Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Stories by Georgene Faulkner, The Original "Story Lady"

Faulkner, Georgene. 1927. Story Lady's Christmas stories. J.H. Sears & Co.

While visiting a used book store, I found a unique treasure in the free bin, a copy of "The Story Lady's Christmas Stories by Georgene Faulkner". Being an Old-Time Radio (OTR) and classic television buff, I know the term "story lady" was used often for an "auntie" figure like Ireene Wicker, or Alene Dalton the "Story Princess" who told stories on radio or television. However, I had never heard of the author Georgene Faulkner, and was stunned to learn who she was.

Snippet from press article about Georgene Faulkner from Radio Digest, April 26, 1924.
This entire article can be read in context at THIS LINK from the Media History Digital Library. 

Georgene Faulkner (1873 -1958) was THE original "Story Lady". She began telling stories to children on WMAQ Chicago radio in 1922, which may make her the first woman to host a children's radio program. Another media landmark of Ms. Faulkner's was being the first person to record phonograph records for children.

Even before her radio career she dressed as Mrs. Claus for Christmas as early as 1908, started a school for girls, was a kindergarten instructor, children's editor for the Chicago Tribune, and the Ladies Home Journal, and told stories at parties, Chautauqua events, schools and overseas in World War I where she was known as the "Auntie of the AEF".

She published numerous books and short stories, many of which were republished in readers, textbooks, and storybook collections for decades. Here are a couple of scans from her 1927 Christmas Stories book. The illustrations were by Frederic Robinson, more famous for his "Oz" series artwork.

Faulkner, Georgene. 1927. Story Lady's Christmas stories. J.H. Sears & Co.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Classic Radio: "The Raggedy Ann Show" with Don Messick & GeGe Parsons

The Raggedy Ann Show (Fall 1947 – 1948) KHJ, Los Angeles, CA. Various afternoon times, Monday, Wednesday, Fridays 4:45pm, CST. 15 min.

Cast: Paula Stone (The Good Fairy), GeGe Pearsons (Raggedy Ann), Don Messick (Raggedy Andy).

The Hook: (what makes this show really interesting)
From its sole-surviving broadcast this was a charming series, but ultimately a promotional show for kiddie records produced by the RCA Victor Company. Also an early role for voice legend Don Messick. 

Newspaper ad for "The Raggedy Ann Show" from the Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1947.

Raggedy Ann and her twin brother Raggedy Andy come to life in the closing hours of the RCA Victor Toy and Record Shop. At some point The Good Fairy comes in to tell them a story, which is the cue to play a portion of one the new RCA Victor titles for children. The program was developed by Robert Light who was then head of the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA), with actress Paula Stone, a participant in the AFRA workshops for Los Angeles Station KHJ which was a part of the Mutual Don Lee Outlet. The series was promoted in a brief article in Variety on November 5th, 1947.

Ad for Bullock's a clothing store in Los Angeles, California, with a reference to tune in to the
"Raggedy Ann Show" on KHJ. 

The Raggedy Ann Show has some note in animation history for featuring an early fantasy voice role by Don Messick. Messick (1926 - 1997) may be most familiar to Generations X,Y, and Z as the original voice of Scooby-Doo (1969 - 1995), Papa Smurf, and Hampton J. Pig on Tiny Toon Adventures. After World War II he was a returning veteran in a AFRA radio workshop under Robert Light. As Raggedy Andy he used a boyish voice that is similar to the one he would later use for Scooby's nephew "Scrappy-Doo".

One episode of this series is circulating on various Old Time Radio (OTR) sites on the internet in a highly compressed MP3 format file, (sometimes less than 7 MB), always labeled as broadcast in 1943. However according to radio schedules, the RadioGOLDENdex, and interviews with Messick, that episode was broadcast in 1947. Messick also claimed that the series ran for 39 weeks, but ended after a musician's strike. I have only found radio listing for the program from November 1947 to April 1948 or about 25 weeks.

Decades later, Messick’s colleague Daws Butler (Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Elroy Jetson) was cast as Raggedy Andy for a couple of holiday specials produced by Chuck Jones with June Foray as Raggedy Ann. One wonders if Messick had also auditioned for the role.

Ge Ge Pearson (1917 - 1975) who played Raggedy Ann was a radio and animation voice actress who became the second voice of TV's "Crusader Rabbit" in the late 1950s. Paula Stone (1912 - 1997) was a popular radio personality on the west coast, and was familiar enough with that audiences to receive on-air billing. She was also very busy at the time as a producer of local stage plays. It is not known to this researcher if Don Messick or Ge Ge Pearson received on-air billing at any time in this series run.

The episode with "Peter Churchmouse" is fun, but it would be nice to hear others. If anyone has memories of this series, knows of any existing scripts and recordings, or has enjoyed listening to this episode, I would like to hear from you.

*These dates were compiled from newspaper listings of station KHJ from Los Angeles regional papers. Please note that radio broadcasts were subject to last minute changes and interruptions may not be reflected in newspaper listings. Information was also gleaned from various printed interviews given by Don Messick between 1980 to 1995. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

From The Archives: Christmas Golden Books With Cartoon All-Stars

The Golden Press has printed title for Christmas with popular cartoon characters for decades. Here are some titles from the 1950s to the 1980s.

[Front cover] Peter Archer, Harvey Eisenberg, and Samuel Armstrong. 1954.
MGM's Tom and Jerry's Merry Christmas. New York.

[Back cover] MGM's Tom and Jerry's Merry Christmas. New York: Simon and Schuster.

David Corwin with illustrations by Richard Scarry. 1959. The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas. New York: Golden Press.

Hyatt, S. Quentin, with illustrations by Sylvia Mattinson, and Burny Mattinson. 1961. 
Yogi Bear: A Christmas visit. New York: Golden Press.

Walt Disney Productions. 1983. Mickey's Christmas Carol. Golden Press

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Where is the "Mouse on the Mayflower"?

It is great that ABC still airs "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" which just turned 45, however a look across broadcast and cable schedules shows that Thanksgiving specials are largely forgotten. MeTV has posted two really great lists of vintage family Thanksgiving specials that have not aired in decades.

MeTV - 8 forgotten animated Thanksgiving Specials of the 1980s

MeTV - These nine Thanksgiving specials will take you back to childhood

One this writer fondly recalls from classroom viewings was "The Mouse on the Mayflower", a Rankin and Bass special that turns 50 this television season.
Birmingham Press, November 23, 1968. Television press for "The Mouse and The Mayflower". 
According to some sources it was last released on home media in 1998 on VHS. There has not been a DVD release to date and all YouTube posts are copied from home VHS copies. Maybe next year.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Radio Shows of "A Christmas Story"

"Who's the little chatterbox? The one with pretty auburn locks?" Newspaper ad for the "Little Orphan Annie" radio program from the Evening Star [Washington, D. C.] November 11, 1936 

The holiday film classic "A Christmas Story" (1983) turns 35 this weekend. The popular comedy about little Ralphie's dream quest for a Red Ryder Carbine BB air rifle is a great reminder of a childhood when radio was the only electronic broadcast media in the home.

Three "Golden Age" radio programs popular with children are specifically referred to in the film: the western great The Lone Ranger, (the crossword puzzle clue); Red Ryder based on Fred Harmon's popular western comic strip (the theme music can be heard when Ralphie fantasizes about saving the day as the sheriff with his trusty rifle); and most clearly Ralphie's disappointment with the decoder prize from the Little Orphan Annie program.

A portion of "Betty and Buster Binks" an advertising comic page for Ovaltine, sponsor of the "Little Orphan Annie" radio program, from July 30, 1933. In the top left panel the kids talk about listening to "Annie" on the radio.

For years many people have wondered when exactly "A Christmas Story" takes place. Some sources say 1940, but based on old time radio history this is impossible.

In the scene where the father is trying to solve the crossword puzzle he reads aloud a clue about the name of the Lone Ranger's nephew's horse. The Lone Ranger's nephew Dan Reid never appeared on the program until December of 1942. Also the "Little Orphan Annie" radio program went off the air in April of 1942. So these were radio memories that could not have happened at the same Christmas time.

Merita Bakery was a regional sponsor of  "The Lone Ranger" radio series in the American southeast. This ad is from November 11, 1942, in the Wilmington Morning Star. 

Small tidbits like this can actually make "A Christmas Story" more fun and believable because it is the nature of human memory to not remember things perfectly. In a DVD commentary for the film director Bob Clark and author Jean Shepherd acknowledged that a specific date was not intended and it had an "amorphously late-'30s, early-'40s" setting.

Pointing out the accuracy of these dates is (to this author) just is a really fun excuse to talk about the radio shows that were a part of Ralphie's world.

The Christmas Story House. From Wikimedia Commons. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

From the Archives: Children's Magazines From 1978

Here a look at two children's magazine titles from 40 years ago, when a new magazine or comic was still less than a dollar.

Humpty Dumpty's Magazine For Little Children, April 1978

Jack and Jill, May 1978
Yes, this issue featured an interview with Lindsay Wagner, star of TV's "The Bionic Woman". Other issues that year featured interviews with Jacklyn Smith (Charlie's Angels) and Pamela Sue Martin (Nancy Drew Mysteries). Back issues of Jack and Jill magazines are interesting time capsules of children's (or well known to children) television programs.

Jack and Jill, June/July 1978. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Children's Comics 006: King Leonard and His Short Subjects

Here is the front and back cover of Dell Comics No. 01390-207, May-July 1962, based on the popular Saturday Morning Cartoon series (1960 - 1963) by Leonardo Television Productions, Inc. King Leonardo, Odie Cologne, Tooter Turtle, Mr. Wizard the Lizard, The Hunter and the Fox, and other characters on the show were well written, and it is shame this series hasn't received a "complete" DVD release like "Underdog" or "Rocky and Bullwinkle".