Let’s travel back in time to a spring afternoon in New York City during World War II. The time is 5:30 p.m. on a Monday; dinner is on the stove and the kids are underfoot. The easiest way to keep the little ones occupied is to plop them in front of the radio. A turn of the knob and the Stromberg-Carlson’s tubes begin to hum. Spinning the dial to WJZ (NBC Blue Network), we hear: “Wheaties, breakfast food of champions, presents: Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy!” This program is one of radio’s most famous children’s adventure shows.
Jack Armstrong and the two shows preceding it,Terry and the Pirates at 5:00 p.m. and Dick Tracy 5:15 p.m. are 15 minute serials — just enough time to get the heroes out of the incredible jams they got into yesterday, and then get them into even more incredible jams today, which they will have to get out of tomorrow.
After Jack Armstrong ends at 5:45 p.m., Captain Midnight and his famous decoder ring will finish WJZ’s 5 o’clock foursome. But at 5:45 p.m. the kids turn the dial to the Mutual network’s WOR and hear announcer Jackson Beck say, “Kellogg’s Pep — that super delicious cereal — presents: the Adventures of Superman. Faster than a speeding bullet… more powerful than a locomotive…able to leap tall buildings at a single bound…Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Superman!” This show, based on the comic strip character, stars Bud Collyer as the man of steel with Joan Alexander as Lois Lane.
News and sports follow at 6 p.m. on most stations, then orchestra music dominates the 7 p.m. hour. On this Monday evening we can listen to Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians on WEAF(the NBC red network), Horace Heidt and his Orchestra on WJZ, or, if you like swing music, independent local station WMCA’s Benny Goodman Records at 7:05 p.m.
If you want some mystery and adventure turn to WABC where CBS presents Jack, Doc, and Reggie in I Love a Mystery. On this same station at 7:30 p.m. we will hear radio’s famous warning cry — “Uh…uh…uh…UH! Don’t touch that dial! It’s time for…Blonnnnn..die!” Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake portray the Bumpsteads as they do in the “B” movie series.
Lets ignore Dagwood’s admonition and turn the dial to WJZ so we can hear one of radio’s most famous introductions: Blaring trumpets, galloping hoof beats, then a voice rings out “Hi yo, Silver, away!” After numerous pistol shots, the announcer cuts in — “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi yo, Silver!’ The Lone Ranger!” First airing on Detroit’s WXYZ in 1933, this program will outlast the radio era.
On this Monday evening things turn serious at 8 p.m.: Live network coverage of President Roosevelt’s fireside chat about the fall of Rome to allied forces. After the president’s talk we can leave the real world problems and hear fictional problems solved on WOR where Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce reprise their screen rolls as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in the radio series based on Conan Doyle’s characters.
At 9 p.m. from Hollywood, CBS broadcasts the Lux Radio Theatre. Cecil B. DeMille produces and hosts this top ten program that turns popular movies into radio plays with each movie’s stars(if available) stepping up to the microphone. Tonight: Jane Eyre staring Orson Welles with Loretta Young taking the role played by Joan Fontaine in the movie.
If we would rather educate the kids before sending them to bed we can turn to WEAF at 9:30 p.m. and listen to Clifton Fadiman moderate Information, Please! Listeners send in questions trying to stump the show’s experts. Then at 10 p.m. on Screen Guild Players we can hear another radio play made from a motion picture:The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse starring Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, and Lloyd Nolan. Actors appearing on this show donate their fees to the Screen Actor’s Guild charities.
After the news at 11 p.m. we can tune in various music programs including band remotes from nightclubs and restaurants. The time is nearing midnight on this Monday evening. Slowly turning the dial, we suddenly hear the first bars of a familiar theme song — “Ciribiribin.” As the band tones down, the announcer smoothly slides in: “Columbia brings you Harry James the nation’s number one trumpeter and his Music Makers playing from the Roof of the Hotel Astor overlooking Times Square in New York City. Harry tells me this tune is really new; Kitty Kalen sings it. So, as time goes by keep listening for ‘In Times Like These’”
The band plays a few bars and then an announcer breaks in — “We interrupt this program of music by Harry James and his Orchestra to bring you a bulletin just received in the WOR news room. London: The German News agency Trans-Ocean said today, in a broadcast, that the Allied invasion had begun. This, however, is an unsubstantiated enemy claim. We repeat. This is an unsubstantiated enemy claim. Stay tuned to WOR for further details. We return you to the music of Harry James and his Orchestra.” The voice of Kitty Kallen fades in singing “In Times Like These.”
The song will never become famous, but this new day — Tuesday June 6, 1944 — will. The Allied parachute and glider attacks,launched just after midnight Normandy time,have been underway since we turned on the radio. And now at midnight, eastern war time, the landing crafts are heading for the Normandy beaches. The WOR bulletin is the initial report of the greatest invasion in history. A dramatic conclusion to an evening by the radio.