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Personal Memories of Vic and Sade
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My memories of listening to Vic & Sade was in the summer time when school was out. It was the favorite of my mother's and where ever I was playing I would try to rush home to join her in listening to the program. I may have listened some during the school year when I was in elementary or junior high school when I could get home in time, but I mostly remember the summers. Mother's other favorite program was Pepper Young's Family which came on just before Vic & Sade and some times I  would get home in time for some of that but it was Vic and Sade which appealed to me. I went in the service during WW2 and do not remember any of the programs with any other characters than Vic, Sade and Rush. I have heard some of the programs on records and tape and the comedy holds up as well today as it did then. 

Do you remember anything that your mother used to say about the show?

Good question. I had never before thought about mother's comments regarding Vic & Sade, and on reflection maybe she mainly liked her son coming in from his play to listen to the radio with her. However, I know over the years we did frequently talk about the characters on the show. Two episodes I think I remember well. On these programs they were observing, as they often did, people traveling past the house and commenting on them. There was the man who worked for the railroad who every day took home a part of a locomotive until after many years he was able to reconstruct the engine in his yard. Also there was the neighbor who passed dressed in a suit and carried a golf bag. He worked as a laborer and carried his work clothes in the golf bag and changed before coming home so it would look as if he worked in an office. He wanted people to think he was on his way to play golf. I know mother and I laughed about these episodes over the years. Of course this is about 70 years ago and my memory of what I remember may not be as accurate as I think it is. I have not heard that many old episodes of Vic and Sade. About 20 years ago I found a LP with several programs, but it has been only recently I got Dunning's encyclopedia and began searching to see what I could find on the internet. Do you know anything about the episodes I think I remember?

 - Walter Kephart 7/14/2004

 

 
Dear Steve:
 
    I have sent off my check to you. This is going to be my happiest Christmas in 70 years!
 
When I was a young graduate student at Washington State at Pullman in 1941, I was able to walk home to our apartment for lunch, and every day we had a bunch of 'soap operas' to choose from. There were Young Widder Brown, Just Plain Bill, Stella Dallas ("And now, Stella Dallas, the story of how Stella's daughter Laurel married into wealth and society, and realizing the differences in their tastes and lives, went out of Stella's life forever. These later episodes of Stella Dallas are adapted from the famous novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, and are written by Ann Hummert". I remember  the opening lead-ins of all these). There was The Romance of Helen Trent, who went on to prove what every woman longs to prove, that romance can be found again, even after the age of 35. Our Gal Sunday, the story of the little girl who was left on the steps of the house of two old miners. . . Mary Noble, Backstage Wife. (This was changed years later in a parody into Mary Backstage, Noble Wife).
 
But nothing was as wonderful as living right next door, every day for fifteen minutes, to Vic and Sade. We got to know Vic, Sade, and son Rush and Uncle Fletcher, and great numbers of their neighbors and friends, by what they said about them. No one was acted out live, but we learned all about them and their crazy antics. The show became so popular that eventually it was given a half hour in prime time, when they brought in the other folks as actors. That soon caused the utter collapse of the best comedy show in radio history.
 
I can almost remember word for word many of my favorites. There was the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way, of which Vic was a lodge brother. I think that Vic was once Exalted Big Dipper of the Sacred Stars. Mr. Gumpox was the trash man, and one day Sade put Vic 's old lodge ceremonial hat in the trash and Vic got home to be consternated by seeing Gumpox' horse wearing it.
 
The founder of his Lodge was R. J. Konk. One Christmas time, the Gooks received in their mail a framed picture, in color, of the founder R. J. Konk. At the bottom of the frame were buttons you could press, each one making Konk do something memorable. One button made him laugh, HaHA. Another provoked real tears, etc.
 
Vic used to go to an annual Chicago meeting of his kitchenware folks. One time he was elated to receive the group picture on the cover of the monthly magazine. Everybody was named, except for poor Vic, who was identified as "a casual bystander". "A casual bystander!", he muttered throughout the time space.
 
Rush used to go downtown to watch the fat men play handball. He also went to the movies, where they played movies like "Your stolen kisses are so sweet, emergency balloon parachutist, Finnegan, starring Gloria Golden and Two-fisted Frank Fuddleman.
 
There was one friend who could boast of having gone from their town to Peoria riding backwards on a lawn mower.  There were the telephone calls, when Uncle Fletcher, who was quite deaf, would impetuously go to answer them and pull the phone right off the wall. There were the shopping sprees of Sadie with Ruthie Stembottom down to the wash rag sale at Yambleton's. Letters that said how Walter's knee-cap were a little better today.
 
And that marvelous story about Rishigan Fishigan who had one terrible day. He prided himself at being always the first person to sleep, come springtime, on the courthouse lawn. But this day he found it occupied. Then he read the headline to find out that Sishigan, Michigan had become an unnamed suburb of Detroit. He found that his girl was he expected to go to the movies with, went with somebody else. Finally, he went back to the Bright Kentucky Hotel. He was so angry that he broke the most important rule of the house, which was that no one should smoke a cigar in his room nor fry an egg over the gas jet on the wall. For these crimes he was banished to Room 13, a corner room where the Chicago and Aton Railroad would go by and make a hard left turn and the motorman would throw hot coals through the hotel window!
 
There were all those amazing characters who had funny names and funnier traits. Rotten Davis, YY Flertsch who had a brother IY Flertsch, Smelly Clark, Hank Gutstop, Charlie Razorscum, H.K. Fleeber, Mr. Ruebusch, Miz' Keller, Uncle Fletcher's landlady,  Mr. Chinbunny, Robert & Slobert Hink, and places such as the "Little Tiny Petite Pheasant Feather Tea Shoppe.
 
There were 326 episodes.  I could go on forever, but this will give newcomers an idea of how important these stories were to us. I wish now that we could get rid of television and feel comfortable again with the old  episodes that could be funny without being mean political, strained, or filthy.
 
I am so grateful to Steve for making these available on CD!
 
Bill Weber
 
Professor Emeritus of Botany
Univ. of Colorado Museum
Campus Box 265
Boulder, CO 80309
 
 
...Yes, I did listen to the original shows, since I was born in 1929.  The school I went to was next door to our house, so I was able to be home in time to listen at 3:00.  I sort of lost interest about 1941 as I was becoming a teenager.
My parents always insisted that my brother and I join them after dinner to listen to "Easy Aces"  and "Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons" (which they enjoyed), but I thought those programs were as dull as "The March of Time" that kids had to sit through at the local movie theater.
I used to try out some of Rush's smart-ass remarks around my parents, but for some reason they didn't seem to appreciate them.
Listening to the CDs today makes me realize how similar my family was to that of the Gooks.
Many of the same situations happened in our household in the late 30's.

Robert Loucks

 
 

I'm 79, in good health, a retired family doctor, and my memories of Vic and Sade (and Rush, the stove lid!) are quite vivid.  As a kid I listened faithfully, I think because I had an episode of pneumonia and was at bed rest and bored to tears, and the only bright spot of the day was listening to Vic and Sade.  Maybe I could identify with Rush because I was in grade school, but for whatever reason, I think Vic and Sade was the greatest source of comedy and humor that I can remember.  Fred Allen, Bob and Ray, and later Jack Benny fit in that category, but I remember the Vic and Sade things much better, and now, since I've retired, I'm involved with some Readers Theatre for retirement homes and like to refresh myself and other people with some of the scripts that are here.  My wife and I do them for each other and realize how wonderfully funny they are.  What a treat. 

- Stan Boyd MD.  Eugene Oregon.

 

 

E W Smith was one of three real people mentioned on the show, but he was the only one not connected with the show.  He has a letter from NBC explaining this and asking for his bio.  He corresponded with the show from his home in Emporia, Kansas, and they struck up a relationship.  I am not exactly sure how this happened, but remember as a little boy he used to get post cards from Vic & Sade which were funny and which i didn’t understand at that time.  They brought him to Chicago once and we have a picture of him holding the reins of a police horse in a mock attempt to steal the horse.  We have some 78 records of the show which apparently refer to him.   E W Smith was referred to on the show as “ the Horsethief from Emporia, Kansas.”
E W Smith,
Keyon Square Apartments
1225 C of E Drive # 22

Emporia, Kansas
66801.

E W is 96 and still sharp.  He is hard of hearing so a phone call is difficult.  I am sure he would write you back.  I think he would have some excellent stories which have never been told.  If he writes to you please send me a copy.  My mailing address is
Jane and Van Smith,
112 CR 33 # 22,
Gunnison, CO  81230. 

Thanks 

Anthony Doherty - braptor@ca.astound.net

 

I was delighted to find your website. It's wonderful to see the great interest in Paul Rhymer's work -- and the V&S cast would have joined in the sentiment: Paul was a genius, and they all felt privileged to be part of his work.

I'd be glad to be in touch with V&S fans, and answer any questions I can. There is a small detail you could perhaps correct: my mother's first name is spelled Bernardine. The R often gets omitted, but her name is the feminine form of Bernard.

Please keep up your efforts for V&S. Paul was one of the great humorists of the 20th Century, worthy of being grouped with Thurber, et al. He was even more amazing in person. In his biography there's a mention of the postcards he used to send to friends. I remember some of the letters he used to send to my mother, such as inviting her to interview for a position as hostess at an all-male club, and announcing Paul's conversion to Catholicism and the accoutrements he'd purchased on my mother's account. He had a deft touch for the risque, for which there was no outlet in the 30s and 40s, except communications with friends. The last time I saw him was in 1963. I was back in Chicago briefly, and we met for lunch, after which he drove me to the site of the deepest hole in the city, where we might have found one of my aunts. Then we went to Maxwell Street, a legendary ghetto market where, in a bookstore that also sold hex-removing bath salts, he found a book that he had long sought. That was Paul.

I wish I could contribute more. I have very few memorabilia of V&S. I stayed in touch with Paul's widow, Mary Fran Rhymer, until her death, so I have copies of both books of the scripts. I also have original prints of some of the publicity photos that you have on the website, but not much else. (Mother hated the way Maurice Seymour, the photographer to NBC, made her look).

Please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Anthony Doherty
  Malcolm McCollum 12-14-02
  Dear Steve,
received the discs today. Muchas gracias.
I'll attach a little screed I wrote to accompany the
tapes I sent out this Christmas:

Vic and Sade

I faintly recall reading mentions of Vic and Sade in a few novels of the 40’s and 50’s - probably John O’Hara. I also recall being a bit surprised that I’d never run into this radio show, since I grew up glued to the radio.
This Summer, Lis and I wandered into a hippie junk shop in a house-trailer down in Crestone, and there on the floor was a boxed set of what were purported to be “The 60 Greatest Radio Shows.” Having long cherished my Amos and Andy recordings, and a few 78 rpm transcriptions of Bergen & McCarthy, I swooped.


Back home, working my way through the tapes, I reached the Vic and Sade episode “Muted Silver Moonbeam Chimes” (on tape 4 of this set). And heard the most precise and funny rendering of a wifely interrogation of a husband that has ever been written, or ever could be written, performed so flawlessly that began grunting, moaning and writhing along with Vic after the first minute of inquisition, and doubling over with increasing force every time he made his vain - and he knew how utterly vain it was - attempt to escape: “I’m going back to work now.” I resolved to acquire more episodes, and the first I found comprise this set.
Vic and Sade was the sole creation of one writer, Paul Rhymer, who wrote every word of it for the 11 years it ran - fifteen minutes, five days a week until the last year-and-a-half, when it became a half-hour weekly show. This collection is rather heavily weighted toward the late, half-hour version. This is too bad, though not very, because Rhymer’s genius was clearly in the short story line, and he didn’t have any interest at all in plot, as you’ll hear. He solved his disinterest by borrowing the most hackneyed plot devices available. It didn’t matter. The half-hour episodes here retain his genius for the American absurd, and the “plots” are treated with cavalier indifference.


Paul Rhymer, I think, stands in a line that runs from Twain through Ring Lardner, Thorne Smith, Charles Finney and H. Allen Smith to Joseph Heller and Bob and Ray. All of them were gifted with an uncanny ear for American speech and the thought processes, if that’s the word, that lay beneath that speech. All of them treasured the absurdity of individual human beings.
Until Art van Harvey, the actor who played Vic with an accent that varied from Irish to, perhaps, Bulgarian as his mood dictated, began going down to a series of heart attacks, the show had only two characters, those of the title. When van Harvey had to check out, two other characters were introduced during his absences: Rush, the Gooks’ adopted son, and Uncle Fletcher. Toward the end, in the half-hour days, a number of other characters began to appear on mike. But for much of its run, Vic and Sade created an entire small Illinois town through the dialogue between two characters, without sound effects of any sort. The rest of the town grew to life in the continuing, pointless, plotless conversations between a man and his wife, a wife and her man.


Fred Allen once wrote of Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, the creators of Amos and Andy, “...for fifteen years they have been grinding out five shows a week, their voice changes and the fading in and out of the characters as they come and go are uncanny. Most people cannot appreciate the skill involved, which is to be expected. Most people, knee deep in the little messes they call their lives, cannot appreciate much of anything.” The same could be said of Vic and Sade, and, while we’re all knee deep all the time, I send these tapes confident that you’ll appreciate them.

(For more detailed information on this show, John Dunning’s On the Air is a good place to start. A number of blessed fanatics reside on the internet.)

Thank you for treasuring these artists as I do, my friend. I hope your holidays are swell.

Malcolm

  John Whorral 10-26-02
      Like all of us, looking back down the past, I feel like the Vic and Sade drama was in another galaxy. But, conversely, the scratchy radio days memories still intrude...and it all comes back. Really enjoyed reading some of the other reflections of fellow fans. I was born, and grew up in Bloomington, Illinois, the admitted setting for the fictional Gook episodes. Paul Rhymer, the brilliant creator of the show was also born in Bloomington, attending the local high school as I did. During the 'forties when I was as student there, he was very much a local celebrity...although, by this time, he'd made it big with the Chicago radio groups. In some of his scripts he did actually name some local folks. One of our teachers, Lorah Monroe, showed up by name several times.
Most of my pleasant memories were picked up on days home, allegedly sick and absent from school. Mom never missed the broadcasts, along with "Ma Perkins", "Stella Dallas", "Just Plain Bill", and a number of other shows that made the Depression sort of less depressing by being depressing.
Eons later, out here in Los Angeles, I've had the occasion to meet the also-brilliant Ray Bradbury, a fellow transplanted Illinoisan and ardent V and S fan. He claims affiliation with a group out here which I know nothing about dubbed the "Vic and Sadists". Wonderful man.
Thanks for the memories.
  Paul O. Longenecker 5-18-02
 

 I first discovered Vic and Sade when my sister was sick in bed, and had a small radio to listen to. Rush and Vic were looking through old songs, and found one that was titled “Father, oh Father, Stop Beating Me Now”. I thought it a strange show, but was intrigued. In short order, I was hooked.

 I used to rush home from school so that I could hear them at 3:15 in the afternoon, but on holidays, I could also hear them at 11:30 AM. What a luxury! My friends usually made fun of me for listening, but a lot of them eventually got hooked too.

 Over the years, my cousin and my sister still use various phrases that they used, and we never write letters without signing some “Greek junk”…(Latin, junk!) And we still speak fondly of Richigan Fishigan from Shishigan Michigan, and Hyena Grease. We feel that we belong to a secret club, and I’m so glad to find that there are other members, still alive and kicking. How could there not be?

 Sincerely,

Paul
Sic probiscus, valdictorian, sinus trublus ad nauseum hoc!

 

 

 PETTY LARSENY  #690Issue: June 24, 2001


Vic and Sade Still Supply Laughter
by Carl Larson 


There's more truth than irony to the old saying, "Dying is easy; comedy is hard." Getting people to laugh at this silly old world is a real gift, and to do it day after day for 14 years, as Paul Rhymer did, would take a touch of genius.
Nearly forgotten today, Paul Rhymer's wildly funny radio show "Vic and Sade" had millions of Americans tuning in every weekday from 1932 through 1946. Rhymer wrote every word of every show, and this coming Friday will mark the anniversary of its debut. I never caught any of the original broadcasts, but nearly 200 episodes were saved by dedicated collectors and are available on audiotape and CD. Putting it simply, it's the funniest thing I've ever heard.
Nestled among the daytime radio soap operas like "Ma Perkins" and "Just Plain Bill," "Vic and Sade" was often called "an island of delight in the sea of tears." It was a 15-minute peek into the daily lives of Mr. And Mrs. Victor Gook, their son Rush, and Sade's very slightly demented relative, Uncle Fletcher. They lived, as the announcer always reminded us, "in the little house halfway up in the next block," and they seemed about as routine and small-townish as any other denizens of a rural Illinois town back in the early 1930's. But in nearly every episode, Paul Rhymer was able to take his characters just one tiny step beyond what is considered normal, and their world became a grand stage, upon which was played the absolutely absurd. Their very ordinary friends and neighbors all had extraordinary names and interests, such as Dottie Brainfeeble, Blue-Tooth Johnson, Smelly Clark, and the mysterious Rishigan Fishigan who lived in Sishigan, Michigan. Interspersed with Uncle Fletcher's pointless ramblings, the Gooks reflected a slightly skewed vision of the real world around them in a low key and straight-faced manner more recently employed by Bob Newhart.
If you're also familiar with the comedic work of "Bob and Ray" or the fiction of Jean Shepherd, one encounter with "Vic and Sade" will explain where they got their inspiration for taken-for-granted nuttiness. 
John Dunning, author of "On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio," notes, "To produce such a show for a full season might have exhausted the imaginations of most writers: Rhymer did it for more than a decade, never going stale, his humor consistently at the highest levels of radio comedy." For a long time it was the most popular show on radio, eagerly listened to by other comics such as Fred Allen and Jim Jordan (better known as Fibber McGee), and a particular favorite of the Prez, FDR.
If you secretly suspect that anything produced prior to TV's "Saturday Night Live" is nothing but a collection of sadly outdated old cornball jokes, I suggest you give "Vic and Sade" one quick listen. The style, the humor, the subtlety, the timing - all as fresh and shiny as they were nearly 70 years ago, still brimming with razor sharp satire and totally absurd humor, and still bringing laughter to old-time radio fans throughout the world.

http://www.newsleader.com

Tom Lanphear 3-17-01

I started listening to Vic & Sade while I was still in school; that had to be in the late thirties and early forties as I graduated from High School in 1941 and a year and a half later was in the Army in WW2.

Of course the only chance I had to listen was during summer vacation. If I was outside I always made sure I came into the house to listen to their 15 minute slot. If my memory is correct I believe they came on at 3:00 but could be wrong.

As far as I know I was the only person of my age that made it a point to listen to this outstanding program. When the old time radio shows were coming out on tape I collected as many as I could find. I believe I have about nine or ten hours at this time.

My all time favorite is "Broken Alarm Clock" followed closely by "Letter to Walter."
Barry Walters 3-19-01
First, let me say that all of my Vic and Sade memories are of a more recent vintage since I became acquainted with them through listening to WAMU's old-time-radio programming in Washington, DC. about ten years ago. I was hooked after the first show I heard because I identified with the good natured teasing and banter that Rush endured from his elders.

Having no direct memories of the program (I was born in 1945) I would still like to make a few observations:

1. Isn't it strange that a radio show produced in the heyday of the medium's popularity, hardly, if ever, mentions that magic box that sat in the parlor of almost every home in the country? They apparently didn't own a radio and depended on the newspaper for their link to the outside world.

2. World War II is hardly, if ever, mentioned outside of "The Scrap Drive" and several veiled references to "the European situation" and bond drives. Was it mandatory, or just patriotic, for radio shows to center on the bond drives? I noticed similar shows with Fibber McGee, Lum and Abner, etc.

3. Would the show have survived longer if it had maintained its original format? I found Dotty Brainfeeble, Orville Wheenie, Dwight Twentysixler, et al, to be intrusive on my intimate relationship with the four main characters. Before them, I was a quiet observer, sitting on the davenport. Then, when they went before a live audience, they yanked me off the sofa and stuck me in a hard seat in the eighth row. The intimacy was gone. These are my least favorite shows.

4. To Tom Lanpher: If you haven't already, consider joining "The Friends of Vic and Sade". Barbara Schwarz is the founder of this organization, which has an extensive tape library that far exceeds that which is commercially available. Barbara sends out newsletters, scripts, and other interesting information on an infrequent basis. Check with her at:
Barbara Schwarz
7232 N. Keystone Ave.
Lincolnwood, IL 60712-2025


5. Finally. My favorite show was "Telephone Call From The Hinks", where Robert and Slobert and their families want to know the color of "Ruth's" eyes and how much she weighs . . . . stripped. Hilarious.
Lydia Crowe 2-24-02
Paul Rhymer on PocCreations I was first acquainted with the Gooks when my dad received, from my grandma, a collection of very bad quality cassettes she recorded from reel-to-reel tape. We could hear her pet birds chirping and her typewriter typing in the background as we strained to hear what the family was saying. I was little

and not that interested in it at first, but it pulled me in. Much later,

my brother burned two CDs of Vic and Sade for my dad for Christmas and for the first time I could hear them clearly, peering in on the lives of these four people, who were plain as apple pie yet so bizarre, so completely out there. And now I am obsessed.

I love Victor Gook's eloquence and charm and his somewhat childlike mannerisms when he's upset or excited. I like Rush's lack of concern with his chores or schoolwork and his ability to weave his words in such a way that Vic and Sade never get too angry at him. And I love it when Sade gets excited about money and persistently utters that strange little giggle. After listening to them for a while it's like you know them, personally - you know about their personalities and after the first few words Vic, Sade, Rush, or Fletcher get in, if they're upset about something, you can instantly tell. Its lack of a laugh track (until the last year, anyway) and its deadpan manner, not to mention its subtle, brilliant humor, is a calm and quiet relief from some of the other comedies of the time that employed an audience roaring with uproarious laughter at mediocre knee-slappers cracked by the outgoing (sometimes obnoxiously so) main character or host. I don't mind listening to other OTR programs, but Vic and Sade is on a whole different level.

A lot of the later programs are funny, but taking away the haunting, almost hymnal organ music and replacing it with a perky Amos n' Andyesque theme song, and also filling it with ads for soap and Crisco, reduced its deadpan charm a little. And some of the 1946 episodes, with a laugh track, I can't even stand to listen to. They're still funny, but an audience - a laugh track - it simply isn't compatible with the Vic and Sade feel. I always enjoy shows more if they haven't a laugh track - they're telling me when to think something is funny, and it's a distraction to my quiet observation, not to mention a little insult to my intelligence!

Most people these days wouldn't "get" it. It's too subtle for a lot of people to understand, and would be deemed too corny to listen to anyway - with most people I know, listening to any OTR is out of the question. I can only talk about Vic and Sade with a handful of people who are lucky enough to be able to listen in on the affairs of this little family. Incidentally, none of them are my age - it's hard to find other high school students who like what I like!

If I had to pick favorites, out of the 100-something episodes I've heard, I'd probably say "The Broken Alarm Clock," "Gumpox is Wearing Lodge Regalia," or "Essay On Birds." Additionally, any episode with just Sade and Rush in it. I love Victor Gook, but somehow with Sade and Rush alone (as in Bacon Sandwiches, Cleaning the Attic, Cleaning the Bookcase, or The Demise of Bernice) it's bound to turn out hilariously.

Finally, my favorite Victor Gook quote: "I don't believe I've ever heard of such a mad, frenzied orgy," his comment upon Sade's telling him all about Chuck and Dottie Brainfeeble's plans for a housewarming.

Brilliant!

   
  Thoughts on Vic and Sade

I was born in 1930 in Chicago and my first impressions of Vic and Sade were gotten during my bouts with various childhood diseases like measles, chicken pox and whooping cough, which caused the house to be quarantined by the Chicago Board of Health for 2-3 weeks. My mother would listen to the usual round of soap operas and since I was stuck in bed, I would listen too. One program seemed to stand out against this general stream of misery was this rather strange, hard-to-describe Vic and Sade. An interlude it was. Even to a bed-bound 10-year-old there was something especially arresting about the strange character, Uncle Fletcher, even though I was not sophisticated enough to catch the comic subtleties.

My mother used to laugh, sometimes uproariously, during V&S and then try to explain to me what was so funny. It was the only daytime program that she would bring up at suppertime. What she related made my dad laugh and even was funny to me, though I missed it during the broadcast. But Vic and Sade was a significant part of the aural wallpaper of my childhood created by radio. It went off the air coincident with my finishing eighth grade in 1944 and I do believe I was beginning to really get it during its last couple of years. My abiding interest in old time radio subsequently led me to collecting as many of the shows as I could, especially after my interest was reawakened when The Small House Halfway up in the Next Block was published in 1972 and I truly began to appreciate the artistry of the scripts.

I now have about 175 programs in my collection and listen to them often. It is clear that Paul Rhymer loved the characters he created and he made their often goofy experiences seem like real life. Even the surreal character of the names, or Vic’s lodge and marching preoccupations, or Uncle Fletcher’s memories of strange people from geographically mixed up places “who later died,” didn’t detract from the fundamental reality. One almost had the feeling that their lives went on independent of what came out of the radio. But I would especially like to add two observations:

Each episode was a self-contained 11-12 minutes of real time. There were no flashbacks or flash forwards, voices fading, scenes shifting from one place to another; no need to tune in tomorrow to allay our suspense. In short, Paul Rhymer set himself an incredible challenge by working this way. This is awfully hard to do. While the usual soap opera writers took months to resolve convoluted plots, Rhymer neatly wrapped up each episode with unerring logic and marvelous wit.

He created a real house with real space. That’s where it all took place. No one was better in creating the effect of Sade being upstairs while Uncle Fletcher was just outside calling to see if anyone was home. We got the feel of Vic coming home from work by the progression of his voice. One “heard” a whole range of house sounds without the need to produce them. In our minds, we heard the beef punckles cooking and the porch swing creaking, and the cards being dealt. There was an occasional door closing and one episode has a series of approaching thunder claps, but no sense of an intruding sound effects man. There was the feel of real people living in a house and not just a group of actors huddled around a microphone.

I’m sure that Rhymer wondered from time to time why he got himself into the format box he had chosen. He probably thought of many scenes he could have done from Yamiltons, the Bright Kentucky, the Consolidated Kitchenware Co., or at the Stembottoms. But he stuck with the format with brilliant results. We wanted to be in that small house halfway up in the next block, and nowhere else. The greatness of this format was amply demonstrated when they resurrected the program in a half-hour, studio audience production. Except for minor segments with the original cast, it didn’t work.

 

John Willard
Florence, WI

 

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