Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lighthouses on Old Time Radio - Sentinels of the Deep from The Cavalcade of America (1936)

For my 15th entry in my lighthouses on old time radio series - I am returning to Cavalcade of America.  I have highlighted two previous entries from Cavalcade in this lighthouse series: Woman on Lime Rock (1947) & When Cupid Was a Pup (1949).  This episode is the third (and last) Cavalcade episode that focuses on lighthouses.  This episode goes back to the early years of Cavalcade and showcases some of the changes that made this a very successful program over the years.

Lightship Chesapeake - Inner Harbor (Baltimore, Maryland) - July 31, 2015

Lightship Chesapeake - Inner Harbor (Baltimore, Maryland) - July 31, 2015

The Cavalcade of America is a great series sponsored by DuPont.  The purpose of the program has been one of great study and I am definitely glad that I have a few episodes to talk about it.  The long-running show ran from 1935 to 1953 and then had a second life on television.  Starting first on the CBS Network, it moved to NBC in 1939.  This 30 minute program provided a great platform to showcase some of the lesser known incidents and people who made the country great.  Not only was this series a great source of historical dramas, there were numerous fictional stories brought in as well.  From the Internet Archive page (see link below),  "The company's motto, 'Maker of better things for better living through chemistry,' was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation."

According to John Dunning's On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (1998), the episode I am featuring today was special in the early history of this amazing series. (p.141).

The show was conceived in vignette form, with two or more separate-but-related stories making up the half-hour.  The first show, No Turning Back, told in its two segments on the return of the Mayflower and of the great grasshopper plague.  The Spirit of Competition, the third show, told the stories of the Oklahoma land rush and the Mississippi steamer race.  So it went, week after week.  But this format had one glaring weakness: a lack of continuity due to the brevity of each segment.  Before a listener could become interested, a story was finished and a new one begun.  This broken-show format was continued for a full season, liming along in low single digits in the ratings. It wasn't until the third show of the second season (Sentinels of the Deep, a story of the lighthouse service) that the broken shows were discontinued.  
On October 14, 1936, Cavalcade featured a story of bravery, heroism, and the selflessness shown by those who have worked in lighthouses and lightships to keep us safe.  After the orchestra played Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade (selections from the 4th movement), the actors portrayed three stories showcasing the history of this great service:
  • Early in the 18th Century, the perils of arriving at Boston Harbor before 1716, when the first lighthouse was established in North America.
  • The price a keeper's family has to pay during the winter.  A keeper, his wife and their young son just about lose patience awaiting a supply ship.  Should their last oil be used for the light or for heating.
  • The difficult life on-board a lightship.  In this story, crew men on the Lightship Nantucket are scrambling for their life after being hit and sunk during a foggy day (May 15, 1934).  This took place less than three years before this episode aired.  If you follow the link above, you will see how many vessels were called the Lightship Nantucket.  
The brave men and women who work in lighthouses and lightships owe our eternal gratitude for their service keeping us safe.  I love this episode for showing not only their service, but that of their family.  I hope you enjoy this great episode from Cavalcade of America.  

Here are some links to programs relating to Old Time Radio and Cavalcade of America:
Lighthouses on Old Time Radio:

No comments:

Post a Comment