Hi. My name is Steve Atlas. Like most of you, I am a lover of Old Time Radio (OTR). My problem is there are so many OTR programs that even if I buy a collection, I am not sure which individual programs I would enjoy most. What collections are good choices if you can only pick a few? Do any of you have similar dilemmas?
Then this newsletter is for you. Here, I recommend some of my favorite OTR collections, and a few of my favorite programs, as well as tips and suggestions from other OTR fans. I hope you too will share some of your favorites with other OTR listeners. This article is issue #12: August 2022. (By the way, I may be recommending a few programs that I have already mentioned, but only if there is a good reason.)
Do you enjoy old hymns? One of my favorites is The Holy City. I was delighted to hear it sung beautifully on Coast to Coast on a Bus (the Easter Show). The White Rabbit Bus hit America's highways every Sunday morning, with its conductor (that's what they called him) Milton Cross. It positively rollicked with hymns and poetry and children's songs--wholesome entertainment for kids. I was transfixed when I heard The Holy City, and it made me want to hear more of those programs.
If you have time, check out the 13 Samplers. While there are many programs that don't interest me, I have found some real gems. In an upcoming issue, I will share a few of my favorites from the Samplers.
A Labor Day collection of OTR programs
For many of us, Labor Day is another Monday holiday with lots of special sales. It may even be a day to give extra tips to people who help us.
But, looking back in history, Labor Day celebrated the conflicts between unions and management and how labor unions succeeded in creating a more worker-friendly workplace. The unions fought for the eight-hour day and better working conditions. Frequently, this conflicted with the need during World Wars 1 and 2 to keep factories and other businesses open, and management's concern with profits.
If you go to your local library, books like the USA trilogy by John Dos Passos, and John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath give a vivid description of what it was like to be a working man or women during the 1st half of the 20th Century. And don't forget Bing Crosby's classic song: "Brother, can you spare a dime."
OTRCat.com has just released a new two-disc MP3 collection: "Labor Day, Union, Strikes and the Labor Movement." This set includes a wide variety of programs. Some favor unions while others argue against union graft and abuse.
Here are a few of the programs from Volume 1 that my wife and I especially enjoyed.
America's Town Meeting of the Air (June 14, 1935): a lively hour-long debate about whether or not unions and collective bargaining are a good way to fight the economic depression of the 1930s. This never-boring discussion may give you a better understanding of the issues.
Arch Oboler's Plays: The House I Live In (April 26, 1945): Many of us may have heard the beautiful and touching song "The House I Live In" (sung eloquently by Frank Sinatra) that vividly describes what being an American should be for each of us—a vivid plea for each of us to avoid prejudice and appreciate each of our fellow Americans, regardless of his or her race or religion. This short 15-minute program dramatizes the song and what it means.
Author Meets Critics (November 11, 1948): Many of us may remember the Taft-Hartley Act that tried to combat union graft and abuse. Many labor supporters strongly opposed this legislation which was passed by Congress over President Harry's Truman's veto. In this program, Congressman Fred Hartley defends his book about the Taft Hartley Act against critics. A fascinating discussion that gives a new understanding of the labor movement during the late 1940s.
Burns and Allen: Good Help is Hard to Find (February 2, 1943): How did World War 2 and the Labor Movement affect people's ability to find good household help? George and Gracie try to find a new housekeeper. There are a lot of humorous comments from the women George is interviewing. A delightful program that offers a break from the grim seriousness of labor/management arguments.
Captains of Industry: Mark Hanna (1938)—a biography of one of the leading business tycoons of the period.
The Eternal Light: David Dubinsky (June 29, 1958): An eloquent and moving tribute and biography of the president of the Ladies Garment Workers Union. My wife and I were very moved when we heard this.
Fireside Chat Federal Seizure Coal Mines (May 2, 1943): President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation and emphasized the importance of everyone (including labor and management) working together during World War 2, and explained why the government needed to take over the coal mines during this critical period.
The Green Hornet (March 3, 1940): If you are a fan of the Green Hornet, you will enjoy these two programs (others can enjoy them too). The March 3 1940 program focuses on criminals and child labor abuse.
Hear It Now (Feb. 9, 1951): While these programs do not focus specifically on labor unions, it is a rare delight to hear Edward R. Murrow discuss the news of the day (which does include some labor-related news)
I was a Communist for the FBI (June 11, 1952): A dramatic show worth a listen. This episode focuses on communists who want to infiltrate and take over a labor union. Hearing this episode made me want to hear more programs in this series.
The Lone Ranger: Stubborn Man Aka Asa Quimby (August 23, 1946): Not all problems between the boss and other workers deal with labor union or strikes. In this western, wagon-master Asa Quimby demands that everyone in the wagon train dig up gold for him (because everyone owes him money for helping them get started on the cross-country trip). The men and their families are furious, but they feel helpless. With the help of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Asa Quimby is "persuaded" to turn over a new life and treat the others in the wagon train more humanely.
These are just a few of my favorite programs from this set. After hearing these OTR shows, my wife and I felt we had a much better understanding of the Labor Movement and the pros and cons of unions.
What are your favorite Old-Time Radio programs? Do you have a few favorite programs or individual episodes that you would enjoy sharing with other OTR listeners? Do you have requests for other themes or programs you would like me to include in a future article? If you answered "yes" to either question, please leave a comment below.