Sunday, January 14, 2018

Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio: Visiting India with Ports of Call (1936)

For the fourth entry in my series of Old Time Radio programs that feature adventure, lets head back to 1936 and get on a grand voyage to exotic ports of call.  And the program is... Ports of CallThis is a cool series that I first learned about only last year as I wanted to see how the world was depicted on Old Time Radio during the 30s, 40s, and 50s.  This is a great way to keep our voyage going.

Visit to the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (November 19, 2017)

Visit to the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India (November 19, 2017)
Here are all my pictures from that day at the Ashram

My second entry is this series featured World Adventurer's Club (1932), a 15 minute program from a company called Transco (or Transcription Company of America).  Another program they are responsible for is what we are featuring today.  Ports of Call was a series of transcribed 30 minute programs produced in 1935 or 1936 that took the listener to all the corners of the globe.  From the Digital Deli article:

Ports of Call was a Transco-produced 30-minute 'musical travelogue' of sorts. Often billed in the newspaper listings of California as either 'musical' or 'drama', the fifty-two Ports of Call programs were more a combination of travelogue, geography lesson, World Music, and docudrama.
The program was likely first aired in California and ran periodically through 1937.  Also from that article on the Digital Deli: "The subject forty-three countries we can currently account for represented every predominant ethnicity, language and region of the modern world of the era. The pure escapism that the series provided, as well as an undoubted element of nostalgia for the various ethnicities that comprised the great melting pot of our post-Depression nation, were an equally compelling attraction for West Coast listeners."

The episode that I want to feature today was the voyage to India.  The program takes you on a dramatized voyage into the history of India with an interesting twist.  I was fortunate to visit India this November, so the country is often on my mind.  This program provides a very Western-focused approach to the history, starting with the British East India Company and its role in governing the colony of India.  We also learn about the building of the Taj Mahal and the 1756 episode that would be known as the Black Hole of Calcutta.  But what I am most interested in is the portrait and treatment of Mahatma Gandhi and his rise to prominence in 1920.

In my travels to India, I visited Ahmedabad and was able to visit the Ashram where he lived and where his movement that lead to Indian independence in the 1920s.  That brings us back to this program.  From the world view of 1936, his work was a failure.  Mahatma Gandhi was not able to deliver on his promise of independence that lead him to fame in the teens and 20s  However, it did lead him to prison.  That is where this story left him.  While no program can know the future, it is very interesting to see how he was identified as one of the figures they wanted to showcase and how much more important he was to become..  Move forward Learn more about Gandhi from the Wikipedia.

There are lots of country in this excellent series and I will revisit this again.  I hope you enjoy these episodes.

Here are some links to Ports of Call:
Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio: Traveling to Africa in The Heart of Darkness on Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre (1938)

For the third entry in my series of Old Time Radio programs that feature adventure, lets head back to 1938.  Well, maybe we should phrase this differently - let's head back to 10th Grade.  For it was in 10th Grade English that I first read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  This is one of the greatest novellas of all time and served as the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant 1979 film Apocalypse Now.  The story takes into the heart of Africa and into the heart of men as we travel in search of the mysterious Mr. Kurtz.  And while Coppola is one of the most well known directors of all time, maybe one of the very best directors is someone who brought this story to radio back in 1938.  And that director...must be Orson Welles.

Harvest Moon Over Dana Point (California) - October 26, 2015

Well...its Dark!  Harvest Moon Over Dana Point (California) - October 26, 2015

Let's go to Africa with the Mercury Theatre On The Air - the brilliant program from Orson Welles.  It was Welles' success on the New York stage of the same name that brought him to radio.  After a tryout with Mutual Network, Welles moved his Mercury Theatre On The Air to the CBS Radio Network, where he became well known for excellent adaptations of some of the world's finest literature.  In the weeks before the Mercury Theatre broadcast their version of the Heart of Darkness, they featured stories such as The Count of Monte Cristo, Thirty-Nine Steps, A Tale of Two Cities, among others.  But maybe more interesting is the very week before this broadcast, Welles and his acting troupe put on a performance that may be the most famous one that ever went out over the air.  That of course was the October 30, 1938 broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.  So skip ahead one week - on November 6th, 1938 - it was like nothing ever happened.  

On the fifth week of this program series (August 8th, 1938), instead of presenting a single story on their hour long program, they opted for three short stories.  Citing the success and popularity of that experiment, they decided to do it again.  The two stories were Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and excerpts from Clarence Day's Life With Father.  Those two stories could not seem more different.  And since we are focusing on adventure - we probably just need to talk about Heart of Darkness.  Welles opens up the broadcast with a great telling of a traumatic event in the life of the young author (which I am not completely sure was not elaborated by Welles for dramatic effect).  The brilliant story that was published in 1899 while the author was in his 40s needs no elaboration.  Charles Marlow is the narrator of the story and he tells of his adventures traveling up the Congo River into the heart of Africa.  The focus of his story was his search for an ivory trader by the name of Mr. Kurtz.  Besides being tremendously successful as an ivory trader, he is very mysterious.  Maybe mad.  The story follows Marlow as his searches for Kurtz on behalf of his company.  

This great production takes up more than half of the episode and features Ray Collins as Marlow. Welles plays the mysterious and allusive Mr. Kurtz. Other members of the acting company that day include Alfred Shirley, Alice Frost, Anna Stafford, Arthur Anderson, Dan Seymour, Edgar Barrier, Frank Readick, George Coulouris, Mary Wickes, Mildred Natwick, and William Alland.

This is a great entry that will hopefully take you on an adventure far beyond the walls of your home - but without the fear that space aliens from a different world are on their way.  I hope you enjoy this.

Mercury Theatre On The Air (November 6, 1938)

Read the Heart of Darkness - from Project Gutenberg

Here are some links to Mercury Theatre On The Air:
Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio: Visit to the Frozen North from World Adventurer's Club (1932)

It is cold today in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Very cold.  Then again, it snowed yesterday in Charleston, South Carolina - so things are bad all over.  So with that - I was thinking that we would take an adventure somewhere where it is cold...very cold.  This is the second entry in my series of Old Time Radio programs that feature adventure - especially world travel. 

206/365/3493 (January 3, 2018) - Squirrels in Ann Arbor on a Cold and Snowy Winter's Day at the University of Michigan (January 3, 2018)

Cold Squirrel at the University of Michigan - January 3rd, 2018

We have jumped into the Netflix series The Crown that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II (and it is great).  During the second season, Prince Phillip is on a world travels and his personal secretary shares letters of their adventures with a club where they are read aloud.  That conjures up nicely what I think these types of clubs might have been like - both real and imagined.  So during the height of the Great Depression, a radio program was devised to take the listener far from their world and into one of pure adventure.  In 1932, a series of transcribed (or recorded) programs from a company called Transco were created under the name the World Adventurer's Club.  These brief 15 minute programs enabled the listener to visit far off lands and live through thrilling adventures of bravery and heroism.  No doubt they were enhanced on radio as the were likely in real life.

From the Digital Deli article, they have some nice things to say about the genre and time:

Sitting atop the pecking order of world adventurers, the various Adventurers Clubs, Explorers Clubs, and Geographic Societies of England, Germany, France, the Orient, and America presided over their respective nations' most intrepid and herioc adventurers. Most of the organized clubs went to great lengths to compete for the first reports of these world adventurers within days or weeks of completing their independent trimphs of derring-do. Indeed, several of those clubs funded some of the more challenging adventures--and adventurers--of the era. Fiction novels were famous for citing the underwriting of one or more Adventurers Clubs as the framework behind novels such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around The World in Eighty Days, and Journey to The Center of The Earth.
The organized adventurers' clubs, in addition to underwriting adventures of their own, provided venues throughout the world for vetting--and exploiting--the more important accomplishments and discoveries of their era.
The stories all tend to start the same way.  First with a musical opening (sometimes with a male chorus contributing a song), and then an opening.  This is how the opening for today's episode started:

And now we take you in fancy to one of the most famous institutions of its kind...the World Adventurer's Club.   
Here we meet men who have braved every danger the world has to offer.  Men who have battled the polar seas and the tropical jungle.  It is the custom of this club to hold a series of informal meetings in which one member is called upon to tell the most thrilling experience of his career.  And now, the World Adventurer's Club extends a cordial invitation to you to draw up your chair and hear a story of the Royal road to adventure. 
The story featured today is appropriate for the weather.  The president of the club selects Captain Alexander Hale to share his story about adventure in the Arctic Circle. Hale was on a relief mission near the North Pole in search for another explorer who was given up for lost in a previous expedition.  The difficulty was compounded when they found themselves in the middle of a storm.  And if things could not get worse, there were polar bears - 20 of them.  But in the process of fleeing the bears, they discovered the ship of the ill-fated Morton expedition.  Such was the life of the adventurer.

These short programs are enjoyable and a perfect match for this series.  I hope you all stay warm and enjoy this particular adventure.

World Adventurer's Club Program #5 - The Frozen North

Here are some links to World Adventurer's Club:
Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio

Monday, January 1, 2018

Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio: A Passenger to Bali from Escape (1950)

I had the great opportunity to travel a great deal over the past two years and it has given me the adventurer-bug for sure.  I have little planned for 2018 - but I hope that I can fix that on the sooner side.  That all being said, this year, I want to highlight a series of Old Time Radio programs that feature adventure - especially world travel.  Hopefully this will be lots of fun to create and to listen to.  And for my first adventure - I thought I would ask three simple questions:

Tired of the everyday routine? 
Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? 
Want to get away from it all?

With that, I offer you ESCAPE! This was one of the most famous shows on the CBS Radio Network.  It ran from 1947 to 1954 and, along with Suspense, Gunsmoke and various programs led by Norman Corwin (that will be covered later in this series), cemented the place for CBS to be at the Pantheon of the Golden Age of Radio.  Escape featured many adapted versions of short stories that placed the characters in difficult, if not impossible adventures.

Empress of the Seas - In Port at Cozumel (October 14, 2017)

Empress of the Seas - In Port at Cozumel (October 14, 2017)

As part of our travels this past year, we took a cruise of the Caribbean including stops in Key West, Cuba and Cozumel.  Our waiter on the Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas was named Indra - or IN (as he liked to say).  He was from Bali and every evening when I ordered fish, he added that it was freshly arrived from Bali.  That was not likely the case, but it is in Bali that my adventures start for this series.  (BTW - We had a great cruise)!

In 1936, Ellis St. Joseph wrote a play called "A Passenger to Bali."  St. Joseph was a well known and respected writer who would later make a name for himself on television.  In 1938, Orson Welles's Mercury Theater produced a one hour version of the program which I might feature down the road (here is the broadcast from November 13, 1938 starring Welles).  I just found out that the play had a very brief life on Broadway as well - only playing four shows in 1940 (here is the playbill).  It opened on March 14th and closed on March 16th.  It seems that they not have to heed Caesar's warning to beware the ides of March - but every other day!

The version I am showcasing today for my first adventure comes from Escape and was broadcast on December 10th, 1950.  As the radio play opens, we find ourselves in Shanghai on a a bustling dock as the freighter Roundabout is seeking to leave for its next cargo.  Captain English (played by the great John Dehner) is busy barking orders to get everything ready for their voyage.  They are approached unexpectedly by Rev. Mr. Walkes (played by Lou Merrill).  The Reverend understands they are headed to Bali and presents his passport and offers twice as much as should be expected for the trip to Bali.  Captain English has little choice but to accept - a decision he would come to regret.  On the voyage to Bali, a young stowaway - who followed the Reverend onto the ship - is met with an untimely demise.  Captain English realizes that his passenger is not at all a man of God.  As they approached Bali, they were informed by the customs officer that they would not be allowed to let their passenger leave the ship.  He started as their passenger, but he became their burden.  So it is like having family for the holidays - only 350x worse.

The production was produced and directed by Norman Macdonnell and featuring Lou Krugman, Michael Ann Barrett, Wilms Herbert, and Bruce Payne.  I hope if you have travels planned for this new year of 2018, that yours go more smoothly!  And I hope you enjoy this new series of Old Time Radio programs.

A Passenger To Bali (Escape - December 10, 1950)

Here are some links to Escape:
Your World Adventure Awaits On Old Time Radio

Monday, December 25, 2017

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 25: Christmas with Don Ameche and the Elgin Watch Company

As we have reached the 25th Day of my Old Time Radio blog celebrating Christmas, we are at my other favorite episodes - or series of episodes: The Elgin Watch Specials. These 2 hour shows are too long to be broadcast on Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148), but are simply the best part of the holidays for me, especially if you are cooking in the Christmas. Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).

I am wishing you a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a great new year.  

193/365 (December 21, 2008) - The Best Christmas Tree Ornament

Cosmo the cat enjoying the Christmas Tree - 2008

One of the really cool shows I stumbled onto a few years back were the Elgin Seasonal Specials for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1940s. These were also known as Elgin's "2 Hours of Stars."  The shows were sponsored by the Elgin Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois. Starting in 1942 for the soldiers overseas, the Elgin Holiday Specials were two hour programs that featured the brightest stars in radio and the movies. Heard on these programs is Bing Crosby, Mario Landa, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope and were all hosted by Don Ameche. The Internet Archives has five total shows (see the link below). One of the real treats takes place one hour into the show from 1945. Jack Benny gave a twisted performance of Sorry Wrong Number, one of the most iconic episodes of Suspense. Also, given that the program runs 2 hours, these are not commonly played on current radio programs like XM 148.

I read that the specials had very different purposes.  The Thanksgiving shows were to get you to think about Elgin Watches and accessories for Christmas gifts.  The Christmas shows were to get you to think about Elgin Watches as you cashed in your gift certificates that you might have received for the holidays.  Variety reported in June 1949:
Shows last year cost Elgin an estimated $100,000 each, of which $26,000 went for network time and $60,000 for talent. First program to get the axe was the Christmas package, which was aimed at coaxing recipents of gift certificates into post-holiday buying of timepieces. Last year's January business, however, was reportedly so far from expectations that the watch company figured it has a white elephant on its hand. J. Walter Thomson agency made a fight to save the plum, with no luck.
As a great variety show that lasts two hours, it is a perfect thing to have on your radio (or computer) as you cook the Christmas meal.  It has been on the radio in my kitchen these last few years over the holidays.  Though we are not cooking for Christmas this year, it is a regular for me and will be my go-to Old Time Radio program for both Christmas and Thanksgiving.  I hope some day to write up something more in-depth on this program.

Here are links right to the Elgin's Christmas Shows:

Elgin's 3rd Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1944)

Summary:  The show features and all star list of radio and movie actors including: Ginny Simms, Eddie Anderson, Jack Benny, Louis Silvers and His Orchestra, Manny Klein, The Swing Wing, The Charioteers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Carmen Miranda, Joseph Szigeti, The Les Paul Trio, Barbara Jo Allen, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby.  The great Don Ameche served as the master of ceremonies.  I think it is totally great to hear any early performance by Guitar great Les Paul and his Trio!  Bing Crosby also went off the Christmas script and sang "Don't Fence Me In."  The routine between Bob Hope and Bing Crosby was fantastic as well.

The shows have great Christmas music, and some pretty funny comedy bits.  I particularly enjoy the long skit between singer Ginny Simms, Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson about how they were rehearsing for this song on the Elgin special.  The performance also by guitar great Les Paul is fantastic.

In the Variety Radio Reviews of the program (which appear in the December 27, 1944 issue - page 28):
This third annual Elgin Watch Christmas Day star-studded show was a boff companion piece for the company-sponsored Thanksgiving program-and that's another way of saying that you'll probably have to wait a long time (until, perhaps, Elgin shoots the works on another ultra-package) to match the 120 minutes of entertainment that went out over the CBS network from 4 to 6 p.m.  And like the Thanksgiving show, this one not only went into the homes of the nation's Yuletide celebrants, but circuited the global warfronts.   
Here was a Xmas package that couldn't but help momentarily gladden the hearts of those GIs holding down the battle line forts.  As such it will stand as a tribute to Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Jack Benny & Co. (and with due acknowledgement to the whole supporting cast); to the top scripting job sparked by Carroll Carroll and overall Tony Stanford production that combines a properly tempoed humor and hilarity with a complete awareness of the sensitivities involved in justifying a gay, laughing-at-home mood in contrast to the misery and tragedies that the boys overseas are encountering.  It was to a large measure, that sensitively-wrought portion that helped make the show memorable, particularly in the treatment it was given by Don Ameche, who emceed the show (there ought to be a Society of the Promotion of Ameche as Permanent Emcee for Such Occasions), and in the Crosby windup spiel.
 The show was well paced and marked by a proper integration of drama, comedy, music (both in the hot and longhaired idiom), all with dignity and, for the most part, in good taste, but essentially it was a show build for laughs - laughs to hypo GI spirits and those at home with a stake in the war via concern for sons, fathers, brothers, sweethearts.  It was comedy with a purpose, and in paying the freight, Elgin contributed its own generous portion of extending the season's greetings.
Not that the program was without its imperfections.  In keeping with that overall good-will-toward-men theme, those Elgin pitches could have been soft-pedalled; similarly the multiplicity of plugs to fie in the products of the guestars were overworked.  There was, too, a middle-portion boggin down in which Carmen Miranda, in particular, came off second best.  
But add up that wham Crosby-Hope latter portion routine with its spontaneity and warm, infections quality; that Jack Benny-Rochester-Ginny Simms fiddle accomp comedy stretch; the latter's sock renditions of "Hallelujah" and "Wish You Were Waiting for Me"; add, too, the Burns & Allen-Don Ameche laugh-packed skit, the Charioteers singing "Poor Little Jesus Boy," the Les Paul Trio doing "Danger - Men At Work," the hot routine of the Swing Wing (Mannie Klein) musical combo from the Santa Ana Army Air Base Band, the change in pace via Joseph Szigeti's flawless violinistics, and it's easy to understand why this Christmas package couldn't miss.
Elgin's 4th Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1945)

Summary:  The show stars  Don Ameche as the masters of ceremonies and a all star cast including:  Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Ginny Simms, Red Skelton, Bob Crosby and The Bobcats, Barbara Jo Allen (as "Vera Vague"), Allan Jones, Artur Rubinstein, Ella Logan, Alan Reed, General Omar Bradley, The Charioteers, Larry Storch, and The Elgin Orchestra conducted by Louis Silvers.

Elgin's 7th Annual Christmas Show (December 25, 1948)

Summary: The show stars  Don Ameche as the masters of ceremonies and a all star cast including: Sandra Berkova. Lauritz Melchior, Al Jolson, Danny Thomas, Red Ingle, Jack Kirkwood, Jo Stafford, Edgar Bergen, Sandra Berkova (a 15 year-old violinist), Cass Daley, Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Hilliard, Robert Armbruster and His Orchestra, and Jane Morgan.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy these wonderful recordings!

Here are some links to programs relating to the Elgin Watch Specials:
Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 24: Dragnet's Big Little Jesus (1953)

Everyone who loves Old Time Radio has a favorite episode or two that they can listen to over and over again.  Many people will have special episodes they love for the holidays as well.  For me, I have two favorite Christmas episodes and I decided that it is the perfect way to end this series for 2017.   Going back to 1953 and the show that Jack Webb made famous - or the show that made Jack Webb famous - Dragnet.  They have two great Christmas episodes - that were often repeated during the holidays.  For the purposes of this blog - I will focus on the more upbeat one - "Big Little Jesus" and share the true story that became this episode.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). It is particularly good this week with all Christmas themed programs.  Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).

Nativity Scene at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (Saline, Michigan)
Nativity Scene - Saline, Michigan - 2013
I was not a huge fan of Dragnet from the start - even though it was one of the most famous radio and early television programs out there. But over the past year, I have enjoyed the great series and I have become definitely a fan.  They have two stories related to Christmas that among the sweetest and saddest stories I can remember.  I would like to focus on the sweet side today!

Visit to Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura, California) - Friday November 1, 2013
Visit to Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura, California) - Friday November 1, 2013
First broadcast on December 22, 1953, "Big Little Jesus," shows how a much nicer side of Christmas. Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner Frank Smith receive a called about a missing religious statue of the baby Jesus from the Mission church in Los Angeles. While it is not a huge crime, they move forward looking at every lead and pawn shop to find this item before Christmas. Eventually, it turns up in the sweetest way possible.  It can be kinda corny, but is one of those radio episodes that really hits home with the true meaning of Christmas. I invite everyone to take 30 minutes, go back in time, and recapture the meaning of the holidays.

Jack Webb is Joe Friday and Ben Alexander plays Frank Smith, his partner.  The program also became part of the television series.  According to an article in the Atlanta Constitution on December 22, 1955 (p20), the story was based on a true incident that too place in the 1930s in San Francisco.  The New York Times published an article in 1933 about this 'theft" (thanks ProQuest Historical Newspapers):

Thief-Hunting Priest Bows to Boy's Faith
Christmas Bargain Explains San Francisco Church's Loss of Christ Child Figure
New York Times December 27, 1933 (page 14)
Special to the New York Times
San Francisco, Dec. 26. - This is a story of Christmas time, of a missing figure of the Christ Child and of a boy and his coaster.
It happened today at the Church of Our Lady of Victory.  The Christ Child had been stolen from the manger-crib in the nativity scene in the church.  The discovery caused consternation.  Priests, sextons and sacristans joined in a frantic search of the premises with no results.  The little figure could not be found.
A thief was blamed and the priests were about to call police headquarters, when one of them saw the missing figure in a coaster wagon which a small boy was towing up the hill behind him.  For a moment the priest was speechless.  He looked down in amazement at Master Georgie Potter, aged 7.  
"Why, my son!" the priest exclaimed.  "Do you realize that you have the Christ Child there'"
"Yes. Father," said Georgie, quite blandly.
"Did you take the figure from the church?"
"Yes, father." answered Georgie.  The lad's face fell as the priest sought further explanation.  Yes, he had taken it, but he really had not meant to steal it.
"I-I wanted a wagon for Christmas," he explained.
The priest could not quite understand.
"A wagon for Christmas, my boy-yes-but why did you take the statue of Jesus?"
"You see, Father," was the reply, "I told he Christ Child that if he'd let me have a red wagon for Christmas I'd give him a ride in it twice around the block.  He did his part, so now I'm just doing mine."
So as Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.  I love how the story grew as a Dragnet episode.  Maybe that was their trick - develop something small that happened into a whole story.  And such a great one this is.  I hope you enjoy it.

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 23: The Whistler's Three Wise Guys from Damon Runyon (1950)

As we are getting close to Christmas, I thought I would feature a pairing that gives me 'great pleasure' to be sure.  I have decided to match one of my favorite series with one of my favorite authors.  In my first year of doing this blog for Christmas, I showcased all of the episodes from the great West-coast series - The Whistler.  And a few days ago, I featured Palm Beach Santa Claus on the Damon Runyon Theater (1949) .  So today - we pull a mashup that even Reese's Peanut Butter Cups would approve of - hey - you put Damon Runyon in The Whistler -  or - You put The Whistler into a Damon Runyon story!  Either way - it is a great way to greet the holidays this year.  If you have Sirius XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148). It is particularly good this week with all Christmas themed programs.  Or you can see my previous OTR Christmas entries (or drop to the bottom of this message).

Views from the Road - Driving in Gujarat, India (November 23, 2017)

Not really Christmas - but it is three travelers - so I will go with that.  
Views from the Road - Driving in Gujarat, India (November 23, 2017)

The Whistler is one of the greatest old time radio programs.  This mystery series aired from May 1942 to September 1955 on the West-coast network from CBS Radio.  The show was sponsored by the Signal Oil Company.  The lead in for the show was: "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler."  The Signal Oil Company was one of the biggest west-coast oil companies.  They became part of AlliedSignal and then Honeywell.  The Signal Oil Company as an entity phased out in the 1960s, but in the years before, they were a leading gas supplier in the Western United States.

One of the best parts about The Whistler is that each episode was a self-contained story, using new characters and situations.  They were able to bring in many big names on radio and film into the studio to report the episodes.  These actors included Frank Lovejoy, Betty Lou Gerson, William Conrad, Jack Webb, Gerald Mohr, Doris Singleton, Lurene Tuttle, Joseph Kearns and Bill Forman (who played the title role of The Whistler more than any other actor).  The Whistler was the omniscient voice in the story, who started the episodes with the same refrain:

"I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes, I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak."  

These are wonderful 30 minute mysteries that do a great job of keeping the listener interested.  They are also one of my favorite mysteries.  On December 24, 1950th, the Whistler staff had the night off.  The broadcast was transcribed (or recorded) to enable the cast and crew to spend the holiday with their families.  The program opened in a perfect match of The Whistler and Damon Runyon:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse.
Even Broadway, that glamorous avenue of make believe in far away New York seemed empty, deserted.  
Most cafes and eating places were closed.  But the doors of an occasional refuge for those hardy souls who prefer to walk alone were still open.  Such a place was Good Time Charley's Bar on 49th Street, where on another Christmas Eve, a series of unusual events began.  Ending in one of the most unusual stories Good Time Charley had ever listened to.  
The story opens with poor Blondy Swanson.  Sitting at a bar and lamenting a lost love and his switch to an honest life.  He is talking with the storyteller (Al) - when in comes the Dutchman who tells them that he has a treasure in Pennsylvania that he needs help collecting.  50Gs to be specific from a factory payroll.  So the three of them head to the west from New York City on Christmas Eve to collect this money - conveniently hidden in a barn somewhere in the hills of Pennsylvania.  When they get to the barn where the money is, they find something that they clearly were not expecting.  It was Blondy's former love - Miss Clarabelle Cobb!  And she was ready to give birth to a newborn! Her husband was on the run because they thought he was involved in the payroll theft - but he was not.  In typical Damon Runyon fashion - there were lots of moving parts - but a well oiled story underneath!  As they said, it was "quite a night for surprises."  The program stars Marvin Miller, John Brown, Jack Moyles & Bill Forman as the voice of the Whistler.  Great recording and lots of fun for the holidays.

Three Wise Guys - The Whistler - December 24, 1950

Story Text options:
Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and The Whistler:

Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2017) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) 

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)