Old Radio Shows of the Fifties

0Found – an article in an Australian comic book collectors magazine from about 30 years ago. Slightly truncated but a view of radio before internet radio quietly revived the medium. The author refers to himself as part of ‘…a lost race of knob-twiddlers, racing up and down the dial in search of something other than canned music, football and talkback.’

Listening to repeats of the Glumms on BL’s City Extra a few years ago stirred in me a deep well of nostalgia for the fifties and sixties, when radio still had a lot more to offer than pop music, sport and Parliamentary frolics. To an isolated child, as I was, radio was friend, entertainment and to a large extent, education. During the day, as part of my correspondence schooling, I listened to the schools broadcasts, but at night I had a galaxy of choice, from situation comedy and soap opera, to suspense, variety and science fiction.

‘Life with the Glumms’ was a regular part of the comedy show ‘Take it From Here’. It was a satire on the saccharine family show ‘Life with the Lyons’, starring Ben Lyon, Bebe Daniels and their children. The Lyons had strong American accents, and the whole show had a definite American bias – I preferred the Wodehousian delights of the divinely decadent George Cole in ‘A Life of Bliss’, who was forever getting into scrapes with his girlfriends – how innocent people were then. The theme of the show was ‘a Bachelor Gay’, and no one doubted George’s sexual preferences for a moment.

In Australia, the doyen of the serials was Blue Hills.
In England, it was The Archers. They droned on week after week, stolidly discussing their way through births, marriages, deaths, accidents, disasters, and more plot convolutions in a week than Sons and Daughters might face in a year. Dan, Philip, Grace and Gwen et al had been chewing the bacon fat ever since I could remember, and the Ancient Walter Gabriel got ever more ancient, but never died…

Continue reading


Wood Norton Hall, former home of French royalty that helped to win the war against Hitler

Henri (left) with his brother 
Antoine and his mother
Queen Marie Amélie.

In his Shell Guide to Worcestershire of 1964 the peerless James Lee-Milne is rather hard on Wood Norton Hall, near Evesham:

‘Now the BBC Engineering Training Department, tarmac-ed and pig wired. Built 1897 for the Duke of Orleans, who lived here in exile and secluded splendour. The house of red brick and half- timber is sprinkled with crowns and fleur-de-lis; interesting on account of its period ugliness ‘.

What he doesn’t mention is that just twenty years earlier the Hall was the HQ of the BBC Listening Station, where eminent writers, journalists and linguists worked together in specially built huts to listen into communications from Europe. The great critic and poet Geoffrey Grigson and eminent art historian Ernst Gombrich, not to mention the TV star Gilbert Harding out of ‘What’s My Line’, were a few of the celebs who did their bit for the war effort here by intercepting messages, mainly from the Germans—vital work that has received far less attention than that done at Bletchley Park. The full story is told in Assigned to Listen while the less than enjoyable experiences of Grigson can be read in his autobiography Crest on the Silver (1950).

What we have here though is a letter from ‘H. d’Orleans’ dated 8th March 1862 to an agent --- thirty years before the present building was erected. Here is my translation:

Continue reading


Mornington Crescent – the poem

Found - a slim volume of poetry called Annotations (London: Humphrey Milford, 1922) by 'Susan Miles'' (i.e. Ursula Wyie Roberts 1887-1975 feminist, suffragist and poet). She wrote a pamphlet in 1912 The Cause of Purity and Women's Suffrage. This copy is signed in 1960 to Russell and Letitia Sedgwick. The poem's title is taken from the famous tube station (and later the humorous improvisational radio game) Mornington Crescent. It is slightly reminiscent in sentiment and setting of Ezra Pound's earlier imagist haiku of 1919 In a Station of the Metro - 'The apparition of these faces in the crowd;/ Petals on a wet, black bough.'  Persephone recently republished Susan Miles's  Lettice Delmer, a novel in verse, which had first appeared in 1958. ‘Its simplicities are at a profound level. The theme is a great one and the characters are superb,’ wrote Storm Jameson. Her poetry was also anthologised in the 1920s by poetaster Harold Monro, said to be a hard man to please when it came to poetry...

Continue reading