This being the 100th birthday of Lurene Tuttle, former “First Lady of Radio” (previously celebrated here), it behoves me to return to my favorite subject. So, all week I am going to flick through the August 1949 issue of Radio and Television Mirror to dig up what I hope to be noteworthy or just plain curious items. My copy of the old Mirror is getting a bit tatty, having been cherished more for its content than for its potential trade value. The issue contains a short article about Ms. Tuttle, an Indiana native gone Hollywood: “There’s scarcely a radio program on which Lurene hasn’t been heard,” it says, “but she’s no radio Cinderella. She came to radio as a stage actress seasoned by seven years of trouping in stock.”
There is an article by Anna Roosevelt, writing about her mother, another former First Lady, wife of the President who first took such great advantage of the new medium of radio; at the time, Anna and Eleanor were heard Monday through Friday afternoon on ABC. Singer Kate Smith, broadcasting daily at noon over the Mutual network, shares recipes and shows readers around her summer residence, Camp Sunshine.
Louella Parsons, the “First Lady of Hollywood,” describes her experience in broadcasting (as illustrated here). She gossiped each Sunday, 9:15 pm over ABC, but was on her summer vacation that August. Kit Trout describes “tag[ging] along” with her husband, NBC reporter Bob Trout (whose Who Said That? was both heard and seen each Saturday at 9 pm); and Jo Stafford, heard Thursday evenings at 9:30 pm over ABC stations, relates what happened during her first audition.
Mary Jane Higby, in character as Joan Davis (the heroine of daytime serial When a Girl Marries) answers reader mail concerning marital problems, while the aforementioned Terry Burton, heard daily in The Second Mrs. Burton continues her own column in the role of “Family Counselor.”
The letters we get from people who listen to the show often say that the Bumsteads help them to laugh at their own troubles. When they laugh at the Bumsteads the laughter carries over to their own lives. It works for us too. In fact it’s often one of us who furnishes the incident from real life.
The Bumsteads are not only the couple next door to us on the show, we are the Bumsteads, and yes, Blondie is real to me.
In radio and on television, as in its Mirror, fact and fiction merge, making it difficult to tell one from the other. Reading this monthly is like stepping through the looking glass into a reality show, anno 1949. Sanctioned, streamlined or sanitized, what kind of story is history anyway?