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Childrens Radio Shows


Kids Listening to Old Time Radio

Radio Shows for kids were a natural fit for producers, just like Saturday Morning cartoons during the Television age. Producers and advertisers knew that, even though kids may not make the major purchasing decisions in the home (which is why the housewife is the target audience of the daytime Soap Operas), children and their desires did have a lot of influence on how a family's money got spent.

With remarkably few exceptions, Children's programming from the Golden Radio Era (and into the early Television Age) made little pretense of "educating" kids. Wholesome characters and an uplifting or moral message were always part of the story, but the show's main purpose was to sell the sponsor's product.

Soap for Mom, Cereal for Kids

Dick Tracy RadioLike the Soap Opera, which targeted mothers, the popular Cereal Serials targeted their product at the consumer most likely to want it. Advertisers made sure that young cereal eaters would want to be a Straight Shooting Cowboy just like Tom Mix, and if they ate Quaker Oats or Tootsie Rolls, they would always get their man like Dick Tracy. Of course, the serial format also ensured that the kids would come back, day after day, to see what would happen to their favorite characters.

The Cereal Serials were usually products of the networks and advertisers of national products. The Syndicated Serials were packaged and sold to local broadcasters in a form that would allow them to inject local advertising. This occurred with superb effect in the 1937 Christmas shopping season with The Cinnamon Bear. Producer Bruce Eells gathered an incredible radio cast including Howard McNear, Gale Gordon, Barbara Jean Wong and Joseph Kearns, and created a lovely story, designed to play every afternoon between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some stations would jump the gun; in Portland, Oregon, the tale finishes on Christmas Eve because it starts on Thanksgiving Day. The show remains well loved to this day, and many department stores advertise Paddy O'Cinnamon as Santa's right hand man.

The following year Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon came out in the same 26 day format. Although not as well received as Cinnamon Bear, the series is exceptionally well done and presents some familiar Lewis Carroll-like characters, slightly refurbished.

Jerry of the CircusAlso in 1937 Bruce Eells brought us Jerry of the Circus, the story of a young man who joins the circus after his parents die. In the series, Circus People do not meet the images we have of carneys today; they are honest and hard working, and Jerry has a great upbringing. One day the circus owner, who has become Jerry's guardian, convinces Jerry that the best thing for his future would be to attend a Military School. Jerry at Fair Oaksfollows those adventures.

The Magic Island (1935) is a closed serial; that is the story arc has a definite ending point. Listeners can expect to be carried all over the place on the way to that ending point! In the very first episode, we learn that Mrs. Gregory is setting out to find her long lost daughter in the South Seas. Jerry and Tex join her quest. They find her daughter on a man-made island, ruled by beings of enormous intellect. Somehow, they must escape the island and find their way back to Los Angeles. At 15 minutes apiece, the episodes are a lot of fun. Soon there is so much exposition at the beginning of the program there is little time for the story, but this keeps us from getting lost.

The Network Serials are some of the best loved and remembered. A list of favorites will almost sound like nostalgia cliché's: Little Orphan Annie, The Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody Time,  The Green Hornet, Terry and the Pirates, Tom Mix and more.

From Funny Pages to Radio

Terry and the Pirates coverRed Cross Macaroni buttonLittle Orphan Annie began as a comic page hit, and came to the radio in 1930. Annie was not the spunky kid belting out "The sun will come out, Tomorrow…" whom modern kids know. She was a tough girl who wasn't afraid to scrap when it was needed.

Another Funny Page success that came to the radio for kids is Terry and the Pirates. Young Terry Lee is a "wide awake American Boy" in the Orient having adventures with his mentor Pat Ryan and a captivating cast of characters. As Terry matures, he joins the Army Air Corps and fights in the Pacific. However, ratings began to slip after the war when there were fewer enemies to chase.

Blue Beetle on the RadioPerhaps the greatest of the comic book heroes was Superman. The Adventures of Superman began on WOR New York in 1940, less than two years after his premier in Action Comics #1. Many elements that would become part of the Superman universe began on the radio, not in the comic pages. The editor of The Daily Planet, Perry White, and copy-boy Jimmy Olsen came from the radio program before the comic pages. The Man of Steel's first encounter with Kryptonite happened on the radio. The writers created this device so that the star, Bud Collyer, could take some vacation time in the era before summer re-runs.

One comic book hero to ride the cape-tails of Superman was The Blue Beetle (1940). The Beetle got his start as a rookie beat cop frustrated by the delays and red tape of police work. He decides to take matters into his own hands by taking on a mask and acting as a vigilante, similar to The Green Hornet.

Red Ryder was more than a nifty BB gun. The cowboy was another successful comic strip that made the transition to radio. The strip by Fred Harmon began in 1938, featured tall, no nonsense Red and his Indian ward, Little Beaver, and ran until 1964. The characters appeared in a movie serial beginning with Republic's The Adventures of Red Ryder in 1940. The Blue Network carried the radio adaptation in the West, and Mutual in the East. The program even managed to top The Lone Ranger in the ratings for a time, but sponsors dropped it after four months. The original sponsor, Langendorf Bread, kept the show alive regionally until 1951 over the West Coast Don Lee network.

Two Masked Men and a Dog

Jackson Weaver, Ruth Crane Shaefer, Brace BeemerThe production/writing team of WXYZ station owner George Trendle and free-lancer Fran Striker gave us some of radio's greatest masterpieces. In 1932, Trendle started discussing the potential of a Robin Hood-like character on the radio. Since children would be the target audience, the character had to be wholesome, and violence kept to a minimum. A cowboy would fill the need for wholesomeness. Writer Striker came on board to flesh out the details of The Lone Ranger. The Masked Man was an immediate success; when a free pop-gun was offered to the first 300 listeners to write in, the station received more than 25,000 replies.

Sgt PrestonIn 1935, Trendle began work on a show that would show how one man could fight a corrupt political system. Striker used a descendant of the Lone Ranger, Britt Reid, to don the mask as The Green Hornet. By 1938, Trendle was ready to see if he could find success with another adventure program, and insisted that this time the hero should be a dog. Not fancy dog like Lassie, but because it was to be an action adventure it had to be a working dog. Writer Tom Dougall (Striker would contribute scripts) was a fan of Robert Service poetry and cast an Alaskan sled dog in Challenge of the Yukon, featuring Sergeant Preston of the North-West Mounted Police and his sled dog, King of the Yukon.

Trendle was a notorious penny pincher. There is a rumor he kept an extra set of books showing that the station was constantly losing money, which he would show employees if they asked for a raise. The selection of the familiar "William Tell Overture" and the Rimsky-Korsakov "Flight of the Bumblebee" as themes for The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet came about because they were in the public domain. No extra fees would be attached to their use.

We cannot promise that your kids will hurry home from school and finish their homework early so they can listen to these shows, but then we all may be surprised! We do think that any of these programs will make fine accompaniment to your next long family drive.

Kids Like OTR!

Children's Radio Quick Reference


Show Title

Dates

Subgenre

Hero

Side Kick

Premise

Notes
Adventures of Champion 1949- 1950 Western Adventure for Kids Champion the Wonder Horse Ricky West Gene Autrey's popularity was great enough to spin-off stories of his horse. Champion did his own stunts on the radio. Also spun off Gene's Show on TV
Adventures of Sea Hound 1942-1951 Kid's Adventure Serial Captain Silver Jerry, Tex, and Kukai Captain Silver has adventures and fights evil aboard his 80' yacht, The Sea Hound, mostly in the SE Pacific. Fran Striker is credited as writer. Columibia made movie serial of the program, starred Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordan).
Anne Airlanes 1930s Children's Adventure Serial Ann Burton Jack Baker One of the few aviation serials to have a female lead, Ann Burton, an Air Hostess for Interstate Airways and her pilot boyfriend Jack Baker Gerald Mohr plays the copilot, Art Morrison, who is also a Secret Service Agent
Air Adventures Jimmie Allen 1933-1947 Kid's Aviation Adventure Serial Jimmie Allen Speed Robertson Jimmie and his mentor, WWI pilot Speed, thwart hijackings, join air races, conduct rescues and find treasures. Jimmie learns to fly himself, and Speed reveals himself to be a G-Man. The "Jimmie Allen Flying Club" by sponsor Skelley Oil is one of the most successful early Radio Premiums. When series was dropped by the sponsor in 37 Producer Russell Comer developed "Captain Midnight." Stories and scripts of 30's episodes were used mostly intact for late 40's rerelease by updating aviation technology references.
Archie Andrews 1943 - 1953 Teenage SitCom/Comic tie-in Archie Jughead, Veronica, nemesis Reggie, and Betty Archie comics brought to the radio along with his Riverdale High pals Jughead, Betty, Veronica,Reggie and all. The Archie comics were created by Bob Montana, son of Vaudevillian parents who settled in Haverhill MA, which would be the model for Riverdale.
Big John and Sparkie 1950 - 1958 Kid's Serial Sparkie and Big John Ukie, Mayor Plumpfront, Daffodil Dilly Sparkie is a "elf from the land of make believe" having adventures with his friend and guardian Big John. The 12 minute daily program was continued in the a successful Hour and a half Saturday morning broadcast "No School Today." Jon Arthur wrote and did most of the voices.
Blue Beetle 1940 ComicBook to Radio The Blue Beetle/Patrolman Dan Garrett The Blue Beetle works alone Dan Garrett joins the police after his father is gunned down by a mobster, but becomes frustrated with delays and paperwork, so assumes the secret identity of the Blue Beetle. He has a bullet proof costume and Vitamin X-2 which gives him superstrength. Title role played by Frank Lovejoy for first 13 episodes.
Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders 1932- 1936,

1949- 1955
Kiddie Western Tex and Bobby Windy and Harka Young Bobby Benson is the owner of the B Bar B, but his friend Tex runs it. They spend their time foiling Bad Guys and righting Wrongs. The early version predated The Lone Ranger. The Later verision was very successful popular on Mutual and AFRS. Mnay premiums were given away. A 20yo Don Knotts, later Andy Griffith's Deputy Barney Fife, can be heard as the Old Geezer, Windy.
Buck Rogers 1932-47 Juvenile Science Fiction serial Buck Rogers Wilma Deering , Dr Heur Buck has been trapped in a mine and exposed to radioactive gas. He thinks he was asleep for a few hours but really he wakes up in the year 2419AD! Buck catches on to the marvelous inventions and ways of the future, and has many adventures.  
Captain Midnight 1939-1940

1940-1949
Juvenile flying serial Captain Midnight The Secret Squadron Captain Midnight was an Ace in WWI. He recruits his Secret Squadron to work for the government and foil bad guys Sponsored by Skelly Oil, the show had many premiums like Code-o-Graphs to decode messages about the next day's program.
Challenge of the Yukon 1938 - 1955 Adventure Dog Story Sergeant Preston King, lead malamute sled dog Adventure Story about Sgt Preston of hte Northwest Mounted Police and his trusty sled dog during the Yukon Gold Rush. After the success of the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, George Trendle wanted a program with a dog as a hero, but insisted that unlike Lassie the hero be a working dog.
Christmas on the Moon (Jonathan Hhomas and His Christmas on the Moon) 1938 Kid's Story Show Jonathan Thomas, his Koala teddy bear Guz, Santa Claus the Squeebublians, Gorgonzola the Horse, the three Dwarfs, the Fairy Queen After Dad tells him his bedtime story, Jonathon discovers that Santa Claus has been kidnapped by the Squeebublians! Broadcast the year after the Cinnamon Bear, but did not develop as passionate a following,
Cinnamon Bear 1937 Kid's Story Show Paddy O'Cinnamon , The Barton Twins The Crazy Quilt Dragon, Wesley the Wailing Whale, many others The Barton Twins discover the Star is missing on a 26 day adventure with Paddy O'Cinnamon in Maybeland to recover it. The Program was designed to be heard every afternoon between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Still very popular Christmas tradition in many places.
Cisco Kid 1942-1958 Kiddie Western Serial Cisco Kid Pancho The Kid is a Heroic Mexican Caballero who wanders the West with his friend Pancho performing Robin-Hood-like good deeds and wooing pretty senoritas. The Cisco Kid character was originally an vicious Outlaw in a story by O. Henry.
Clyde Beatty 1950 - 1952 Circus Adventure Clyde Beatty Clyde Beatty Circus Clyde Beatty is the owner of a Circus, and is also the world's greatest wild animal trainer. The show takes us behind the scenes of the circus and into Clyde's adventures with his animals Clyde Beatty got his start in the circus as a teen cleaning cages and worked his way up as a lion tamer and eventually circus owner.
Comic Weekly Man 1951-1953 Kids Story Show/ Comic Page Tie-in Puck, the Comic Weekly Honey Every Sunday host Lon Clark, along with Honey, reads from the Hearst Sunday Funnies, "Puck," along with sound effects and music, and discusses them with Honey, a young girl.  
Cruise Poll Parrot 1937 Nautical Adventure Serial Captain Roy Dalton and his Parrot, Poll first mate George Wainwright, Ship owner Ezra Grange Highly stylized story of the ship Poll Parrot and its cruise from the whaling port of New Bedford. Sponsored by International Shoes, makers of Poll Parrot Children's Shoes. The program is filled with nautical references and sounds.
Dick Tracy 1934 - 1948 Children's Police Serial/Comic Dick Tracy Tess Trueheart Dick Tracy fought often fanciful villians but used his wits and up to date crime-fighting techniques, but often ended up in a shoot-out. The Radio program stayed largely faithful the the original Chester Gould Strip.
Fire Fighters 1948 Children's Adventure Stories American Fire Fighters The Americans they Protect Stories of American Fire Fighters. There is usually a fire related mystery to be solved, and there is also lessons about fire safety and fire fighting equipment.  
Flash Gordon 1935-36 Kids SciFi adventure Serial/ Comic page tie-in Flash Gordon Dale Arden, Dr Zarkov Flash and his friends fly to the planet Mungo and have to fight the dictator Ming the Merciless. Later they return to earth and the Lost City of Atlantis. The original series is true to the comic strip, by the 3rd episode it follows the strip week by week, until the last 2 episodes, when Flash returns to Earth and meets Jungle Jim who takes his time slot. Flash is reformed into a daily show with adventures in Atlantis.
Green Hornet 1936-1952 Masked Crime Fighter Britt Reid Kato Green Hornet is the alter ego of newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who dons a mask at night to fight crime with his masked companion, Kato. Britt Reid is the Lone Ranger's grand-nephew. Show is the product of the team of George Trendle and Fran Striker, creators of the Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon .
Hop Harrigan 1942 - 1948 Juvenile aviation adventure serial Hop Harrigan Tank Tinker, Prop Wash Hop and his buddies run All-American Aviation, and when WWII comes they have adventures in the Air Corp Hop's airplane, the CX-4, is heard at the beginning of each episode. The plane inspired a real experimental aircraft produced by Thacher Aviation
Howdy Doody Time 1948-1950s Kid's Story Show Howdy Doodie , Buffalo Bob Clarabell the Clown, Chief Thunderthud From the popular TV show, Howdy Doody Time had Western and Circus themes Howdy had 48 freckles, one for each State at that time.
Jack Armstrong 1933-1950 Juvenile Series Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy Billy and Betty Fairfield Jack and his young friends have adventures around the world, often flying with the Fairfield's Uncle in the Silver Albatross All of the known existing episodes are included
Jerry at Fair Oaks 1930s Kids Serial Jerry Dougan Room mate Lee Jerry left the circus for the Fair Oaks Military Academy.  
Jerry of the Circus 1930s Kids Serial Jerry Dougan Rags, his dog, and Bumps the Clown Jerry joins the circus after his father's death, and grows into a seasoned performer and a remarkable young man.  
Jungle Jim 1935 - 1954 Newspaper Comic Strip Adventure Serial Jungle Jim Bradley Kolu, Lillie DeVrille Jungle Jim makes his living in the jungles of South East Asia. He thwarts pirates, slave traders, adn general evil doers Originally syndicated by Hearst Publications to support the comic strip. An early starring vehicle for Gerald Mohr
Junior G-Men 1936-1938 Police Drama for Kids The Junior G-Men Operators The Director In each episode the adventure is related by the selected Junior G-Man Operator. The next Operator would be called by the Director during the program Produced by actual FBI Agent Melvin Purvis , with the motto "It's easier to build boys than to mend men."
Lassie 1947-1950 Heroic Dog Story Lassie Trainer Frank Weatherwax Famous collie Lassie portrays several brave dogs At the time of the radio program Lassie was portrayed by the original MGM collie, Pal.
Lets Pretend 1929 - 1954 Children's Story Show Various Various Classic children's stories and fairy tales are acted out by children. Sponsored by Cream of Wheat
Little Orphan Annie 1930-1942 Kids Adventure Serial/ Comic paper tie-in Annie Sandy, her dog; Daddy Warbucks Through hard work and a good attitude, Annie has adventures and makes the most of what life offers her. The original comic strip reflected writer Harold Gray's Republican and Libertarian politics. The radio program mostly stays away from politics.
Lone Ranger 1933-1956 Kiddie Western The Lone Ranger Tonto; their horses, Silver and Scout The Lone Ranger is a Masked Crime Fighter who wanders the West righting wrongs and protecting the innocent. He originally donned the mask to hide his identity from bushwacker who thought he was dead. Later it allows him to be more effective and terrifying to the bad guys.  
Magic Island 1936 Kid's Adventure Serial Mrs. Patricia Gregory Jerry Mrs Gregory's daughter has been missing since she was a baby. Mrs Gregory puts all her resources into finding her daughter and bringing her home from the secret island ruled by the ruthless G-47. 130 episodes
Mark Trail   Adventures in the Forest Mark Trail Scotty and Cherry Forest Ranger Mark Trail has adventures and faces bad guys while teaching Scotty and Cherry to appreciate nature Based on the comic strip by Ed Dodd
Planet Man 1950s Kids SciFi adventure Serial Dantro The First Earth Rocket Expedition Dantro fights evil on behalf of the League of Planets. He is assisted by the Earth people after he saves their rocket from crashing. Show has pro-UN overtones
Red Ryder 1942-1951 Juvenile Western Adventure/ Comic Tie-in Red Ryder Little Beaver Based on the comic strip by Fred Harman . Red Ryder fought bad guys with the help of his young sidekick Little Beaver. Billed as "America's Fighting Cowboy" Red would usually shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand to avoid killing them. The Red Ryder BB gun from the movie "A Christmas Story" was marketed by Daisy Air Rifles, but did not have the features list by Ralphie.
Renfrew of the Mounted 1936-1937 Juvenile Adventure Douglas Renfrew Animal sounds made by Brad Parker Douglas Renfrew is a former Royal Flying Corp officer who has joined the Mounted Police. Based on on a series of books by Laurie York Erskine  
Sky King 1946 - 1954 Juvenile western aviation adventure Sky King Penny and Clipper Sky King is an Arizona rancher who uses his airplane, Songbird, in his adventures and foiling bad guys In the show Penny was able to get her pilot's license and Sky trusted her to fly Songbird
Smilin Eds Buster Brown Gang 1944 - 1953 Kid's Story Program Smilin Ed Froggy the Gremlin Smilin Ed presented Stories and Songs on Saturday morning, later on TV, and pushed Buster Brown Shoes. Recurring character Froggy the Gremlin is credited with causing the Protest Movement of the 60's. His disrespect towards grown-ups was seem on TV and radio by youngsters who would grow up to be college student protesters. At least that's the theory.
Smilin' Jack 1939 Kid's Aviation Adventure Serial, comic page tie-in Smilin' Jack Downwind Jaxon, Fatstuff, Dixie Lee Aviator Smilin' Jack has adventures and fights crime from his airplane. The Radio Program only lasted on season, but the comic strip ran from 33-77.
Sonny and Buddy 1935-1936 Juvenile Adventure Sonny and Buddy n/a Sonny and Buddy are normal American kids, sometimes they get lost, sometimes they get in trouble, but they always have adventures  
Space Patrol 1950 - 1955 Juvenile Adventure Sci-fi Series Commander Buzz Corey Cadet Happy Commander Corey and Cadet Happy have adventures protecting the galaxy from evil Space Patrol was on TV and Radio at the same time, with the same stories and same actors
Speed Gibson 1937 - 1938 Kid's Aviation Adventure Serial Speed Gibson Barney Dunlap, Uncle Clint Balow Speed is a "Typical American Boy" interested in shortwave radio, aviation, and the International Secret Police. The serial goes through 2 story lines, both involving the evil Octopus Gang.
Straight Arrow 1948 - 1951 Juvenile western adventure Steve Adams, aka "Straight Arrow Packy McCloud, and Straight Arrow's palomino, Fury Young Comanche lad has been raised by whites, now owns the Broken-Bow Ranch as Steve Adams. When Bad Guys are about he dons his Secret Identity, Straight Arrow. Of course he encounters bank robbers, claim jumpers, stage-coach bandits, and all the excitement a kids serial needs. Nabisco printed "Injun-uity" cards on the dividers of Shredded Wheat boxes as an advertising tie-in. The cards had well researched Indian Lore and are currently traded by collectors.
Superman 1940 - 1951 Kids Crime fighter serial/ comic tie-in Superman/ Clark Kent Lois Lane The Last Son of Krypton lives among us as mild mannered reporter Clark Kent but is sworn to help mankind as Superman. Primarily remembered for the comic books, TV and Movies, many of the conventions of the Superman universe came from Radio, such as Kryptonite.
Tailspin Tommy 1941 Aviation Serial Tailspin Tommy Skeeter and Betty Lou Tailspin Tommy saves lives and fights for goodness and humanity around the world with his best pals silly Skeets Milligan and charming Betty Lou Barnes Based on a comic and movie released in the Lindberg era. Radio show debuted Sept 5, 1941
Tarzan 1932 - 1936

1951 - 1953
Jungle Adventure Tarzan Jane Tarzan is based on the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan lost his English parents and was raised ion the jungle by Apes. He is uncivilized, but superior to many "civilized" gentlemen Gale Gordon from Our Miss Brooks and many Lucille Ball projects played Tarzan
Tennessee Jed 1945 - 1947 juvenile western serial Jed Sloan his horse Smoky Tennessee Jed Sloan, the squirrel-gun-packing marksman, traveled the western plains to fight fiendish plots.  
Terry and the Pirates 1937- 1948 Kid's Aviation Adventure Serial/ Comic page tie-in Terry Lee Pat Ryan Terry Lee is a hyperintelligent lad living in the Orient hwo has adventures fighting Pirates, Saboteurs, as well as Japs and Nazis!  
The Land of the Lost 1943- 1948 Children's Story Show Red Lantern Billy and Isabel The Red Lantern is a wise fish who leads two children on underwater adventures where they find some of the things that people lose in the water. Created by Isabel Manning Hewson, who did pioneering radio work before WWII. She also edited the "The Land of the Lost" Comic books.
Tom Corbett 1952 Juvenile Science Fiction Space Cadet Tom Corbett Astro, and Roger Manning Cadets at the Space Academy, Tom and his friends have adventures in class, in the dorm, and on their training space ship! Based on the novel Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein
Tom Mix 1933-1950's Cereal Serial, Juvenile Western Tom Mix, played by actors His Horse, Tony Highly fictionalized adventures of cowboy Tom Mix, an original Silent Movie Cowboy. In the movies Tom Mix did his own stunts, and was injured many times
Wormwood Forest 1949 Children's Story Show Dippy Dwarf Suzie Shunk, Strauss The Mouse, Kitty Cat, Postman Possum, Timothy Turtle, Barbara Q. Pig, Gerald Grasshopper, Eager Beaver and others Animal Friends and Songs in the Wormwood Forest. The rhyming and fun take place in and around Dippy Dwarf's "Dwarf Waldorf Hotel." Written by famous puppeteer Tom Tichenor. Tichenor's marionettes performed the Nashville Library's story time and even on Broadway. Tichenor was WSM-TV's first Bozo the Clown.

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