Another journalist named Bob: Newspaper life as soap opera

“Running a newspaper is our line of duty”
— Betty Drake, co-publisher of The Trumpet, pioneer soap opera heroine


“Betty and Bob,” one of radio’s first soap operas, eventually twisted its troubled-marriage plot around to journalism — not surprising, considering that the series’ creators and writer all had newspaper experience. (I’ll be expanding on that theme on my overview “Soaps and Romance” page.)

Betty, the heroine, is an equal partner in the couple’s newspaper-publishing enterprise. From references to earlier episodes, by this time she apparently had been kidnapped in the line of duty, rescued, and faced with the murder of the paper’s star reporter and the possibility that her husband, Bob, might be crippled for life.

Just for fun, I’m going try a bit of “serial drama” experience here at JHeroes, adding a continuing 15-minute episode of “Betty & Bob” every Wednesday, starting here: Betty and Bob arrive in the small town of Walton.

(Note: Each episode starts with a two-minute musical interlude over which a commercial would be inserted. Most MP3 players will let you fast-forward through the syrupy music.)

The exact date of the original broadcast isn’t clear — perhaps sometime in 1939 or earlier. In any case, toward the end of the series’ eight-year daily run, “Betty and Bob” introduced this “crusading newspaper” plot line.

By then, the rich-again, poor-again couple of the title apparently had made a fortune in oil, then used the money to buy a newspaper and take on corrupt city politicians and grafters. As the announcer puts it, they became owners of “that great fighting newspaper, The Trumpet.”

For this first episode in the archives, a recap of the recent past makes it clear that the Drakes had run the paper for some time, but their crusade had taken its toll — costing the life of a star reporter and almost proving fatal to Bob. In classic soap opera fashion, an announcer brought the audience up to date as follows:

    On the train that is rapidly approaching the town of Walton we meet Betty and Bob Drake.
    A few hours ago they left the city of Monroe where they ran and still own that great fighting newspaper, The Trumpet.
    Upon the urgent advice of doctors, but against his will, Bob is going back to his country home to lead a quiet restful life until he has fully recovered from the miraculous operation which made it possible for him to walk again.
    Yes, Betty had a difficult time persuading Bob that a return to the country and the simpler way of life was not only the best thing for him, but for their year old twin babies, for Bob’s mother, and for Claire Evans, the young widow of the star reporter, and for Betty herself.

The Internet Archive’s sampler includes 40 episodes with several breaks in the sequence. Today’s podcast is the first of a solid run of a dozen programs.

Despite the “quiet restful life” comment from the announcer, rest assured that the Drakes will be back in the thick of things pretty soon…

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in 1930s, 1940s, newspapers, publishers, radio, soap opera, women. Bookmark the permalink.

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