Friday, November 30, 2012

Michael, the Headless Chicken

Lloyd Olsen displays his prize chicken.
This might make a few people squeamish so be prepared to exit stage door left... promptly. For all others, this will be very fascinating.

From April 1945 to March 1947, Michael the Headless Chicken, also known as "Miracle Mike," was a Wyandotte chicken that lived for 18 months after his head had been mostly cut off. Thought by many to be a hoax, the bird's owner took him to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to establish the facts of the story. It seems when a chicken's head is cut off, they will run about and act normal for a short period of time. (My mother and father had chickens when we were kids so we knew this as a science fact.) But in Michael's case, the chicken continued to live for two years!

On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita, Colorado, had his mother-in-law around for supper and was sent out to the yard by his wife to bring back a chicken. Olsen chose a five-and-a-half-month-old cockerel named Michael. The axe missed the jugular vein, leaving one ear and most of the brain stem intact. This would account for the "miracle" that followed.

Despite Olsen's botched handiwork, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk clumsily; he even attempted to preen and crow, although he could do neither. After the bird did not die, a surprised Mr. Olsen decided to continue to care permanently for Mike, feeding him a mixture of milk and water via an eyedropper; he was also fed small grains of corn.

Michael, the headless chicken
When used to his new and unusual center of mass, Mike could easily get himself to the highest perches without falling. His crowing, though, was less impressive and consisted of a gurgling sound made in his throat, leaving him unable to crow at dawn. Mike also spent his time preening and attempting to peck for food with his neck.

Mike became an instant celebrity and was studied by medical scientists, added to the Guiness Book of Records, became the subject of a documentary and featured in Life and Time magazines. Once his fame had been established, Mike began a career of touring sideshows in the company of such other creatures such as a two-headed calf. He was also photographed for dozens of magazines and papers.

Mike was on display to the public for an admission cost of twenty five cents. At the height of his popularity, the chicken earned $4,500 per month for farmer Olsen (that's $49,500 in 2012 dollars) and was valued at $10,000. Olsen's success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheading, but no other chicken lived for more than a day or two.
In March 1947, at a motel in Phoenix on a stopover while traveling back home from tour, Mike started choking in the middle of the night. As the Olsens had inadvertently left their feeding and cleaning syringes at the sideshow the day before, they were unable to save Mike. Lloyd Olsen claimed that he had sold the bird off, resulting in stories of Mike still touring the country as late as 1949. Other sources say that the chicken's severed trachea could not take in enough air properly to be able to breathe; and therefore choked to death in the motel.

Photo courtesy of Life magazine.
Science Fact
It was later determined that the axe had missed the carotid artery and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was severed, most of his brain stem and one ear were left on his body. Since basic functions (breathing, heart-rate, etc.) as well as most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem, Mike was able to remain quite healthy. This is a good example of central motor generators enabling basic homeostatic functions to be carried out in the absence of the cerebral cortex.

Mike the Headless Chicken is now an institution in Fruita, Colorado, with an annual "Mike the Headless Chicken Day," the third weekend of May, starting in 1999. Events held include the "5K Run Like a Headless Chicken Race," the ever-popular egg toss, "Pin the Head on the Chicken," the "Chicken Cluck-Off," and "Chicken Bingo" in which chicken droppings on a numbered grid choose the numbers. If you live in or near Colorado, this might be one event you want to check out next month.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hans Conried, Errol Flynn, Thomas Ince, Zacherly and The Cisco Kid

Not a month goes by that I don’t receive at least half a dozen packages from various folks encouraging me to review their recent publications. I don’t know why. I doubt my endorsement would increase book sales. I do, however, manage to find time to look at them all (a great way to pass the time when traveling by train or plane), but only a few impress me. With the new age of print-on-demand, anyone can be a publisher as well as an author. The result? The number of nostalgic pop culture books to be published have grown in the last decade, but the quality of the material is thinned out and in many cases… well, poor. I read one this week about a popular television series from the sixties that was so bad I had to express my disappointment to the publisher. The author simply watched every episode and typed a lengthy plot summary and a brief commentary. Nothing more. No history, no interviews with cast and crew. Really? That’s what a $50 book is worth these days? Yeah, I was disappointed. In most cases, published reference guides offer far more than what you find on the internet. Seriously, I can gain a lot more from an 800 page book than an eight page summary on Wikipedia. But in the case of this television tome, I could get more browsing the often-incorrect imdb web-site because they offer a cast list and the book did not even bother to go that far!

Rather than offer bad reviews (which I don’t want to do), I will devote this blog post to six books I found to be really, really good. And they have my highest recommendation. Looking for some books to read this holiday? Check these out!

Hans Conried, actor
HANS CONRIED: A Biography; With a Filmography and a Listing of Radio, Television, Stage and Voice Work
By Suzanne Gargiulo

Hans Conried was once described by the well-known Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper as “a high-strung, droll fellow, plagued by a multitude of talents.” Conried was indeed a talented and versatile actor, but his versatility made it difficult for him to find his niche as an actor. For Disney fans, his voice will forever be synonymous with Captain Cook. For Rocky and Bullwinkle fans, his numerous voices (including that of Snidely Whiplash) is unmistakable. For fans of old-time radio, his numerous appearances on The Mel Blanc Show, The Cavalcade of America, The Alan Young Show and Suspense are almost impossible to document fully. It was Conried, supposedly, who played with sound effects equipment and once made the sound of the guillotine prematurely on a 1943 broadcast. It was Conried who murdered Agnes Moorehead on “Sorry, Wrong Number” and delivered the punch line too soon in that same calendar year -- thus causing confusion with radio listeners along the East Coast. But this never hampered his radio career.

In 2002, Suzanne Gargiulo completed an exhaustive reference work about Hans Conried, putting to rest a number of questions us animation, old-time radio and television fans have been asking for years. Most importantly, was his last name spelled Conried or Conreid? It’s listed both ways in movie credits but Suzanne clarifies this with birth records. She visited UCLA, Boston University, the Lilly Library in Indiana University, Thousand Oaks Library in California, the Museum of Radio and Television in New York, the Maryland State Archives, Wichita State University and most importantly contacted the Conried family who offered insight, photographs and other valuable materials. Without the generous help of the late Mike Wallace, she would not have been able to rescue a copy of his 1959 interview with Hans Conried from the UCLA archives where the negatives were rapidly deteriorating.

From stage, radio, marriage, the Army years, motion-pictures, television, Jay Ward… it’s all here. With a foreword by Leonard Maltin, you can be assured Hans Conried: A Biography; With a Filmography and a Listing of Radio, Television, Stage and Voice Work is an essential “must” for anyone who wants to know more about the actor who played Dr. Terwilliker in the 1953 film, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. And because we don’t have more books like this one on supporting/character actors, Suzanne’s book should be used as a cookie-cutter format for books to come. The author has a web-site, by the way.

Errol Flynn, actor
ERROL FLYNN: The Quest for an Oscar
By James Turiello

Errol Flynn was certainly a character on screen and off. He was a free spirit who played by his own rules, much to the chagrin of the Hollywood producers. Warner Brothers used him to the best of their ability as a swashbuckler in Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, the latter of which he is best remembered today. James Turiello compiled a great book about Flynn’s personal life and professional career. While there have been books written about Flynn, this one is a notch above for one noticeable feature: over 200 photographs including candid images. With so many scholarly books published these days, loaded with details we couldn’t possibly remember moments after we close the cover, it’s nice to have a book that is easy on the eyes and worth taking along on an airplane flight to help pass the time.

All the basics are here: Flynn’s personal life before his Hollywood career, how he searched for an Academy Award, went to Cuba… you get the idea. Things I learned after reading this book? Flynn was the author of three books, two of which were novels, Beam Ends and Showdown, and the third was an autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. A postage stamp was made in Germany with the image of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood.

Having recently watched San Antonio (Warner Bros., 1945) with Alexis Smith and Errol Flynn, picking up this book was a treat. The movie wasn’t one of his greatest but the scene with Flynn marching the sheep down the center of town against ranchers and cattle herders was superb. If you love Flynn’s swashbuckling adventures, this is one book you’ll want to get.

Zacherly, the horror host
By Richard Scrivani (with Tom Weaver)

In 2004, John Zacherle and Richard Scrivani were in the “cool ghoul’s” Manhattan apartment, exploring and cleaning out the Legendary Zacherley Closet, looking for memorabilia that they could photograph and feature on the DVD documentary, The Zacherley Archives. They came across a large cardboard box packed with items such as newspaper clippings, photographs, press releases, fan letters, advertisements, scripts, handwritten notes and much more. This book is essentially a scrapbook of John Zacherle’s career as a late-night horror host of Shock Theater in the 1950s and early 1960s. Most have never been seen before in more than 50 years and I got a kick out of reading the handwritten complaint from a faithful television viewer who was disgusted at the letter he received from the station regarding the fan club. (You have to see it to believe it.) Lots of fun. If this is your cup of tea, grab this book and enjoy every page. I sure did.

Ed Hulse's Pulp Collecting Guide
By Ed Hulse

Buried treasures, secret formulas, hidden passages, trap doors, death rays, mad scientists, gangster chieftains, Oriental masterminds, hooded villains and intrepid heroes. These are the things that come to mind when someone mentions pulp fiction, whether magazines or paperback reprints or dime novels or hardcover anthologies or…. but pulps also include romance and Western yarns.

There had been other books printed about the subject but neither exactly what beginning collectors seem to need. Ed Hulse, having been in the hobby for many years and really knows his stuff (and is a great guy, by the way), decided to fill the void where no one went before.

Ed helps the readers gauge the desirability of certain pulps -- if not their actual value -- offering real indication of relative merit or significance attached to particular magazines and issues. Want an October 1929 issue of Black Mask which features the first of five installments of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon? Be prepared to pay more for that issue than most other issues of Black Mask. Want to know what is the most desired and most expensive pulp ever published? (I’ll give you a hint: it has the first appearance of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan character.)

One thing Ed did not do is create a systematic or comprehensive attempting at pricing. He made some estimates here and there (much like the facts I pointed out above regarding Tarzan and The Maltese Falcon), based on current trends, but his guide is not meant to be a price guide. And for beginning collectors out there take note: the pulp collecting community never embraced the concept of such a book, fearing that yearly updates would spark runaway inflation, as what happened in the comic book industry. Pricing pulps is, as Ed explained, “nearly impossible to ascertain in the first place.” What sells on eBay one week for $300 can sell for $25 the next. But Ed does explain (and prove) that assembling a small library of representative titles doesn’t require taking a second mortgage on the house.

Page after page, Ed explains how certain magazines contain varied interest and which ones are worth reading. He explains that the most popular romance pulp was the long-running Love Story Magazine, because of Peggy Gaddis. She was to love pulps what Max Brand was to Western magazines: a high-volume producer who maintained a consistent level of quality and a sizable fan following. You learn what makes Weird Tales and Argosy always in demand. If you want to collect issues of The Shadow, Ed explains where Walter Gibson peaked with brilliance and names a number of issues that serve as starting points and will not disappoint the reader if they buy and read them. Captain Future, Texas Rangers, The Spider, G-8 and his Battle Aces and many others are documented in the same fashion. So rather than buy an issue and hope it is a good one, Ed’s book serves in the same fashion as that of an expert standing next to you making recommendations, letting you know that the post-war era issues are not as enjoyable and which ones to keep an eye out for in case there is a hidden treasure at a bargain price among the stack.

Weird Tales, for example, offered original stories by Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and if you look for such examples as the November 1941 issue, you’ll find a short story adapted from one of Alonzo Deen Cole’s radio scripts of The Witch’s Tale. If the word “Spicy” was on the cover of the magazine, it meant more than exotic settings and romantic notions: it meant hard core romance with half-naked young women behaving in ways that wouldn’t be countenanced in the big cities or out on the ranch.

Every page is illustrated with two scanned covers of pulp magazines. Towards the end of the book, Ed lists other books and publications he recommends for further reading. Even if you do not plan to collect pulp magazines, this book is essential because it’s a wealth of material. You learn all about the magazines themselves and serves as a quick reference guide. Want to know when Doc Savage acquired Pat, his faithful sidekick? Want to know which Western pulps are scarce and sought after by experienced collectors? Want to know which two pulp magazines featured a Buck Rogers short story (before Buck Rogers became a comic strip)? Grab this book. It makes fascinating reading.

Thomas Ince, Hollywood Pioneer
By Brian Taves

When a book like this, published by the University Press of Kentucky, receives the “Book of the Month” treatment from Turner Classic Movies, I know it is going to be a winner without even opening the cover and reading the introduction. On a November week in 1924, Thomas Ince (a pioneer and legend of silent motion-pictures) died from what some believe was mysterious circumstances. A recent movie, The Cat’s Meow (2001), depicts a jealous Hearst believing Marian Davies was romantically involved with Charlie Chaplin. An enraged Hearst fired a pistol, mistaking the burly Ince for the slight comedian. Supposedly Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons was a witness and so gained her position with Hearst’s syndicate newspaper. The facts are otherwise and Brian addresses this issue in the very beginning of the book before venturing to the real centerfold: Thomas Ince’s career in the motion-picture business. And getting the so-called scandal that never was out of the way, the book turned out to be a very enjoyable read. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed the chapters but to do so would do an injustice to Brian who obviously did a lot of research and his work speaks for itself. If you love silent movies and you are going to only buy and read one book about the silent era this year, this is the one.

The Cisco Kid movies and television show.
By Francis M. Nevins & Gary D. Keller

I want to make full disclosure right now, up front and center: I co-wrote a book with Mike Nevins and while I value his friendship, the following book review is honest and sincere. No favoritism was applied here.

A very lavish 260 page coffee table book (large in size) has something you don’t see in most books: color photographs. It’s very expensive to have color in a book which might explain the expensive price tag. But ten minutes into this book and you’ll agree with me that it is an essential read for anyone who loves The Cisco Kid. Mike wrote a book titled The Films of The Cisco Kid in 1998 and it’s been out of print for a long time. Make no mistake, there is no comparison between the two and any purchase of the former is like buying the cheapest tires for your Ferrari 458.

The Cisco Kid: American Hero, Hispanic Roots builds upon Mike’s 1998 book. Retaining the original’s thorough, chronological study of The Cisco Kid in films and its in-depth analysis of the Cisco phenomenon, The Cisco Kid adds a Hispanic sensibility to the history of the character in the United States film. Despite the Cisco Kid’s initial creation outside the Hispanic world by writer O. Henry and filmmakers such as Webster Cullison, by 1929’s first Cisco sound film, In Old Arizona, the fictional character was endowed with a Latino persona that it has retained in Hispanic as well as mainstream American culture. Heck, a recent set of three comic books by Moonstone Press still verified the popularity of the character.

Chapter by chapter, the book covers all aspects from the O. Henry short story, Cisco in the silents, Warner Baxter as the first talkie Cisco, Cesar Romero, Duncan Renaldo, Gilbert Roland and even Jimmy Smits. Even the television series was extensively covered with an episode guide for each and every ZIV-TV episode shot on film. Personally, I never enjoyed the television series or the radio program of the same name. I have friends who enjoy The Cisco Kid, but I don’t share that enthusiasm. But some of the movies I found to be very enjoyable and it is the movies that this book centers on more than any other aspect of the character.   

Lobby cards, movie posters, glossy photographs, behind-the-scenes images, oil paintings, book covers and more add sugar to a book best described as meat and potatoes. Francis M. Nevins and Gary D. Keller cover The Cisco Kid so extensively that they leave very little for anyone else to explore regarding the subject. As it should be with good books like this.

All of these books are available from

Friday, November 16, 2012


In early 1943, Ernesta Barlow began making publicity tours across the country and giving weekly reports of her findings. The war plants and munitions factories she toured were promoted with an emphasis that women workers (skilled or unskilled), were needed. In May of 1944, Barlow was asked by the Office of War Information to go to England and talk to factory workers there about American women in war jobs and answer their questions. Things never worked out for her to tour Europe, but the program continued with tours of American factories and war plants. During the series’ final six months, Ernesta Barlow herself was clearly referred to as “Commando Mary,” possibly influenced by the propaganda programs originating from Axis radio meant to disrupt the morale of American servicemen.
Commando Mary aired throughout much of the Second World War for a total of 137 broadcasts. Very few books and encyclopedias even make reference to the program, so there is an apparent need to document the program, no matter how minor. The following broadcast log offers known (and confirmed) details of all 137 broadcasts. The episode guide listed below is a continuation of a prior posting, picking up where the first half left off. Click here to read the first half of this article.

Broadcast Schedule 
Sunday 11:45 a.m. to 12 noon from June 21, 1942 to September 6, 1942
Sunday 10:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. from October 4, 1942 to January 17, 1943
Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. from January 31, 1943 to February 21, 1943
Sunday 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. from February 28, 1943 to February 25, 1945

Unless otherwise specified, the broadcasts originated from the studios of WEAF in New York City, the flagship station for NBC (Red). Special thanks to Jim Widner and my wife Michelle for helping me with this article.
Episode #51  Broadcast July 4, 1943
Discussion about jobs at the National Pneumatic Company, at Rahway, New Jersey, which is now making Armor-piercing shells for the best protection our American soldiers can have effective ammunition. Also “Dogs for Defense” was explained.

Episode #52  Broadcast July 11, 1943
A discussion about the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), why the women go into the organization, and how they are doing a good part of the winning of it. Guest speakers include Mrs. Phyllis McGhee, wife of Lt. Col. James L. McGhee, (Mrs. McGhee is a Private First Class in the WAC), Mrs. Mable Lord, mother of a WAC, and Walter Hodgdon from Flushing, Long Island, brother of a WAC. The second half of the broadcast featured a discussion about the Russian War Relief.

Episode #53  Broadcast July 18, 1943
Discussion about the Civil Air Patrol, the opportunities of training offered to women, and the work they do in it. Also, women working at the Sunnyside yard of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Commando Mary interviews Dorothy Sells, from the Office of Defense Transportation in Washington, chief of Personnel Supply Section, Division of Transport Personnel.

Episode #54  Broadcast July 25, 1943
Discussion about the Simmons Company of the Beautyrest Mattress fame. Their beds are only made for the services now and the company is asking for other vital materials. Commando Mary interviews an employee of the company.

Episode #55  Broadcast August 1, 1943
Discussion about the work of the U.S.O. in Middle River, Maryland, where the Glen Martin plant has brought in thousands of workers where a solitary farmer lived before. The discussion also centers on how the U.S.O. is helping improve housing conditions, and assists the workers in solving their other new problems. U.S.O. training at Columbia University.

Episode #56  Broadcast August 8, 1943
Jane Tiffany Wagner, director of Women’s War Activities at NBC, fills in temporarily during Ernesta Barlow’s vacation (this broadcast only). Wagner gave a summary of the latest available war jobs for women, paid and voluntary.

Episode #57  Broadcast August 15, 1943
Commando Mary interviews Philip Jessup, Chief of the Division of Personnel and Training of the Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations (and Professor of International Law at Columbia University). They discuss “Women in Post-War Relief and Reconstruction Work Abroad.”

Episode #58  Broadcast August 22, 1943
A discussion about Gloucester, Mass. and the part women are playing in the American fish industry to keep it alive during the war period.

Episode #59  Broadcast August 29, 1943
details remain unknown

Episode #60  Broadcast September 5, 1943
Commando Mary provides an account of her visit to the Charleston Navy Yard at Boston describing the great role women are playing in the shipbuilding industry.

Episode #61  Broadcast September 12, 1943
Commando Mary interviews Mrs. H.M. Aitken, from Toronto, Canada, with the Consumer Branch of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, who just completed a trip across Canada. Aitken gave a fashion show to point out to the women that their old clothes could be made over and to save valuable materials for the war cause, must not purchase new clothes. This fashion show was called “The Remake Revue.” After the show, sewing centers were established and people were taught how to sew. Aitken discusses how important a role she has been playing and encourages the radio listeners to refrain from buying new clothes.

Episode #62  Broadcast September 19, 1943
Commando Mary interviews Miss Anne Sarachon Hooley, Assistant Director of the National Catholic Community Service, one of the six big agencies which constitute the U.S.O. Hooley told of how the U.S.O. helps those persons who move into war centers, or boom town -- and it is not just an organization for Servicemen. This broadcast also features a dramatization of this situation.

Episode #63  Broadcast September 26, 1943
No guest was featured for this broadcast. Commando Mary told the story of how the diamond has gone to war and the part women were playing in a great and growing industry was absolutely essential to the war effort. There was also a War Bond plea.

Episode #64  Broadcast October 3, 1943
A discussion about the Motor Transport Service of the AWVS (American Women’s Voluntary Services), telling of the many phases of this work, and the great aid these women were giving during the shortage of doctors and nurses.

Episode #65  Broadcast October 10, 1943
A review of volunteer groups where women could serve and were always needed.

Episode #66  Broadcast October 17, 1943
This broadcast gives a picture of life and work in one of our Army hospitals. Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island, New York, is featured as an example. The second half of the broadcast centered on Russian women in the war.

Episode #67  Broadcast October 24, 1943
Commando Mary interviewed Miss Therese Bonney, photographer, who took pictures of the war as seen thru the eyes of children. Her book was now on sale and was called Europe’s Children, 1939 to 1943.

Episode #68  Broadcast October 31, 1943
The first half of the broadcast featured a discussion centered on the work in a small War Plant. Lawrence Engineering and Research Corporation of Linden, New Jersey. The second half of the broadcast told of work being done for wives and children of men in the Army by the Army Emergency Relief, and its function throughout the nation.

Episode #69  Broadcast November 7, 1943
This broadcast originated from Canada. Speaking on the great contribution Canadian women have made to the war effort in the industrial field, in the services and at home after a visit with Canadian women in work and a tour of Canadian Industries where women were employed.

Episode #70  Broadcast November 14, 1943
This broadcast featured a discussion on gliders and women’s part in their production -- giving in detail the process of their manufacture.

Episode #71  Broadcast November 21, 1943
Commando Mary again talking on the women of Canada, their work in the war effort, in war plants and the service.

Episode #72  Broadcast November 28, 1943
This broadcast featured a talk on the Family Allowance or Allotment of Pay Checks in an attempt to straighten out a certain amount of confusion now existing. Guest speaker was Brigadier General H.N. Gilbert, who presently headed the Office of Dependency Benefits.

Episode #73  Broadcast December 5, 1943
A talk on the WACs at the Aberdeen Proving Ground where she had been visiting and how happy the girls were in their Army life. Told about the triptychs, an altar piece used in the Armed Forces which helped to transform an open field into a church. The triptychs were painted by artists at cost -- more were needed -- the cost of each was $100, which could be contributed together by groups of people.

Episode #74  Broadcast December 12, 1943
Talked on women in the war -- U.S., China, Russia and Great Britain. Guest speaker was Nile Ulanova (Mrs. Robert Magidoff) who toured America speaking for the Russian War Relief.

Episode #75  Broadcast December 19, 1943
Commando Mary described the Hercules Powder Co. plant in West Virginia, which made gunpowder, resin, turpentine, celluloid and other products. All of their employees were women.

Episode #76  Broadcast December 26, 1943
Discussion centered on the Conmar Products Corp. in Newark, New Jersey, specializing in making gauges. This factory formerly made dolls eyes, hair, etc. The guest speaker told of the conversion for the war cause. The program closed with Commando Mary asking for civilian workers to consider working in the Navy Department.

Episode #77  Broadcast January 2, 1944
A talk on the Jersey City Quartermaster’s Repair Depot which mends and repairs articles of clothing and other G.I. equipment. The second half of the broadcast centered on the Navy’s need for qualified clerical employees. Accommodations available for out-of-towners, qualifications necessary and salaries.

Episode #78  Broadcast January 9, 1944
Commando Mary talked on women’s work in aircraft manufacture; airplane engines; electrical communications; precision instruments; ammunition and powder.

Episode #79  Broadcast January 16, 1944
Commando Mary described her recent visit to Mitchell Field, headquarters of the First Fighter Command which is the key center to the Air Defense of the Eastern Seaboard.

Episode #80  Broadcast January 23, 1944
Commando Mary discussed museums and work being done by them for the Army and Navy and Airforces, and for our government and the part women were playing and could play in this picture.

Episode #81  Broadcast January 30, 1944
Commando Mary told the story of life-saving under the International Red Cross Convention rules for friend and foe alike.

Episode #82  Broadcast February 6, 1944
The guest speaker is Frau Elsa Bernadotte Cedegren, niece of King Gustav of Sweden, and Vice President of the World YMCA. Mrs. Cedegren was also one of the 25 women members of the Municipal Council of Stockholm. She told of visiting internee camps for women in Germany and reported on conditions. She reported, too, on the work done by women of Sweden who took 25,000 Finnish children into their homes.

Episode #83  Broadcast February 13, 1944
Guest speaker is Pin Pin T’an, who told of her work of teaching Chinese Naval Officers at Swarthmore College an intensive course in English language. This was the first very group to arrive in this country for specialized training. Miss T’an gave a picture of some of the difficult tasks the women in China have undertaken in their years of war. For the past four years, she has been giving language broadcasts to Europe and Latin America over the World Wide Broadcasting Corporation.

Episode #84  Broadcast February 20, 1944
A discussion about the lighter-than-aircraft school and station at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Commando Mary told of the works of the WAVES and SPARS.

Episode #85  Broadcast February 27, 1944
Today is International Day and the tenth anniversary of its observance as celebrated by the International Federation of Business & Professional Women. Guest speaker was Miss Essy Key-Rasmussen, who for 16 years was one of the women executives in the League of Nations. She spoke on the International aspects of “Women’s Role in Postwar Rehabilitation.” Also a guest speaker on this program, Bess B. Loodworth, Vice Chairman of the Women’s Advisory Committee of WMC, spoke about women’s role in Postwar Rehabilitation.

Episode #86  Broadcast March 5, 1944
A discussion on the production of flying and navigation instruments, including the miracle timing device used in anti-aircraft shells, produced at the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Conn.

Episode #87  Broadcast March 12, 1944
Commando Mary talks about Fort Dix, an army camp near Trenton, New Jersey. Guest speaker is Mrs. Charles Gilbert, an active worker of the American Legion Auxiliary.

Episode #88  Broadcast March 19, 1944
This broadcast tells of the conversion story. Conversion from peacetime to war work, from rubber to its substitute buna-S.

Episode #89  Broadcast March 26, 1944
During this broadcast, it is mentioned that tomorrow is the third anniversary of the day which Yugoslav people rose in revolt against their government, which sold them out to Hitler. Guest speaker is Company Commander Irene Grodshi who talked about the Polish WACs. She told of her deportation to Russia and her experiences until the organization of WACs, of being separated from her husband and of knowing nothing of the present whereabouts.

Episode #90  Broadcast April 2, 1944
Commando Mary discussed vital work done in the Climatic Research Laboratory of the Army Quartermaster Corps at Lawrence, Mass.

Episode #91  Broadcast April 9, 1944
Commando Mary described her tour of the Arma Corp. in Brooklyn, which is turning out instruments for the Navy.

Episode #92  Broadcast April 16, 1944
Commando Mary discussed the women of our sister Republics in Latin America and what they were doing to help the cause of the United Nations in the war.

Episode #93  Broadcast April 23, 1944
A discussion on the tin can. This follows Barlow’s visit to the American Can Co. factory in Jersey City and the many ways tin is being used in the war effort.

Episode #94  Broadcast April 30, 1944
The guest speaker is Helen Hiett, correspondent and author of No Matter What (1944). She talked on the underground movement of France, how it started, what the women of France were doing to help restore the French way of life when peace comes, and acts of courage displayed by French women.

Episode #95  Broadcast May 7, 1944
Content: Commando Mary described the Naval Air Station at Floyd Bennett Field and what it was like to work and live at a big Navy air station.

Episode #96  Broadcast May 14, 1944
Content: Commando Mary described the work being carried on at Bethlehem Steel Shipyards and women’s role in it -- especially the building of LST boats.

Episode #97  Broadcast May 21, 1944
Content: This broadcast centered on rubber and how women are helping in one of the major industries of the war, Commando Mary discussed her visit to plants of the U.S. Rubber Company where women are the majority of the employees. The various uses to which synthetic rubber is put to use is also explained, so radio listeners understand the importance of rubber production.

Episode #98  Broadcast May 28, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked about Municipal Hospitals and the splendid work done in these institutions by women. As an outstanding example, she talked on the Harlem Hospital of New York City.

Episode #99  Broadcast June 4, 1944
Content: Commando Mary discussed the plastics industry in America and for an example, talked about her recent tour of a plastics plant, the Panelyte Division of the St. Regis Paper Company.

Episode #100  Broadcast June 11, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked on the need of 800,000 women in the Woman’s Land Army. Extra hands were needed to harvest crops. She also described the school at Farmingdale, Long Island, where instruction is given to women who would work for two months or longer on a farm.

Episode #101  Broadcast June 18, 1944
Content: Commando Mary interviewed Rev. Leslie Edward Cooke, who came from his Congressional church and parish in Coventry, England, to visit some of our Congregational churches here. She talked about the women of England in the service and working in the war effort.

Episode #102  Broadcast June 25, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked on the Seabrook Farms, near Bridgeton, New Jersey, the largest truck farm in the country with 15,000 acres of vegetables. She told of the processing of vegetables for future use, and on women enlisting in the Armed Forces.

Episode #103  Broadcast July 2, 1944
Content: Commando Mary described her visit to the Fleet Post Office in New York. She described the WAVES which operated 24 hours a day. Every two hours a messenger came in bringing the changes in address of our Navy men.

Episode #104  Broadcast July 9, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked about her visit to the Chester Tank Depot in Chester, Pennsylvania. This was the largest shipping installation of Army motor vehicles, tanks and battle wagons in the country where many women are employed.

Episode #105  Broadcast July 16, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Caroline Haslett of London, an electrical engineer. Since the war broke out, she has been the adviser to Ministry of Labor on women training. She told of her work of recruiting and registration of women and of the best methods of securing their services. Miss Haslett came to the U.S. to address the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women and our own National Federation in New York City.

Episode #106  Broadcast July 23, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Mrs. Frederick Basham of New Zealand, known to women of her native land as “Aunt Dalay” on the radio. Mrs. Basham was in the U.S. to observe the war work carried on by American women. She talked on New Zealand and the part women in that country play in the war effort.
Episode #107  Broadcast July 30, 1944
Content: Commando Mary described war production in the great mills of the Bethlehem Steel Company, where the largest naval guns and shells are made and the heaviest armor plate is forged. The vitally important posts held by American women in this plant are described.

Episode #108  Broadcast August 6, 1944
Content: Helen Hiett makes her second appearance on the program, this time as a substitute for Ernesta Barlow, who was on vacation. Hiett talked about the Volunteer Land Corps in Goshen, New York, and how these teenage volunteer girls came to this farm and harvested the crops -- comparing all this to the labor camp in Germany in which Miss Hiett was once confined.

Episode #109  Broadcast August 13, 1944
Content: Helen Hiett continues to substitute for Ernesta Barlow. Hiett discussed the plight of German women in Germany, the women of England, France and Russia, and the contributions they were making to the war effort.

Episode #110  Broadcast August 20, 1944
Content: Ernesta Barlow, known to radio listeners as “Commando Mary,” returns. Commando Mary interviewed Mrs. Doris Corwith, assistant to the NBC Public Service Counselor. They discussed the American Legion’s Auxiliary Girls State project.

Episode #111  Broadcast August 27, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Mrs. Robert P. Patterson, wife of Under Secretary of War, who discussed the need for workers in essential industries.

Episode #112  Broadcast September 3, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked on the making of precision instruments, controls and compasses for ships and planes. As an outstanding example of a company which manufactures these instruments, she told of her visit to the Sperry Corporation in downtown Brooklyn, where many women are employed.
Episode #113  Broadcast September 10, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked to those who actually seek a war job. The War Manpower Commission in Washington sent Ernesta Barlow a prepared list of musts in war production, the number of workers needed, the areas where the work is located and the reasons why output of specified types of material must be stepped up.

Episode #114  Broadcast September 17, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked on nylons. What nylon is, its importance in the war, and how women figure in its manufacture.

Episode #115  Broadcast September 24, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Freida Miller, head of the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, who discussed the women of America who are participating in war work.

Episode #116  Broadcast October 1, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Mrs. Olivia Hemingway Kemerer, who has been overseas as Director of Red Cross Clubs in Europe, and was now home for a little rest. She told of her experiences on all battle fronts where she established clubs for recreation purposes for the fighting men.

Episode #117  Broadcast October 8, 1944
Content: Commando Mary talked about her recent tour of Triumph Explosives, Inc., and ammunition factory at Elkton, Maryland.

Episode #118  Broadcast October 15, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Margaret Hickey, President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, who was also on the Women’s Advisory Committee of the War Manpower Commission. Hickey discussed future possibilities for women in all types of business and professions.

Episode #119  Broadcast October 22, 1944
Content: Commando Mary reported on her recent visit to the RCA Communication’s central terminal office, the nerve center of the world’s largest radio communications system, which has helped to make the United States the communications center of the world.

Episode #120  Broadcast October 29, 1944
Content: A continuation of last week’s report on wartime activities at the RCA Communication terminal. Commando Mary also discussed the work of women at RCAC, the world’s largest commercial radio telegraph control center.

Episode #121  Broadcast November 5, 1944
Content: Commando Mary reported on her visit to the “S.S. Refuge,” a hospital ship used to bring wounded American servicemen and wounded German prisoners to this country. During the second half of the broadcast, she also discussed employment opportunities for discharged war veterans.

Episode #122  Broadcast November 12, 1944
Content: Commando Mary discussed the value of stabrine in the control of malaria and how it has helped the United Nations in waging the war in the South Pacific.

Episode #123  Broadcast November 19, 1944
Content: Commando Mary told of the men and women who work at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, in Akron, Ohio, making heavy tires and tractor treads for the Armed Services that keep our supplies moving up to the front lines.

Episode #124  Broadcast November 26, 1944
Content: This episode was broadcast from Chicago. Guest speaker was Marine Sgt. John Montgomery. This was the only episode of the series broadcast without a script (except the announcer sheets). This broadcast was cleverly designed as publicity to assist with the 6th War Loan Drive. Commando Mary discussed the work of the Seabees and described the largest exhibition ever put on by the U.S. Navy, which Commando Mary witnessed on Lake Michigan, when dramatic landings and rescues were staged with amphibious boats, manned by returned servicemen.

Episode #125  Broadcast December 3, 1944
Content: Commando Mary reported on war work for women that involved the production of millions of heavy paper bags that were required to ship food, chemicals, seeds, fertilizers and construction materials to our armed forces and to the civilian populations of allied nations and occupied countries. This broadcast also centered on Commando Mary’s recent visit to the St. Regis Paper Company plant at Oswego, New York.

Episode #126  Broadcast December 10, 1944
Content: Guest speaker was Mrs. Frances P. Bolton, Republican Congressman from Ohio, founder of the Bolton Bill that sponsored the Cadet Nurse Corps. She was one of the first women to go into Paris after the invasion, and saw our nurses at work in the front lines and knew what they accomplished and knew their needs. During the second half of the program, Tech. Sgt. Thomas Logadon of Rushville, Illinois, Rifle Platoon Sgt. in the Infantry, told of his experiences and then made a war bond plea.

Episode #127  Broadcast December 17, 1944
Content: Commando Mary told about the making of glass at the Corning Glass Works of Corning, Stuben County, New York.

Episode #128  Broadcast December 24, 1944
Content: Commando Mary reported on the important role cotton played in the winning of the war. On an inspection tour of cotton mills in Georgia and South Carolina, she learned that women comprise fifty percent of the personnel.

Episode #129  Broadcast December 31, 1944
Content: Continuation of last week’s story of Cotton, Rayon and Nylon at war and showed how dependent heavy artillery and the Air Force was upon the textile industry.

Episode #130  Broadcast January 7, 1945
Content: Commando Mary reported on her recent tour of the Army’s Research Department at the Picatinny Arsenal, Dover, New Jersey.

Episode #131  Broadcast January 14, 1945
Content: Guests includes good-will minded students from the Paul Hoffman Junior High School, Bronx, New York. Leonore Arnold, Philip Jerome, Joan Everling and Caroline La Rosa. They have been writing to English children about “Things American,” the lives of our great heroes, the character of our cities and the activities of the average American school boy and girl. They told the radio listeners about the letters they have received from their English correspondents.

Episode #132  Broadcast January 21, 1945
Content: This is the only broadcast of the series with a title: “A Whole Town At War.” Commando Mary reported on her visit to York, Pennsylvania, which had 48,000 out of 90,000 in key war industries, 40 percent of whom were women. Ernesta Barlow’s visit was arranged by the War Manpower Commission.

Episode #133  Broadcast January 28, 1945
Content: Mrs. Eleanor Stevenson, Red Cross Mobile Canteen worker, who had just returned from Italy where she and members of her unit were under the fire in the Battle of Salerno. As a guest speaker, she discussed her experiences and spoke of what those on the home front could do for the soldiers overseas.

Episode #134  Broadcast February 4, 1945
Content: Commando Mary told the story of ball bearings and their vital importance in war production.

Episode #135  Broadcast February 11, 1945
Content: Commando Mary reported on the activities of women soldiers in greasepaint who travel the war circuits for the U.S.O. Guest speaker was Peggy Alexander, a show girl who spent two and a half years in U.S.O. camp shows playing isolated gun emplacement spots, highly strategic unknown areas and remote posts.

Episode #136  Broadcast February 18, 1945
Content: A resume of the most urgent of the war jobs for women which Commando Mary investigated in more than two years of war plant visits, gathering data for her programs. She especially lauded the WACS, WAVES, SPARS, Marines and the Nursing Corps.

Episode #137  Broadcast February 25, 1945
Content: Final broadcast of the program. Commando Mary gave conclusive proof that men and women were needed in out immense war industry. She quoted from Secretary Stimson’s radio address of February 19; and a statement by the Undersecretary of War, Robert Patterson, made earlier in the month; before the Senate Military Affairs Comm.; in an effort to prove that as citizens in a free republic we now need a National War Service Act.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Japan had Tokyo Rose for their propaganda broadcasts. Nazi Germany had Mildred Gillars. Facist Italy had Rita Zucca. The United States had Commando Mary. And who is Commando Mary? Commando Mary was a novel radio program, a by-product of World War II, presented by Ernesta Barlow and featured prominent guest speakers.

This series was an outgrowth of the five-minute program, You and the War! Initially the series focused on discussions of outstanding summer courses teaching (in the form of a sales pitch) skilled wartime occupations for women as well as the salaried and voluntary war jobs available to America’s 45,000,000 women in factories, farms, homes, laboratories and offices. Months before the War Manpower Commission was created, this radio program launched a weekly campaign aimed at women to become more assertive and join the war effort. Used the fact-in-fiction method of dramatized presentations in the hope of clarifying in the public mind many misconceptions about the work done by women of the service.

The object of the program was to give accurately the principal opportunities of the moment for war work for women volunteer jobs as well as paid for all ages, citizens and non-citizens. Understanding that most women were not skilled mechanics or battlefield soldiers, the series dismissed most munitions options, promoting the importance of labor and war production. A strong emphasis on trade skills from sewing to mail delivery could help affect the war. The broadcast of December 20, 1942, for example, centered on news about what the blind were doing their part in war industries, and in civil life to fill in behind the men who have gone to war. For the broadcast of August 23, 1942, Ernesta Barlow gave a long list of jobs available to women over the age of 50.

Ernesta Barlow
The recruitment of nurses was emphasized perhaps more than any other fashion -- which fluctuated as the special appeals changed during the war. The U.S. Army lacked nurses in December of 1941, requesting the American Red Cross to employ local volunteer committees in every state to recruit thousands of women for the necessity. Two years later, the War Department felt there was sufficient numbers and asked that such recruitment methods come to a halt. Commando Mary honored the request and ceased promoting the necessity of nurses in October 1943.

At times the program appeared to be a forum for opinions but everything was scripted in advance, including the interviews, and approved ahead of time by the Office of War Information’s Radio Bureau. The department ensured that nothing was mentioned regarding the dangers to American soldiers, hoping to emphasize that the people’s war would end a little sooner with the cooperation of every American -- no matter what her sex or skills were.

Since a few months after Pearl Harbor, Commando Mary (a.k.a. Ernesta Barlow) visited scores of American factories, gleaning material for the Sunday woman’s radio program in which she told women about the kinds of war jobs open to them and the work that other women were doing. During the earliest of broadcasts, when a guest speaker was not available for the weekly program, Ernesta Barlow herself became “Commando Mary,” discussing the topic of the day. When a male guest was featured, the audience was told that “you too can become a Commando Mary.”

Caption that accompanied the photo.
In early 1943, Barlow began making publicity tours across the country and giving weekly reports of her findings. The war plants and munitions factories she toured were promoted with an emphasis that women workers (skilled or unskilled), were needed. In May of 1944, Barlow was asked by the Office of War Information to go to England and talk to factory workers there about American women in war jobs and answer their questions. Things never worked out for her to tour Europe, but the program continued with tours of American factories and war plants. During the series’ final six months, Ernesta Barlow herself was clearly referred to as “Commando Mary,” possibly influenced by the propaganda programs originating from Axis radio meant to disrupt the morale of American servicemen.

Ernesta Barlow was the former Ernesta Drinker and a descendant of a famous Quaker family. One of her ancestors was Elizabeth Drinker, whose book, Elizabeth Drinker’s Diary, is a literary and historical classic of the American Revolutionary period. Barlow was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of Henry S. Drinker, president of Lehigh University, grew up a tomboy, refused to go to boarding school and dragged out her debut for three years because she was having such fun. Then she married William Bullitt (at that time World War I correspondent for the Philadelphia Ledger and later American ambassador to Russia and France). She spent her honeymoon at the Paris peace conference.

Five years later she and Bullitt were divorced. She married Samuel Barlow, musician and composer, and made interior decorating her job. “Then came Pearl Harbor and I asked myself what I was going to do next,” she recalled. “So I thought up this radio program and here I am.” But it wasn’t as simple as that. Mrs. Barlow made an outline and a platter of her program and took them to some friends in radio and asked their opinion. After listening to her cosmopolitan accents, they dashed cold water all over any idea that she might be a radio commentator.

“You’ll never do,” said the first. “You have too much elegance. The public would never stand for you.”

“No,” said the second gloomily. “You wouldn’t have any higher rating than Toscanini.”

“Boys, that would be good enough for me,” said Ernesta Barlow earnestly.

But the friends had already turned away. So Barlow tucked her platter under her arm and marched up to the National Broadcasting Company with it. A week later it was accepted and soon Commando Mary was on the air.  “It scared the daylights out of me at first,” she said.
Barlow worked like a stevedore, visiting war planes in various states, talking to the women workers and pouring the story out over the airwaves. Barlow believed in drafting women for service in industry if needed. So she tackled another job as citizen Ernesta Barlow and not as radio commentator "Commando Mary." She eventually headed the women’s division of a citizen’s committee to pass a national war service act and outlined a campaign which she hoped would draw men to its support. 

Commando Mary aired throughout much of the Second World War for a total of 137 broadcasts. Very few books and encyclopedias even make reference to the program, so there is an apparent need to document the program, no matter how minor. The following broadcast log offers known (and confirmed) details of all 137 broadcasts. Unreliable sources, including newspapers, were avoided for obvious reasons. One example is the broadcast of August 16, 1942, which told of the need for Army and Navy nurses, and for women to take a home nursing course. Dr. Erwin Linebach had just returned from England where he served in the American Hospital, and told the radio audience just what sort of work women would be up against in taking care of Army and civilian casualties.

According to a number of newspapers across the country, Dr. Phillip Duncan Wilson, head of the New York Hospital for Special Surgery, commonly known as the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled, was scheduled for the interview with Ernesta Barlow. Dr. Duncan, who founded the American hospital in Britain which the American Army took over last July 15, was unable to attend so Dr. Erwin Linebach took his place. This change has been confirmed through a number of NBC inter-office memos and Barlow’s personal notes. So for the few that insist newspapers (which listed what was planned and scheduled to be broadcast), be assured that all of the information contained in this broadcast log is accurate.

Other sources:  
-- Helen Hiett Waller Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
-- The Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
-- Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, College Park, Maryland
-- The 4th Revised Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming, by Jay Hickerson

Broadcast Schedule 
Sunday 11:45 a.m. to 12 noon from June 21, 1942 to September 6, 1942
Sunday 10:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. from October 4, 1942 to January 17, 1943
Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. from January 31, 1943 to February 21, 1943
Sunday 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. from February 28, 1943 to February 25, 1945

Unless otherwise specified, the broadcasts originated from the studios of WEAF in New York City, the flagship station for NBC (Red). Special thanks to Jim Widner, Ken Stockinger and my wife Michelle for helping me with this article.

Episode #1  Broadcast June 21, 1942
Mary Anderson (speaking from Washington from 11:50 to 11:56) is the Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and an authority on war work for women. She talked about what American women are doing and accomplishing on the production line. She gave information about the requirements for war jobs and pre-employment training courses.

Episode #2  Broadcast June 28, 1942
Maria Unosha, a young Polish woman who escaped from Poland after the fall of Warsaw, told how Polish women fought through the siege of Warsaw. She is of a distinguished Polish family, but her account told of the valiant stand of Warsaw’s women and how the peasant and aristocrat shared equally in that staunch and heroic resistance to Nazi invasion.

Episode #3  Broadcast July 5, 1942
Laura MacCullaugh, an American citizen, was in Yugoslavia at the time of the German Invasion and remained there eight months after the invasion. MacCullaugh provided a first hand account of the women of Yugoslavia have gone into the hills of the Guerillas and fight with them -- and how those women and children left in the villages were often used as hostages.

Episode #4  Broadcast July 12, 1942
The first part of this program was devoted to emphasizing what kind of voluntary war work was available for women age 18 and younger, and to the work being done by the YMCA, Girl Reserves and Girl Scouts. Kitty Bowen, a sophomore in Radcliffe, has been working in a war factory during her summer vacation. Bowen made overshoes for the Army in a Springfield, Mass. Factory. She discussed the college girls’ viewpoint on war work. The program closed with a discussion of industrial jobs for women and of the Women’s Auxiliary Reserve of the Naval Reserve.

Episode #5  Broadcast July 19, 1942
An extension of last week’s broadcast, with another discussion on volunteer jobs for girls under the age of 18.

Episode #6  Broadcast July 26, 1942
This episode lists volunteer jobs for women and paid jobs for the War effort. Lillian Martens, who works in a defense plant on the Eastern seaboard, is the guest speaker.

Episode #7  Broadcast August 2, 1942
Gene Sawyer, who has just returned from Honolulu, Hawaii, is guest speaker. She had been on the air for five years with her own program, Around the Town. All the girls and women of Hawaii are doing war work. Motor Corps, Engineering Corps, Red Cross, and USO morale work. Many are employed in making gas masks and “bunny masks” for children. Also provided is information regarding volunteer work in relief agencies and paid jobs for nurses in the Army and Navy.

Episode #8  Broadcast August 9, 1942
The guest speaker is Colonel Davis Graves, Regional Commander of the First Fighter Command on voluntary and paid jobs for women in aircraft warning service. “Hundreds of women are needed,” Graves explains. Then, Commando Mary discussed at length the WAVES -- how to join, what is needed and why.

Episode #9  Broadcast August 16, 1942
This broadcast told of the need for Army and Navy nurses, and for women to take a home nursing course. Dr. Erwin Linebach has just returned from England where he served in the American Hospital, and told just what sort of work our women would be up against in taking care of Army and civilian casualties.

Episode #10  Broadcast August 23, 1942
Miss Betty Finan, a real-life stewardess, had been scheduled to speak on the work of cargo ship stewardesses, on April 16, was unable to attend and was rescheduled for August 23. She told of the life of the stewardess ships, and how they must know nursing and medicine. Commando Mary gave a long list of jobs available to women over the age of 50.

Episode #11  Broadcast August 30, 1942
The SPCA calls for aids to be ready to go out as Animals Aids during air-raids. There was no guest for this particular broadcast, because of the time devoted to providing information about the WAVES.

Episode #12  Broadcast September 6, 1942
This broadcast told of the need of the Office of Civilian Defense (OCD) for Health Assistants, and told of the work women could do in the factories in California. Like last week’s broadcast, there was no guest speaker for this episode.

Episode #13  Broadcast October 4, 1942
Mrs. Staffold, a married woman now working in a gun factory, is the guest. She told about her work and how important women were in the factory.

Episode #14  Broadcast October 11, 1942
Margaret Wells, president of the National League of Women Voters of America, is the guest for this broadcast. The League, she explained, was a strictly non-partisan group and concerned itself solely with helping the woman voter to be fully informed on every aspect of the job as enfranchised citizens. Wells told women, as voters, how they could be of the greatest service to their country.

Episode #15  Broadcast October 18, 1942
Dorothy Thompson told of the Volunteer Land Corps in Vermont. She spoke of the labor problem for the farmer and how this is being taken care of by the Land Corps group.

Episode #16  Broadcast October 25, 1942
In honor of National Girl Scout Week, Eileen Busher, Senior Scout, told of Wing Scouting -- ground work for air training -- navigation, meteorology, and weather forecasting. She also told of other defense activities of the Girl Scouts.

Episode #17  Broadcast November 1, 1942
Discussion on jobs of older women.

Episode #18  Broadcast November 8, 1942
Discussion of paid jobs in airplane factories for women. This broadcast urged women to register as Nurses Aid. Commando Mary interviewed three Nurses Aids. Mrs. Harold Masback, Helen Weiseltheir and Mrs. Juta.

Episode #19  Broadcast November 15, 1942
This broadcast focused on a discussion on communications and radio jobs. Senora Isabel de Palencia from Spain now exiled in Mexico, is guest. She is a writer and lecturer, and told how the women of Mexico are equipping themselves for this war.

Episode #20  Broadcast November 22, 1942
In recognition of Thanksgiving, this broadcast focused on Indian women’s attitude towards the war and their war activities. Guests included Begum Shah Nawaz and Oveta Culp Hoboy. This program originated from Washington D.C., instead of New York City.

Episode #21  Broadcast November 29, 1942
Discussion of jobs in airplane factories for women.

Episode #22 Broadcast December 6, 1942
The weekly guest was Evelyn Thompson Brown, who worked at the Sperry Gyroscope plant on Long Island.

Episode #23  Broadcast December 13, 1942
Discussion on the SPARS (the Women’s Reserve of the Coast Guard), and the requirements to become a recruit. During this broadcast, there was a discussion of the role of music in therapeutic work, and suggested a united nations chorus to be built in each community to gain knowledge of our allies.

Episode #24  Broadcast December 20, 1942
This broadcast centered on news about what the blind were doing in war industries, and in civil life to fill in behind the men who have gone to war.

Episode #25  Broadcast December 27, 1942
Discussion of Civil Service jobs for women.

Episode #26  Broadcast January 3, 1943
A report from the First Fighter Command about the women airplane spotters. A discussion of the new Shopping Service for the men in service, called Service Men’s Service. The guest speaker for this broadcast was Capt. Ralph T. Millet, Aircraft Warning Service Officer of the First Fighter Command, who told of the work women could do in this service.

Episode #27  Broadcast January 10, 1943
Discussion of war jobs which take some college training. All the training is free and some actually receive pay. Mary Grigs, of England, was invited to come to the U.S. by the Department of Agriculture to tell radio listeners how the young women from Great Britain have gone into agricultural work and saved the farms and helped produce food for the country.

Episode #28  Broadcast January 17, 1943
News about schools and colleges where training is given for special war work for women. There was no broadcast on January 24.

Episode #29  Broadcast January 31, 1943
Discussion of the American Legion Auxiliary and of the work they have been doing along the volunteer war effort. Mrs. Alfred J. Mathebat, National President of the American Legion Auxiliary, discussed the contributions by these women. Commando Mary also discussed the Women Flyers of America and how women could get into actual flying service for the duration of the war.

Episode #30  Broadcast February 7, 1943
Discussion of jobs for women in factories and shipyards.

Episode #31  Broadcast February 14, 1943
Discussion of work for half a million women from coast-to-coast. Women were needed to fill the many jobs in transportation, bus drivers, truck drivers, train conductors, etc. The weekly guest was Joseph B. Eastman, Director of Defense Transportation, who told of the part women could play in transportation today.

Episode #32  Broadcast February 21, 1943
Discussion of work in ammunition factories for women, specifically the Remington Arms Factory in Bridgeport, Conn.

Episode #33  Broadcast February 28, 1943
Discussion of war jobs for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Episode #34  Broadcast March 7, 1943
Sewing jobs for women in the Naval Clothing Bureau.

Episode #35  Broadcast March 14, 1943
Discussion of the life of a WAVE in training school, such as she saw it at Hunter College.

Episode #36  Broadcast March 21, 1943
Discussion about jobs making PT Boats, specifically the work of the Electric Boat Company at Bayonne, New Jersey.

Episode #37  Broadcast March 28, 1943
Discussion of the work at the Hercules Powder Company near New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Episode #38  Broadcast April 4, 1943
The first half of the broadcast featured a discussion on Greek War Relief. The second half featured a discussion on volunteer work with the Boys Clubs of America. Eight boys from the Kips Bay Boys Club joined together giving their Victory Pledge.

Episode #39  Broadcast April 11, 1943
Discussion on the recent work of the Red Cross, and an interview with a nurse, Mrs. Florence Conrad, who served in the French battle zone.

Episode #40  Broadcast April 18, 1943
Discussion about work for women in the Grumman Aircraft plant in New York City, of how they train their women workers, and how they treat them so well in their complicated and respectable jobs. Mrs. David Long of Harrisonville, Missouri, the wife of a country doctor and head of the Women’s Field Army, tells about the Army, because it has a part in the keeping of the civilian population as a strong army behind the Armed Forces. She told how the Army spread information about the cure of cancer, squelching the superstitions which people have and that hinder them from getting a possible cure.

Episode #41  Broadcast April 25, 1943
A report on the new requirements of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron, the Consultation Service for women in New York to help them pick out the kind of war work they can do, on the Women’s Land Army (farm work by women, in which they do what the government considers the most useful work they can do). This broadcast also features an interview with Maj. Robert Jones, former golfing champion, now Director of Warning Center Volunteers for the First Fighter Command, telling about the need of women for that service. Jones and Barlow also discuss a job for which there is a course at Simmons College, Boston, Industrial Personnel Counselor, by giving to the Blood Donor Service.

Episode #42  Broadcast May 2, 1943
Report on how we may save a soldier’s life; about some Civil Service jobs, and a tie-up between housewives and our military equipment (the job of saving and salvage). On the salvage, Alice Pentlarge of the War Production Board, was interviewed by Commando Mary.

Episode #43  Broadcast May 9, 1943
Discussion about the work in the G.E. plants, in which women are making war equipment, and the activities connected with the war of the Junior League in the U.S. and in Canada. A former National President of the Junior League, a visitor to the National Junior League Conference in New York, has come from Canada, Mrs. George V. Ferguson, and told how the basic idea behind the League is public service which is now war service as well, done by helping the girls find the organization in which they can best serve.

Episode #44  Broadcast May 16, 1943
Discussion of the work of the WOWS, the Women Ordnance Workers at Aberdeen, Maryland. They explain how women have proved their ability to test tanks and guns and other ordnance, so that they are being hired to the work in ever-increasing numbers. Commando Mary describes her experiences in a jeep test.

Episode #45  Broadcast May 23, 1943
Discussion about women working to build submarines at the Electric Boat Company at Groton, Conn.; the pride they have in their boats, and how several companies like this exist throughout the United States, all of which employ women at challenging jobs. There is also a discussion about the Radcliffe Personnel course starting in July.

Episode #46  Broadcast May 30, 1943
Discussion about the Women’s Land Army. Interview with Hazel Hunkins Halliman, an American woman who lived in Britain during the Blitz, who talked about women in Britain and how they are 100 percent mobilized.

Episode #47  Broadcast June 6, 1943
Discussion about women asking for guns at the American Type Founders in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where women do minute detail work as well as the simpler production jobs. Interview with Lucrezia Bori, formerly a star of the Metropolitan Opera Company, now one of the leaders of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, told of the work of the Guild in procuring instruments for musical therapy work on what used to be called “Shellshock” cases. Bori urged women to form groups and get instruments so that the work of our medical corps carries on in the field of psychology.

Episode #48  Broadcast June 13, 1943
Interview with Mrs. Ingeborg Lorenz, employee of the Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company, on women working in buses both driving and keeping them in shape. She urged women to help keep our transportation going.

Episode #49  Broadcast June 20, 1943
Discussion of women’s work at the Bulova Watch Co. making hack watches for bomber crews -- the part of them that is so small that it can hardly be seen, the synthetic sapphires for other precision instrument makers as well as the Bulova works. They make other precision instruments like telescopes as well. Commando Mary interviews Mrs. Graham Campbell, from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who is the wife of a captain in the Army. Campbell told about the file of the addresses of Army wives that the women have started there, in order that their friends can keep track of them, and even their husbands find them after they have been away through this agency.

Episode #50  Broadcast June 27, 1943
Discussion of many phases of women’s war activity, and warning women who will only work for a short time to take only certain kinds of jobs. Interview with Joan Bloomfield, a Canadian woman who has received recognition from Britain’s Ernest Bevin for her work in housing, feeding and looking after the welfare of armies of workers all over Britain. She talked about her work.

This is part one of two. 
The remaining episodes will be featured in a future blog posting.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Twilight Zone: Princess Twilight

To help publicize the fifth and final season of The Twilight Zone, the advertising agency of Rogers & Cowan designed a publicity campaign to run September 1, 1963 through January 31, 1964. Divided chronologically with a number of different steps, the campaign included a traveling exhibit and a “Princess Twilight” scheme known as “Miss Twilight Zone.”

“Take one accurately designed woman of tomorrow, conjured up five hundred years before her time; outfit her, decorate her and equip her for her future times as authentically as the best informed minds of today can predict; send her to key markets across the country and the result is infinite possibility for interviews not only with television editors, but women editors, food editors, automotive editors and science editors, as well as visually exciting material for up to thirty minutes of interview on local and national television and radio shows.” 

That’s how a publicity campaign proposal read and not even Rod Serling would have conceived that such a notion be seriously considered – but it was. In early July, the idea was suggested to him. He gave it some thought and had multiple discussions with Dick Isreal at CBS press relations. “We talked at length of this ‘Miss Twilight Zone’ idea where a six-foot-six broad will traipse around the country pushing the show in as literate a fashion as possible,” Serling wrote. “After these few hours of perusal, I think the idea is a bum one. First of all, it creates a carnival atmosphere which at the very best is somewhat demeaning to the show. The audience we seek and the audience we’ll ultimately get are not the kind of people who respond to this kind of publicity goose. Also, you’re not pushing for a motion picture now. You’re trying to create a sustaining audience for a television show week after week. Though I have no statistics to back this up, I seriously doubt if the presence of even the most bizarre and beautiful young woman will create sufficient lasting interest to compensate for her cost and the cost of the tour. In short, I think the whole idea is an expensive one and one of very questionable virtue.”

Publicity agenst at Rogers & Cowan were responsible for creating the idea of the tour. While Serling had reasonable doubts, Betty O’Hara of Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample, Inc. worked with Henry C. Rogers to create the necessary details and plans for the “Miss Twilight Zone” tour. “This idea for creating a Princess Twilight, the first woman of tomorrow, to tour nationally to promote The Twilight Zone, is a realistic possibility,” according to the proposal. “We have researched the idea and found that, with further research and authentication, we actually can provide a young lady with all of the information, apparel and accoutrements which would make her a close approximation of the probable woman of tomorrow.”

The tour was proposed for October and November of 1963 to fasten attention on Twilight Zone at the crucial point of the year when viewers stop experimenting in their selections and finalize their viewing habits for the winter months. The famed Edith Head was approached, and she provided designs for the probable attire of the woman of 500 years later, complete with details for revolutionary fabrics. Wally Westmore projected the trends in makeup and devised the likely makeup design of the period. George Masters was approached to design the coiffure of the future. An architect was asked to design a futuristic house, projecting the appliances and other miracles that would ease and compliment the life of a future woman.

The contents of a woman’s handbag, the promoters agreed, would evoke interest, including the handbag itself. Food pills would be displayed as her daily diet, tiny electronic devices were packed into the handbag, including radios and other tools of thumbnail-sized packages, and the handbag itself utilized a recently developed lock opened only by a special electronic wavelength.

It was intended to furnish the house of the future with furniture designed by a manufacturer, Charles Eames, but the company never had time to design a working model of a transportable futuristic chair in which Princess Twilight would sit during interviews.

“An essential aspect of the promotion would be the establishing of Princess Twilight’s raison d’etre and her close association with Twilight Zone,” wrote Henry C. Rogers of Rogers & Cowan. “It would be given a role in one of the shows and it would be presented that her national tour as a visitor from the future derived from a chance conversation she had with Rod Serling.” Serling, they proposed, would write all of the material she would speak during interviews. But with his insistence the idea reamined a “bum one,” and the proposal was debated. Betty O’Hara wrote a reply to Serling: “If I were only a phone call away, I think I could allay any misgivings you might have that we were going only for the bizarre in our Twilight Zone girl promotion.”

Nineteen-year-old Virginia Trimble, a UCLA astrophysics major, was selected to play the lead. I tracked her down and asked her to share her memories of what it was like being Princess Twilight. “Rogers & Cowan asked the UCLA dean of students (or some such) to find a possible person,” Trimble recalled. “The then head of student counseling thought of me because of the Life Magazine article the previous year – so she knew I photographed reasonably well, and because I was part of the gifted students’ program I could probably be trusted not to say anything terribly stupid that would embarrass UCLA. The one thing I remember doing badly was an attempt to defend the folks who were fighting to keep their own homes in Vietnam against U.S. invaders.”
Dr. Paula Tallal and Dr. Robert P. Rich talks to Dr. Trimble (Left to Right).
“By the time I was on board, the ‘princess’ title concept had completely disappeared, as had any thought of 500 years in future. The focus was science of today and how Twilight Zone interfaced with it,” Trimble continued. “I was 5 feet 7 ½ inches, not 6 feet tall (and did not wear more than modestly high heels). All the words I spoke were my own (and I was not scolded for attempting to defend the Viet Cong’s fight to keep their homes, perhaps because I didn’t do it as well as I would now!)”

Serling’s insistence on avoiding the far-out, futuristic approach was taken into consideration. There was no futuristic furniture and no far-out handbags. Virginia Trimble carried her own, a plain black leather one with lots of compartments. She wore no fancy hair style or makeup. She wore her everyday cosmetics – Max Factor Pancake in Tan No. 2, Maybelline eyebrow pencil and mascara; sometimes eye shadow in a color matching her dress. Her hairstyle was of a daily style and the clothing was her own – standard UCLA co-ed – mostly sheath-style dresses, some princess seamed, some with waistlines, in bright colors and black, plus a green Scot’s plaid dress with pleated skirt to wear on airplanes.

Virginia Trimble in Virginia in 1986.
“What we did was a sweep through all the Nielsen cities, two-to-three days each, in a slightly odd order (Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Washington, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles),” continued Trimble, who participated in newspaper interviews for women, society and entertainment sections. She appeared on morning wake-up shows on radio and local television stations.

“R&C made all the arrangements and sent me with a ‘bringer’ whose job was to see that I arrived on time for everything, looking the way R&C thought I should. One of the bringers introduced me to Black Russians and Brandy Alexanders (yeah, I was underage), and his battle cry ‘stand tall’ still echoes in my ears when I go out on a stage to give a public lecture! I spent one afternoon with Serling at his home. Something of a ladies’ man, but a couple of inches shorter than I. Luckily, it was a problem the photographer had dealt with before, and we posed, for instance, with me looking over his shoulder while he sat at a desk, pointing to some script item or other. I actually read quite a few scripts, made a few suggestions (sorting out the difference between a galaxy and a solar system for instance) and a few were taken.”

“I have no idea whether the project did what it was supposed to for ratings (one cannot, after all, do a controlled experiment with such things), but they paid me enough for a few weeks work to cover the next couple of semesters of fees and books at UCLA.”

Now a Professor of astronomy, history of science and scientometrics, Virginia Trimble received her B.A. from UCLA in 1964 and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the California Institute of Technology in 1965 and 1968 respectively. She joined the UCI faculty in 1971, after a year’s teaching at Smith College and two postdoctoral fellowship years at Cambridge University (M.A. 1969).

She received the 1986 National Academy of Sciences Award for scientific reviewing and currently serves as vice president of the International Astronomical Union; vice president of the American Astronomical Society and Chair of its Historical Astronomy Division; and member of the Executive Board of the American Physical Society and chair-elect of its Division of Astrophysics.