“All good things must come to an end,” the old saying goes and in radio that was definitely true. Whether it was Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, the Bickersons, the Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, or Dragnet, they all bit the dust.
Well, almost all. One show that began during radio’s golden age continues to broadcast new dramas every week. You can subscribe to the podcast online.
Unshackled began broadcasting sixty years ago this year and has never stopped. I’d listened to Unshackled in the past, but hadn’t for a few years. When I pulled up one of the more recent episodes, I was reminded of how rare the show is. It was announced this was 3079th weekly edition of Unshackled.
The number is mind boggling. More than 3000 weeks on the air and headed for the big “60” in the next few months.
Unshackled is a Christian Drama sponsored by Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. It tells a true to life story each week, usually revolving around someone whose life was somehow touched by the ministry of Pacific Garden Mission, which focuses on outreach to the down and out, but it may also talk about people who were impacted by similar organizations around the country.
The show can a bit preachy, and yes, there’s plenty of Bible-quoting in the episodes. But the show has endured because of the true-to-life quality of the stories told.
One great example is the Bob Saler story arch. Mr. Saler’s life and times included being a Prisoner of War during the Korean War, getting bit by a Cobra, and having his professional life threatened with a spurious lawsuit. That’s some life.
And that’s what keeps Unshackled on the air. The show also still has a strong old time radio touch. The music is old school, with the same music playing now that the show has played for sixty years. You can even walk in and listen to a recording session, which occurs every Saturday Afternoon.
The show is the odd survivor of the Old Time Radio era. Having begun when radio drama was king and continuing on through the years, it can boast of being heard on 1,800 radio stations around the world in more than 140 countries, and in 8 languages.
What else can be said about radio’s longest lasting radio drama other than, “Happy 60th Anniversary!”