My Five Favorite…Gunsmoke Radio Episodes

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Over the next month, I will be honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The classic Western Gunsmoke launched its 20-year TV run on September 10, 1955. To observe its anniversary, I’m cheating a bit and focusing on the radio version that pre-dated it. I always enjoyed TV’s Gunsmoke, which I discovered while in my teens. (Mostly, I enjoyed watching for little shippy moments between Matt and Kitty.) The radio version, though, blows me away with its darker Western vision. Bill Conrad conveys an especially wide range of emotion as Matt Dillon.

I’m also cheating a bit in naming favorite episodes because I haven’t listened to the entire radio run. (I dread the day when I have no new episodes left to discover.) Furthermore, I love so many episodes that my “favorites” list could change from day to day. These five episodes are excellent, though, and each evokes a different mood.

1. “Home Surgery,” September 13, 1952

“I rolled a smoke and looked out across the flat distances of the prairie. And I wondered how anyone could survive in all that emptiness.”

When Matt and Chester come upon an isolated homesteader suffering from blood poisoning, Matt takes desperate measures to try to save him. Conrad’s performance is appropriately tortured, especially in the scene just following surgery.

2. “Kitty,” November 29, 1952:

“She was like a seventeen-year-old on her first date. She was like all the women you’d ever known or loved–soft and innocent.”

Matt asks Kitty to be his date at a benefit for the school. She appreciates the problems this will cause, if he doesn’t. This episode gives us a giddy and romantic side of Matt. He even sings at one point!

3. “There Never Was a Horse,” September 19, 1953:

“I sure don’t like the idea of dying…but I got over being afraid of it a long time ago.”

A gun-fighter rides into town, bent on challenging the marshal. Matt’s not sure that he can win a confrontation, so Conrad’s performance is a believable mix of vulnerability and strength.

4. “Fawn,” September 26, 1953:

“I never heard of sending a woman to Dodge, for her to be better off.”

A woman held captive by the Cheyenne for 10 years gets her freedom and travels to Dodge to wait for her husband. The daughter she had in captivity is with her, and they face hostility from many quarters. This episode has a good message, a sweet ending, and a nice supporting performance by John Dehner. It’s also a radio Gunsmoke rarity–an episode with no deaths.

You may remember Helen Kleeb, who plays the former captive, as Mamie Baldwin from The Waltons. Mamie was the darker-haired Baldwin sister who wasn’t obsessed with Ashley Longworth.

5. “Marshal Proudfoot,” July 20, 1958:

“Chester bordered on being ignorant, I think. I can’t imagine how he ever got to be a marshal.”

Chester’s father shows up looking his son, whose letters home have exaggerated his position in Dodge. This is a hilarious outing. (For personal reasons, I also like the PSA that mentions the land-grant act.)

Bonus Feature

Turning back to the the TV show, I present this article about James Arness from TV Star Parade, May 1963. As fan magazine stories go, it’s a dramatic one, and it would have sad echoes–Arness’ first wife later died of a drug overdose, as did his daughter.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Those Magnificent Cats in Their Flying Machines

A Snapped-Worthy 1920s True Story

CSI, 1940s Style

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Spin Again Sunday Extra: The Flying Nun Game (1968)

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This month, I am honoring the premiere anniversaries of many classic TV shows. Check back frequently for episode recaps, fan magazine articles, special editions of Spin Again Sunday, and more. I will also be posting unique content on Facebook and Instagram.

The Flying Nun premiered 46 years ago today, on September 7, 1967. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the show. I’m kind of bitter than it ran for three seasons while Sally Field’s other show, Gidget, only lasted one. Now, Gidget was a cute show. And, despite its short life it spawned two games. Take that, Sister Bertrille.

Today’s Game: The Flying Nun Game.

flying nun box

Copyright Date: 1968.

Manufacturer: Milton Bradley.

Recommended Ages: 8 to 15.

flying nun board

Object: “Be the first to place Flying Nun cards on changing board spaces.”

Game Box: It’s visually appealing, with a pink background, jovial cartoon children, and a photo of Sister Bertrille flying over their heads.

Game Board: Colorful and cute, if a little busy. I like the flowers in the corners and the illustration of Sister Bertrille’s convent.

flying nun cards

Game Pieces: The games uses standard plastic pawns. Each player also gets six Flying Nun cards. These show Sister Bertrille playing baseball, playing the accordion, flying–typical nun activities.

flying nun board closeup

Game Play: As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. Each player has her own track. On her turn, she can either roll the dice and move her pawn around the track, or she can play the top card in her deck of six Flying Nun cards. She can place her card on any board space that matches it but ONLY if someone’s pawn is in the lettered circle beneath that space. Each player also has a penalty card–playing that allows her to remove one of her opponents’ previously played matches. The first player to unload all her cards wins the game.

Bonus Feature:

Here’s an article about Sally Field from TV Radio Show, November 1967. The story itself is not quite as silly as the headline.

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.

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Spin Again Sunday: TV Guide’s TV Game, 1984

Well, this be-sweatered family sure is having fun (except Grandpa, who may be having a stroke). What kind of game could cause this excitement? Read on.

Well, this be-sweatered family sure is having fun (except Grandpa, who may be having a stroke). What kind of game could cause this excitement? Read on.

This Week’s Game: TV Guide’s TV Game

Copyright Date: 1984

The week’s game offers an interesting picture of TV as it used to be.

Actually, it offers many interesting pictures. If you like TV Guide cover images, this is the game for you.

The Box: TV Guide’s logo and bold red and yellow letters leap off a black background. A cover image collage, featuring everyone from Jack Benny to John Wayne, tells you what this game is all about.

The Board: A test-pattern rainbow in the middle provides visual interest, while more TV Guide covers line the board’s perimeter. Notice the four networks at dead center on the board—ABC, NBC, PBS, and CBS. What a simple TV time—and by 1984, it was already coming to an end.

The Object: “To acquire 7 different program cards and as many points as possible by answering questions correctly.”

Recommended Ages: 10 and up.

Credits: “Created by Alan Charles for Trivia, Inc.”

Game Play: Players roll dice and move their colored pegs around the board. Based on the spot where they land, they answer trivia questions about a particular TV show category (Drama, Sports, Comedy, News, Kids, Movies, or Other TV). A player who answers correctly earns a program card representing the category. To win, you need a card from each category, plus the largest number of total points from answering questions and earning bonuses.

Program Cards: These feature cover images, too.

Question and Answer Books:  These four books are cool; they look like real issues of the magazine. I remember owning the Charles and Diana issue, which I kept with a whole stack of royal wedding clippings under my bed.

The back of each Q&A book features 9 more TV Guide cover images. (I’m thinking these might have crafting possibilities—maybe I’ll make myself a whole set of TV Guide refrigerator magnets.)

Sample Questions: Having misspent my youth in front of TV set, I can do much better at this game than I could at a TV trivia game focused on 21st century shows. I’ve picked a few tough questions—based upon my own inability to answer them—to share with you. Please chime in if you know any answers! I’ll post them all in next week’s Spin Again Sunday.

  1. Which 1955 sitcom was the story of two young women trying to make it in show business?
  2. Name Laurie’s soap opera on Love, Sidney.
  3. Name the other Pulitzer Prize winner who appeared with his friend Archibald MacLeish in a 1962 public-affairs special.
  4. When did ABC News Close-Up begin?
  5. The role of Jesus in “The Day Christ Died” (1980) was played by:
  6. A bumbling lion becomes the leader of the animals after leaving Noah’s Ark in this animated 1977 special.
  7. What newspaper did Danny Taylor work for on The Reporter?
  8. To what club did the cast of Kid Power (1972-74) belong?
  9. On The Edge of Night, what was the name of the character portrayed by Petrocelli’s Barry Newman?
  10. Name the Australian-born golfer who won the 1981 U.S. Open.

By the way, if revisiting old TV Guides interests you, I recommend Mitchell Hadley’s wonderful blog It’s About TV.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

The Waltons Game

Happy Days Game

Charlie’s Angels Game