Baron Keyes: A Man and His Air Castle
By Doug Hopkinson
Once again, a rare radio show emerges from the deep, dark depths of time, shading its unaccustomed eyes against the spotlight we so eagerly shine upon it. Brushing off the accumulated dust and cobwebs of the distant past reveals long forgotten details which will no doubt be once more relegated to oblivion shortly after the reading of this article.
On Feb 11th, 1928, it was reported that Baron Keyes, staff announcer for Los Angeles radio station KPLA, had resigned1. The reason behind his resignation became apparent two days later. He had been given an opportunity for his own radio program at a competing station. Originally billed as The Story Man and His Air Castles, it debuted in Los Angeles, CA, Monday, February 13, 1928, on radio station KHJ of the Don Lee Network.2 Over the years it was listed in newspapers under various names but the most common reference was Air Castle and that is how it shall be referred to in this document.
Its primary demographic target was pre-school aged children and as such was slated for broadcast weekday mornings from 9:30 to 10:00. By the end of February, 1928, KHJ knew that this new program was a success from the volume of mail they were receiving.3 By April, 1928, KJH referred to The Story Man and his Air Castle (note singular) as one of the most popular half hour programs they had on their station.4
At the end of May, 1928, KHJ moved the program to a 5:00 p.m. time slot and kept its Monday through Friday, 30 minute format.5 Reasons for this change were not stated but logic would dictate that a children’s show should attract children. It therefore stands to reason that a broadcast time later in the afternoon had the possibility to attract more children than it already did, especially when that time is after school hours and nearing the dinner hour. This proved to be a very effective strategy. Its popularity with children was increasing. By November 2nd, 1928, WGN in Chicago had produced a children’s radio show going by the name The Field’s Make-Believe Hour, sponsored by Marshall Field and Company broadcasting from the Air Castle6. The program was later referred to as The Children’s Make-Believe Hour7 or The Children’s Air Castle Hour8 as well as The Air Castle Hour9.
Although this show and Air Castle were unrelated, they shared some similarities, most prominently the name Air Castle and secondly the term “make-believe”. The odds of a west coast show and a mid-west show being independent of each other yet so similar in nature and name have got to be long, but whether by coincidence or design, children’s imaginations across the country were captured by make-believe and the air castle.
In January, 1929, children in California were being recruited by the hundreds to join the Shiny Tooth Army10. Headed by General Keyes at the behest of Myrrohl Toothpaste, children wrote in to the radio station with their names and addresses in order to join. On February 1st, 1929, Air Castle changed radio stations and broadcast time. It would now be heard on KPLA and San Francisco radio station KYA (both of the soon to fail ABC network) from 5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.11 On April 9th, 1929, Air Castle was once again back in the Don Lee studios of KHJ and by network to San Francisco radio station KFRC at the 5:00 p.m. slot12. At the end of August the show was reaching the height of its popularity. Children had been writing in wanting pictures of their favorite characters. In response to all the requests, Baron Keyes had done a drawing of Clickety-Clack and had postcards of it made13. These quickly disappeared. At this point Don Lee hired Orville Goldner, a well known marionette designer, to have marionettes made of all the main Air Castle characters. On August 29, 1929, a live stage show of Air Castle was put on for all its fans, both children and adults, at the Don Lee studios. This stage show was a personal appearance and not broadcast. It was such a huge success that by December, 1929, it was reported that Baron Keyes was performing three stage shows on Saturdays at the Beaux Arts Theater in Los Angeles14. It is unknown how long a period of time he did the stage show. The theater had a seating capacity of over 500. The need of three performances conveys the popularity of his show.
In January of 1930, Air Castle picked up Union Oil Company as a sponsor15. The show was shortened to a 15 minute format and it was broadcast on at least nine pacific coast radio stations16 of the NBC western chain from Arizona to Washington. At some point in 1930 syndication was considered if not implemented as large, 16”, one-sided, 78 rpm transcription discs were produced on Columbia pressings. This author was fortunate to have been able to listen to 52 of these discs.
By now, you must be asking ‘What the heck was this show about?’ In simple terms it was all about imagination, the land of make-believe and the land of everyday. If Cecil and Sally was the “comic strip of the air” then it could certainly be said that Air Castle was the “puppet show of the air”. The program was unique in its time as the setting and characters were all quite fanciful and improbable in terms of reality. One news reporter likened it aptly enough, to the Oz stories written by Frank L. Baum17. Another unique property of this radio program was that every song (with a few exceptions), storyline, character and sound effect was written, created, produced, played and portrayed by one man, Baron Keyes. He was the entire show.
The Air Castle was where all the denizens of make-believe land gathered each day along with the host, Story Man. There were a cast of characters. There was of course, Story Man, who was from the land of everyday. He would greet the listeners at the beginning of every show from the tower room of the Air Castle. As his name suggests he told stories to entertain the listeners as well as the other characters. He also sang songs, usually one or two per show (on the 15 minute discs). There were several non-verbal characters in make-believe land. Their “voices”, as it were, were all sound effects, so one of Story Man’s most important functions was to be the interpreter for the listeners. He had no trouble whatsoever understanding the toy horn notes of Bugler Murphy’s exclamations, the party favor horn quacks of Happy Duck, the kazoo speech of Bappo the Clown and the Little Ginger Bread Man or the tiny squeak-toy barks of Yip the little wooden dog and Squeak the little wooly puppy. The Slippery Elf had a most amusing “voice”. His voice was made by Baron Keyes talking through a siren whistle. The result was that one could somewhat make out what he was saying. By far, the most popular of the characters was Clickety-Clack. He was a funny little wooden man who stood one foot high. His favorite food was sawdust and he was always very happy. His best friend was another little wooden man, Bugler Murphy. They were inseparable. Clickety-Clack’s presence was indicated by the sound of two pieces of wood (or perhaps thimbles worn on two or three fingers) being rapped upon a hard surface (in a rhythm) representing his motion, be it walking, climbing, running or falling down the long winding stairway of the tower, which he was prone to do. He communicated in code with his tapping feet but many times his tapping signaled his happiness or excitement. The Story Man sometimes had to rely on President Pip to interpret if Clickety-Clack tapped too fast. Characters that had voices included President Aloysius Wimpleton Washington Lincoln McPip, the president of make-believe land and Mr. Unh, who came from the jungles. President Pip’s voice was rather high. He spoke rather fast with little pause between words or sentences. Mr. Unh’s voice was deep and gravelly. He spoke in haltingly short, poorly constructed sentences. He sounded very much like a stereotypical American Indian mixed with a stereotypical Italian immigrant with a bit of Tarzan thrown in for good measure. There were many other auxiliary characters that spoke including the Snow King, the Golden Knight, the Gnome King and Captain Jinx. Amazingly, Baron Keyes did quite a good job in making them all sound different.
Each program opened with the sound of the magic bells (which were percussion chimes in the higher frequency range) followed shortly after by the smooth tenor voice of Baron Keyes (Story Man) saying.. “Hello, Hello, Hello, This is the air castle, in the land of make-believe and all the children everywhere can hear us because we have a magic wire which goes to the radio….”
After this preamble, Story Man might remark on the view from the tower room and then tell us he is expecting Clickety-Clack and Bugler Murphy soon or President Pip and then suggests a song while we wait for them. Most of the songs were very simple and relatively short with lyrics a child could easily follow. Examples would be “At the Circus”, “Slumberland”, “Three Little Pigs”, “Funny Paper Jamboree”, “Storybook”, “The Wond’rous Land of Upside-Down”, “Yip’s Dream”, “The Sunflower Song”, “Jo-Jo, My Trained Flea” and many others. If any of these song titles sound familiar to you, they shouldn’t. An excellent example would be the “Three Little Pigs” song. Who doesn’t know that? Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?, tra la la la la… right? Wrong! This song is about three little pigs that die trying to go oink, oink, oink when they only could go wee, wee. It’s a catchy tune and rather funny but the little pigs still die. The Story Man says that Clickety-Clack thinks it’s a very sad song but stresses to the listeners that it’s only a song. The majority of the songs on Air Castle were written, composed and sung by Baron Keyes to his own accompaniment on the piano although he did sing other songs such as “My Old Kentucky Home” and “How Much is that Doggie in the Window”. Many songs were repeated throughout the course of the series as they became favorites and were requested by the juvenile audience.
Following the song, there might be another song if the first one was very short. The conclusion of the songs normally found all the beloved characters arriving in the tower room and Story Man would introduce and describe them in detail. He would paint a vivid picture of their size and how they were dressed. Occasionally he might remark on how clean their hands and faces were. Sometimes he would feed them and remark how well they chewed up all their food. If the characters were ever mean or unfair with each other, Story Man would intervene in an unassuming way to correct the situation.
At this point in the show, some type of excitement or adventure would occur. One such example was when President Pip announced they would all be going to Mars in his rocket. This particular adventure spanned two episodes, as did many. Another time a great commotion arose when President Pip arrived in the tower room with a green beard because Mr. Unh had given him a bottle of green ink instead of the hair tonic that was asked for. On another occasion President Pip has to rouse the Golden Knight from his (self imposed) enchantment. Once awakened the knight leads them all to the Suspended Tower (which was previously unknown to them). One time the cow that jumped over the moon was stuck in the bell tower and they had to get her down. Their adventures took them many different places such as the land of Upside-Down, the hall of the Gnome King, the jungle, to the Suspended Tower and even to the land of Everyday. At other times an adventure might be told to the listeners in the form of a story from the Story Man. Regardless of a conclusion to a current adventure or not, the magic bells would begin ringing (after about 12 minutes on the discs), which meant Story Man was being called back to Everyday Land signaling an end to the show. Each show ended with the Story Man saying, “Good-bye children. Be good and you’ll be happy..”.
One can easily understand why this show was so popular with children. It was simple in format and stimulated young imaginations with fanciful locations and characters. The Story Man was adept at describing places, times and people. The non-verbal communications of some characters honed those skills in the children listening. The tones and cadences of the kazoo and horn voices mimicked human speech. Introducing music to the children was entertaining if not educational as well. Children liked the songs and memorized the words. In today’s world, by today’s standards, this show is seen as the epitome of wholesomeness. The Story Man was always an advocate for the virtues of good hygiene, good manners and moral character.
Air Castle was consistently broadcast from February 1928 to the end of November 1931. During this period it had been broadcast over many different West Coast radio stations in several states. At the very end of December 1931, a small radio station, WHBL, in Sheboygan, WI aired a 15 minute program titled Baron Keyes Curio Shop. The show was only listed for two days in the local newspaper 18.
Beyond the radio guide listings there was no other mention or description of this program. The logical conclusion that these two broadcasts were tests seems credible after considering that in 1932 there is no mention of Air Castle being broadcast at all however there is evidence that Baron Keyes was still working. A listing in a West Virginia newspaper in March, 1932, notes him starring in a new program called Uncle Joe’s Curio Shop 19. This was a 15 minute Sunday only show. There are four episodes known to exist with the highest number to date being 13. The show itself is similar to Air Castle as Baron Keyes portrays Mr. Visitor and he is also the voice of all the other characters as well. There is a dog that sounds just like Yip and another character that sounds exactly like President Pip and even has the same long white beard. Another commonality is that Baron Keyes sings on this program.
At the end of February, 1933, Air Castle had a brief resurgence until July of the same year. It was broadcast on Los Angeles radio station KFI weekdays at 4:45 p.m. An interesting side note is that Baron Keyes had come up with a new children’s show called Uncle Jim which was being broadcast on Los Angeles radio station KECA weekdays at 5:30 p.m. Uncle Jim also began to be broadcast in February 1933 20 and ended in June. That Baron Keyes was working at both stations concurrently is unestablished although it was possible as both were located in Los Angeles. It is far more likely that KFI was using transcription discs of Air Castle while Baron Keyes broadcast live on KECA doing his new show Uncle Jim (which sounds suspiciously similar to Uncle Joe). It should also be observed that both KFI and KECA were owned by Earle C. Anthony who was an NBC affiliate. KFI was a Red Network station and as such carried commercially sponsored shows which Air Castle was (by the Union Oil Company). KECA was a Blue Network station which carried sustaining programs. From July 1933 through September there was again no evidence of Air Castle being broadcast. Then in early October of 1933 a small paragraph in The Los Angeles Times informed readers21: “Baron Keyes, creator of Klickety-Klack, popular children’s program, who has been seriously ill for several months, has found his way back to health and revives the feature on KECA at 6:15 p.m….” The revival ran from October 9th of 1933 until February 28, 1934 under the title The Adventures of Klickety-Klack 22. It is very interesting to note not only the title of the program but also the spelling change from Clickety-Clack (which it had always been) to Klickety-Klack. It must also be pointed out that it was being broadcast on KECA, an NBC Blue Network station, indicating there was no sponsor. One can only assume that there were litigious concerns with regards to using the show’s more familiar name as well as its most popular character’s correct name. This author has no evidence but plenty of conjecture.
The story of Baron Keyes is perhaps more interesting than that of his Air Castle. The following biography is the end product of hours of research and personal correspondence with his relatives.
He was born Alger Ira Soule in Greenwood, WI on October 2, 1898. He was the first of five children of Frank Oscar Soule and Marguerite Tina Moercken Schofield Soule. Frank was of French-English ancestry and a direct descendant of George Soule of the Plymouth Colony, one of the 102 original pilgrims to arrive on the Mayflower. Frank’s mother was Lucinda Alger and she was a first cousin of Horatio Alger, the famous 19th century author whose books were mainly for younger boys. Most of his books dealt with monetarily challenged young men making their fortune in life through hard work and dedication. This was the source of Alger Soule’s first name. His mother Marguerite, was the daughter of A.S.Moercken and Biret Strand Moercken who were from Bergen, Norway. A.S. Moercken was a violinist and student of Edvard Grieg the famous Norwegian composer and pianist. He and his wife had traveled by boat in order for him to do a concert tour to introduce Grieg’s music to the United States. At the time of Marguerite’s birth in April of 1879, they were staying with friends in Wisconsin. Marguerite’s mother died in the act of giving her birth. Her sudden passing affected Marguerite’s father so acutely that he became mentally unstable and consequently was institutionalized for the remainder of his life. The newly born orphan Marguerite was taken in and adopted by a prominent Wisconsin family by the name of Schofield. The Schofields were a well-to-do family having made their fortune in the lumber industry. At the time, they had two young, natural daughters that Marguerite grew up with. All three were provided with the finest education including finishing school, music and dance. Marguerite was adept at playing piano and guitar. She was also well versed in the Delsarte method of theatrical dance.
Frank Oscar Soule was a high school teacher, then a principal and finally a superintendant of some small school districts. Marguerite Soule was also a high school teacher and taught Delsarte method dancing.
Alger Soule was called Al by his family. He had two brothers and two sisters, all of them younger. He was quoted in a newspaper article in 1930 as saying that he had gained deep insight into child psychology through the experience of having been called upon by his mother to entertain his younger siblings. He found that by inventing stories about little mechanical people that had human attributes, he had “struck a responsive element in the child mind” 23. He claimed that the stories he told to his siblings in his youth were the foundation for the characters and stories for Air Castle ,some 20 years later.
Al grew up in Wisconsin and had no formal education beyond high school. He was very proficient at playing piano, having been taught by his mother Marguerite. The family moved to Colorado sometime before 1912. They resided there until around 1923 when they moved to California. In 1918, Al had a very brief military career in the 39th Coastal Artillery Corps. After finishing his training and expecting to be shipped out to France, the war ended and he found himself to be a civilian once again. He made his way to Chicago and studied art at the city’s famed Art Institute. Although interested in art, Al had always wanted a career in music and had even composed a few songs. A 1919 newspaper blurb mentions an advertising manager for a music publisher as being very happy with the “creepy” harmony and even meter of a waltz song titled “My Little Sweetheart” written by one Alger Soule and says it is sure to be an “avalanche” 24.
From 1920 to 1923 Al began working at various newspapers doing copy, layouts and promotions. He began at The Milwaukee Journal and migrated southwest to The Albuquerque Journal, El Paso Times and The Arizona Republican. In 1923, using the experience he had gained at the newspapers, Al landed a job with the writing staff of Leo Feist, Inc., one of the largest music publishing businesses in the United States. His duties included writing songs for publication and special material for vaudeville and radio. He worked with many top names for the next two years. It wasn’t long before he found a job in radio. The first mention this author has found was in February of 192425 performing a piano solo as part of Art Landry’s Call of the North Orchestra on Oakland radio station KLX. He was listed as Baron Keyes. It is unclear as to exactly when or why Al adopted this stage name but he stuck with it throughout the remainder of his career. By June of 1924, Baron Keyes was getting more detailed listings in the newspapers which included the names of the compositions he would be performing26. By August he had his own afternoon program on San Francisco radio station KPO, playing and singing his own compositions 27. He would continue appearing and performing his music throughout 1924 and 1925 and being broadcast on KFI, KPO and KGO (another Oakland, CA radio station).
Baron Keyes’ music was catching on and in 1925 he had formed his own band called Baron Keyes and His Heartstrings, which were being heard over San Francisco radio station KFRC28. 1925 also marked a highpoint for him when he wrote a song in honor of California’s 75th anniversary as a State, titled “At the Diamond Jubilee”.
It was between 1925 and 1927 that Al met a showgirl and married her. Evidence suggests that they met at radio station KFXB (soon to be KPLA) in Los Angeles where they were both employed. The girl’s name was Jean (last name unknown at the time of this publishing) but her stage name was Ditra Flame (which she later changed the pronunciation of to flah-MAY). She was a violinist and played for a time with an all-female band in Hollywood 29. Soon after they were wed, Al discovered that his new wife had an obsession for Rudolph Valentino. It was an obsession she couldn’t give up and it soon became the cause of their divorce.
In 1927, Alger Soule, using his nom de plume Baron Keyes, collaborated with lyricist George Waggner on what was to be the most successful song of his career, “Sweet Someone”. It was very popular and still is a well known song in Hawaii, more than likely from the efforts of Don Ho who frequently sang it for many years. To this day, royalties are still being generated to the estate of Baron Keyes for this song.
Beginning in 1924, Baron Keyes was a constant presence on the radio both musically and as an announcer but he really gained fame when he finally began the children’s program, Air Castle in February, 1928. He maintained his radio popularity in children’s radio into 1934. The Adventures of Klickety-Klack went off the air in early 1934 and it is not until 1936 that there is again any mention of Baron Keyes being on the radio. In April 1936 Baron Keyes children’s programs were being listed on KEHE of Los Angeles. At this time Baron Keyes was no longer performing live on radio so these listed broadcasts were most definitely electrical transcriptions.
From 1936 to 1950 Al did freelance work. He wrote songs and material for radio as well as for Harman-Ising Cartoons, MGM and Walt Disney30. He also continued to write his own compositions.
From 1950 to 1952 Al broke into television. Although he was not in front of the camera, his music and storylines were. The name of the program was Candy’s Playhouse and later known as Candy and Nancy. Nancy Wible was a ventriloquist, Candy Sugarpine was her wooden partner.
This television show was on every weekday. The show was quite popular at the time and there were even 10” children’s records produced and marketed. Al’s show-biz career apparently ended with this television show. He may have made some minor contributions for projects that previous acquaintances of his were working on, and he may have continued to write and compose privately, but Candy and Nancy was basically his last hurrah in the entertainment industry.
Over his lifetime, Al wrote at least 75 children’s songs and collaborated with at least six different ASCAP writers on 48 other children and adult contemporary songs. He of course, composed scores of other contemporary songs on his own. Of all these songs, only one was a hit, and that one is still being played to this day and still bringing in royalties. As to the radio shows, some have survived the decades and are now being made available for anyone that wants to listen. If you do listen, listen carefully and you’ll hear a man that was lucky and talented enough to realize that sometimes it really is possible to build your very own air castle.
Al’s mother, Marguerite, was disowned by the Schofield family when she dishonored them by marrying a common schoolteacher, Frank Soule. The upper-crust American-Victorian Schofields felt that Marguerite was marrying far below her station and never forgave her. Marguerite did hear from one of the Schofield daughters once or twice a year via telephone and they also exchanged Christmas cards. Marguerite was very religious. While her family lived in Colorado, they attended the church of the Latter Day Saints. They were not Mormon. They attended because it was the only church around. When they moved to Southern California, Marguerite discovered Ernest Holmes and the Christ Church Unity. Her preference for a non-traditional Christian religion was most likely influenced by Mrs. Schofield who was one of the first people in Wausau, Wisconsin to champion a Universalist church using her money and power 31. Marguerite was every bit the matriarch of the family and much involved in the lives of her children as well as her grandchildren. She passed away in 1968.
One of Al’s sisters, Dorothy Soule, became a professional dancer and married a professional guitar player. Their son, Ronald Madison, became a professional dancer and was in show business between 1953 and 1971. He taught dancing at the University of Wisconsin from 1968-1971. He then decided to get a degree in linguistics and attended Georgetown University and a few years later received his Master’s degree in Education from Pepperdine University in teaching the disabled. His mother Dorothy was married 3 times. She passed away in 1967 at the age of 49, a victim of alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver.
Ditra Flame’ became well-known for her obsession, as she is today considered to be the original “Lady in Black”. For those unfamiliar with the Lady in Black, here is the story.
When Rudolph Valentino died in 1926 he was entombed in a crypt at the Cathedral Mausoleum at what is today known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. The Lady in Black, as her name suggests, dressed all in black from head to toe including a veil to hide her face. She visited Valentino’s crypt every year on the anniversary of his death putting red roses in the flower holders, running her gloved hand over his nameplate as if to wipe away any accumulated dust and fingerprints, and then kneel and pray before disappearing. Ditra was revealed to be the original Lady in Black in a 1947 Associated Press story that appeared in newspapers nationwide.32 A 1977 newspaper article gave details of an interview with Ditra as she made an appearance at Valentino’s tomb on the 51st anniversary of his death
33. She claimed that the recent death of Elvis Presley had prompted her to resume her visitation after 23 years of absence. She explained that she had stopped attending because there were too many other women being the Lady and all the media attention and satirizations became too much for her so that she had stopped attending. She also explained how her Lady in Black role began. Her mother was a friend of Rudolph Valentino. When Ditra was a young girl of 14 years, she lay severely ill in the hospital and Valentino came to visit her. He placed a single red rose on her blanket and told her; “You’re not going to die at all. You are going to outlive me by many years. But one thing for sure if I die before you do, you please come and stay by me because I don’t want to be alone either. You come and talk to me.” Ditra never forgot that and brought a bouquet of red roses to his crypt every year until 1954. Ditra’s name and her story have appeared annually in the news since 1947 every August on or around the 23rd. Whether her story is true or not, she managed to indelibly link herself to that of her obsession, Rudolph Valentino. In 1954 Ditra had become a member of the Rose of Sharon Evangelical Mission34 and in the 1960’s worked as a Christian Missionary to American Indian tribes in California and Arizona35. In 1984 she died alone in a home cluttered with Valentino memorabilia in Ontario, CA.
The ABC network Candy’s Playhouse television show ended with the sale of the station from which it originated despite its top ratings and willing sponsors. Nancy Wible continued her partnership with her wooden doll Candy Sugarpine. They were active for many years making appearances at various charitable events and hospitals. Nancy was quite successful on her own doing voice-over work for many, many animated children’s shows beginning with Gumby in 1957. Her last known voice-over work was on The Bugs n’ Daffy Show in 1996. This author was recently in contact with Nancy who is very much alive and well as of the time of this writing. Here in her own words is what Nancy had to say about Baron Keyes. "Baron was always a gentleman and one of the best TV song writer and script writers I ever met. Before I had my TV show, and Baron was on radio, he was known as "The Baron of the Keys". My TV show in the early 1950's was called "Candy's Playhouse". I was a ventriloquist and everyday - five days a week, Baron would present me with an original script and song written specifically for the next day’s show, which I had to memorize over night!! He just seemed to know what Candy and I should say to each other to entertain the children. My friend, Bud Russell, whom I later married, created and carved Candy from sugarpine wood. He also created and carved, and was the voice of Paddy Wack, the jack in the box on my show. Baron wrote music for him also. Baron also wrote songs for each of my children when they were born. Our show had the highest ratings on ABC and the best sponsors. We worked together for 2 years and we were all devastated when we learned that the station had been sold. I went into the voice-over field and I lost touch with Baron after that, except for an occasional Christmas card. I will always have fond memories of him."
Alger Soule aka Baron Keyes, after having divorced from Ditra in the late 1920’s, moved back into his parent’s home and lived with them for the rest of their lives. Alger suffered from mental illness which was complicated by alcohol abuse. He was in and out of mental care facilities many times during his life. It is reasonable to believe that many of his long absences and station switching were a result of these disabilities. Any income that Alger made he would sign over to Marguerite who financially supported him until her death in 1968. After that, Al lived in a series of small rented apartments or sometimes just a boardinghouse room. His sister Bonnie (Soule) Reilly watched after Al until his death on September 26, 1976. When his end came, he died in a convalescent home in or near Gardena, CA 36. Bonnie evidently followed the Soule family path as she played piano in a Colorado movie house for silent films in the 1920s. She was also a teacher for a time in a one-room schoolhouse.
Al’s great niece, Bonnie Reilly Hoy (daughter of Bonnie (Soule) Reilly, has very happy memories of her Uncle Al. As a child, when she would visit her grandmother (Marguerite), Al would entertain her by drawing pictures. She says he was a very good artist. He played games and made Kool-Aid for her. Even when Al was away in a hospital he would send her little gifts that he bought at the hospital canteen. Al’s nephew Ron Madison does not share the same tender memories. Both Ron and Bonnie distinctly remember one Uncle Al incident but can’t pinpoint when it took place. One of Al’s programs was up for new sponsorship. The new sponsor was to be a major brand of spearmint gum (possibly Wrigley’s). Al objected to this sponsorship because he felt it was wrong for children to chew gum. He and his show were fired on the spot. (That would never happen in today’s world). Ron has a thought to share on why Al excelled at children’s radio shows. He proposes that Al gravitated towards children and make-believe because he never quite grew-up himself. Ron also shares one anecdote of his Uncle Al. Ron had occasioned to see Al shortly after Marguerite’s death in 1968. Ron greeted him by saying “What’s up? What are you doing these days?” Al replied in a somewhat cheerful voice, “Just waiting”.
A great-nephew of Al has made his mark in the world by being the drummer and later the bassist for a famous punk rock band. He is a lawyer and he also has his own radio show in Los Angeles. Out of consideration for his privacy, his name has been withheld from this article.
It would be remiss to not mention three other famous celebrities that are reportedly related to Alger Soule. They would be Olan Soule37, Dick Van Dyke38 and Richard Gear [sic]39. All three can apparently be traced back to George Soule. Having spent many hours studying the George Soule family tree, this author can assure you that the proper terminology should be Soule Jungle. Of these three, Olan Soule bears the most interest in relation to this article as he was most active in radio.
Olan’s first radio appearance was on Little Orphan Annie as the Chinese cook Aha. He portrayed Coach Hardy on Jack Armstrong and was on the daytime soap Bachelor’s Children for 11 years. He is well known for being the lead actor on First Nighter for several seasons including its final one of 1952-53. He had quite a few appearances in other radio shows including Dragnet40. Olan went to Hollywood in 1947 and never looked back. Radio aside, his real success began when television arrived. Olan was the true essence of what a character actor strives to be. From 1949 on, he appeared in an unbelievable number of television shows. He had the most repeat appearances (38) in Dragnet which is indicative of his close friendship with Jack Webb if not his acting abilities.
Olan also did commercials and a lot of voiceover work in cartoons. He was the voice of the animated Batman in all its various incarnations i.e. Batman/Superman Hour and Superfriends that spanned a period from1968 to 1984 when at the age of 75 he was relieved of that voice by a younger Adam West 41.
The marionettes of the Air Castle characters that were especially made are sadly missing. No one knows what became of them. At least there are some very nice pictures of them for which we can thank Alger Soule for keeping scrap books and his nephew Ron for sharing the contents with us. .
This author wishes to express his deepest gratitude to Alger Soule’s relatives, Ronald Madison, Bonnie Reilly Hoy and my initial contact, the great-nephew, for all their help and cooperation with the research that went into this paper. A special thank you goes out to Nancy Wible and her daughter Carol Marie Quinn for their help also. Without the assistance of all the people just mentioned, the facts would never have come to light.
The magic bells are ringing now… Good-bye children. Be good and you’ll be happy…..