The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Children's Radio Shows

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

Am I the only one who remembers listening to Saturday morning children's radio shows during the 1940s? I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday morning radio and continued to listen to my favorite shows even after we got a television in the 1950's.

My Saturday morning radio shows were "The Buster Brown Show" sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes and staring Andy Devine and a mischievous imp called Froggy. (I can still hear Andy Devine's gravely voice saying, "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy.") The show was produced from some theater and you could hear a huge audience of children's voices laughing and cheering. They also ran exciting serialized adventure stories such as Gunga Din, which transported you to darkest Africa...

At the end of each show you could hear the voice of Buster Brown himself who told you to look inside the shoes to see if his and his dog Tag's picture were there to be sure you were getting real Buster Brown Shoes. You also heard a dog bark and knew that Tag was there too. Of course the Buster Brown brand was more expensive than generic, so even though I longed to see Buster & Tag inside my shoes, I don't remember them being there. It was probably the very beginning of the snob appeal of name brand shoes.

Another radio favorite was the "The Big John and Sparky Show." Big John was an adult male voice, but what Sparky was, I don't remember, possibly a puppet. They had Gilhooley Mahoney and his marching leprechaun band which played the marching songs of Sousa. Actually they didn't fool me even then. I knew somehow that there was no Gilhooley Mahoney or leprechauns, only a record they played. But when the record was played, the boys and girls were supposed to get up and march around the room.

Radio was probably good training because when I learned to read, I could visualize the story in my head and get lost in books. Radio had already trained me to visualize stories as I was listening to them. It's no wonder if today's children have little creativity or imagination, they have never been challenged to use it like the children of the Saturday morning radio show did.