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Soap operas from the past

Monty Hopkins
Harrisburg, Neb.

Just recently “The Guiding Light” ended its run on TV. Most likely a sign of the times, when there really aren’t that many women or men at home during that time of day to watch them.

I think my mother watched some of them, and after my dad pretty well retired, I think he watched them with her if he was in the house. Don’t think either one was what you’d call ‘hooked’ on them, but it was something to pass the time.

But more than the TV soaps, what I mostly remember is the Soaps that were on the radio when I was little. Now in those days, mother was pretty dedicated to her Soaps.

Considering we didn’t have electricity, and the radio was battery powered, it was only turned on at certain times during the day. When the battery needed charging, it was necessary to take it to LaGrange or Morrill for recharging.

Bear in mind I’m going back 67+ years, but as I remember there were about three Soaps. One sponsored by Oxidol was called “Ma Perkins.” Not as ruthless as “Ma Baker,” but “Ma Perkins” pretty well ran things in the family. I think “Ma Perkins had several children, but I remember only one. He was called “Shuffle.” Shuffle or he may have been called “Shuffles” worked at the lumber yard. It may have been a family owned business. At around three or four, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to details. What ever it was, “Shuffle” wasn’t the boss. In fact, I don’t think he was exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he was very dedicated and dependable.

Then there was another, “The Romance of Helen Trent.” For some reason, I didn’t like Helen Trent. Even on radio, I always pictured her as fat. And she went from romance to romance or maybe marriage to marriage. She was what we’d call today a “Gold Digger.” Just something about her I didn’t like. My aunt was pretty hooked on Helen Trent and mostly what kept her going over the weekend was that she’d be back on Monday.

Then the third I recall was “Our Gal Sunday.” And every day it started with the question, “Can this girl from the small mining town of Cripple Creek, Colo., find true happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?” Of course, she could, and then she couldn’t, and then she could. By the way, there really is a Cripple Creek, Colo., its west of Colorado Springs. I don’t know why, but I liked “Our Gal Sunday.”

In the fall of ’48 we got electricity at the ranch. My grandparents got me an electric radio for my birthday, and I don’t think that radio was ever turned off. I could leave it on all night and did! There was XELO, a station out of Mexico. They played country music and advertised all kinds of bargains. One of those bargains was guaranteed to cut your fuel bill in half and it was only a dollar, plus shipping. I know a person that actually ordered it, and received a very cheap pair of scissors.

But electricity made the biggest change with the radio. It was turned on early in the morning for news and weather, then there was Queen For A Day, Arthur Godfrey Show, Don Mc Neals Breakfast Club and then the Soaps. We didn’t get TV until around ’53 or so.

Life was hard back then, but simpler and most enjoyable. Our house was three bedrooms and a bath. We had central heat, but it was an oil burner in the living room. The heat in my bedroom was whatever made it around two corners and up the stairway. Because of that, I did my homework at the dining room table where it was warm. For the most part, the entire family lived in the living room and kitchen until around nine or so and then went to bed.

Life was much simpler, nothing like the trials and tribulations of the Soap Opera’s. Maybe that’s why we listened to them or watched them on TV. Now here we are in the 21st Century, and all too often, life in general is like a soap opera.


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