Wednesday 22 December 2021

Christmas is On the Air

I don’t remember my first Christmas on the air. I think I was playing taped programming hosted by someone from one of the city stations (I was at a small town station 65 miles away then). I remember my second Christmas (different station). The morning man came in before 6 a.m., put down a 26er of scotch and offered me as much as I wanted. I didn’t want any. He polished off the whole bottle during a six-hour shift, and you’d never know it listening to him.

This was old-school radio in the mid-1970s. I am afraid I wasn’t in radio in the ‘40s, but we can get a glimpse back at what the four main American networks were running on Christmas Day 80 years ago.

The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor a few weeks earlier, so several of the New York stations were now on the air all-night, just in case something happened. Christmas morning, both NBC networks and CBS ran King George’s Christmas message live via shortwave (Mutual recorded it and ran it later). CBS featured two-way conversations between U.S. children and fathers in London, while NBC Blue broadcast British children living in the U.S., Canada and South Africa speaking to parents in England. The U.S. Navy Department has to relax censorship rules to allow it. A review the next day said shortwave difficulties marred the former programme.

Programming on NBC and CBS was still live then. It meant Rudy Vallee, Arthur Godfrey and Virginia Payne (Ma Perkins) had to come in to the station and do their shows on Christmas Day.

If you got a new, 1942 Emerson radio for Christmas, here is what the flagship stations were broadcasting the night of December 25, 1941. Not all stations along the network picked up each show. The information is a compilation from about a dozen papers.

You might be surprised to see television listings for the three stations in New York. Surprising to me was a blurb that the CBS station was broadcasting one programme in colour.

6:15 p.m. – Norman Corwin’s “Plot to Overthrow Christmas.”
Norman Corwin’s radio classic, “The Plot to Overthrow Christmas,” is presented for the third time on Columbia network tonight at 6:15 o’clock over WGST. The production is broadcast from Hollywood, with Norman Corwin directing. It was first done on Christmas Day, 1938, in the CBS “Words Without Music” series as a Columbia Workshop presentation.
“The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” is the story of a diabolical scheme hatched in Hades by “Mephisto” and a group of historically-wicked characters to “purge” the Christmas spirit.

6:45 – The World Today.
7:00 – Amos ‘n’ Andy.
7:15 – Lanny Ross.
7:30 – Maudie’s Diary. A Christmas story, “Life is But a Dream.” With Mary Mason, Robert Walker, Betty Garde and William Johnstone.
8:00 – Death Valley Days: “Cornish Carols.”
A Christmas broadcast of Cornish music from a 2,000 shaft at the Grass Valley Mine, Grass Valley, California—a Cornish settlement. The songs are all traditional unpublished Cornish carols.
8:30 – Duffy’s Tavern. Guest: Fats Waller.
8:55 – Elmer Davis, news.
9:00 – Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour.
10:00 – Glenn Miller, Ray Eberle and Marion Hutton, vocalists.
10:15 – News; Saroyan Christmas Play “Something I Got to Tell You.”
Larry Walters, Chicago Tribune: There’s a characteristic Saroyan story behind the Christmas play, “There’s Something I Got to Tell You, which is to be on the air at 9:15 [CT] tonight over WBBM-CBS. Last year William Saroyan was asked by the network to write a Christmas play. Saroyan was in San Francisco at the time. Two days later he finished the play and transmitted it by teletype to New York.
A couple of days after Christmas a second play came from Saroyan with this note: “While I was writing Christmas plays I thought I might as well do two. I think this one is better than the first.”
The second one will be broadcast tonight.

10:45 – News; Mark Hawley.
11:00 – Christmas in the New World. CBS brings in Montreal, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro for a picture of Christmas Day in the Western Hemisphere.

6:30 p.m. – Rose Bowl Christmas program at Duke University.
6:45 – Three Suns Trio.
7:00 – Chesterfield presents Fred Waring’s Orchestra.
7:15 – News of the World with John W. Vandercook.
7:30 – Camel’s Cugat Rhumba Revue, with Margo, Carmen Castillo and Miguelito Valdes, vocalists, and Bert Parks, emcee.
8:00 – Maxwell House Coffee Time.
Having just received Motion Picture Daily’s award as the “best comedienne” on the air, Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks is expected to be in such a magnanimous mood on her Christmas Day broadcast of Coffee Time that she’ll return all the presents her daddy (Hanley Stafford) has given her during the year. The program is heard over WGST at 8 o’clock.
Meanwhile, “Kris Kingle Morgan Suh,” with Comedian Frank Morgan in the role of the protagonist, will display as fine a pair of reindeer as ever bettered the world’s top air speed of 837 ½ miles per hour—but only in conversation.
John Conte is your singing emcee, with Meredith Willson’s orchestra.

8:30 – The Aldrich Family.
Lawyer Sam Aldrich looks a Christmas gift horse in the teeth and the Yuletide spirit runs low momentarily in “The Aldrich Family,” starring Ezra Stone, over WSB at 8:30 o’clock tonight.
Too much Christmas candy, a mix-up in tags on the presents, and a burn from Henry’s new chemistry set put the head of the house in a very bad humor. He even says uncomplimentary things about the neighbors.
When they drop in for a visit, Henry demonstrates what he has done with his new recording machine. To the consternation of all, Lawyer Aldrich’s scathing remarks are repeated for the neighbors’ edification with only a needle scratch to dull their edge.

9:00 – Kraft Music Hall.
For the sixth consecutive year Bing Crosby will sing “Adeste Fidelis” and “Silent Night: on Kraft Music Hall’s Christmas program tonight at 9 o’clock over WSB. As a Yuletide novelty he will sing for the first time on the air “White Christmas” from his new film, “Holiday Inn.”
The guest panel will be composed by Fay Bainter, celebrated character actress of stage and screen, and tubby zany Frank McHugh. Danish comedian Victor Borge, who became one of the regulars with last week’s K.M.H. proceedings, will play and sing “The Bells Are Ringing for Christmas,” an old Danish folk song. Bing and his colleagues in the Hall will regretfully say farewell to songstress Connie Boswell, who leaves the show to fulfill a series of personal appearances in the east. Her sultry-voiced singing has been one of the pleasantest features of K.M.H. for more than a year.

10:00 – The Sealtest Show.
Lionel Barrymore’s inimitable portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in a radio dramatization of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will mark the Christmas Day broadcast of the Rudy Vallee-John Barrymore program to be heard over WSB tonight at 10 o’clock.
Lionel Barrymore’s portrayal of Scrooge has become a Christmas tradition of American radio, and it is at Rudy Vallee’s invitation that he will carry on that tradition this year for the NBC-Red network audience. Vallee also will be heard in the dramatization of the Dickens classic.
Christmas music and carols sung by Rudy Vallee will be the only other features of this Christmas Day broadcast.
Dix Davis plays Tiny Tim with Vallee as Bob Cratchet.

10:30 – Frank Fay with vocalist Bob Hannon, Beverly and her Boy Friends, and the Harry Salter Orchestra.

WJZ (NBC Blue)
7:00 p.m. – Easy Aces.
7:15 – Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.
7:30 – Schaefer’s Revue: Allen Roth's orchestra with Bud Collyer.
8:00 – The March of Time.
Re-enactment of the defence of Wake Island against the Japanese.
8:30 – Service With a Smile: Army, Navy and Marine talent. This week from Great Lakes Training School, with Garry Moore, and Ben Grauer, emcee.
9:00 – Rochester Civic Orchestra with Guy Fraser Harrison and conductor Mack Morgan.
10:00 – Metropolitan Opera Guild: Excerpts from “Hansel and Gretel.”
10:15 – First Piano Quartet.
10:30 – News with William Hillman and Raymond Clapper. (local?)
10:45 – Carmen Cavallero’s Orchestra.

WOR (Mutual)
7:00 p.m. – Fulton Lewis, News Commentary.
7:15 – Here’s Morgan.
7:30 – Confidentially Yours, with Arthur Hale.
7:45 – Inside of Sports.
8:00 – Morton Gould’s Orchestra, with Jimmy Shields, tenor.
8:30 – Boake Carter, News Commentary.
8:45 – Eddy Duchin’s Orchestra.
9:00 – Gabriel Heatter, News.
9:15 – News from Manila with Royal Arch Gunnison.
9:30 – America Preferred. Deems Taylor, commentator; Alfred Wallenstein’s orchestral Salvatore Baccaloni, basso.
10:00 – Raymond Gram Swing, News.
10:15 – Spotlight Bands, Ray Noble’s orchestra.
10:30 – War at Sea, with Paul Schubert.
10:45 – Under Western Skies, Ramona and the Tune Twisters with the Mountaineers.

8:30 p.m. – Hansel and Gretel. Musical Fairy Tale with Adriana Caselotti and Ivy Dale.
9:00-9:30 – Christmas Varieties with Yola Galli (songs), Carla and Fernando (dancers), Southernaires Quartet.

2:30-4 p.m. – Christmas party; Police and Fire Department toy campaign. In Color!
8:00 – News.
8:15 – Bob Edge, sports.
8:30 – Visual Quiz.
9:25 – News.

7:30-9 p.m. – Tests and Selected Films.

And for readers in Canada, here is what the CBC was sending out that evening from Toronto. Not all stations picked up every programme and Western stations had a different line-up after hearing from General McNaughter, who had been wounded overseas. Incidentally, "Stag Party" eminated from CBR Vancouver and starred a young local man named Angus Young. He decided "Angus" was a bit stuffy for a comedian, so he changed his name to Alan Young. He also wrote "Stag Party." As for the 6 p.m. news, it is quite likely read by (unless he got Christmas off) Canada's Voice of Doom, a gentleman named Lorne Greene.

6:00 - CBC News Service.
6:15 - “Hello Children.”
Greetings from British Parents to Children Over Here.
6:30 - Programme summary, etc.
6:45 - BBC London News.
7:00 - “The Mysteries.”
Drama of the Nativity.
8:00 - Montreal Variety.
9:00 - Chuhaldin’s strings.
9:30 - “Stag Party” from Vancouver.
10:00 - Period of the Drama.
Christmas Carol, 1941, a 20th century version of the immortal story of Scrooge. Scrooge, in this version, is a hard-boiled businessman, who is taken in hand by the spirits of Christmas past (in a London air raid shelter); Christmas present (in Germany occupied countries) and Christmas that is yet to come (if Canada loses sight of her precious heritage of freedom). What Scrooge sees, and the conclusion he draws, carry an important message to Canadians on their third war-time Christmas. [Summary from the Windsor Star].
10:30 - Toronto Choristers.
10:45 - The King’s Message (rebroadcast).
11:00 - CBC News Service.
11:15 - Lt. General A.G.L. McNaughton, commander of the Canadian Corps in Britain, by phone direct from London.
11:30 - The BBC News Reel.
12:00-12:30 a.m. - Romanelli Orchestra, dance music.

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