If you’re looking for a wholesome Old Time Radio for the whole family, Family Doctor could be just what the doctor ordered.
Over the years, many television series, books, and movies have taken a longing look at the past in programs such as Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons which served as a reminder of old fashioned values and a time when a sense of community was a reality. The quest for this sort of world continues in the 21st Century with the rise of Amish fiction stories.
Family Doctor is not taking a look back, but is set in the then-present which is widely believed to be 1932 when the shows were produced. Like the other syndicated 15 minute shows we examined the last two weeks, Family Doctor’s 39 episodes were syndicated to various radio stations and sold as a package. Unlike the other shows, Family Doctor had regular character and story archs.
The show follows the adventures of Grant Adams, the longtime physician of the small town of Cedarton. Cedarton is a three-dimensional town brimming with wonderful characters who Doc Adams tries to help and encourage including Pete who runs the drugstore and Griff, the workaholic boat renter who works too hard and always promises that he’ll find a younger man to do his hard work. Then there are two teenage girls who compete for the hear of a clerk at the drug store and then when he leaves, they fight for the next clerk hired.
The 39 episodes of Family Doctor range from the humorous to the exciting , the heartbreaking and the inspirational:
“Pete May, the Ambulance Driver”
With Dr. Adams’ car is in the shop so he asks Pete to drive him out on a house call)
“The Fire Alarm”
After talking about how nothing happens in Cedarton, Doc and the other volunteer firemen go to the scene of a fire where Doc risks his life to save a child.
The town drunk is injured saving the life of a little girl and Doctor Adams works feverishly to save him.
The 3-part series finale which requires Doc to make a difficult choice about his future and that of the town.
Doc Adams calls to mind generations of country doctors who were revered for their selfless giving of their lives for their patients. Yes, this doctor does make house calls. He dispensed more common sense, wisdom, and kindness than any other prescription in the series.
Cedarton feels like a real place with real flaws: the program portrays Cedarton having incidents surrounding gossip, foolish competitions, suspicion of strangers, and even uncivil politics. At the same time, Cedarton is also a community where people are watching out for others. When Chic, who works at the drug store wants to rent a boat for a date, Griff makes it clear that he doesn’t rent boats to unmarried young couples without parental consent. Family Doctor presents small town life at its best and its worse. The exact location of the fictional town is never disclosed, but based on clues from the show, it was probably in upstate New York or New England.
The show remains a little known treasure:. It captures a time and place in American history with well-written and well-performed stories. The actors remain anonymous, although some take guesses. David Goldin suggests Jane Morgan and John Gibson (“Ethelbert”) appeared in the show, and I think I heard Agnes Moorhead, but identifying voice without credits s is always iffy.
The program pre-dates the similarly themed Dr. Christian radio series by five years and stands up well after nearly eighty years despite the lack of a named cast.
Click here to download episodes of the Family Doctor from the Internet Archive.
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