The Opera Singer Lily Pons Lost 5 Pounds During Performances

The 37-cent United States stamp depicting the opera singer Lily Pons, which was issued in 1997
The U.S. Lily Pons stamp from 1997

I've dressed numbers of opera stars but Lily Pons is the most glamorous and dynamic. I know she isn't a movie star and perhaps the editor will bawl me out for including her here, but I feel that enough people have heard her over the radio to be interested in her.

Lily is a great shock at first because one thinks of opera singers as being robust and dramatic. Pons is very tiny -- I think her actual weight is a hundred and five pounds -- and she is as quiet and as shy as a mouse.

She was brought into my shop by Jetta Goudal and all during that session the two of them conversed in French. I designed a dress for Pons to wear at her Los Angeles concert and, after the order had been placed and the measurements taken, we discovered that none of the dummy figures -- upon which the clothes are draped -- were small enough.

When the dress was finished I sent one of my fitters to the theatre so that she could see that everything was all right before Pons stepped on the concert stage.

This is a little honor which we usually save for brides -- having the fitter who made the bridal dress on hand to pat into place the last fold of the bridal train.

Pons came back after her first series of songs and said to my fitter, "But I cannot find my voice. I do not know what is wrong." To the audience, her voice was as brilliant as usual, but there did seem to be a change during the second half of the program. Pons became radiant and sang so beautifully that the audience almost stampeded toward the stage.

When she finished the concert she came back to her dressing room and sank down upon a chair. She confessed, to my fitter, that during each concert she often lost as much as five pounds -- from worry and exertion.

Howard Greer in Modern Screen, January 1934

Radio Broadcast of 1934 America's Cup Crossed the Globe

Photo of a model of the J class yacht Endeavour, which competed in the 1934 America's Cup broadcast on radio
A model of the Endeavour, challenger in the 1934 America's Cup

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent, months of work have been devoted to obtaining and perfecting equipment -- all to the point that the greatest maritime sporting event on the yearly calendar, the America's Cup (International Yacht Races), may be brought to radio listeners in complete and thrilling detail.

From the air, reporters will give accounts of the races as they circle above the competing yachts. On the water, cutters will carry details. of the contest from specially built transmitting stations. A listener sitting in their home with the races tuned in may be able thereby to get a many-sided picture of the races not possible to spectators on the scene anywhere along the 30-mile course. Furthermore, a carefully selected and unusually well-versed group of yachting experts have been hired to bring the races to your living room. Truly, radio's part in the coming event represents in many ways the broadcasting feat of the year.

Ever since the trials began early in June, the engineers of both the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System have been wrestling with the trying problems of rigging up equipment and arranging a suitable background for a letter-perfect. audible report of the 83-year-old event.

To augment a regular corps of trained sports announcers, NBC conducted a series of strange auditions, in which 40 millionaires --count 'em -- vied for the honor of becoming a nautical radio reporter. Some of the best known persons in the financial world, who are social leaders and skippers of racing yachts as well, went through the voice and diction tests, with the audition chiefs sitting in judgment of vocal and descriptive qualifications.

Pay of course was no incentive to the society sportsmen. The group of yachting enthusiasts volunteered their services in the interests of accuracy and the desire to prevent erroneous descriptions from being broadcast.

As this is being written. only one millionaire skipper has successfully passed the microphone test. He is Fred Gade, a social registerite, and he will be progressively stationed at strategic positions along the racing course when the races get under way.

Frederick Gade, or Fred Gade as he is known in yachting circles, is a yachtsman of long experience, and is rated as one of the crack skippers of America. One can safely say that he was born, bred and brought up to the salt water and the sailing of sloops. He is supremely happy in anything that floats, and spends all of his spare time, when he is free from his Wall Street office, in yachting. He has sailed, raced and cruised in national and international competition. Since he was a youngster he has manned all types of boats from dinghies to eight-meter craft, one of which he owns. The New York Yacht Club is authority for the statement that the National Broadcasting Company has chosen in him a man of proven ability with a lifetime of yachting experience.

"Of course it's great fun discussing the yacht races over the air," said Gade, 'but I've accepted the task primarily in order to prevent some of the grievous past errors from cropping up again. I believe that the American public is becoming more yacht-minded than ever, and they must given a square deal in acquainting them with what is occurring out there in the open sea.

"Yachting is a wonderful sport, the true blue ribbon amateur sport of the nation. Yankee Endeavor and Rainbow are grand boats. Their aggregate cost is in the vicinity of two million dollars. The pair that race should put up an immortal struggle."

Gade, of course. would not predict the winner. He did however make one significant remark. "I'm happy that Mr. Sopwith did not give in to the professional crew which struck on him when he needed them most. He has a great crew of amateurs aboard now, and in my estimation they are as capable as any crew assembled for the races. The day of the professiona1 in yachting is about over. Soon every sloop will be completely manned by amateur sportsmen. It will be a radical departure, but it will work. Of that I am positive."

NBC will broadcast six times a day over the coast-to-coast networks every day the races are run. In addition, the broadcasts will be relayed by shortwave to the BBC, so that English listeners may follow the yachts as they vie for top honors. The voices of announcers Bill Lundell and Ben Grauer will describe the tactical maneuvers of the challenging Endeavour and the defending. Rod Stephens, internationally famous naval architect and yachtsman, has been hired to command one of the mike positions aboard an NBC Coast Guard cutter, which will keep abreast of the racing yachts.

The start of each race will be broadcast from 11:15 a.m. to 12 noon Eastern, over the networks of WJZ-WEAF. The progress of the yachts as they round Brenton Reef Lightship will be broadcast over the WEAF network at 1:30, 2:15 and 4:15 p. m.. and over WJZ at 3:30 p. m. The results of each day's race will be heard over both NBC networks at about 4:30 p.m.

Columbia has not been outdone in the matter of elaborate preparations for reporting the races. The United States Coast Guard has cooperated with CBS, and engineers are now building a shortwave transmitting station on one of the cutters which will patrol the course. CBS will also use a special plane which will cruise above the competing yachts. Ted Husing, ace CBS sports announcer, will give the listeners a description of the match from the air.

Herbert L Stone, editor the magazine Yachting, who is considered one of the foremost authorities on the subject in the United States, has been signed to head the CBS announcing staff.

A "cue" station has been erected by Columbia at Sakonet Point. where Paul White, head of the Special Events department, will direct the.CBS broadcasts. White will be in constant communication with both the cutter and the plane, and will signal the announcers when to start and when to stop their portions of the program. The voices from the plane and the cutter will be transmitted by short wave to Sakonet Point, and relayed to the studios of WABC by telephone lines, from which point they will be sent out over the Columbia network.

Interest in the: International Cup Races has mounted tremendously since radio started to play such an important part in reporting the famous maritime event. Sports-loving American fans entirely unfamiliar with yachting terms and tactics, are nevertheless vitally interested in the sporting struggle that gets underway September 15.

The American Defense candidates had a thrilling time in the elimination heats to determine the ultimate defender. The Yankee, commanded by Charles Francis Adams, held a slight early edge in the trial heats over the Rainbow. commanded by Commodore Harold Sterling Vanderbilt. The Weetamoe made a gallant showing, but could not keep up with her elimination rivals.

The Rainbow. however, showed her heels to the Yankee, making her the inevitable choice to defend the cup.

The challenging Endeavour.. commanded by Thomas Sopwith, millionaire Bntish airplane manufacturer, is conceded to have one of the best chances of hitting the cup since the late Sir Thomas Lipton took up the hopeless task many years ago.

The Endeavour is equipped with a flexible boom that has been the subject of a flurry of debate among racing experts. Despite the fact that two of the booms snapped in the heat of competitive racing, Sopwith's ardor for the newfangled creation has not dimmed.

The Endeavour departs radically from set yacht construction. She possesses a newly designed triangular boom, perforated set and reefed mainsail, in addition to the flexible boom.

The prize for which millions of dollars have been spent is an ugly, bottomless silver cup, wrought by Victorian silversmiths in 1851, and offered as a prize by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain. It is officially known as the Hundred Guinea Cup.

Block Island Sound. off Newport, where the races will be run, is the site of the last American Cup contest in 1930.

The races will be held over the regular America's Cup course, starting from a special buoy which has been planted five miles southeast from Brenton's Reef Lightship, in the open sea. Marks will be set out each day, according to the wind. Some will be triangular, others windward or leeward, or vice versa. The distance of each race will be approximately 30 miles, and if neither boat has finished within five and a half hours after the start, the race will be declared off.

During these periods the story of the thrilling contests will be heard by millions of radio fans. Listeners all over the counttry will be in constant touch with the progress of the yachts. Four out of seven races determine the winner. and each race will be broadcast in detail.

In addition to the broadcasts from cutters, airplanes and other vantage points, both NBC and CBS are seriously considering sending several blimps aloft to report the progress of the racers as they speed through the choppy Newport waters.

Radio will do more in eliminating the past difficulty of relaying the relative positions of the racing yachts than any instrument known to science. Heretofore, many errors cropped into the early newspaper reports of the races, but radio, with its numerous vantage points, will report the races accurately, in detail, and on the instant.

Thus. as the crews of the challenger and defender run out spinnaker booms, and balloon jibs fill the air on September 15, radio listeners throughout the world will be assured of all there is to know.

Fred Champion in Radio Guide, Sept. 15, 1934

Martha Tilton Thought She Failed Benny Goodman Audition

Movie poster for the 1944 movie Swing Hostess from PRC Pictures starring Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins and Cliff Nazarro. Tilton is depicted in a blue dress with white flowers in her hair performing with a big band on stage
Movie poster for Swing Hostess (1944)

Sam, the man who made the pants too long, gave Martha Tilton her first job on an air show. Her singing suited the tailor man fine and he paid her the lordly sum of twenty-five dollars for her renditions over a Los Angles radio station-thousand watter KFAC.

The day she got her first paycheck from the sponsor Martha rushed over to a department store and bought three items: a new hat, imitation pearls for her mother and a pink sweater for her dog who was enduring a cold winter. Martha spent everything and to her chagrin was later put off the street car when she failed to come up with the requisite fare.

Thus started rather chaotically a career which was to see Martha Tilton put off no stations thereafter. She became a swing singer of note on American's Radio Hall of Fame and her motion picture appearance also helped enhance her renown.

For, as it happened, Martha's singing over KFAC was heard by a prominent agent. He approached the petite blonde who had come to Los Angeles from her native Corpus Christi, Texas, at the age of seven and asked her if she would like to sing at the Cocoanut Grove. Martha assented to the salary of $45 for she had always wanted to be a professional singer, had thought about it since her graduation from high school at seventeen. Yet she was far-sighted enough a little later to shift to Hal Grayson's band at a salary cut of fifteen dollars because she would be able to tour the country and meet the people.

Her strategy was successful for her next step was to sing on Three Hits And A Miss. While on this program she was given an audition as vocalist for the Benny Goodman band. Benny listened patiently to one number and walked out on the second. Martha noticed the retreat and immediately thought that her next stop would be Los Angeles or Corpus Christi. She went home in what is know as a blue funk.

When she arrived she heard the telephone ringing. Thinking it was another bill collector she picked up the receiver, heard a voice say angrily, "Why did you walk out?" "Who wouldn't?" returned Martha with asperity, "Goodman left and that's why I did." "Well," said the voice which was that of Goodman's manager-"Benny liked you and he wants to talk to you." She was hired the next day at $125 a week and sang with the Goodman band for three years.

Martha had many exciting experiences while singing with Goodman. When Benny was at the Paramount in New York a couple of enthusiasts jumped on the stage and started dancing. This is the first known instance of such exhibitionism. The incident was unforgettable because the boy who was dancing accidentally kicked Martha and she collapsed on the stage.

Tilton returned to the coast, joined NBC, and was featured in a program called "Lilton ' Martha Tilton Time" which ran for a full year. She was a guest star on the Fibber McGee and Molly, Jack Carson and Dick Powell programs, as well as many others.

In 1944, Martha shipped off for a South Pacific tour with Jack Benny, Carole Landis, Larry Adler and June Bruner. She was a hit from here to Guadalcanal and back. Then on Radio Hall of Fame, Tilton each week welcomed a famous guest whose career was reviewed in song and story. Personable, unspoiled she managed to delineate her own charming character in each of the songs she sang.

Martha's path to success was never easy-her father Fred was in the wholesale rug business and that was no guarantee that one is to be an outstanding singer for young rug-cutters. Martha had an up-and-down row to hoe until she impressed Benny Goodman.

That meeting with Benny Goodman affected her life in more ways than one. She eventually married Benny's manager, Leonard Vannerson, who had been a seaman, first class, in the Navy, and whose return to civilian life found him back in his old position with Goodman's band. Much of his managing comprised of his wife's activities. When a girl appears in pictures, sings a song, "I'll Walk Alone" which sells a million copies and is on Philco's Hall of Fame, she has already stepped into big. business -- a far cry for Martha Tilton from the days she sang hopefully for Sam, the man who made the pants too long.

Warner Grainger in Tune In, February 1946

What Happened on Radio Soaps in December 1952

Photo of Augusta Dabney and William Prince appearing as Tracey and Jerry Malone in the Young Dr. Malone TV series in 1958. Both are well-dressed and she's wearing evening gloves and holding a purse.
Augusta Dabney and William Prince in the TV series Young Dr. Malone (1958)

Aunt Jenny: Two girls in love with the same man create a situation that can not help but lead to trouble for someone. In a recent story, Aunt Jenny told of a triangle made even more complicated by the fact that the two girls were identical twins. The Stillman girls not only looked alike, but acted alike and had led identical lives -- until Larry came along. What unexpected changes did love make for all three of them? 12:15 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Backstage Wife: Long ago Mary Noble faced the fact that the wife of a successful, handsome actor will always have rivals for her husband's affection. Secure in the knowledge of Larry's love, Mary has managed to create a normal, happy home life until recently. What will happen now as glamorous Judith Venable, Larry's leading lady, makes a very definite attempt to break up the Nobles' marriage? 4 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Big Sister: Though the shock of John's illness is a difficult one for Ruth Wayne to bear, she finds it made somewhat easier as she becomes more involved in her work at the Health Centre. From time to time, however, she wonders if she made the right decision when she agreed to work in John's place as Dr. Roger Marlowe's administrative assistant. Is Roger more interested in Ruth than he's revealed? 1 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Brighter Day: The famous surgeon, Dr. Robert Cunningham, plays a key part in two young lives as Althea Dennis becomes his patient and Dr. Tom Gordon, his junior resident at New York's Memorial Hospital. What will be the effect on Althea's life if Dr. Cunningham succeeds in restoring her ability to walk? And what will be the effect on Tom Gordon when he learns that Dr. Cunningham is his real father? 2:45 p.m. Eastern, CBS; 9:45 A.M. Eastern, NBC

Doctor's Wife: Has a doctor any business to concern himself with ethical problems not directly connected with the health of his patients? Dr. Dan Palmer's practice had been growing very satisfactorily until just such a problem arose, and his young wife Julie is entirely in accord with his stand. Will the career for which they have both worked so hard be ruined by Dan's refusal to compromise? 5:45 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Front Page Farrell: David Farrell is the star reporter for a big metropolitan newspaper. That's his job. and he loves it. But somehow David can't keep his knack for crime detection under control, and the police have learned by now to welcome him and his wife Sally when they turn up on a story. In their current case, however, the Farrells come within a hairline of losing out to one of the cleverest criminals they've ever tracked down. 5:15 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Guiding Light: How difficult will it be for Cathy Roberts to stop blaming herself for the death of the boy to whom she was so briefly and hopelessly married? Has Dick Grant waited too long before declaring his independence from his mother's interference? As Cathy's stepmother, Meta longs to offer help, but fears that she will only stir up the girl's resentment. 1:45 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Hilltop House: Dr. Ricky Browning's charm has captivated not only Julie Paterno, head matron of Hilltop House, but all the orphans under her care. Delighted at the way she and Ricky appear to be moving toward a life together, Julie does not immediately perceive the factors that may threaten the happiness she expects. Will spoiled, pretty Doreen Gordon be willing to give up the plans she had made for Ricky's future? 3 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Just Plain Bill: By befriending Paul Norton, Bill Davidson runs into trouble not only with Paul's family but with his own, as his daughter Nancy insists that Paul's prison record is reason enough for Bill to turn against him. Was Paul really guilty of the manslaughter charge for which he served two years? Was he in love with the wife of the man who died? What does his sister Virginia know about it? 5 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Life Can Be Beautiful: Chichi, trying to help out financially during Papa David's illness, stumbles on a particularly conscienceless racket. When she learns some of its details from Marian Keller, Chichi and her editor friend Doug Norman embark on an indignant campaign to expose the truth about some so-called model agencies. What happens to the many pretty, ambitious girls who are not as quick as Chichi to recognize danger? 3 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Lorenzo Jones: Like any married couple, Belle and Lorenzo Jones have had their differences, but never in Belle's most exasperated moments did she envision life without Lorenzo. The tragic lapse of memory suffered by Lorenzo after an attack by vengeful criminals has turned Belle's life into a suspenseful nightmare. Will she discover in time just where and how Lorenzo is building his new existence? Or will she have to make one for herself? 5:30 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Ma Perkins: Once again Ma has cause to observe that where human beings are concerned (here is almost no such thing as a clean-cut beginning or ending. The Pendleton divorce trial is over, but its repercussions still influence the lives that were touched by it. Will Gladys Pendleton make the right decision about her own future, or will the course of her parents' marriage influence her too much? 1:15 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Our Gal Sunday: The last time Craig Norwood. Sunday's old suitor, reappeared in her life, he caused a serious misunderstanding between Sunday and her husband. Lord Henry Brinthrope. Now that Craig has come again to Fairbrook. with his young wife June. Sunday cannot help feeling somewhat apprehensive. Craig has become a strange, mysterious personality. Has he some definite plan to destroy Sunday's happiness? 12:45 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Pepper Young's Family: Pepper and his wife Linda, who are themselves in the midst of a period of marital difficulty, realize with dismay how outsiders can influence the course of a marriage when Pepper's sister Peggy and her husband Carter are brought almost to the brink of disaster by the interference, both direct and indirect, of Carter's mother, Mrs. Ivy Trent. Has Ivy at last learned the lesson she needs? M-F. 3:30 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Perry Mason: Just what is the connection between the Blazing Heart and the Lonely Hearts? How can a fabulous ruby be involved with an organization that provides friendship for those who are too timid to find it for themselves? Even though Perry Mason may eventually find the key to this curious connection, will it bring him anv closer to the mysterious, well-protected man? 2:15 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Right to Happiness: Carolyn Nelson, returning from her dangerous assignment just in time to see her husband. Governor Miles Nelson, collapse from overstrain, is appalled when she at last realizes the forces attempting to divide them. What have her enemies managed to make Miles believe during her absence? Has Miles really lost sight of the boundless faith and love on which their marriage was originally built? 3:45 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Road of Life: Twist and turn as they may, Conrad Overton and Gordon Fuller cannot escape the retribution that approaches as Dr. Jim Brent and Malcolm Overton, pooling their knowledge, begin to reconstruct the complete picture of the building of Conrad's fortune. Jim's anger is intensified when he at last penetrates the secret of Jocelyn McLeod's illness, and learns just how the Overtons were involved in that. 3:15 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Romance of Helen Trent: Hollywood gown designer Helen Trent tries resolutely to put lawyer Gil Whitney out of her mind after his reconciliation with his wife, Cynthia. Will Helen ever learn that Gil was blackmailed into the reconciliation by Cynthia's threat to name Helen corespondent in a divorce suit? Just how will producer Kelcey Spencer influence Helen's life as she starts work designing for his fabulous new production? 12:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Rosemary: Rosemary feels as though her happiness is balanced on a thread as she watches Bill make up his mind about the future. If he allows himself to be taunted by Edgar Duffy into some ill-advised action, he may never reinstate himself in the good opinion of Springdale. But if Bill can continue to keep his head and fight Duffy intelligently, the town may have cause to thank him for exposing one of its greatest profiteers. 11:45 a.m. Eastern, CBS

Second Mrs. Burton: Stan and Terry Burton have passed through the gravest crisis of their marriage, and emerged with redoubled faith in it. Will Stan's domineering mother give in gracefully to the knowledge that her son is completely happy with Terry? Will her urge for power over her children be satisfied as she tries to direct the affairs of her daughter Marcia, who really shows little ability to manage for herself? 2 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Stella Dallas: When Stella's daughter Laurel married wealthy Dick Grosvenor, Stella didn't foresee that her own life would become so inextricably entangled with that of Dick's autocratic mother. Several times in the past Stella has been able to rescue Mrs. Grosvenor from the consequences of her own folly. Will Mrs. Grosvenor's association with the Countess Sylvia Darnell be still another problem for Stella Dallas? 4:15 p.m. Eastern, NBC

This is Nora Drake: When the secret surrounding Peg Martinson's death is finally revealed, what effect will it have on the life of nurse Nora Drake? Fred Molina has risked his own life several times in his efforts to prove Nora innocent of Peg's death. When she is no longer in danger, will Fred feel that his own usefulness is also at an end ... that with his past record he and Nora can have nothing in common? 2:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Wendy Warren: Wendy, a newspaper woman herself, knows enough about writers -- Mark in particular -- to remain unperturbed as his moods swing wildly from high to low and back again, reflecting the progress of his work. But some of the emotional tension in their lives is due certainly to actress Maggie Fallon. Is Maggie planning a comeback into Mark's life in spite of his marriage to Wendy? 12 Noon Eastern, CBS

When a Girl Marries: From the secret hideaway where she is being virtually held prisoner by Donald Brady, Joan Davis can only send her thoughts and prayers over the miles that separate her from her husband Harry and their children, who believe her to have been killed in an automobile crash. Will Harry somehow sense that Joan is still in the world, or will he start to build a life without her -- a life that might hold terrible tragedy for all of them? 10:45 a.m. Eastern, ABC

Woman in My House: The Carters' oldest son, Jeff, has a family reputation for detachment, for the ability to keep out of emotional entanglements. But Jeff is not as detached as he appears, particularly when he is forced to face the fact that he may have to give up the friendship of Carolyn Wilson, because he can no longer evade the knowledge that she is in love with him -- and he does not love her. How will this affect both Jeff and Carolyn? 4:45 p.m. Eastern, NBC

Young Dr. Malone: Slowly and painfully, those who loved Anne Malone are trying to adjust to her death. The future holds the secret of what her loss will mean to many: Sam Williams, who wanted to marry her; Crystal and Gene, her good friends; her mother-in-law, who perhaps best knew her worth; and chiefly, of course, her beloved small daughter and the husband from whom she was so long estranged. 1:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Young Widder Brown: Still unable to prove his claim that his early marriage to Ruth was annulled many years ago, Dr. Anthony Loring is forced to relinquish his plans for marriage with Ellen Brown. Ellen, meanwhile, finds herself befriending the emotionally disturbed and unstable woman who has interfered with her happiness, and who unwittingly is being used by sinister associates to commit crimes of which she has no understanding. 4-30 p.m. Eastern, NBC

From Radio-TV Mirror, December 1952

Roy Rogers Always Comes Home to Sky Haven Ranch

Advertisement from 1958 for Double R brand toys showing Roy Rogers and three children in Western attire being held up by another child with a red bandanna over his face and a toy gun. The heading reads, 'Havin' Fun the Real Roy Rogers Way!' A caption reads, 'Hi, Kids! All the cowpokes in this picture with me are wearing my Double R bar clothes. Their guns and holsters are real Roy Rogers, too! If you'd like to own anything you see here, tell mom that everything is sold at all good department stores -- Roy Rogers.' There's also a caption 'Look for my Double R Brand' followed by the list 'on archery sets, action toys, banks, bed spreads, billfolds, belts, books, boots, chap-vest sets, chuckwagons, gloves, guns, guitars, hats, holsters, horseshoe sets, jackets, jigsaw puzzles, jeans, lanterns, lunch kits, jewelry, pajamas, paint and crayon coloring sets, pencil tablets, records, robes, raincoats, ranch models, Roy and Trigger models, shirts, school bags, saddle seats, slipper sox, slacks, stuffed toys, suits, sweaters, toy stagecoaches, ties, watches
An ad for Roy Rogers' Double R brand toys from 1958

If he weren't the top Western star in the land, Roy Rogers could easily become a professional advisor to the world's parents. Roy gets between 80,000 and 90,000 letters each month from all over the globe, about half of which are written by parents asking Roy to write their children telling them to eat their cereal, drink their milk, go to bed on time or take medicine the doctor ordered.

Since Roy is the ideal of all children, they follow his advice blindly. This is a big responsibility for Roy to take on but he accepts it willingly and does a fine job since he is well qualified for it.

The King of the Cowboys has faced the same problems with the three youngsters in his own royal family. There are two crown princesses -- Cheryl Darlene, 7 1/2; Linda Lou, 4 1/2; and one crown prince Dusty (the nickname of Roy Jr.), nearly a year old, who are about as lively and mischievous as any normal kids. Roy solves all his problems as they come up -- fairly and wisely -- and the result is a completely happy family.

Home to Roy is Sky Haven Ranch, about 55 miles from Los Angeles on Lake Hughes. That's where Roy heads whenever he can get some free time away from Republic Pictures Studios and his radio, rodeo and circus commitments. At Sky Haven, Roy is able to indulge in his favorite relaxations of hunting and fishing.

No wonder, then, that when Roy sings "Home on the Range" for rodeo fans, he feels a sharp stab of homesickness, for it is there at the place he loves that the three young Rogers impatiently await their daddy's return from the tour.

From Roy Rogers World Championship Rodeo, 1947

Milwaukee Firemen Scale Musical Heights on Radio

Photo of the broadcast control desk at WJAZ in 1922, consisting of 15 dials, five gauges and other equipment
Milwaukee's Engine Company No. 3 building in the 1920s

Most people associate firemen with music only in connection with those two immortal ditties, "Fireman, Save My Child," and "Oh, for the Life of a Fireman." It's all wrong. The truth is that firemen -- Milwaukee firemen, that is are likely to be known in the future as challengers of the world in the catch-as-catch-can music, no holds barred and the winner to take all the purse.

For they have burst into the radio firmament through the instrumentality of WHAD, the Marquette University-Milwaukee Journal station and are going strong on that station's programs.

Over on Milwaukee's South Side at 217 National Avenue is the headquarters of Engine Company No.3. In the back room of the engine house, where the stables used to be but which is now the kitchen, daily are given concerts which would fairly knock your ear out. Music? Hot diggety dog!

South Side engine house has come to be the rendezvous of all the musical firemen in town when off duty. An old grand piano that has lost its ear but retains the pep of its youth is installed in the music room (otherwise kitchen). The walls are proof against the most violent jazz.

Merritt Ramus, pianist; Tom Saskowski, banjoist, and August Boehm, harmonicist, trombonist; are the nucleus of the present organization. They began by appearing at various entertainments given by and for firemen and before long they were famous. Now they have attracted other stars and the gang is growing. Most of the practicing is held in Engine House No. 3, where Ramus, Saskowski and Boehm are stationed. Capt. Ernest Glander, of Engine Company No.3 , is the manager of the outfit. Chief Steinkellner appointed him to keep the boys from blowing the roof off.

Not all the music offered by the firemen is instrumental. They have a vocal quartet that takes a back seat for nobody and soloists that need no scaling ladder to reach the high ones. Tom Murphy, Engine Company No. 30; Joe Ross, No. 1O; Adolph Ketelholm, No. 16, and Tom Dugan, retired, are the singers. Between them they can make any ballad extant say "Uncle" and when they all get to going at once there is volume, boys, and nothing but. Snappy stuff is their specialty, but songs like "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," and other classics are put over with the tremolo stops wide open and the harmony true as a die.

WHAD is the result of a cooperative arrangement between one of Wisconsin's leading educational institutions, Marquette University, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin's leading newspaper, The Milwaukee Journal. The transmitting station is located in the new Science building of the university and the technical staff of the station is furnished by the university. The Journal organized and mans the remote control stations, arranges programs, and promotes new ventures.

The university and the newspaper joined forces in January last, putting on the air Milwaukee's first 500 watt radio broadcasting station.

From Radio Age, April 1926

Popeye Gave Up Spinach for Wheatena Toasted Wheat Cereal

A 1930s advertisement in which Popeye balances a box of Wheatena delicious wheat cereal on his bulging bicep and says 'I sez Wheatena makes muskle!' over the slogan 'Popeye is on the air.'
Ad for Wheatena toasted wheat cereal from the 1930s

Radio was a magical media for the children who heard it during its golden age. Just like the adults had their favorite programs, the small fry also had theirs. For the most part, these programs featured the children's favorite comic strip characters. Not only could they read about them in the Sunday newspaper, the children could also hear them live and in person over the airwaves. One of the comic strip characters is the subject of this article.

On Tuesday, September 3, 1935, the stations of NBC's Red Network debuted the first episode of Popeye the Sailor. It was a serial program heard three times a week (believed to be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) at 7:15 p.m.. It was the story of Popeye, who was all Navy from head to toe -- complete with the grizzled accent of an "Old Salt." His girlfriend (for the most part) was Olive Oyl, who adored Popeye, but also had something of a fickle nature. Popeye's friend was J. Wellington Wimpy, or "Wimpy" as he was referred to by his friends. His love was hamburgers--- and lots of them (too bad McDonald's didn't sponsor this program). Matey was a young boy who was adopted by Popeye. Swee' Pea was a baby left on Olive's doorstep. Last but certainly not least was Bluto, a big, rough, mean sailor who loved to stir up trouble -- and to beat the starch out of Popeye.

The characters and the stories on the radio program were similar in content to the comic strip -- with one noticeable exception. In the comic strip, when Popeye was completely out of gas, he always had a can of spinach in his shirt. He had enough strength to pop the can open and pour the contents into his mouth. In split-second speed, Popeye had the strength of 10 men (amazing stuff that spinach). In no time at all, Popeye whipped the daylights out of Bluto, won Olive's heart (for the moment), and everyone lived happily ever after -- until the start of a new story in next week's comic strip.

If spinach were the sponsor of the Popeye radio show, it would be the perfect fit. During the 1930s, there were makers of canned fruit and vegetables (including spinach), but none of them came forward. For a radio program to survive on the air, it was very important to have a sponsor. Wheatena wasn't spinach, but it was the sponsor of the Popeye radio program (if you're not familiar with Wheatena, it was a hot wheat cereal). As you already know, the sponsor called the shots on the radio program they sponsored, so the trick here was to involve Wheatena into the program. There was only one answer:

Wheatena replaced spinach as Popeye's strengthening food.

At the beginning and end of each broadcast, there were the usual Wheatena commercials narrated by announcer Kelvin Beech. While Beech made Wheatena sound so good, the small fry in the listening audience were wondering how it would be involved in the story.

In one episode, Olive, Wimpy, and Matey planned a picnic. They boarded a streetcar that was going to the city limits. This streetcar had a reputation of going fast. On this trip, it was a little too fast. With some sharp curves coming up, the streetcar operator tried to slow it down, but the brakes jammed. After the streetcar hit a truck in the tracks, the driver was thrown out. The conductor of the streetcar showed his bravery by voluntarily jumping off. It was Olive, Wimpy and Matey on the speeding streetcar by themselves. In a nutshell, it didn't look very good for the trio.

With the streetcar gathering more speed, Popeye came to the rescue. He stood in the middle of the tracks, bracing himself to stop the streetcar. This may not necessarily be the smartest thing Popeye or anyone else could do. The speeding streetcar continued its deadly pace. It appeared Popeye was headed to the ship in the sky. Miraculously, Popeye wasn't hit by the streetcar, but he was hanging on to the opposite end for dear life.

The streetcar was now approaching a busy area of the city. Something had to be done -- and fast. Matey started cooking some Wheatena. Popeye said that in order to stop a fast-moving streetcar, not to mention heavy, he needed three bowls full of Wheatena. Popeye devoured the Wheatena. In split-second speed, he had energy and strength. Popeye slowed down the streetcar. It took a few seconds, but Popeye managed to completely derail the streetcar before it approached the busy intersection. It was a scary moment, but the good news was nobody was hurt -- except Popeye's feet that felt the heat from the friction of slowing the streetcar down.

Although Wheatena gave Popeye superhuman strength on the program, the makers of the cereal don't promise the same result to everyone who eats it. Eating Wheatena at breakfast time supplied the energy needed to get the day off in the right direction. Wheatena worked out very well in Popeye's stories on the radio. Good thing the sponsor wasn't something that was not to be eaten. Working that into the story might be very interesting.

Danny Godwin in Return With Us Now, July 2009