Tag Archives: Christmas

The BBC Christmas Schedules for 1932

9-1932-Dec-23--500x643Following on from a recent Jot exploring what the BBC were offering as TV entertainment for Christmas 1932 — half an hour from 11 pm onwards showing either a singer crooning into a microphone, female dancers prancing about in special costumes, or a short poem or play – we at Jot HQ thought it might be interesting to examine what listeners could expect to enjoy throughout the rest of the festive season.

First, we should explain that in the ‘thirties the Radio Times, though ostensibly a guide to radio schedules, was also a kind of feature magazine in which along with the programme information  could be found other entertainment in the form of short stories or feature articles. In this particular issue we find material by well-known authors which, in most cases, had little or anything to do with the actual programmes. For instance, in this special Christmas number we find a tale by Compton Mackenzie entitled ‘ New Lamps for Old ‘, a new Lord Peter Wimsey story  from Dorothy L. Sayers called ‘ The Queen’s Square, a satirical skit by Winifred Holtby entitled ‘ Mr Ming Escapes Christmas’, a memoir from popular travel writer S. P. B. Mais , a comic confection by D. B. Wyndham Lewis and a rather tiresome  faux medieval dramatic piece by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon. There were also a couple of ‘poems ‘and some similarly light features by a handful of lesser known writers.

It must be said that while the writing sometimes fails to impress, the illustrations that accompany it are usually charming in the best traditions of the Radio Times. For instance the cover ( see earlier Jot ) of the magazine is  characteristic art work from book illustrator Edward Ardizonne, while some superb illustrations from the gifted illustrator John Austen , who was to become a favourite of the Radio Times, decorated the borders of the Farjeon piece. Other notable illustrators included Mervyn Wilson,  Roland Pym and Clixby Watson. It goes without saying too that the adverts ( some full page) are no less captivating, most notably the wonderful back cover colour advert for Bovril by Alfred Lees featuring the ghost of Jacob Marley. Continue reading

A Christmas number of the Radio Times

Christmas Radio Times 1932 cover 001 

Next year the BBC will be a hundred years old. To celebrate this momentous anniversary Jot 101 is looking at the Christmas 1932 number of the Radio Times,which can be found in your Jotter’s private collection.


The issue in question is the ‘ Southern edition ‘,which gives a flavour of the Corporation’s output, although it seems to exclude Northern England and Scotland.


Obviously, the festive period was a chance for the BBC to broadcast some of its best wireless programmes, but the magazine is also significant in that it tells us about the latest development of the period, which was Television. In the UK (other countries seem to have been more advanced in this area) the BBC were committed to the Baird system of ‘ low definition ‘ Television. This used a rather primitive method of revolving discs to scan an image of performers standing between two sets of photo-electric cells. Because the apparatus was comparatively rudimentary the result was a distinctly blurred image. The performers also needed to apply heavy make up and adopt a certain costume in order to convey their presence across the ether. Television broadcasting using this basic system began in August 1932, essentially as an experiment. Radio was king at the time and Television was relegated to a mere half hour of ‘ entertainment ‘ tagged on to the end of the day’s programmes at around 11 pm.


The TV fare offered by the BBC for this half hour was pretty basic and usually consisted ( in late 1932 at least) of a short dramatic reading and some singing or dancing. On December 27th, for instance, viewers were treated to a ‘Christmas Puppet Play ‘ entitled ‘Robinson Crusoe’ in which a certain Nell St John Montague was accompanied by a dancer called Priscilla Sarsfield. On the following evening ‘Donald Peers, Collins and Annette ( a Song and Dance Trio)’ did their thing accompanied by the dancer Rosemary Reynolds. Continue reading

Ninety Years Ago : Christmas Books in 1930

Inspired by the Christmas edition of the Bookman for 1930 here is a heart warming fable about certain books and their rise in value over the years. It concerns Stephen, a precocious bookworm who later became a journalist on the TLS, his father, mother and sister Bessie and the new books that he decided to give them on Christmas Day in 1930. Like Covid hero Colonel Sir Thomas Moore, Stephen is still with us and the three books for which he paid little more than £2 10s in 1930, having raided his piggy bank for the purpose, are now worth more than £10, 000 !

PaterGreene Name of Action

Stephen was gazing around the bookshop to see what Pater might like and found a book with the word action in its title. As he knew that his father enjoyed adventure stories he bought a copy of The Name of Actionby someone called Graham Greene, who he’d never heard of. Unfortunately, Pater agreed with the novelist, who later condemned this book as being ‘of a badness beyond the power of criticism…the prose flat and stilted ‘ and consequently failed to finish reading his son’s gift, which was placed in the family bureau bookcase and never taken down again. Luckily, in 2020 Stephen’s grandson James, a book dealer by profession, discovered it ninety years later while visiting his granddad on his 100thbirthday. He looked it up in Abebooks and to his delight discovered that there were three or four copies of Greene’s hated novel, all of which, like his granddad’s copy, were in pristine condition. One of these was priced at $9,321 !




Peter was aware that his mother loved reading travel books and also liked the first novel of this young chap called Evelyn Waugh, so when he found a copy of Waugh’s travel memoir, Labels among all the books on Africa and Asia in the travel section he bought it for her. His mother was delighted with her present and over the next few years read it two or three times from cover to cover. Luckily, despite its use, the book managed to stay in good condition and James, on the hunt for further modern firsts in the bureau bookcase, found his late great aunt’s  copy, which he discovered was worth around $2,500 , according to Abebooks.


Looking around the shop for a book that Bessie might like Stephen immediately rejected those books that were likely to be unsuitable for the eight-year old sister, such as Rupert in Trouble againby Mary Tourtel and Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Little Pig. After some time he found a small pile of limited edition copies of Dream Daysby Kenneth Grahame all of which had been signed by the author and the illustrator Ernest Shepard. Although this book turned out to be more expensive than the two others he had bought, he knew that Bessie loved The Wind in the Willowsand Pooh Bear, so he gritted his teeth and bought the thing. Unfortunately, he had overestimated his sister’s interest in the whimsical side of Kenneth Grahame. Dream Daysturned out to me nothing like as funny as The Wind in the Willowsand eventually ended up in that bureau bookcase. Book dealer James found this too and was delighted to report back to his granddad that the book his ungrateful sister had returned to him was worth about £500. Continue reading

Bruce Calvert—the man who cancelled Christmas

Bruce Calvert advert pic 001Found in the classified column of The New Masses for May 1927 is this advert for The Open Road, a monthly magazine described by its founding editor, Bruce Calvert, as ‘A Zinelet of High Voltage for People Not Afraid to Think’ and a cure for ‘ Mental Obstipation and Brain Fag ‘.

Calvert, who ran the operation from his home in Pequannock , New Jersey, delightfully dubbed by him ‘Pigeon-Roost-in-the Woods’, had been a hard-bitten magazine editor in Chicago and Pennsylvania before moving to the backwoods of Griffiths, near Gary, in his home state of Indiana, to take up the life of an anarchist-freethinker inspired by, among others, Walt Whitman and Thoreau. In 1908 he had brought out the first issue of The Open Road, which appeared regularly until 1915. Espousing a philosophy of ‘right thinking and right living ‘, Calvert made his magazine a fount of various heterodoxies which delighted in offending straight-laced home-loving and family-orientated Americans. In April 1911 one of the most controversial issues challenged the hijacking of Christmas by commerce—a point of view which earned him the soubriquet of ‘Indiana’s Prize Crank ‘.

By November 1911 ‘The World League for a Sane Christmas’ had established its HQ in Room 431 of the State Life Building in downtown Indianapolis. Members who paid their $10 subscription could expect their money to go towards various planned publications as well as a booklet entitled The Christmas Insanity. Moreover, each new member was obliged to sign the following agreement:

‘I will from this time forward neither give nor accept Christmas presents outside my own immediate household, and I will do all I can by distributing literature and other propaganda work to discourage the senseless practice of indiscriminate Christmas giving, to the end that true human love and brotherhood may reign in the hearts of men instead of the maudlin insanity which now disgraces the day ‘ Continue reading

How to Waste Money at Christmas

waste-money-christmas-pic-001How to Waste Money at Christmas

1) Order in a lot of fruit that goes bad
2) Order in flowers you have no time to arrange
3) Buy handsome presents and have them put down
4) Give a big Dance when you can only afford a Games Evening
5) Economise on heating, and give everyone ‘flu ( see Doctors’, Nurses’ bills)
6) Economise on lighting ( and let people trip over stairs and break their ankles etc)
7) Give rubbishy presents and make lifelong enemies.
8) Overdo yourself and have to go into a Nursing Home.

Extract from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.


The Right and Wrong People to invite to a Christmas party

how-to-ruin-christmas-illustration-001Two extracts from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.

Right people

Cheerful People

Lots of Young People

The guest with a car

The Enterprising Girl

The Elderly Woman who can tell fortunes

The Elderly Man (if red-faced and jolly).

The Handy-Man (issue invitation early, as he is in great demand).

Anybody good with children.

The Unselfish Friend.


Wrong people

The Bone-lazy.

The Egoist.



The Greedy and the Selfish.

Mean People (who suffer tortures at Christmas).

People who always feel “out of things.”