frivolous in light of the tragic events in Connecticut. I’m also dealing with some personal issues this week that are sapping my Christmas spirit. I find, at times like this, that old-time radio can offer a pleasing escape from today’s problems. That’s especially true of Christmas episodes, which often show people finding moments of light in a season of darkness. In that spirit, I present the sixth part of my Christmas OTR playlist.

Read parts one, two, three, four, and five of my Christmas playlist.

America for Christmas”


Cavalcade of America
, December 25, 1944
“Roll on, Columbia, roll on.”
Story: A USO show somewhere in the Pacific provides the framework for a musical tour of the United States.
Notable Performers: Walter Huston narrates this episode. The father of John Huston, he is best remembered for his Academy Award-winning performance in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Musical Notes: The entire episode revolves around folk music representing various U.S. regions. “Roll On, Columbia,” by Woody Guthrie bookends the program.
My Verdict: Corny but cute humor pervades this show, which concludes with an idealistic message about the world that will emerge after World War II.

“Listening to Christmas Carols”


Fibber McGee and Molly, December 22, 1942
“Why, the idea of having Christmas come right in the middle of the holidays—right when everybody is their busiest!”
Story: Teeny hangs around the McGees’ house and tries to get a Grinchy Fibber to show some Christmas spirit.
Musical Notes: Teeny and her “little friends” sing “The Night Before Christmas.”
Interesting History: As usual in Fibber episodes from this era, there are many World War II homefront references.
My Verdict
: A fun aspect of this episode is the unusual degree of interaction between Teeny and Molly; Marian Jordan played both characters.

“Room for a Stranger”


Radio Reader’s Digest, December 19, 1946
“The best town, the best people, and the best Christmas I ever knew.”
Story: An injured Army officer, headed home for Christmas, learns that his leave has been cancelled. He has just enough time for a Christmas Eve reunion with this girlfriend, but they find themselves stranded with no place to spend the holiday.
About Radio Reader’s Digest: This show ran from 1942 to 1948, presenting uplifting stories that had appeared in Reader’s Digest magazine.
Notable Performers: Frank Sinatra stars in this comedy-drama. His acting is not fully assured, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
Musical Notes: Frank sings “Silent Night.”
Commercial Curiosities: Sponsor Hallmark advertises a new line a Christmas cards for men—the game bird collection—“masculine as a briar pipe.”
My Verdict: This is a nice, simple story (supposedly true) with gentle humor.

“Dog Star”


Suspense, December 22, 1957
“You’ll never believe me.”
Story: A little girl is grieving the loss of her beloved dog and hoping for a puppy for Christmas. She seems to get her wish when a dog literally falls from the sky.
Notable Performers: Child actress Evelyn Rudie made a big splash in 1956 when she played Kay Thompson’s beloved imp in the Playhouse 90 story “Eloise.” Since 1973, she has served as co-artistic director of the Santa Monica Playhouse.
Interesting History: This episode mentions real Soviet space dog Laika.
My Verdict: This story tugs at the heartstrings, repeatedly. I’m a little worried about dad, though—getting an early morning phone call from the president of the United States would certainly be startling, but I’m not sure it should drive you to drink.

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Christmas, Part 5

draft_lens18469959module153045575photo_1315361643NibleNicksThis is the fifth part of my Christmas OTR playlist. I’ll be posting more episodes each Tuesday and Thursday until Christmas.

Read parts one, two, three, and four of my Christmas playlist.

Christmas by Injunction”

Author’s Playhouse
, December 21, 1941
“To think, that the voice of childhood has never gladdened our city…the patter of restless little feet never consecrated its streets…and nowhere in Yellowhammer are there roguish, expectant eyes ready to open wide at dawn of the enchanting day…eager, tiny hands to reach for Santa’s bewildering array of gifts…elated, childish voicings of the season’s joy.”
Story: This is based on a short story by O. Henry, with a typical surprise ending. Cherokee, a prospector who has struck gold, is planning a Christmas visit to his old friends in a mining camp called Yellowhammer. He’s bringing toys and is ready to play Santa for all the town’s kids. Sadly, the town doesn’t have any. The civic leaders try to borrow some, only to find that parents are reluctant to part with their kids at Christmas. They end up with one cynical kid and things look bleak, until Cherokee and the child discover a deeper connection than anyone imagined.
About Author’s Playhouse: This series, which dramatized literary stories, ran from 1941 to 1945.
Musical Notes: The Author’s Playhouse theme is from Rachmaninoff’s  Second Symphony; the same piece of music is the melody for Eric Carmen’s 1976 hit “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again.”
My Verdict
: This is an entertaining story, and it’s stylized language works to good comic effect.

“Trimming a Tree”

The Jack Benny Program, December 24, 1944
“Those lights were so pretty–especially those two blue ones that kept flashing on and off.”
Story: Jack has an electrifying time getting ready for a Christmas Eve gathering at his house.
Musical Notes: Larry Stevens sings “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” Rochester makes one of his recurring references to “Blues in the Night.”
My Verdict
: A typically enjoyable Christmas episode, with lots of good banter among Jack, Mary, and Rochester.

“Three Wise Guys”

The Whistler, December 24, 1950
“I got a bad case of memories tonight.”
Story: Damon Runyon meets the nativity story in a tale of redemption.
My Verdict: This is an unusual story for The Whistler, but a satisfying one for Christmas eve.

“The Missing Mouse Matter”

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
“Now I have seen everything.”
Story: Johnny has to find a missing mouse who’s been insured for $5,000. Why insure a mouse? He sings!
About Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: This show about “America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” was the last drama standing when network radio came to its end in 1962. Launched in 1948, it went through several format changes and seven actors as Johnny Dollar. Bob Bailey, who plays the part here, is widely considered the best.
Musical Notes: Gulliver the mouse sings “Jingle Bells.”
My Verdict: As Christmas episodes go, this one certainly gets points for originality. The ending hits just the right whimsical note.

Other old-time radio playlists you might enjoy:
Halloween, Part 1
Halloween, Part 2

Teen ‘Zine Scene: Co-Ed, December 1959

Welcome to a new feature that will occasionally substitute for my weekly series Weird Words of Wisdom.

Readers of that series know about my interest in the teenage experience–and especially in the messages that adults have provided to teens through the years. Fueled by this interest, I have amassed a collection of vintage advice books for teens, as well as vintage teen magazines. Today, we will explore one of these magazines.

Co-Ed is a publication we’ve encountered before. Published by Scholastic from 1957 to 1985, Co-Ed targeted girls in home economics classes–both “career girls and homemakers,” as the cover states.

This 1959 Christmas issue includes an out-of-this-world mid-century gift guide; lots of holiday food, decorating, and fashion ideas; and fearless predictions about the brave new world of 1980. All this and Gay Head, too!

So park your bird-car, get comfortable in your underground burrow, cozy up to your atomic brain, and let’s dive in to Christmas 1959. We’ll start with a closer look at this magazine’s cover. Perhaps we can glean some subtle clues about its original owner.

Predictions

As we approach a new year, we all reflect on the past and wonder about the future. In 1959, Co-Ed asked both girls and boys to envision the far-away world of 1980. (They couldn’t just ask girls. They didn’t want all the predictions to focus on fashion, beauty, and child care.)

Answers ranged from the modest but accurate (women will increasingly wear slacks instead of skirts) to the more inventive ones here:

  • “The home will no longer be recognized as a place where children are supposed to grow up. Instead, all children will be raised in institutions as wards of the state.”
  • “There will be no United States, or Russia, or England, in 1980. Instead, everyone will live underground in ‘Moleland.’ All the governments on Earth will unite, and a single government will rule our underground world. There will be no wars on (or rather inside) Earth, because everyone will be busy defending themselves against attacks from outer space.”
  • Instead of just watching a movie “in 1980, we’ll be able to smell and feel what’s going on in the movie, too. Seats will have metal bars on each arm rest. The moviegoer will grip these bars with his hands and ‘feel’ what’s happening in the through a series of mild electric shocks. The smells will be released into the air from little casings on the film strips.”
  • “In 1980, people will have a different type of house for every season. They’ll just pick up the telephone and order a house like they now order a blouse or a shirt from a department store.”
  • “School will probably be taught by electrically controlled robots instead of by human teachers.”
  • “People will spend their vacations on the moon or one of the planets.”
  • “Cars will probably be shaped like birds, and will travel so fast that they’ll seem to be flying. Women will be able to hop on an airplane in the morning, spend the day shopping in Paris, and make the return trip in time to cook supper!”
  • “When a person wants to move to another city in 1980, he’ll probably just have to push a button and his entire house will fold up. He’ll then pack it in his helicopter, hop in, and he’ll be on his way!”
  • “I read somewhere that a person will live longer if he works for three or four years, then has a vacation for the next year. Perhaps this will be the common practice by 1980.”
  • “Encyclopedias and reference books will not be needed in 1980, because every family will have its own atomic brain. If Johnny wants to know where Egypt is, he’ll just ask the brain.”

Okay, if you replace 1980 with 2000, and atomic brain with Internet, that last one was actually pretty good. Way to go, Michael O’Connor from Oakland, California!

Co-Ed’s editors made some predictions, too, about “fabrics of the future.” They envision chemical fibers “which will shrink or grow on the wearer, so there will be no need for clothing alterations.” They also imagine clothing that adjusts to the surrounding temperature, keeping the wearer comfortable in any environment. By what date do they anticipate these innovations being available? 1970!

Other tidbits in this issue

  • Co-Ed builds international awareness by introducing readers to Maria from the Austrian Tyrol. Sample wisdom: “Austrians love to eat and Maria is no exception.”
  • Household hint: “Slip plastic bags over your hands when shaping popcorn balls.”
  • Potential career path: “Beginning registered nurses earn $3,400 to $3,600 a year…some jobs include all or some meals; others include room and all meals.”
  • Hairstyling hint: If your face is heart-shaped, “wear your hair medium to long. Wear it smooth at the temples, on top, and at the cheek bones. Choose fluff below or behind the ears, but avoid fluff at the temples.”

We close our look at this magazine with the work of our favorite teenage advice columnist, Gay Head.

gay head

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Christmas, Part 4

draft_lens18469959module153045519photo_1315346042ChildBedThis is the fourth part of my Christmas OTR playlist. I’ll be posting more episodes each Tuesday and Thursday until Christmas.

Read parts one, two, and three of my Christmas playlist.

Christmas Shopping”
Archie Andrews
, December 13, 1947

“How do I get into these things?”
Story: Pretty much every episode of this series could be summarized as “a misunderstanding that snowballs out of control.” This episode actually features several wild misunderstandings that collide at a Riverdale department store.
About Archie Andrews: This series was based on characters from Archie Comics. It obviously owes a lot to The Aldrich Family, too, though—Archie’s parents play a much bigger role in this series than they do in the comic books. Some characterizations differ from the comic books, too—this Jughead likes girls. This show is to The Aldrich Family, however, as a Disney channel sitcom is to a half-decent network family comedy. It must have succeeded with its intended audience; it ran in various forms and time slots from 1943 to 1953. The hyped-up kids in the studio audience certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.
Notable Performers: Bob Hastings, who plays Archie, went on to have a long career in television as a character actor and cartoon voice-over performer. He is the brother of Don Hastings, who played Dr. Bob Hughes on As the World Turns for half a century.
My Verdict
: I actually chuckled when I listened to this episode the first time, which is a rare experience for me with this series, or even with The Aldrich Family. My amusement stemmed from the way Veronica , and then the floorwalker, assessed Archie. Floorwalkers sure have a negative image in popular culture.

“The Cave”
Escape, December 24, 1950

“If I stepped out into that sunlight, I should never be able to find my way back again.”
Story: With a flashlight he received for Christmas, a young boy explores a cave and finds an enchanted world of pirates and fair maidens.
Notable Performers: John Dehner plays Dan, looking back on his experiences in the cave. Dehner was a gifted and prolific radio actor, whose work included starring roles in Have Gun, Will Travel and Frontier Gentleman and frequent appearances on Escape and Gunsmoke. He was also a ubiquitous character actor in television. Before I got into old-time radio, I knew him only from The Doris Day Show.
My Verdict: This episode has an appealing strangeness. I have a feeling that men might especially enjoy it—the fantasy world it conjures up feels distinctly masculine.

“Fibber Misplaces Christmas Money”

Fibber McGee and Molly, December 15, 1942
“And, furthermore, I’m the dumbest, short-sightedest, dim-wittedest, stumblebummedest, empty-headedest, feather-brainedest droop that ever didn’t know enough to come in out of a tornado.”
Story: The title sums it up.
Musical Notes: The King’s Men perform “White Christmas,” which wasn’t an old standard but a young hit in 1942. Bing Crosby’s recording first topped the Billboard charts in October and spent a total of 11 weeks in the top spot that year.
Interesting History: Rationing is a major theme, as it is in many wartime Fibber episodes. As John Dunning writes, “With the exception of The Bob Hope Show, Fibber McGee and Molly was the most patriotic show on the air.”
My Verdict: As someone with the “inattentive” form of ADHD, I feel for Fibber here, both in his forgetfulness and his self-recrimination. Wallace Wimple, who appears in this episode, is one of my favorite supporting characters.

“The Hanging Cross”

Have Gun, Will Travel, December 21, 1958
“Sentiments like peace, like goodwill, like love and brotherhood, they’re just words, unless you already know what they mean.”
Story: An unpleasant rancher reclaims his son from the Pawnee chief who has raised the boy as his own. Can Paladin help avert violence between the rancher’s party and the Pawnees?
About Have Gun, Will Travel: The most unusual thing about this series is that the radio version premiered after the television series became an established hit. The TV show ran from 1957 to 1963, while the radio show ran from 1958 to 1960.
Notable Performers: This show was a starring vehicle for John Dehner. (For more about him, see “The Cave,” above.)
My Verdict: Like the other CBS “adult Westerns,” Gunsmoke and Fort Laramie, this series often explored themes of tolerance. This story is involving, although the script does make Paladin a bit more preachy than one would expect a hired gunfighter to be.

“Christmas Present”

Tales of the Texas Rangers, December 24, 1950
“Merry Christmas, fellas. Merry Christmas…and God bless you.”
Story: A down-on-his-luck bystander almost takes the rap for bank robbery, until the Rangers clear his name and give his family a merry Christmas.
About Tales of the Texas Rangers: Running from 1950 to 1952, this was a police procedural series portraying the work of the legendary Texas investigative force.
Notable Performers: Film star Joel McCrea, best remembered for his work in Westerns, headlined this series.
My Verdict: This episode has a truly heartwarming ending.

Other old-time radio playlists you might enjoy:

Edgar Allan Poe, Part 1
Edgar Allan Poe, Part 2
Till Death Do Us Part (And That Might Be Sooner Than You Think)

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Christmas, Part 3

draft_lens18469959module153045563photo_1315359699JollyI’ve been sick the past two days, which has put me behind on my blogging schedule. This is the third part of my Christmas OTR playlist.

This week, Family Affair Friday will appear on Saturday.

Read part one and part two of my Christmas playlist.

“First Song—Let it Snow”

Dinah Shore Chevrolet Show, December 22, 1954

“First Song—Sleigh Ride”

Dinah Shore Chevrolet Show, December 24, 1954

“Even though the snow may be artificial out here in Hollywood, the sentiment isn’t at all.”

About the Dinah Shore Chevrolet Show: Popular singer Dinah Shore was a fixture on radio throughout the 1940s; according to the Digital Deli Too, she headlined six different shows. The television era brought her even greater fame. The Dinah Shore Show, sponsored by Chevrolet, premiered in 1951 as a 15-minute, twice-a-week program and became an instant hit. From 1953 to 1955, the Dinah Shore Chevrolet Show also aired on radio.
Musical Notes: Songs on the first show include “Let it Snow,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein song called “Happy Christmas, Little Friend,” and the pop standard “Teach Me Tonight.” The second show is all Christmas—besides “Sleigh Ride,” it includes “Silver Bells” and a medley of religious Christmas carols. (I wonder if Shore, who was Jewish, felt strange singing those.
My Verdict: I like the 15-minute length of these—it allows for several songs but limits the cheesy variety show comedy banter.

“’Twas the Night Before Christmas”

The Great Gildersleeve, December 24, 1944

“The only excuse for the kind of suffering that’s going on, all over the world, is if we can make sure it never happens again…Let’s sing the way we used to when we were at home together, and let’s hope that before so very long, all the peoples of the world will be able to join in with us.”
About The Great Gildersleeve: This show, built around a character first heard on Fibber McGee and Molly, was the first successful spinoff. It ran from 1941 to 1957.
Story: December 23rd finds Gildy blue. He’s expecting to be the subject of a breach of promise suit, and he thinks his frenemy Judge Hooker will be handling the case against him. When the judge tells him there’s no case, Gildy is finally ready to celebrate Christmas with family, friends, and his two favorite flames.
Musical Notes: The cast sings “Joy to the World,” then Harold Peary breaks, um, whatever you would call the fourth wall in radio, and invites the studio and radio audience to join in.
My Verdict: Maybe my sinus infection is making me sappy, but I got teary listening to the closing speech and song.

“Christmas Shopping for Perfume and a Necktie,” December 17, 1939

The Jack Benny Program

“You walked in, Sugarfoot. Nobody dragged you.”

Story: usual in the Jell-o era, things ramble a bit before Jack and Mary head out to do Jack’s Christmas shopping.
Celebrity Name Droppings: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
Jell-o Hell No Suggestion of the Week: Lemon Jell-o with stewed figs and whipped cream.
My Verdict: I think most fans prefer the more polished Lucky Strike shows, but I love the freewheeling Jell-o era. The shopping trip has some fun supporting characters, and jokes about Mary’s history with the May Company are always welcome.

“Christmas for Carole”

Suspense, December 21, 1950

“You asked for this, kid. Now do as you’re told.”

Story: A bank teller’s pregnant wife is having complications and needs full-time nursing care. Unable to afford it, the teller decides to take a one- time trip into the criminal world.
Notable Performers: Singer Dennis Day, best known as a member of the Jack Benny cast, gives a good dramatic performance. Suspense often enabled actors to stretch their range in this way.
Musical Notes: You don’t think you’ll get through this without Day singing do you? He performs “The First Noel.”
My Verdict: The story keeps you guessing, and although everything works out a little too neatly in the end, you can forgive such things at Christmas.

Old-Time Radio Playlist: Christmas, Part 2

kittenThis is the second part of my Christmas OTR playlist. I’ll be posting more episodes each Tuesday and Thursday through Christmas.

Read part one of my Christmas playlist.

Mailing Christmas Packages”
Fibber McGee and Molly
, December 10, 1940


“Our papas all believe in Santa Claus…so why should we tell them any different if it makes them happy?”
Story: The McGees wait in line at the Post Office to mail Christmas packages. That’s as much “story” as a Fibber McGee and Molly episode needs.
About Fibber McGee and Molly: A top-rated program throughout the 1940s, this series was a creative partnership between performers Jim and Marian Jordan and writer Don Quinn. Absurd comedy, clever wordplay, and a down-to-earth feel were its trademarks.
Musical Notes
: The King’s Men’s song is, um, interesting.
Celebrity Name Droppings: Fibber mentions Oliver Hardy, Paul Whiteman, and Don Wilson—can you guess what common quality among them that he was citing?
Fun Fact: McGee tells Gildersleeve that he once worked for the post office. According to John Dunning’s On the Air, Jim Jordan actually did work briefly as a mailman in Peoria, Illinois.
My Verdict: No matter how much Christmas changes, long postal lines endure. The episode’s premise provides amusing ways for the McGees to encounter all the usual secondary characters, including Gildersleeve, Mrs. Uppington, and Teeny.

“Special Christmas Story”
Lum and Abner, December 24, 1942


“I’ll say one thing about the folks: In spite of the rationing and the dim-outs and everything, everybody’s doing all they can to keep up the Christmas spirit.”
About Lum and Abner: Chester Lauck and Norris Goff created and portrayed the title characters in this long-running comic serial. (They played all the other characters, too.) The show’s authentic rural humor stemmed from its creators’ small-town Arkansas background, and Lum and Abner’s rapport reflected the real-life friendship Lauck and Goff established in their youth.
Story: Last-minute shoppers at the Jot ‘Em Down Store are out of luck on Christmas eve, as Lum and Abner become engrossed with an electric train on display.
Referencing Radio: Cedric is quite a Lone Ranger fan.
My Verdict: This is a cute, schmaltz-free holiday episode.

“I’ll Be Seeing You”
Lux Radio Theater, December 24, 1945
“Yes, I think we’ll do just fine…just fine.”


Story: Zack and Mary meet on a train feel an immediate attraction. They spend time together during the Christmas holidays, but each carries a secret burden: Soldier Zack is recovering from shell shock, and Mary is on furlough from prison.
About Lux Radio Theater: Dunning calls Lux Radio Theater “the most important dramatic show in radio.” It is certainly the lushest, with big budgets and big stars to re-create stories from the big screen. It aired from 1934 to 1955.
Notable Performers: Joseph Cotten and Dorothy McGuire
Musical Notes: At Christmas dinner, everyone sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Referencing Radio: Mary makes a joking reference to Life Can Be Beautiful, a soap that ran from 1938 to 1954.
Interesting History: The announcer urges housewives to keep saving cooking fats; although the war and rationing had ended, soap manufacturers still faced a shortage of necessary oils.
Weird Words of Wisdom: Aunt Sarah has an unusual philosophy—always settle for second-best.
My Verdict: Joseph Cotten is one of my very favorite actors, so it’s no surprise that I find his performance outstanding. I’ve been indifferent to Dorothy McGuire’s movie acting, but she impressed me here, too. With just their voices, they both believably convey their characters’ fears and tentative yearnings. Teenage Barbara annoys, but I guess she’s supposed to.

“Five Days Off for Christmas”
Night Beat, December 21, 1951
“They say there’s a warmth about Christmas that spreads out like a fan and touches everyone—the holiday spirit, it’s called.”


Story: Reporter Randy Stone is thrilled to get a rare Christmas vacation from work, until he realizes that he has nowhere to go and no one to be with. While feeling sorry for himself, he receives a mysterious invitation. When the boy delivering that invitation gets hit by a car and vanishes, a shaken Randy has a mystery to solve.
About Night Beat: In this well written series, Randy Stone looks for human interest stories in Chicago’s darkened streets.
Notable Performers: In the 1940s and 1950s, series star Frank Lovejoy was a familiar voice on radio and a familiar face in films like The Hitchhiker.
My Verdict: Poor Randy. I’d spend Christmas with him, even if his self-pity makes him act stupid here. I mean, with all the people a reporter meets, why does he decide so quickly that he doesn’t know Kathryn Malloy?

“The Magic Christmas Tree”
Our Miss Brooks, December 25, 1949
“Oh, what fun it is to rock with a big, fat drunken cat.”


Story: Alone on Christmas Eve, Connie encounters her Madison High family, first in a fun fantasy sequence and then in reality.
About Our Miss Brooks: This popular comedy, built around Eve Arden’s sardonic comedy style as teacher Connie Brooks, ran for nine years on radio and five years on TV.
Notable Performers: Besides Arden, the series cast included radio and TV fixture Gale Gordon (Mr. Conklin) and future movie stars Jeff Chandler (Mr. Boynton) and Richard Crenna (Walter).
My Verdict: I like Our Miss Brooks, though some episodes are better than others. The high point of this one is the swaggering fantasy-Mr. Boynton and the kiss he shares with Connie—the studio audience reaction is entertaining. As a cat person, I also enjoy Minerva’s role here.

Other old-time radio playlists you might enjoy:

Christmas, Part 1
London Calling, Part 1
London Calling, Part 2