Three Forgotten Radio Christmas Traditions

Television has its Christmas traditions. A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas survive through the wonder of reruns and videos.

The Golden Age of Radio also had its Christmas traditions, some things that for years were part of what Christmas was in America. Thankfully, through the power of MP3, we can step back in time and rediscover some of the best:

1) Christmas in Pine Ridge

The recurring Lum and Abner Christmas special in the 1930s was somewhat of an odd show. There wasn’t any comedy to speak of. The plot centers around Lum, Abner, and Grandpappy Spears helping out a young couple that’s gotten stranded in Pine Ridge, where the mother is giving birth. The family is clearly met to parallel the Holy family travelling to Bethlehem.

The episode’s theme shows Pine Ridge at its best and in its fifteen minutes, it’s poignant, thoughtful, and even philisophical as Lum reflects as well on the old year ending and the New Year coming.

Lum and Abner Christmas Special-December 25, 1940

2) Lionel Barrymore as Ebeneezer Scrooge

While most people living in the 21st century have no idea who Lionel Barrymore is. Mention, “Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life” and people will have no problem remembering the distinctive voice of the wheelchair bound adversary of Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey.

One key contributor in Barrymore playing Potter was that Barrymore had a lot of experience in the role of miser.  From 1934-53, he played the Role of Ebenezer Scrooge for 18 of 20 Christmases. He relinquished the role once to his brother John in 1935 and in 1938, Orson Welles took the part. However, in 1939, while Welles was still the boss at the Campbell Playhouse, Barrymore was Scrooge once again. This time in an hour long adaptation that showed off the amazing talent that was Lionel Barrymore with Welles’ narration making the show a must-hear. Listen and you’ll find out why, for an entire generation, Barrymore was definitive Scrooge.

Listen to The Campbell Playhouse: A Christmas Carol: December 24, 1939

1) Bing Crosby singing Adeste Fideles

If you say, Bing Crosby and Christmas, the first song that will undoubtedly come to mind is, White Christmas. However, this was not the song most common to Crosby Christmas Special. It was Adeste Fideles, which is commonly known as Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Whether Bing Crosby was hosting the Kraft Music HallPhilco Radio Time, or the General Electric show, Adeste Fidelis would lead off. Crosby would first sing the song in Latin, and then everyone on stage and at home was invited to sing the song in English.

While less people understand the Latin version now than in Crosby’s day, the performance is quite powerful and was simply a great way to begin another great Crosby Christmas.

December 20, 1953 episode of the General Electric show.

EP0304: Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Stuttering Ghost

Tom Conway

A woman comes to Holmes with a “talking dog” for the purpose of robbing him of an old case file. Why?

Original Air Date: October 12, 1946

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EP0303: Let George Do It: Follow that Train

It’s Christmas and George gets a letter from a new client-a department store Santa Claus that wants him to solve the mystery of a missing electric train. But when Brooksie disappears, the case takes a more serious turn.

Original Air Date: December 19, 1949

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EP0302: Nero Wolfe: The Case of the Slaughtered Santas

Sidney Greenstreet

Nero Wolfe is hired to investigate the death of several sidewalk Santas by a Santa who fears he will be next.

Original Air Date: December 22, 1950

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EP0301: Thin Man: The Boogie Woogie Murder

Claudia Morgan

Nick and Nora are in a record shop when a woman is murdered.  Nick sets out to solve the case.

Original Air Date: February 9, 1945

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