The Post Office, the Press & Hoppy

Plenty of communication media here, as Hopalong Cassidy and his comedy sidekick California track The Bandit of Blackton Bend … The crime is a Post Office robbery and murder, while the editor of the financially-troubled local newspaper is too ready to jump to conclusions.

Hoppy cocoa mug c.1951

This 1951 Hopalong Cassidy radio adventure reminds me of his TV series and movies, and all the Hopalong Cassidy merchandise my parents spoiled me with when I was little. Including a Hopalong Cassidy milk glass and cocoa mug that are still in the kitchen cabinet somewhere.

William Boyd, who played the sixgun hero, was a pioneer of media marketing, merchandising and personal branding, which I remember seeing written up in one of the communication research academic journals when I was in graduate school.

With its commercials already removed (or not yet inserted), this archived broadcast is only 27 minutes, with more action than character development… a saloon fight, an explosion, the robbery, a posse pursuit, and even some history along the Oklahoma-Texas border. That echoes a more famous tale of a newspaper family on the Oklahoma frontier, “Cimarron,” the Edna Ferber novel and Academy Award winning film. It was filmed a second time and even adapted for radio more than once.

Like the Oklahoma land rush editor in “Cimarron,” Hopalong Cassidy’s young editor friend Matt Hardesty is rumored to be good with a gun and his fists… But Hoppy knows the editor was injured in a fall from a horse recently and may not be up to a brawl when a local troublemaker and hired gun try to start something.

Meanwhile, editor Hardesty’s father, founder of the paper, worries that he hasn’t made life easy for his son — leaving him a struggling business by writing too many impatient editorials, trying to civilize the frontier town.

“I’ve begun to realize that reform editorials can cost a paper friends and business,” the old newsman says.

Perhaps his troubles take their toll when the discouraged man breaks confidence with the sister of a wanted man, accused of a previous postal heist. She was trying to get Hopalong to bring him in for trial safely, sure that he was innocent of the first charge. Will the newspaper and a posse put out a dead or alive search for the wrong man? Not if Hopalong Cassidy can do something about it.

This is a 1951 Saturday morning style cowboy-show adventure, not one of radio’s later adult westerns like “Gunsmoke,” but the ethical issues are pretty serious… and, as usual, the program is an example of all kinds of radio series reminding their listening audience of the existence of newspapers out there in the real world, sometimes trying to make a difference, and sometimes making mistakes.

The episode is one of more than a hundred Hopalong Cassidy tales stored at the Internet Archive by the Old Time Radio Researchers group, but so far it is the only one where I have found a newspaper editor in the plot. That was thanks to J. David Goldin’s collection of plot summaries which I quickly searched for newspaper-related keywords. I’ll listen to a few more and see if I run into any more journalists, doing their jobs but not making it into the headlines.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1950s, 19th century, editors, ethics, newspapers, westerns. Bookmark the permalink.

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