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One Man's Family
"That's how it is with the Barbours today..."
On a July 25, 1949 broadcast of "One Man's Family," announcer Frank Barton took a moment to read one of the many letters received by the program:
"It seems to me that it has been a very valuable contribution to the American way of life. It is interesting, and has much human appeal, while it is wholesome morally. It seems to me too bad to have it supplanted by many of the trashier programs of the day. Any sponsor would be glad to be connected in the minds of the public with such a splendid show. It seems to me it is a program for which there is a very real need in these days where families are meeting so many new problems that threaten to undermine the family life of the country and demoralize the youth. I would be glad to endorse the show in any way that might be most helpful in having it continue."
The author of this letter, Miss Mary Gazelle-Hoffman, District Superintendent of Education in Lewiston, New York, would get her wish: threatened with cancellation after long-time sponsor Standard Brands abandoned the Peabody Award-winning serial in 1949, the National Broadcasting Company agreed to continue to sustain the program until June 1950, when Miles Laboratories, the makers of Alka Seltzer, agreed to pick up the tab -- though, as a result, the series was forced to revamp itself into a five-day-a-week quarter hour. "One Man's Family" would continue to entertain Miss Gazelle-Hoffman and nearly 15 million other listeners until May 8, 1959, when its nearly thirty year run on radio came to an end.
Thirty years on radio isn't too shabby, particularly when you take into account that "One Man's Family" had originally been scheduled for a quick cancellation by the powers that be at NBC. Initially inspired by author John Galsworthy's "The Forsythe Saga," it was created by radio's triple-threat genius writer-director-producer Carlton E. Morse and premiered locally over NBC's San Francisco affiliate KGO on April 26, 1932. Morse would later go on to create many of radio's memorable shows - in particular, the blood-and-thunder serial "I Love a Mystery" - but "One Man's Family" most assuredly stands out as his crowning achievement. It is the embodiment of the old adage that "less is more;" a simple, unsophisticated half-hour that eavesdropped each week on the lives of the Barbour family, a close-knit, well-to-do clan who resided in the tony Sea Cliff area of San Francisco.
The head of the Barbours was patriarch Henry, an individual who may very well be one of the most complex characters in the history of radio drama. A conservative stockbroker who ruled over his clan with an iron hand, he would gradually be transformed over the series' lengthy run into a crusty curmudgeon ("Yes, yes...") whom it cannot be said was merely stubborn; he was the yardstick by which mule-headedness was measured. He was completely and thoroughly adored by his family - wife Fanny (memorably described by OTR historian John Dunning as "Molly McGee without the humor") and children Paul, Hazel, Clifford, Claudia and Jack - despite that his obstinate ways could often drive each member of his brood to the point of exasperation. As daughter Hazel describes him in a broadcast included in this collection, "He never does anything in half-measures...if he loves, he loves wholeheartedly...if he indulges, he overindulges...and when he becomes the disciplinarian, he's the strictest martinet of them all."
While Miss Gazelle-Hoffman's letter congratulates "One Man's Family" for its "wholesome" quality, this author has always been intrigued by the not-too-subtle suggestion that the Barbour family were a bit on the dysfunctional side - a concept that's sure to resonate with modern-day listeners. An example of this is a subplot involving Father (or in this case, Grandfather) Barbour and grandchild Margaret (Hazel's daughter). Just as Hazel had always been his favorite, Henry has transferred this familial fondness to her offspring Margaret, who unfortunately knows it all too well. In a slip of the tongue, she proudly proclaims to her mother that she has Grandfather "in her pocket," unaware that Henry is eavesdropping on her conversation. Margaret's thoughtlessness creates a major rift in their relationship, one that is not easily repaired. Even if you think her comeuppance is just (and let's face it, she is a bit of a brat), the emotional distance that her grandfather puts between himself and his granddaughter is nothing less than chilling.
This author was a bit of a latecomer to the phenomenon that is "One Man's Family" - my previous exposure was listening to an earlier Radio Archives collection and the devastatingly funny Bob & Ray parody, "One Feller's Family" - but with each broadcast it's nigh impossible not to get hooked on the riveting storylines and three-dimensional characters created by the one-of-a-kind Carlton E. Morse himself. To dismiss it as just another "soap opera" does the series a tremendous disservice; as OTR historian Jim Cox asserts in "Say Goodnight, Gracie! The Last Years of Network Radio," "Unlike most serialized tales of the time, theirs celebrated the positive aspects of living, abhorring stock formulas and devices (like amnesia) so typical elsewhere." Cox goes on further to note that "their concerns were universal: love, adolescence and a ceaseless amazement over the succeeding generations they nurtured." Perhaps that is why each week, "One Man's Family" was announced as being "dedicated to the mothers and fathers of the younger generation...and to their bewildering offspring."
In this collection, Radio Archives is pleased to present six hours of sequential radio broadcasts from the pen of Carlton E. Morse; twelve original episodes originally broadcast between July 11 and September 26, 1949.
Book 71, Chapter 2: Two Lost Barbours Begin to Find Happiness
Monday, July 11, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 3: Roberta Evans Begins to Sense a Rival
Monday, July 18, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 4: Definite Progress in Family Relations
Monday, July 25, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 5: Father Barbour's Aching Bones
Monday, August 1, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 6: Father Barbour Predicts the Worst
Monday, August 8, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 7: The Return of Joan Roberts Lacey
Monday, August 15, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 8: A Very, Very, Tough Stepfather Indeed
Monday, August 22, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 9: Father Barbour's Rampage and What Came of It
Monday, August 29, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 10: Father Barbour and the Eavesdropping Episode
Monday, September 5, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 11: The Homemade Bread and Applesauce Peace Offering
Monday, September 12, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 12: The Return of the Second Assistant Cook
Monday, September 19, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining
Book 71, Chapter 13: End of a Summer Saga
Monday, September 26, 1949 - 30:00 - NBC, sustaining