Back when I was in elementary school – the days before television – radio was the companion of stay-at-home moms as they went about their homemaking chores. In our house the radio was on before we kids even got up, and it stayed on all day, except when my mother went to the grocery store, until my dad came home from work. Mornings had lots of music and news, but weekday afternoons were mainly devoted to soap operas.
There were three 15 minute soap operas playing while I ate my lunch – which I will never forget.
The first, Wendy Warren and the News was one of the strangest program ever produced on either radio or television. It began with a short legitimate newscast with Douglas Edwards, who later did the news on national television, followed by the actress performing as the title character who presented some actual women’s interest news. Then Douglas and Wendy said their pleasant goodbyes, sound effects produced a door closing, and Wendy went out into her fictional soap opera world of trials and tribulations.
Then followed The Romance of Helen Trent. This show was on the radio from 1933 until 1960 (7,222 episodes), during which three actresses played the lead roll. Every episode began with the following announcement”
“The real-life drama of Helen Trent, who, when life mocks her, breaks her hopes, dashes her against the rocks of despair, fights back bravely, successfully, to prove what so many women long to prove, that because a woman is 35 or more, romance in life need not be over, that romance can begin at 35.”
Helen remained 35 throughout the 27 years. In all that time she had an off and on relationship with a character named Gil Whitney – but they never married. They would get close often, but something always happened to break them apart, and Helen would have dalliances with other desirable and undesirable men until circumstances once again brought Helen and Gil together.
Finally, as I was having my cupcake or other snack and getting ready to return to school, came Our Gal Sunday. I usually left early in the program, so I don’t remember much about it – except for the opening announcement:
“Once again, we present Our Gal Sunday, the story of an orphan girl named Sunday from the little mining town of Silver Creek, Colorado, who in young womanhood married England’s richest, most handsome lord, Lord Henry Brinthrope. The story that asks the question: Can this girl from the little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman.”
When I arrived home each day there was a non soap opera program already in progress which always disturbed me. It was a locally produced program in which a little old man named Al Sigl with a high pitched and trembly voice talked about things going on in the city – things like the Elks Club putting on a pancake breakfast the coming Sunday, and like a family whose house burned down leaving them with only the cloths on their backs in need of help from the community. He also was a one man blood bank – calling on people with particular blood types to donate for a specific person or to replenish hospital supplies.
Those things didn’t bother me, but it was his reading of the daily obituaries in his shaky old voice that shook me up. “Martin Gilhooley, age 59, died suddenly Tuesday night at his home at …………. He is survived by ………… Viewing will be hald at ……………… Funeral services will be held at …….. and burial …….”
I mean – like I was just a widdle kid. 😯 And this part of the program really upset me – especially the suddenly ones – the ones who croaked after long illnesses were bad enough. At that time my parents were really old ……… mother was almost 40 and dad was 12 years older!! I had a very vivid imagination and would visualize one or both suddenly keeling over dead at any moment! I will never forget or forgive Al Sigl for daily traumatizing me.
Note: I got the texts of the openings of the soap operas from the Net. My memory is not quite that exact, although I can actually recall most of each.