“There are three things I will never forget about America:
Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, and Amos’n Andy.”
—George Bernard Shaw
Franklin Roosevelt began his third term in office on January 20, 1941. By that time social and personal lives had been transformed into modes unimaginable to the nation’s forefathers. Among the most dramatic of the changes were vastly improved communications.
Radio, only experimental when the twentieth century began, by 1941 had swollen fantastically since the first commercial stations opened in the century’s second decade; the comparative new medium was at the height of its popularity. Comedies, dramas, audience participation programs, variety shows, sports, crime drama, or musical presentations— radio offered them all and at small direct cost to listeners.
Daytime programming was geared to housewives—avid followers of fifteen-minute offerings like “Portia Faces Life”, ‘Our Gal Sunday”, “Stella Dallas”, “John’s Other Wife”, and “Life Can Be Beautiful”. Listeners reported they liked the shows because they were “so true to life.” The programs featured marital difficulties, chronic illnesses, alcoholism, or missing persons, and because the productions were sponsored mainly by soap producers like Duz, Chipso, or Oxydol, they were dubbed “soap operas.”