|This week's guests is
Higby, Network Radio Soap Actress, star of “When a Girl
author of “Tune in Tomorrow.”
One of the earliest shows on which our guest appeared was "The Lincoln Highway Radio Show," which ran for a little over two years and was sponsored by Hecker Products Corporation, makers of Shinola Shoe polish. The show premiered March 16, 1940 on WEAF, the NBC Red Network Flagship Station in New York and was carried "Coast to Coast" on over 48 stations.
In her delightful treatise, "Tune In Tomorrow," which gives outsiders an introspective look at the performers on radio’s daytime serials, soap queen Mary Jane Higby recalls a geographical patchwork that offered opportunity for scores of artists to do their thing in several places throughout the day.
For a while New York’s Radio City, the colossal 68-story RCA Building was the home of two NBC Networks - the Red and the Blue. CBS, meanwhile, broadcast at nearby 485 Madison Avenue, plus from upgraded space purchased at 799 Seventh Avenue. To this triune could be added the studios of MBS at the not-too-distant intersection of Broadway and Fortieth Street. These facilities provided a type of "triangular raceway" for the busy radio actor.
Substantial numbers of actors, actresses, and announcers, in fact, added up to $30,000 annually to their bottom lines via freelance radio assignments, a tidy sum in the 1940’s. Dashing from one broadcast center to another, often on the thinnest of time margins; they paid stand-ins to work rehearsals, hold doors and elevators and reserved taxis in advance. On their way to the good life, they were often living on a narrow edge as their voices boomed out of Atwater-Kents at myriad hours during the first half of the 20th century. Mary Jane Higby (When A Girl Marries), was one of the busiest of these actors.
The "triangular raceway" described by Ms. Higby in her book was a testament to the physically fittest. By being in the right places at the right times, a few radio artists obviously made hay while the sun shone, and as a result claimed fortunes that few listeners realized existed.
Mary Jane Higby tells of her experience on "When a Girl Marries" with their sponsor General Foods. A representative of General Foods told her that the show was "a mainstay for our advertising, we wouldn’t dream of letting you go." Mary Jane went on vacation with no worries about coming home to no job, but when she returned she learned that the show had indeed been cancelled. When she asked about the man who told her that would never happen, her boss told her he had died and the new guy "allocated the whole budget to television." This happened quite frequently with all kinds of shows. Most of the soaps were forced to just fade away with no resolution to the story and no explanation. One day the announcer would just say, this is the last broadcast. The show Ma Perkins did 7,065 broadcasts and then one day they had to abruptly announce that this was the final show. Fans were outraged, but the radio ratings were dictating the programming. By the late 1950’s networks had cut over half of their day-time programming, which meant dropping four of the top ten most popular shows.