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Tips from a Fellow OTR Fan Issue 13: Making Car Trips More Fun

By Steve Atlas

Old Radio

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. (By the way, I may be recommending a few programs that I have already mentioned, but only if there is a good reason.)  

Use Old Time Radio to Make Long Car Trips More Fun 

DrivingMy wife and I live in Florida, but we miss many of our friends in the Baltimore/Washington/York PA area. Two of our children and their families live in Boston, MA. This summer, we took a 17-day trip to visit as many of them as possible. We drove to Baltimore’s BWI Airport and took Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train to go to Boston. The train can be great, relaxing, and a good break from driving.  

Still, the drive from central Florida to Washington and Baltimore is about 13 hours (including stops). It’s easy to get tired on long drives like this. Other than chocolate candy bars, soft drinks and other caffeine, are there any other good ways to overcome inertia and driving fatigue? 

For me, the answer is the right type of Old Time Radio. (A personal tip: Do NOT listen to Moon River on a long drive. That wonderful program will make you want to go to sleep—great for insomnia at home, but less good on a long drive where you need to stay awake.)

Many great programs, like Mother’s Best Flour (featuring legendary country singer Hank Williams), Jack Benny Gags, and other ongoing comedy, music and other programs can seem so much alike that your mind can tune them out after a while. 

Instead, we choose Old Time Radio programs that are exciting, unpredictable, and keep our interest. Drama series such as Lux Radio Theater can be a good choice. Each program is about 50 minutes, and each play is unique.  

We own Volumes 21 and 22 of OTRCat’s complete set of Lux Radio Theater. On our next trip, we will probably again listen to the first five plays on this MP3, all of which were presented in 1947:

Lux Radio's Cecil DeMille

Somewhere in the Night (March 3) features a man who has lost his memory:

It’s a Wonderful Life (March 10) with its heartfelt charm and nostalgia:

Leave Her to Heaven (March 17) features a woman who loves too much and destroys people (not relaxing, but a drama that you will long remember):

Smoky (March 24) about a horse and the people who love him:

Alexander’s Ragtime Band (April 7) based on Irving Berlin’s classic tune with the same name:

These Lux programs can be enjoyed even on short drives. Each play has three acts (separated by ads for Lux soap), each of which takes about 20 minutes. Why not listen to one act during each 20-30-minute drive? 

Railroad Hour

Do you prefer music? The Railroad Hour features operettas and musical comedies. Each program is 30-45 minutes. Here are a few of my favorites from Volumes 1-5:  

The Student Prince (Oct 25, 1948):

The Desert Song (Jan 21, 1952):

Holiday Inn (Oct 29, 1951) includes 2 classics: White Christmas and Easter Parade :

Little Nellie Kelly (Jan 30, 1950) is a good example of a musical by George M Cohan); 

Kiss Me Kate  (March 24, 1952):

Miss Liberty (Feb 2, 1953) is the Irving Berlin show that includes the classic "Give Me Your Tired and Poor":

In addition to these shows, two more of my favorites from the Railroad Hour are Brigadoon and Carousel.

Bob Baily of Johnny DollarOur special favorite is Yours Truly Johnny Dollar—especially the five-part shows from 1955-1956. Later volumes includes these 5-part programs (+ The McCormack Matter). We also enjoy many of the half hour programs—especially those featuring Bob Bailey (also known as George Valentine in Let George Do It) from 1955-November 30, 1960). 

Each episode in the five-part programs ends with a cliff-hanger that requires listening to the next part. Take a try and see what you think. Here are some of my favorites from the five-part programs from 1955-1956: 

The Cui Bono Matter:

We also enjoyed the Plantagenet Matter, the Clinton Matter (not Bill Clinton), the Jolly Roger Fraud (a particularly scary tale), the Lamar Episode (make sure your special other is not like Miss Lamar), the Matter of the Medium Well Done (a must for anyone who believes in mediums who connect us with our loved ones who have died), and (one of the most upbeat and cheery of these shows): the Indestructible Mike Matter.

The Open Town Matter, and the Phantom Chase Matter (the only 8-part drama in the Johnny Dollar series) are also great.  Here is part 1:

I also have some favorite half-hour Yours Truly Johnny Dollar programs: 

Betty Lou of YTJD fameYou may also enjoy the Rasmussen (a particularly moving story about a family reunited), the Ming Toy Murphy (a light-hearted program about a dog), the Price of Fame Matter (a program featuring legendary star Vincent Price), and the Durango Laramie Matter (1st of several delightful shows featuring Durango and his lovely niece Carol) 

I love three programs featuring Mojave Red—a guide from Lake Mojave resort: the Mojave Red Matter, the Mojave Red Sequel, and the Red Mystery Matter. 

Enjoy your next car trip more with Old Time Radio. My only regret was that there simply wasn’t enough time to listen to all the OTR programs we wanted to hear. Oh well, there will be another big car trip next year. 

OTRCAT also recommends: Open Road, Traffic, Birdbrains Behind the Wheel, Highway of Horrors, and How to Listen to OTR in Your Car.

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. 


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