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Tips from a Fellow OTR Fan Issue 9: Family Entertainment


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. This article is issue #9 (By the way, I may be recommending a few programs that I have already mentioned, but only if there is a good reason.)

Family Theater: OTR Program of the Month

Family TheaterWhen I began this column, one of my goals was to not only find series that you might enjoy. If you are like me, the other problem many of us have is deciding what individual programs to listen to or buy. Today, I want to focus on one of my favorite series: Family Theater.

Family Theater started in 1947 on the Mutual Broadcasting System and ended in 1957. One of its goals was to encourage families to spend more time together and share family prayer. The only "commercial" was to talk about the power of caring and loving families and encourage families to pray together. The popular expression "The family that prays together stays together" was created for Family Theater.

The other goal of Family Theater was to feature plays that the whole family could enjoy. Family Theater celebrated the goodness of people, wholesome moral values, and good entertainment. Major stars like Gary Cooper, Gene Kelly, and Shirley Temple donated their time to appear on Family Theater: either as the host or hostess, or as a performer in one of the weekly dramas.

Because the program ran for 10 years, there are 11 MP3s to including programs from 1947-1957. (There may be a few missing episodes, but most are included here.)  Where is the best place to start listening to Family Theater?

I started with Volume 2. There are 50 programs in this volume. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • March 11, 1948, The Man who Died Twice: An actor is so conceited that he loses his wife and his career. Fortunately, a comment from one of his employees motivates him to change.

  • March 18, 1948, Talent for Living: Kurt and Diane Douglass star in this story about what happens when a soft-spoken family man marries his "dream girl" who is focused primarily on her career.

  • April 29, 1948, Their Only Son: This is a truly exceptional drama about how two busy parents forget about their teenage son who is a finalist in a public speaking contest at his school. Fortunately, after one of the boy's friends alerts the mother, the parents reconsider their busy lives and come to see their son in his final debate.

  • June 10, 1948, Song for a Long Road: This is the story of the poet Joyce Kilmer who wrote the poem "Trees." Unlike most Family Theater plays, this does not have a happy ending.

  • August 5, 1948, Mr. Birthday: This is one of my very favorite Family Theater plays. Like me, you may end up smiling and feeling a bit happier after hearing this tale about a man who makes sure no child in his community is forgotten on his or her birthday.

  • September 2, 1948, Once Upon a Golden Afternoon: Do you have children or grandchildren who are still full of wonder and love fairy tales? Then, be sure to share with them this Family Theater program that tells how the famous children's book "Alice in Wonderland" came to be written.

  • October 7, 1948, World of David Lee: Do you remember Roddy McDowell? Here, he stars as a teenager who works to clear a classmate of a crime he didn't commit. This is a great show that demonstrates the goodness of young people. Listen to Roddy's commentary after the play.

  • October 14, 1948, Farewell to Birdie McKeever: This is a delightful comedy about a secretary who can't type and her relationship with the three owners of the company where she works. When you are feeling depressed, take a few minutes to enjoy this delightful and highly entertaining program.

  • December 8, 1948, Herbert Has Ideas: This is another of my special favorites. If you have ever had a good idea that no one will listen to, then you will love this story. Herbert has a wonderful idea for promoting a client's sleep mattresses, but nobody will listen to him—until he wins a contest for best young tenor. I often listen to this around Christmas, but it is a gem to enjoy any time of the year.

  • December 15, 1948, A Daddy for Christmas: This is one of my very favorite Christmas programs.

Loretta YoungPat O'Brien (best known for his performance as legendary coach Knute Rockne in the movie of that name), portrays a "Santa Claus" who becomes a father to little Stevie, son of the narrator. The woman narrating the program describes how her concern with status and her husband getting a professional job gets in the way of a happy family. Fortunately, she realizes her mistake and the program ends almost like the way it began.

Do any of you have any favorite shows that you want to share. Please let me know the title and date of the program. If you ordered this from OTRCAT, include the volume and track number for each title you recommend.

Until next month, I wish each of you Happy Listening!

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