SFL Flashback: Children’s Radio Programs

This post was originally featured on SFL in December 2008

Fundamentalist children who were born after 1954 may recognize these words…

“Ranger Bill, Warrior of the Woodland, struggling against extreme odds, traveling dangerous trails, fighting the many enemies of nature. This is the job of the guardian of the forest, Ranger Bill. Pouring rain, freezing cold, blistering heat, snows, floods, bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions. Yes, all this in exchange for the satisfaction and pride of a job well done.”

Ranger Bill was just one of a host of children’s radio programs that began in the 1950’s and continue to be rebroadcast to the present day. Keys for Kids with Uncle Charlie, Story Time with ‘Aunt B’, Uncle Bob’s Nature Corner…the list goes on and on.

These radio programs taught lessons such as the evils of lying, stealing, television, gambling and other various and sundry moral ills while accompanied by the dramatic effects of an electric organ that would do any soap opera proud.

Don’t knock it. For fundy kids, Saturday mornings around the radio were some of the happiest times of the week.

45 thoughts on “SFL Flashback: Children’s Radio Programs”

  1. Am I first?

    Actually, I have fond memories of some of the kids’ television programs from my childhood (and yes,I was born after 1954). The BBC showed a short film – kind of like an advert – a few years back, featuring a 8-9 year old boy in a school uniform, wandering through verious children’s programs. I was struck by the fact that I remember watching all of them… kind of scary. They often did try to teach lessons about morality, etc, something that seems to be lacking in the kids’ programs of today.

  2. My sis and I couldn’t stand the Keys for Kids show, but it was on first, so we could skip it. We’d spend all Saturday morning next to the radio listening to these shows.

    On Uncle Bob’s Nature Corner, one of the creatures was trying to make an automated window-washer, and every time a new invention failed, he would say, “Nope, it won’t wash windows!” That phrase has stayed in our family since then.

  3. My son listens to Uncle Charlie every morning as we go to school and he enjoys it. Usually a key thought along with a Scripture verse. Good way to learn Scripture and teach application. I do not endorse everything I hear but for the most part it is better than the alternatives.

  4. Wow. Thanks for the childhood flashback from late 80s and early 90s. Every stinkin’ Saturday morning we’d listen to these shows plus Adventures in Odyssey. I think I remember getting convicted and re-saved every Saturday morning too. I also remember when I became a pre-teen, I would sneak into the living room to watch the Saturday morning teen shows on NBC (Saved by the Bell, Hang Time, One World, etc.) when my parents went somewhere. I also remember always being on the alert to when they got home so I could change the channel, turn off the TV, and run into my room and pretend to be cleaning it. So glad those days are over.

    1. Haha, I remember watching shows with the remote hidden and ready to switch the channel as soon as I heard a parent coming down the hall. I was allowed to watch most of the TNBC Saturday morning shows like Hang Time and California Dreams, but I had to sneak Saved By The Bell because my mom watched ONE episode where the kids took Mr. Belding’s car and got drunk and crashed it. She felt like they didn’t get punished for it and that’s why she wouldn’t let us watch it. But I make up for it by watching it every chance I get now. 😀

  5. Wow. Thanks for the childhood flashback from late 80s and early 90s. Every stinkin’ Saturday morning we’d listen to these shows plus Adventures in Odyssey. I think I remember getting convicted and re-saved every Saturday morning too. I also remember when I became a pre-teen, I would sneak into the living room to watch the Saturday morning teen shows on NBC (Saved by the Bell, Hang Time, One World, etc.) when my parents went somewhere. I also remember always being on the alert to when they got home so I could change the channel, turn off the TV, and run into my room and pretend to be cleaning it. So glad those days are over.

  6. Yes! Best post ever! Not only did we spend every Saturday morning listening to these shows (and Saturdays were a treat because Children’s Bible Hour was half an hour long), but we also listened to a 15 minute Children’s Bible Hour each weekday followed by Stories From The Bookshelf, Moody’s radio interpretation of Fundy books like “The Sugar Creek Gang” and “Treasures of the Snow.” The sad part was that the the station that played these shows was kind of far away and sometimes the reception wasn’t very good. We would have to move the antenna wire around and sometimes my brother and I would take turns holding it in place so we could listen. Perhaps I am a more grateful person for it, though. And The Sugar Creek Gang theme song is going through my head now (There’s Big Jim, our leader, and Little Jim, our pal. There’s Circus and Poetry, the athlete and the clown…..If it’s going through your head now, too, you’re welcome). Thanks for the memories, Darrell.

    1. “…and if you noticed someone with eyes so round and keeeeen, that’s Dragonfly, the funny guy, who sees important things. And then there’s Billlllllll, well, just plain Bill. No athlete or clown, but he’d like to share his tales about the greatest gang around…” LOL, yes, now I DO have it in my head! But good memories, for sure, even if they were just a bit too squeaky clean.

  7. Well, I have never heard of any of these programs. Sounds like they had good moral lessons.

    I had my 19 year old take a listen with me and his tolerance level was definitely tested. Media has changed so much over the many years.

    Do any of you parents find that your kids would be wanting to listen to these programs in this day and age?

    Our kids are more intune with their visuals today than their hearing or listening skills! Believe me, I can attest to that and yet with all the music mechanisms that tantalize their ears, well, maybe someone should create some…

    … “FuNdY FiGhTiNg FoEs!”…

    series with all the new technologies available… Think about it, Jack Schaap could be the voice of this “Fundy Fighting Foment”, I mean, since he has nothing better to do while sitting in his jail cell, other than counseling those who are still seeking his “words of wisdom” (blah) and lest we forget not, Elaine Colston, she could be the organist!

    We know all the stories are already there, -no embelishments needed! Ha!……But then again… maybe not! 😯 LOL I’ve digressed!

    These radio shows bring me back to when we used to watch the Walton’s on TV and we loved it. They used to sit and listen to the radio, all-in-all, there were lessons to be learned and I do miss the goodness of moral values being taught via the media. There aren’t too many that direct our tender-hearted youngsters in that direction, so much now, that televisions programs aren’t a high priority in our household much any more, which is probably a good thing!

    Thanks for the walk back through time even though our paths were different!

    ~~~Heart 🙂

  8. Not being raised in a Christian home, I never heard any of these shows as a child. Later, when younger sister was baby-sitting, she would tell me about them, and I heard a few of them.

    I thought they were fine for younger children; as I recall, the plots were a little simplistic, but they did teach decent morals and character, which isn’t a bad thing.

  9. As adults, my husband and I suffered through the kids’ radio programs on Friday nights so we could get to the Old Time Radio broadcast. (Though, I’ll admit we did like hearing Betty Panosian reading stories.)

    It was great listening to stuff created and aired long before we were born. Green Hornet, Superman, X Minus 1 … loads of great old shows from the era when radio ruled the airwaves. I guess it either got too expensive or too “librul” for WMUU to air it anymore. Fortunately, you can still get these shows on CD or by download. Our Superman radio collection is sizeable and so is our Sherlock Holmes collection with Rathbone and Bruce! :mrgreen:

    1. Sometime in my early teens, I made the switch to Fibber McGee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve on WVXU in Cincinnati. Pretty sure I was the only 15 year old who knew what 79 Wistful Vista was.

  10. My kids used to listen to Uncle Charlie on the way home from school. Some the stories were pretty good, but one week in particular, someone died in every episode, usually some kid who had disobeyed his parents. It got almost humorous because the stories were so far-fetched. We stopped listening sometime around then.

    Still like Adventures in Odyssey!

  11. I like Adventures in Odyssey. I find them helpful to pass the time away when driving on long trips with the kids. They are entertaining and I agree with most of the lessons taught.

    I also have fond memories of Uncle Charlie. The kids love the Keys for Kids devotionals that they air on their website as well.

  12. Still listen to Adventures in Odyssey while cooking and cleaning, even though my little one is not quite old enough to listen. I do remember some of those other shows, but they were cheesy, compared to Odyssey.

  13. Aw. I liked Ranger Bill. The programs on our radio station would be A Visit with Mrs G, Your Story Hour, Ranger Bill, Jonathan Park, Down Gilead Lane, Adventures in Odyssey, Uncle Bob, and I can’t remember what else. Um, the one with the animals, like CJ and Goose.

    Saturdays were also days to watch Saved by the Bell, Hang Time, and Looney Tunes. All the shows typically on on Saturday morning. When I was really little I remember they had a show where a woman dressed like Belle from Beauty and the Beast and told stories.

    Not all childhood was horrible.

  14. Uncle Charlie’s jokes were the best–listener submissions as I recall. Yes, fundy kid who has good memories of the stories. If I listened to them now, I would probably object to the far-fetched story lines and lack of mercy, but as a young kid the familiar voices of Aunt B and Uncle Charlie were comforting.

  15. Loved Ranger Bill – Warrior of the Woodland!

    For Fundy kids with no TV, these were very entertaining – and they actually weren’t that bad, much better for kids than listening to Unshackled, that show was downright PG-13!

  16. Dear SFL Reader:

    the evils of lying, stealing, television, gambling and other various and sundry moral ills …

    Yeppers!

    Works! Works! Works!
    Law! Law! Law!
    Duty! Duty! Duty!

    THAT says it all!

    Anyone else listened to these moralistic harangues and wondered, ‘when are we going to hear some word of grace or spirit or life?

    Christian Socialist

    1. I think it goes back to the root problem. If one believes that they are co-saviours with God for their salvation i.e: “I went to the altar”, “I said the sinner’s prayer”, “I did ________.”

      Then in order to be consistent they have to treat their Justification and Sanctification the same way. “I am justified because I accepted Jesus into my heart.” “I am sanctified because I gave up listening rock and roll music, keep my hair cut short and off of my ears, I read my King James Bible everyday, I pray at least 4-5 hours each day, and I do all the things that makes God love me more….”

      It is a way of keeping spiritual score. The more check marks you have on your Christian Service Record the more holy you are. If you can fill in more check marks than anyone else then God will love you and bless you more better… A-men?!

      Sadly, Moralism has superseded and even replaced the Gospel in many church congregations today.

      1. Dear Don:

        Ding! Ding! Ding!

        Move to the head of the class!

        Every faith tradition has its own affective language of piety, and it always gives some indication about the spiritual ethos at work in that place.

        Example: http://www.songlyrics.com/smokie-norful/run-til-i-finish-lyrics/

        Note the lines, ‘I have decided’ and ‘I’ve made up my mind …’ Great theology or what [I speak as a fool]!

        Where I live, we don’t speak of a ‘personal savior’ as if Jesus were a pet mouse we carried about in our shirt pocket. Nor do we speak of a personal decision.

        And even though Jo 1:12 does speak of ‘accepting’ him, we see it more a matter of God accepting us in Christ and for his sake. After all, we — not Christ — are the problem. It is not a matter of him becoming ‘acceptable’ to us but of OUR becoming acceptable to [and accepted by] HIM.

        I therefore believe that it is more accurate theologically to speak of Christ as the head and savior of the church, of which I by faith am a member. I also prefer to speak of my being apprehended by Christ, rather than my ‘accepting’ Christ.

        Blessings!

        Christian Socialist

  17. Ranger Bill! And Stumpy Jenkins. lol 🙂 You’re right. It was a bright spot in our little sheltered life with no TV. Don’t forget the Sugar Creek Gang, Sailor Sam, even the stories of Great Christians. As corny as they were, I’d rather listen to them than Patch the Pukerat. 😕

    1. I agree! As corny as the radio shows were, they were a zillion times better than Patch the Pirate, a/k/a, “oh, your sister slipped on your mother’s freshly waxed kitchen floor while you were on the phone with your friend talking about whether you should have a slumber party??? Of course I have a song for that!” Patch’s “songs” were soooo contrived they were almost funny for that reason alone.

      I used to wonder whether they wrote the stilted dialogue to fit the bizarre songs they had previously come up with or whether they wrote the bizarre songs after the fact to fit their stilted dialogue.

  18. I remember Uncle Charlie. We didn’t have a TV, but we didn’t listen to Saturday morning radio religiously, just sometimes. My parents did like Unshackled in the evenings.

    We would also listen to Prairie Home Companion sometimes, as well as a kids’ program on a public radio station called The Spider’s Web that did dramatic readings of children’s books like “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” and “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.”

    1. We were so fundy, even Unshackled was verboten after awhile because my parents didn’t want us to be influenced by hearing the stories of the hardened sinners featured therin. (As a side note, some of the Unshackled stories ARE inappropriate for children.) The thing that always made my laugh about Unshackled was at the end when the announcer would say “This has been Unshackled program number 758” [or some other ridiculously large number] and I would think to myself: “they really made that many of these crappy programs!?!?”

  19. RANGER BILL: Warrior of the woodland! *THUNDER* We used to listen to that and Uncle Charlie growing up. “Boys and Girls for Jesus, this our earnest prayer. Boys and Girls for Jesus, home and school and play and everywhere…” or something like that. 😀 Adventures in Odyssey was always good, though we didn’t get it often. It was some great storytelling! We never listened to the Sugar Creek Gang,but we did read the books. Though I may be in the minority here, I did love Patch the Pirate, yes, some are very corny, but some were amazing and they were awesome for me. Now of you want to know what was one of my FAVORITE old time radio programs were?……

    “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The SHADOW knows! Bwahaha!” 😎 That show could give me goosebumps on a summer’s day.

  20. We listened to most of these, plus Adventures in Odyssey.

    This does make me wonder, though. Anybody else from a fundy family that listened to NPR all the time? It was approved in my family, cause it didn’t have rock music. I still listen constantly.

    1. We listened to it a lot, but my dad didn’t like the liberal bent to their news programs.

      We’d turn it on for the classical music; sometimes my dad and I would sit in the living room in the dark and listen to a dramatic overture (we didn’t have a TV!), and we liked Prairie Home Companion and the Spider’s Web.

      I remember laughing so hard I cried at some of Garrison Keiller’s stories from Lake Woebegone.

  21. Oh my!! Talk about coincidence! I was just driving through the deep south on Saturday and was searching the channels and lo and behold, there was Ranger Bill!!! I HAD to listen. And it was painful, to say the least. I listened to the whole thing. Can’t believe that was the highlight of our week.

  22. I loved Adventures in Odyssey, right up until the most recent hiatus a few years ago. I haven’t listened since, but not just because I’m an old fogey who hates the new plots/characters/whatever. I don’t have the time any more.

  23. Thanks for the memories! I had forgotten about Big John and Sparky! They did teach good morals, even if they were kinda goofy. It doesn’t have to be ‘law’ – after all, the NT is full of admonitions to do good, not bad, and to practice all the right things, and avoid the bad things. They are only ‘legalism’ if you are doing them to earn points with God. They don’t save you of course. But they are certainly good to reiterate. The main thing is, they need to be taught not as things you ‘do’ by yourself, but as the fruit of a good relationship with God through Christ. That is our power and source. Thanks again for the memories!

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