This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Needles, California, United States
Billy Jack Long is a professional musician and author from Southern California. Any paid advertising you see on this page was not put her by Bill. Ignore it and it should go away.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

The Kingfish Gets a Job on Guam!

As March 5, 2012, marks one year after I moved here on the island of Guam, I thought about OTR shows that had something to do with this lovely Tropical paradise.

Guam was the only U.S. jurisdiction that was completely occupied by an Axis power during World War II. Our liberation from the Japanese forces by the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army in 1943 had numerous remote news broadcasts from the island. One interview of Marine Corps private named Staff was quite monumental and poignant.

Most OTR fans know about these audio documentaries. Even Guam public school teachers, who are required to take a course in Guam history at the University of Guam, MUST listen to those broadcasts by the NBC, CBS, Mutual, and Blue networks of the liberation.

So I had to do something different:

One thing where Guam really gets shortchanged is in entertainment. I don’t mean we lack in it… Oh, no. We have NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox local TV affiliates. We lost our CW affiliate last year and we never had MyTV. We have all the cable stations.We have three cinemas showing the latest films from Hollywood and Manila. We see movies from Hollywood almost one day before anyone else on the U.S. mainland, since we are two time zones west of the International Dateline.

We only have three AM radio stations but we get a constant dose of radio drama. One of those stations even airs complete OTR shows with unedited original commercials…

No… The problem is what the entertainment industry thinks of Guam.

In the early 1961, a movie was made about a locally popular hero, George Tweed, a U.S. Navy radio man who got stuck here after the Japanese took over in December 1941. His story is told in a book which is available at all Guam bookstores (also check online sources) is called Robinson Crusoe, USN. The movie starred Jeffrey Hunter as Petty Officer Tweed. The problem was that at this time it was impossible to make any movies on the island since the entire place was considered a naval installation (including Andersen Air Force Base). Even to take a pleasure trip to the island require a base pass from the Department of the Navy. So this movie, No Man is an Island, was filmed in the Philippines. The locals in the movie were Filipinos, living their culture and speaking Tagalog. Guam’s culture is much different and the indigenous language is Chamorro. So Guam didn’t really get noticed.

In Good Morning, Vietnam, the harassing Army sergeant major was punished for being so mean to Adrian Cronauer by being sent from Saigon to Guam because, “Nothing ever happens in Guam.”

In Look Who’s Talking, children were admonished not to play on the airport conveyor belts as their parents told them, “You might end up going to Guam!”

And in Matilda, as the little girl’s parents tried to flee from police and FBI agents, her mother shouts, “We’re going to Guam!” As if Guam lacks law enforcement. Ha, ha! We have the Guam Police Department, the Border Patrol, and the FBI. They wouldn’t get far. (They probably wouldn’t make it through Won Pat International Airport!)

David Letterman was a little nicer about Guam on The Late Show. The question was asked, “What do you know about Guam?” Nobody knew anything. Hey Dave! We watch your show here!

Guam still has a Rexall drug store, although it's actually a part of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy chain.

So, we go back 6 ½ decades to Amos ‘n’ Andy on the radio. On March 21, 1954, CBS aired an episode of the popular show in which George “Kingfish” Stevens was unemployed and seemed to be enjoying his freedom. His wife Sapphire did everything she could to find work for her husband. And Sapphire’s mother, who lived with the couple, was a thorn in the Kingfish’s side.

Well, Sapphire found the perfect job for George. It was as a construction foreman with a government subcontractor on the island of Guam. Sapphire really did her home work. She knew to say “on Guam” instead of “in Guam,” because that’s underground. The job offered a substantial salary, free housing, and both his wife and her mother could come as dependents.Sapphire went on to describe Guam as the largest and southernmost of the Marianas chain. (To which Kingfish made a pun about the A&P chain.) She sighed, “It’s a lovely Tropical paradise.”

To be honest, there is one teeny tiny island to the south of Guam, not far from the village of Merizo and it belongs to Guam. It’s Cocos Island and today it’s a theme park for Japanese tourists which is a good place to spend a fortune quickly. Most locals have never been there.

Now for some personal comments: The characters in this story were black and the series has been much maligned by the NAACP for being racist (the actors who played Amos, Andy, and the Kingfish, only two guys—not three, were not black but white). This episode has very little to do with race. These people could be anyone. And, in 1954, it could have been possible for a government subcontractor on Guam to hire a black construction foreman.
Actually, Guam’s racism wouldn’t show for another 50 years after this show. Because we are closer to Asia than America, many American store chains on Guam work from cultures in Asia where race, age, sex, and religion are legally discriminated against.

For example, when some black U.S. Air Force personnel tried to get a job as night workers for the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, they were not hired—management even openly bragged about the fact that they weren’t hiring any “niggers.” (Yes, as offensive as that is, they actually said it.) Consequently, we lost 7-Eleven. Maybe they’ll come back someday. We miss Slurpees. Those frozen Cokes and Icees aren’t quite the same thing.

By the way, I’m always looking for more entertainment trivia about Guam. I’m not looking for stupidity, like the Congressman who thinks the island is going to tip over because most of us are on one side of it. We are, in fact, almost the same identical size as Singapore. We have 5% of Singapore’s population. If Singapore isn’t sinking, we won’t tip over. Don’t kid us about that. It’s no laughing matter…

You can tease us that our highest speed limit is only 35 miles per hour (and we even have one highway which is partially considered a freeway!) Children riding in the back of a pickup truck must wear safety straps attached to the bed. Those under 12 years of age, who are 4’8” or shorter must ride in a safety seat in the rear of a car (not in the front seat). My fiancĂ©e is 4’7”. Fortunately, she is an adult and can ride up front with me. But motorcyclists are not required helmets. And bicyclists can ride in any direction they want on the sidewalk. Tease us about those laws. But not the tipping thing.

Because of the time difference, as I finish writing this post, it’s 11:30 AM, March 5, here on Guam, but it’s 5:30 PM, March 4, in California. It was this time five years ago, March 4, 2007, that my dad died peacefully in his sleep at home in Rialto, California. A happy anniversary. And a sad one.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Adventures in Odyssey

Welcome me back after a long hiatus! I'm not really sure I can post as regularly as I did over the years. I still have so much to share with everyone. I need to get back to some of the questions on my guest book. If you want something answered quickly, contact me at my Facebook page.

I mentioned that the longest running radio drama was (and still is) Unshackled!, which has been heard throughout the world continually since 1950 (thats over 61 years!) The longest running news program is the CBS World News Round-Up which has been running since the late 1930s and is still heard. And the oldest running radio music show is Music and the Spoken Word, also on CBS, which has been broadcast by station KSL in Salt Lake City (from the Mormon Tabernacle) since 1929. I will write about it later.

The longest running comedy show isn't from Old Time Radio. It was first broadcast on November 21, 1987, which means my older daughter was a year old when it first came on. It's Adventures in Odyssey. Sponsored by Focus on the Family, the sitcom is a combination of Old Time Radio, modern technology, old fashioned values, and old time religion, as well as Saturday morning cartoons. Its opening music by John Campbell is reminiscent of Frank Comstock's theme for Rocky and His Friends.

The premise of the show is very simple: Odyssey is a small town in an undisclosed location. We know it isn't near Chicago, Iowa, California, or Colorado. John Avery Whitaker is an entrepreneur who owns an educational book publishing house near Chicago. He also owns a soda fountain in Odyssey called "Whit's End," as everyone calls him Whit. He's very politically conservative and a very interesting and resourceful person. Whit's End has video games and virtual reality exhibits giving the place sort of a science fiction feel, but you know it could happen in the present day.

Whit's main job at the soda fountain is counseling with people of all ages. He's good at it. His wife died a few years ago and he has nothing but time. Whit has two employees: Connie is a high school senior who is 17 going on 35. She's sweet and helpful. But she isn't as competent as she wants to be and she knows it. Eugene is a techie who began working for Whit in college and couldn't seem to quit to find a job in his field after graduation. He did some of the work on the virtual reality stuff in the store. Eugene is a new believer in Christ who sometimes gets a little confused about all kinds of stuff. He's a good friend to all.

The program is enjoyed not only by Christians but also by agnostics and atheists alike. It isn't really that blatantly Evangelical that the unbelievers are turned away. But some of those have actually become Christians by the show.

Now one of the interesting parts of the show is that most of the kids, who are played by kids, age and develop as they should. The main roles, such as that of Connie Kendall, who is played by an actress who was born the day before my late sister, never get any older. Actually, I like that. That shows a consistency.

It should be pointed out that one of the actors presently performing on the show is a veteran of Old Time Radio: Alan Young (born 1919) plays the part of Jack Allen, the antique dealer. I hope to put his biography up here someday. You know, he's going to be 93 this November... I saw him at a concert at the Music Center in Los Angeles about ten years ago and he looked great.

Also, Dave Madden (born 1931), who was in the cast of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, plays the part of the window washer and handyman.


John Avery Whittaker ..................... Andre Stojko
Connie Kendall .................... Katie Leigh
Eugene Meltsner .................... Will Ryan
Katrina Shanks-Meltsner .................... Pamela Hayden
Bernard Walton .................... Dave Madden
Wooton Bassett .................... Jess Harnell
Jack Allen .................... Alan Young
Announcer .................... Chris Landsdowne-Anthony

Although the show functions as a ministry of Focus on the Family, there have been some commercial tie-ins with the Chick Fil-A chain.

Here is the link for the Adventures in Odyssey 'Blog. There are also cartoons and video games of the series.

In this picture we see Connie, Eugene, and Whit. (Of course, they're better if you just imagine them.)

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