“One Man’s Family” * Created by Carlton E. Morse, “One Man’s Family” was heard for nearly 3 decades (1932 to 1959), making it the longest running, uninterrupted serial, in the history of American Radio. One Man’s Family debuted as a radio series on April 29, 1932 in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, moving to the full West Coast NBC network the following month, sponsored by Snowdrift and Wesson Oil. All versions of the show were written, cast, produced and directed by Carlton E. Morse.
May 17, 1933, it expanded to the full coast-to-coast NBC network as the first West Coast show heard regularly on the East Coast. The show was broadcast as a weekly half-hour series (1933-1950) [sustained by Standard Brands from 1935 through 1949], then shifted to daily 15-minute installments, initially originating from the studios of San Francisco radio station KPO, NBC’s flagship station for the West Coast, eventually moving to Los Angeles.
* Characters/Story-lines: The series employed a literary device with episodes divided into books and chapters. Spanning 27 years, the program presented 136 books with 3,256 chapters. Storylines were set in the Sea Cliff area of San Francisco, California, an area familiar to San Franciscan Carlton E. Morse.
* Synopsis: The radio plotline centered around stockbroker Henry Barbour, his wife Fanny and their five children (chronologically: Paul, Hazel, the twins Clifford and Claudia, and Jack). Dialogue included many specific references to San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, which the Barbours could see from their rear living room window or their garden wall.
* Starring: Over the entire 27-year run, J. Anthony Smythe starred as Henry Barbour. The first Fanny was Minetta Ellen (1932-55), followed by Mary Adams. Michael Raffeto had the role of author-aviator Paul, but a voice problem led to his replacement in 1955 by Russell Thorson. Hazel was played by Bernice Berwin (1932-58).
Beginning in 1932, Barton Yarborough portrayed Clifford, but the character was dropped from the storyline after Yarborough’s death from a heart attack on December 19, 1951. Kathleen Wilson introduced the character of Claudia in 1932, continuing in the role until Claudia married in August 1943 and was written out of the story. When Claudia returned (1945-59), she was played by Barbara Fuller. Jack was portrayed by Page Gilman. The Barbour grandchildren: Teddy, Hank, Pinky, Margaret, Skipper, Joan, Penny, Nicky, Elizabeth, Jane, Mary Lou, Abigail, Deborah and Constance. Bill Idelson played Henry Herbert Murray.
In November 1947, Cousin Jediah X. Barbour (Clarence Hartzell) arrived at Sea Cliff. This gave the program a sound not unlike Vic and Sade, since Idelson played adopted son Rush on Vic and Sade which also featured Hartzell as Uncle Fletcher Rush. Supporting cast in the 1930s and 1940s included Bill Bouchey, Tom Collins, Virginia Gregg, Bill Herbert, Wally Maher, Helen Musselman, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Paterson, Ken Peters, Frank Provo, Jean Rouverol, Naomi Stevens, Janet Waldo and Ben Wright.
After 3,256 episodes, the radio series ceased production on April 24, 1959 (several sources give the incorrect date of May 8, 1959). One Man’s Family was the longest running serial drama in American radio broadcasting, edging out Ma Perkins (although Ma Perkins produced over twice as many episodes). Organist Paul Carson, who played the background music and the opening theme, “Destiny Waltz” (1932-41), composed the show’s later theme, “Waltz Patrice” (aka “Patricia”). Among its other trademarks, episodes were introduced as if they were chapters from books.