old radio soap opera

hanley_stafford
Hanley Stafford, voice of John Perry on “John’s Other Wife.”

This morning I’ve been pleasantly occupied catching up with reading my favorite blogs. My blogging friend Jane, over at nichepoetryandprose, has been writing about one room schoolhouses. Reading her posts brought back a memory my father used to share frequently in his later years, when he was suffering from dementia.

He said he would walk home from school at noon to eat lunch with his mother. He always had to wait a few minutes for her to feed him while she was listening to the end of an episode of her favorite radio soap opera, “John’s Other Wife.”

Papa attended a one room schoolhouse in Montville, Connecticut. He also walked to high school at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich. One day Tim & I drove along the route to see if that was feasible, and it was 3 miles, no problem for a teenager.

I decided to search online for “John’s Other Wife,” and found this interesting blog post: September 14, 1936: Debut of John’s Other Wife. My father was 14 years old when this program debuted and he must have been in high school by then. Perhaps his mother was listening to it when he got home from school in the afternoon? I’m not sure he would have walked 3 miles home for lunch and then back to school again for a few hours. The memory of returning home for lunch from the one room schoolhouse must have mingled with the memory of returning home to find his mother completely absorbed in her soap opera, no doubt after a long day of hard work on the farm.

Then I found an episode online – “John’s Relapse” – it was only ten minutes long! Anyway, it was fun listening to the very program my grandmother listened to all those years ago.

16 thoughts on “old radio soap opera”

  1. Hi Barbara. Thanks for the mention and the full story. I remember my family being very serious about radio-listening. The radio we listened to is on my kitchen table. But sadly, today a twist of the dial brings only silence (all AM). I remember when Jim Reeves sang ‘Distant Drums’, you could listen the whole way through and switch channels to find it playing on another station. Radio soaps have been replaced for some like my young niece by the podcast … At her prodding, I have listened to ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ … A little creepy sometimes but soap operas can be creepy too!!! Jane

    1. You’re welcome, Jane. There was an old console floor standing radio from the farm in my parents’ basement. I always pictured my father and his parents and four sisters sitting around it and listening, the way it was portrayed on the TV show, “The Waltons.” I’m not familiar with Jim Reeves so I’m listening to “Distant Drums” on YouTube as I write this. 🙂 My father became a big fan of Woody Guthrie and started playing the guitar – all from hearing him on the radio. My husband likes listening to podcasts, especially on his long commute. It’s true – soap operas can be pretty creepy. And incredibly melodramatic!!!

      1. Hi. Do you like Distant Drums? My brother and sister, who were twins, used to sing all the words when they were only four. My brother pronounced ‘sound’ with huge emphasis on the ‘ow’ sound and it was so funny.

        1. Yes, I do like it, especially the line, “now is all the time there is,” one of my personal mantras. I can picture a pair of four-year-olds having a lot of fun with the song. 🙂 The next song that came up on YouTube was “Adios Amigo,” recorded from a live performance in Norway in 1966. Small world…

  2. This brought me back to the fact that when my parents were children, and in their teens, and living through WWII, that was their entertainment – listening to the radio. Generations younger than us don’t understand how important the radio was to our parents’ generation – like the I-Pad and the I-Phone to the young set now. And Jane’s comment above made me realize that in some way, we have come full circle, with people now so involved with listening to podcasts.
    I love your memories here, Barbara.

    1. It’s mind-boggling at times, thinking about all the changes that occur in the life span of just one generation. My kids, and the oldest is now 40, cannot remember a time when there was no remote control for the TV, let alone the black and white TV of my childhood or the radio of their grandfather’s day. Every time I see my kids they teach me something new about the things my cell phone can do – I can only seem to absorb one new skill at a time. My latest entertainment, an app, Audubon Birds. Poor Tim, trying to listen to his programs recorded on the DVR with bird calls chirping from my phone…

  3. This old radio series is a new one for me. I enjoyed reading about “John’s Other Wife” on the blog link you included. It’s interesting how the narrative of a man and his assistant probably played out totally differently in this series than what it would in a more modern series.

    1. So true. It’s interesting how the workings and interactions in relationships (husband-wife, employer-employee, etc) have changed over the years. I notice the same thing when I watch movies from the 1930s and 1940s. The even older silent movies give me a glimpse, too, into the way my grandparents interacted with each other.

  4. What a sweet post, chock-filled with memories of an earlier time. Of course, it had me thinking of our still-operating two room school. There were lots of stories of students who used to walk many miles to school each day. Now the kids get picked up by the bus and the parents wouldn’t let them walk. What a different time. The old radio series sounds interesting.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. I remember you writing about your two-room school from time to time. People joke about their parents exaggerating how far they had to walk to school, but I think in most cases there was little distortion of memory. It was fun driving along my father’s long route to his high school to see what it was like. (As an adult, I used to walk three miles a day for exercise!) When I was a schoolgirl my walk to the bus stop was only half a mile. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed listening to the episode, Tiny! Times were definitely different and it’s amazing how the internet can bring to us little glimpses of the past. 🙂

  5. My parents would listen to the mysteries, “Boston Blackie” and “Inner Sanctum” in particular.

    And father listened to the big bands as well – and now I am hopelessly hooked, myself.

    1. Aubrey, your comment jogged my memory a little more. My parents used to watch “Perry Mason” on our black-and-white TV, after they put us to bed. The music from the opening always sounded creepy and full of foreboding to me. And my grandfather was a trombone player who loved John Philip Sousa. Even when he wasn’t playing, he made trombone sounds with his mouth while busy with his chores…

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