Golden Age of Radio
Saturday, May 26, 2001
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(GK: Garrison Keillor; TK: Tom Keith; SS: Sue Scott: TR: Tim Russell)

GK: So many listeners write to me and ask, "Mr. Wyler, tell us about the Golden Age of radio. That must've been a real high point for you, working on all those shows sixty and seventy years ago. You must have a plethora of tales to tell about those halcyon days. I'll bet you could natter on for hours about your salad days in broadcasting." The truth is that the Golden Age, to those of us who lived through it, didn't look so golden. It only got golden later. At the time, it felt more like bronze or maybe zinc.

(JUNGLE DRUMS)

TR (ANNOUNCER): Yes----- it's time for TIMMY OF THE JUNGLE…brought to you by Brainerd Brand Baked Beans, the family favorite!

GK (SINGS): Brainerd Baked Beans are delicious
And they're also good for you.
And if your system's clogged up
Our beans go right on through.
You'll love the baked bean flavor
And the music's lots of fun.
They will make you bigger, give you vim and vigor,
Brainerd Baked Beans No. 1.

TR (ANNOUNCER): Yes, Brainerd, the top name in beans, presents TIMMY OF THE JUNGLE----(JUNGLE BIRDS AND PRIMATES) the story of a boy and his mom as they face life's hardships and disappointments together----

TK (BOY): It's so dark, Mom. What are we going to do?

SS: We have to keep going, Timmy. Until we find Mr. Shellbarger and return his snow shovel.

TK (BOY): I don't think he's going to need it here, Mom. (PRIMATES)

SS: We must return things we borrow, Timmy.

TK (BOY): But I don't think Mr. Shellbarger is in this swamp, Mom. I think he's back in Littleville.

SS: But whose tracks are those we've been following then? (ROAR) Oh oh. --- You better run for it, Timmy. I'll fight him off with this tree branch----

TK (BOY): That's not a tree branch, Mom. That's a----

SS: Oh no!!!!

(SNAKE HISS AND RATTLE) (ORGAN STING)

GK: It was a simple story. Mom and son go to return a snow shovel and they never return. The thing almost wrote itself. I was the writer on Timmy of the Jungle for six years and the producer was Mel Monahan, who sat in his immense office in the Midwest Broadcasting Corporation building and he peppered me with inane suggestions.

TR: We gotta pump it up, kid. Keep it moving. Danger. We need more danger. The snake thing is getting old. We need pits. Deep pits with sharp sticks. We need fruit bats.

GK: So we put in fruit bats. (BAT WINGS)

SS: Oh my gosh! What is that! It looks like bats! And they're flying straight for our throats! (BAT LANDS ON HER THROAT, SHE STRUGGLES) Timmy! Timmy!

TK (BOY, OFF): I fell into this deep pit, Mom.

SS: Oh no! (BAT AND WOMAN STRUGGLE) (STING)

GK: I wanted to take the show in the direction of psychological thriller and whenever Mel went on vacation, Timmy and his mom would have some very intense dialogue.

(BIRD CRIES)

SS: Maybe we should head that way, Timmy.

TK (BOY): We've been heading that way for months! Gee willikers. Give it up, Mom. We're never getting out of here.

SS: Of course we are. In no time, we'll be back in Littleville and you'll be playing with your model train again.

TK (BOY): We'll never see Littleville again.

SS: You have to have faith, Timmy!

TK (BOY): Why?

SS: You can't give up!

TK (BOY): I have given up. A long time ago.

SS: Where did you get that sharp stick, Timmy?

TK (BOY): I sharpened it with a rock, Mom. (CRUEL LAUGHTER)

SS: And what is that on the tip?

TK (BOY): It's a deadly poison, Mom.

SS: What are you going to do?

TK (BOY): Wouldn't you like to know? (MORE LAUGHTER) (AWAKENING FROM DREAM CHORDS) ---- Mom--- Mom---- wake up-----

SS (AWAKENING): What? What is it? Where am I?

TK (BOY): What's wrong, Mom? You cried out in your sleep----

SS: I had a terrible dream. (BRIDGE)

TR: I've been talking to other vice-presidents, Wyler, and we think you need to put more thunderstorms in the script.

GK: Thunderstorms?

TR: Thunderstorms. People are terrified of thunderstorms.

GK: They are?

TR: Of course they are. Terrified. Aren't you?

GK: No….

TR: You're not?

GK: No…But I wrote in thunderstorms. (THUNDER, LIGHTNING)

SS: Oh no….lightning. We better find shelter, Timmy.

TK (BOY); But where, Mom?

SS: Look out! (TREE CRACKING, FALLING) Run! Run, Timmy! (TREE FALLS) Timmy? (STING)


GK: It was hard to keep a two-character script going and keep it tense and scary ---- ever so often I'd throw in a demented person…..(TR DEMENTED GEEZER)…or I'd throw in a native person…..(TR: O hana ma wani. Bugga wanna ma nuni. Kemo saba na bwana.) or I'd throw in an eccentric recluse living in the jungle….(TR DRACULA: Come in to my hut. I've been waiting for you. I haven't had any visitors since Miss Lucy. Would you like to meet her? EVIL LAUGHTER)….when the show lagged, it was always good to have Timmy and his mom run into an old Gestapo guy…..(TR NAZI: You remind me so much of the late Eva Braun.) …..or some spooky old supply-side economist (TR: You see by this graph, if we eat more cake---- bingo, more cake to eat.) ---- and the ghost of Christmas Future----

TK (BOY): Gee willikers, Mom. He's pointing that way----

SS: Maybe that's the way out of the jungle.

TK (BOY): No! It's a gravestone! And it has our names on it!

SS: Oh great! We're hopelessly lost and we have to run into this---- MORALIST!!! (STING)

TR: It's not working, Wyler. The snakes, the lions, the pits with sharp sticks----We need conflict.

GK: Why can't I get them out of the jungle and bring them home and they can sort of go through the struggles of ordinary daily life, Mr. Monahan?

TR: People aren't looking for ordinary life, Wyler. They want to hear about folks who are in up to their eyeballs. How about explosives? Can you write in some bombs?

GK: So I tried to create more conflict. (JUNGLE BIRDS, PRIMATES)

TK (BOY): You never loved me. You never cared about me.

SS: How can you say that?

TK (BOY): It's the truth.

SS: We're stranded in the jungle, living off nuts and berries and roasted rodents, and we have to get into recriminations???

TK (BOY): Even though we're lost in the jungle, I still have my needs.

SS: But Timmy----- (LION ROAR)

TK (BOY): Why can't you accept me for who I am, Mom? Gee willikers.

SS: Look out for that avalanche! (ROCKSLIDE) (BRIDGE)

TR: Wyler----

GK: Yes, sir.

TR: I've been talking to a number of the other vice-presidents and we feel that what the show needs is ---- more verticality.

GK: What's that?

TR: Verticality?

GK: Yes, sir.

TR: More depth.

GK: I don't follow you, sir.

TR: We think there's too much horizontal. The show needs more verticality.

GK: Okay.

TR: And texture. We need to texturize it. (BRIDGE)

GK: It was what management did before and after their long lunches. They sat in a room and discussed the need for verticality and accessibility and texture and inverse relationships and wrote memos that were incomprehensible and then I had to sit down and do the work and write the show. (BIRDS, PRIMATES)

SS: Do you know what day it is today?

TK (BOY): No----

SS: You don't know what day it is?

TK (BOY): Mom, I haven't kept track of the days. It's all I can do to gather food and firewood and try to keep the lions away----

SS: Well, I'll tell you what day it is. It's Mother's Day.

TK (BOY): Oh boy-----

SS: It's Mother's Day…..If you're wondering why I'm feeling a little down, that's why.

TK (BOY): (SIGH) Well, why didn't you tell me?

SS: I'm supposed to tell you??? Timmy, Mother's Day is a day when you're supposed to tell me. Tell me that you care. (WEEPY)

TK (BOY): Mom. Please. We're lost in the jungle, surrounded by poisonous snakes and spiders and man-eating plants….

SS: ----And ungrateful children….

TK (BOY): Oh boy-----

SS: You couldn't have written me a note?? Given me some little token? A smooth stone? A seashell?? You know how I love seashells….

TK (BOY): We're in the jungle, for crying out loud!!!!

SS: Well, it's always something, isn't it.

TK (BOY): And besides, it was your idea to go off looking for Mr. Shellbarger in the first place that got us here!!!!

SS: So you're saying it's all my fault----

TK (BOY): It is. It's all your fault…..

SS: It's all my fault----

TK (BOY): Gee willikers, yes!

SS: You're sitting there and telling me that this is all my fault-----

GK: When you have to write fifteen minutes of radio every day, you learn to use repetition----

SS: Is that what you're saying? That it's my fault? You're holding your mother responsible for everything? Blaming me? You can't take any of the blame? It's all my fault?

GK: And you learn to use snakes.

SS: (GASP) What is that? Is that a----- (SNAKE RATTLE) It is----- And it's winding around my neck----- (SNAKE RATTLE)

GK: I wrote the show for six years. The producer Mel Monahan was killed in an explosion in his office. He went in after a big lunch and closed the door and (EXPLOSION) it blew up. The show ended after Lenny Fantod, who played Timmy, got to be fifty-five and was tired of saying, Gee willikers.

TK: I feel it's time to move on.

GK: And now Lenny and I and Mary Wiggins, who played Mom, go around to Golden Age tape collectors shows and we autograph our pictures for $15 apiece.

TK: No cameras! No tape recorders!

GK: Lenny served 12 years in Stillwater for armed robbery but somehow the fans don't hold it against him.

TR: I grew up with you---- you were the brother I never had---

TK: Fifteen bucks. Fork it over.

TR: I too felt lost all those years ---- I was in a jungle of my own ---- an emotional jungle----

TK: Next!

SS: Would you mind signing it "For Thelma and Bob----"

TK: I don't do that.

SS: But they're big fans of yours.

TK: If I did it for one, I'd have to do it for everybody.

SS: Please----

TK: Next! (BRIDGE)

GK: To some, it was the Golden Age of radio, but to those of us who were there, it was just a job, a way station on the long road to oblivion. The Road to Oblivion was the show I worked on after Timmy of the Jungle, but that's another story. (THEME)

TR (ANNOUNCER): RADIO'S GOLDEN AGE….a trip down memory lane to share heart-warming stories from yesteryear….was brought to you by Jensen's Medicated Gel…..

GK: Jensen's Medicated Gel
Is good for what ails you.
Prevents seizures, and distempers,
Episodes and syndromes too.
It's good for nervous breakdowns,
Bronchitis and gangrene
Cures warts and bumps, chicken pox and mumps,
And it leaves breath fresh and clean.


© Garrison Keillor 2001

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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