August 18, 1988
Reality on radio:
'One Man's Family' first to bring human drama on the air.
A cast of nine veteran radio actors, an announcer, a sound man, and Carlton E. Morse gathered on a late afternoon in Studio B of the National Broadcasting Co.'s West Coast offices. They came for the first reading rehearsal of "Chapter One, Book One" of "One Man's Family."
This was the first attempt on radio to create a real-life American family with down-to-earth human relations between parents and children, wrote creator Morse.
He said the reading got mixed reactions from the cast, but the head of the West Coast production department turned thumbs down. Both the program manager and production director told him, quite frankly, "No. Morse, this 'One Man's Family' tripe is pure tripe! Everybody lives a family life, day in, day out! Who wants to turn on his radio and listen to more family life?"
As it turned out, millions of Americans remained faithful followers of this weekly nighttime human drama from its first broadcast in 1932 until it left the air in 1959.
For 27 years, the Barbour family of
Sea Cliff, San Francisco - Father Henry,
Mother Fanny, and their children Paul,
Hazel, twins Clifford and Claudia, and
Jack - intrigued listeners.
Then came television.
In a telephone interview from his Woodside home, Morse recalled he went to New York in 1950 to do a television version of his popular series and found they couldn't satisfy viewers who had been loyal listeners.
"For all those years, people had pictured the Barbour family in their own minds, and nobody in our television production fit those pictures," he said of his show which he doesn't categorize as a "soap," but a well-plotted human drama characterized by the relationships of people "dedicated to the mothers and fathers of the younger generation and to their bewildering offspring."
If you remember those opening announcer's lines with affection, you probably will enjoy meeting up with the Barbours again in Morse's "One Man's Family Album," which hits the bookstores this month.
It's a fascinating piece of memorabilia for radio buffs and a nostalgic read for "loyal listeners," complete with
reproductions of photographs of Morse and the "almost real family" of actors and actresses; J. Anthony Smith as Father Barbour, Minetta Ellen as Mother Barbour, Mike Rafetto as Paul, Bernice Berwin as Hazel, Barton Yarborough as Clifford, Kathleen Wilson as Claudia, and Page Gilman as Jack.
Also included two original scripts, a history, bits on the sponsors and the early story of Morse himself.
It was a second career for Morse who started as a newspaper reporter and now is in his third career as publisher and author.
Morse retired to Los Angeles in 1960 and spent 10 years changing his writing technique from that for radio to the printed page before writing his first book, "Stuff the Lady's Hatbox," and the novel "I Love a Mystery." Yes, Morse also created the "I Love a Mystery" radio series.
He established Seven Stones Press in Woodside four years ago at age 83. He celebrated his 87th birthday in June. His latest book, "A Lavish of Sin," will be out in September.
-- JUDY CLAUSEN