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Fibber McGee and Molly

The Fibber McGee and Molly Show starred real-life husband and wife Jim and Marian Jordan of Peoria, Illinois, a pair who had toured throughout the vaudeville circuit before eventually working on several different radio shows, most notably "Smackout". "Smackout" was a 15-minute daily program which centered around a general store and its proprietor, Luke Grey, a storekeeper with a penchant for tall tales and a perpetual dearth of whatever his customers wanted. He always seemed to be "smack out of it." Marian Jordan portrayed both a lady named Marian and a little girl named Teeny, as well as playing musical accompaniment on piano. "Smackout" was picked up for national airing by NBC in April 1933, and the show endured until August 1935.
From April 16, 1935 to September 6, 1959 one of the best-known addresses in the USA was the home of Fibber McGee and Molly. They resided at 79 Wistful Vista. Initially the show was broadcast on Mondays, but eventually it was moved to Tuesday evenings where it stayed for most of its run. Fibber was just that - a fibber, a braggart, a man who often stretched his stories and ideas to the limit, often to the dismay of his patient spouse Molly. McGee took telling tall tales to a fine art. His wild ideas and schemes were the basis for the show which usually took place at their home. They didn't enjoy quiet evenings alone because there was always a steady stream of visitors, each a character in their own way, who added to the confusion and hilarity of the situation at hand.
Among the regulars who dropped in was Mayor LaTrivia played by Gale Gordon, an easily-flustered man with a quick temper. Gale Gordon is remembered for playing the role of Mr. Mooney on the Lucy show. Doc Gamble played by Arthur Q. Bryan, made house calls to the McGee home as well. It was Bryan who provided the voice of Elmer Fudd in the early Bugs Bunny cartoons. Another blowhard who made regular visits in the early years of the show was the McGee's neighbor Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve played by Harold Peary. Peary's character was so popular on the show that a plot line was developed and another great radio show "The Great Gidersleeve" was spun off. Wallace Wimple was a gentle soul who loved birds and "Sweetieface" his big old wife. The multi-voiced Bill Thompson played Wimple, the "Old Timer," Nick the restaurateur, and a reprobate named Horatio K. Boomer. Harlow Wilcox was both the show's announcer and a regular character who somehow would weave his Johnson's Wax commercials into the plot, so as to avoid a commercial break.
While many of the programs from the Golden Days of Radio have disappeared forever, S.C.Johnson's Wax of Racine, Wisconsin and NBC kept transcription discs from most of the Fibber McGee and Molly episodes. More than 700 complete shows are now in the hands of collectors.

Fibber and Molly's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right next to the building that once housed the NBC radio studios where the Jordans performed the show for so long.



Archie Andrews

Archibald "Archie" Andrews, created by Bob Montana, debuted in Pep Comics #22 in December 1941. More than six decades later, he is still 17 years old. Archie lives in Riverdale, attends Riverdale High and is the only child of Mary and Fred Andrews. Archie is a typical small town average teenager. He is well mannered and is genuinely liked by his many friends. Archie is the center of the eternal love triangle between Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper. His best friend is Jughead Jones, who has been his friend since they were kids.

The radio show Archie Andrews was first broadcast on the Blue Network on May 31 1943, switched to Mutual in 1944, and then continued on NBC from 1945 until September 5, 1953. Archie was played by Charles Mullen, Jack Grimes and Burt Boyar, with Bob Hastings as the title character during the NBC years. You may remember Bob Hastings as Captain Binghamton's yes-man Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter on McHale’s Navy, bar owner Tommy Kelsey on All in the Family and Captain Ramsey on General Hospital. Hastings has also done much voice work, including that of The Raven on the "Munsters" series, Superboy on the "Superman/Aquaman" cartoons in the 1960s, and in recent years, the voice of Commisioner Gordon on the animated "Batman" cartoons.

Forsythe Pendleton "Jughead" Jones III was portrayed by Hal Stone, then known as Harlan Stone. Jughead was known for the catchphrase, "Aw... relax, Archie, re-laxxx!"
After 15 years in radio, Stone made appearances in early TV productions. Discharged from the Air Force after the Korean War, he obtained a degree in speech and drama from Hofstra University and studied television production at Columbia University. He spent 25 years as a television producer-director and also served as board chairman of Centrex Productions, Inc., a New York television and videotape production company. Stone's autobiography, Aw... Relax, Archie! Re-laxx! was published in 2003. Sadly, Hal Stone passed away on February 21, 2007.
Four grizzly bears at the Bronx zoo were named Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica. In a curious coincidence, the bear named Jughead died March 2, 2007, just nine days after Stone's death.

At least two Radio Active members were lucky enough to meet Harlan Stone before his death. Can you guess who they are?

After Radio Active's performance of Archie Andrews "Christmas Shopping" at Hilldale Mall in 1999, we sent the Archie hat that Dave wore for the performance to Hal Stone. The hat was superimposed on a picture of a young Harlan Stone for the cover of his memoir in 2003.




Westinghouse Radio Station KDKA was a world pioneer of commercial radio broadcasting. Transmitting with a power of 100 watts on a wavelength of 360 meters, KDKA began scheduled programming with the Harding-Cox Presidential election returns on November 2, 1920. A shed, housing studio and transmitter, was atop the K Building of the Westinghouse East Pittsburgh works. Conceived by C.P. Davis, broadcasting as a public service evolved from Frank Conrad's weekly experimental broadcasts over his amateur radio station 8XK, attracting many regular listeners who had wireless receiving sets. Most radio historians assert that radio broadcasting began in 1920 with the historic broadcast of KDKA. Few people actually heard the voices and music which were produced because of the lack of radio receivers at that time. The public, however, was overcome by a radio craze after the initial broadcast. Radio became a product of the mass market. Manufacturers were overwhelmed by the demand for receivers, as customers stood in line to complete order forms for radios after dealers had sold out. Between 1923 and 1930, 60 percent of American families purchased radios. Families gathered around their radios for night-time entertainment. As radio ownership increased, so did the number of radio stations. In 1920, KDKA was not actually the only operating radio station, but it remains a benchmark in most accounts. By 1922, 600 radio stations had sprung up around the United States.



"9-X-M talking . . department of physics . . University of Wisconsin . . . stand by one minute"

These words crackled in the headphones of crystal sets around the country in 1921 as the University of Wisconsin radio station 9XM began its regular schedule of voice broadcasts. With homemade equipment and ideas developed from scratch, 9XM endured many struggles to became a tangible example of "the Wisconsin Idea," bringing the educational riches of the university to all the state's residents.
WHA, originally 9XM, Madison Wisconsin was constructed in 1909 by Edward Bennet and Earle Terry. The University of Wisconsin claims WHA "the Oldest Station in the Nation ... in existence longer than any other." However, exactly when the station converted from Morse code transmissions to voice, and began regular operations is open to question.
Interestingly, in a booklet issued in 1969, the University of Wisconsin comments on the debate over the definition of oldest, and refers to the "controversial puzzles: "When does an "experiment" become a "broadcast?" and "What do the words 'regularly scheduled' mean?" It was quite interesting to see the author of the booklet take the high ground and declare "We were all responsible for the birth of broadcasting."



Radio's Gunsmoke

"Around Dodge City and in the territory on west, there's just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers, that's with a U.S. Marshal and the smell of Gunsmoke". This, along with sound effects of approaching hoof beats and a single gunshot ricochet started what many believe to be the greatest radio drama of all time. Gunsmoke has been called the first 'Adult' Western. As on early television, radio's Gunsmoke was centered on four main characters: Matt, Doc, Chester and Kitty. L&M and Chesterfield cigarettes began sponsoring radio's Gunsmoke in 1954. The cigarette ad-men were so paranoid of the competition that, for a time, no Gunsmoke character was allowed to be called Lucky. Dillon's first name was Mark in the audition show ''Mark Dillon Goes to Gouge Eye” starring Howard Culver as Dillon. Since Howard Culver was playing the lead in "Straight Arrow" on the Mutual Network, his contract would not allow him play the lead in Gunsmoke. The lead was given to veteran radio actor William Conrad. The role became Conrad's greatest achievement, and is often considered the best portrayal of a character ever heard on radio. The creative geniuses who made the show what it was, always took care that everything sounded just right. The sound effects and music makes Dodge as real as any place ever created on radio. For example, saloon scenes featured a real honky-tonk piano being played live in a crowd of extras as the show was transcribed. Gunshots were authentic weapons recorded and carefully mixed. To authenticate the historical accuracy of scripts, history reference books were known to be brought to the Gunsmoke studio. The staff was the best in the business. When canceled in 1961, Gunsmoke was the last network radio drama to originate from Hollywood.


Superman on Radio

Superman premiered in Action Comics #1 in 1938. By January of 1939, Superman had been picked up as a newspaper strip; attention was then turned to another source of revenue -- radio. In 1939, 4 audition shows were prepared for a Superman Radio series to play for potential sponsors. The mock ads for 'Blank-o' and 'Blankerine' make it apparent that they were already looking for a cereal sponsor, not uncommon for a show targeted towards children. Superman's background was still in flux, the comics said the child from Krypton was discovered as an infant and raised by the elderly couple John and Mary Kent of Ohio. For radio it was decided to streamline the story by having Superman arrive on Earth as a grown man, and in costume. Superman claims to have no name and little knowledge of mankind, yet speaks English and has a longing to begin a vocation. The newspaper in the audition shows was called the Daily Flash, and the editor was Paris White, which would be changed to Perry, and soon adopted by the newspaper strip and comics. Perry White's secretary is named “Miss Lane” in the audition, and was played by Agnes Moorehead, who also played Superman's mother, Lara. Agnes Moorehead is best remembered for the role of Endora in TVs Bewitched. The producers of the radio series were given a relatively free hand to shape the show to their liking; many of their creations were ultimately incorporated into the Superman legend. Kryptonite made its first appearance on the radio show.



The Janes Who Made the Planes

If enough fighters and torpedo bombers are to reach our boys in the Pacific and European fronts, their wives and mothers, sisters and sweethearts, are going to have to help build them -- Port Jefferson Times, May 28, 1943

With the U.S. entry into World War II late in 1941, millions of men joined the United States armed forces, manufacturers were faced with major labor shortages just as output needed to be greatly increased. To avoid shortages, manufacturers hired women to work in aircraft plants and other much needed war production fields. The character of Alice Darling on the Fibber McGee and Molly program is one of these aircraft plant workers.

Manufactured output, at the level needed to ensure victory, would not have been possible without the contributions of these civilian women workers of the home front who were immortalized in popular songs of the era including "We're the Janes Who Make the Planes," "The Lady from Lockheed," and "Rosie the Riveter." By the end of 1945, peace arrived and signaled the end of the "glory days" of the woman aircraft workers. After the war, women were expected to return to their homes leaving the jobs for returning veterans.

World War II uprooted some 15 million Americans to work in defense plants; this created a major housing shortage that the federal government was unequipped to deal with. A campaign was initiated for the general population to "Take in War Workers". People, like the McGees, rented out spare rooms, basements, back porches and even garages. People doubled up in apartments and single rooms, hotels took in some while converted warehouses took in others. Aunts and uncles shoehorned relatives into their homes.

The Fibber McGee and Molly episode introducing Alice Darling has been posted on our audio download page at

In this episode we see some of the familiar characters such as Harlow Wilcox, Teeny and Dr. Gamble (who had only been with the show for about six months prior to this broadcast). We also see a guest appearance of "Mr" LaTrivia, who is back in Wistful Vista on leave from the Coast Guard. The character of LaTrivia was played by Gale Gordon who served as a Coast Guard skipper during World War II. After the war, Gale Gordon returned to the show allowing for some hilarity by having LaTrivia and Doc Gamble vie for the affections of Fifi Tremain.

The character of Alice Darling was played by Shirley Mitchell who also played Gildersleeve's neighbor and love interest, Leila Ransom.



Who Invented Radio?

Ask the average person "Who invented radio?" and the average answer will be "Marconi."

More correctly it was the product of many great minds such as Guglielmo Marconi, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Popov, Oliver Lodge, Reginald Fessenden, Heinrich Hertz, Mahlon Loomis, Nathan Stubblefield, James Clerk Maxwell, Edwin Howard Armstrong, William Gilbert, David Hughes, William H. Peerce, A.W. Heaviside, Edouard Branly, Lee DeForest, Ambrose Fleming, Amos Emerson Dolbear, and Thomas Edison, among others.

Where would these scientists have been without the work of those who came before them such as, Hans Christian Oersted, Andre M. Ampere, Georg Simon Ohm, Joseph Henry, Michael Faraday, and Charles Coulomb?

Radio also owes its development to two other great inventions, the telegraph and the telephone, so credit also goes to Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell.

David Sarnoff was neither a scientist nor an engineer but saw the vast commercial value in putting radio in the home. The Galvin brothers put radio in the car and started the Motorola Company.

I think the answer to the question of who invented radio lies in how you define "radio". If “radio” is what I listen to on the drive to work, maybe it isn’t finished being invented but is in a constant state of flux and is constantly being reinvented.

Now, who invented Television?

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