The Cruise of the Poll Parrot Radio Program
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Early Poll Parrot logo
Poll Parrot 'Shoe Money' from 1934
Promotional Poll Parrot stand-up model from 1936 for partipating shoe stores
Premiere spot ad for The Cruise of the Poll Parrot from September 25 1936
October 10 1936 spot ad for The Cruise of the Poll Parrot
Poll Parrot logo during the early 1940s
The Cruise of the Poll Parrot was first promoted in 1936 over Sheboygan, WI station WHBL then a member of the short-lived Affiliated Broadcasting Company (ABC) Network
First broadcasting in April 1936 the Affiliated Broadcasting Company was one of the shorter lived regional broadcast networks of the era
January 5 1939 Miller's Shoes spot ad for The Cruise of the Poll Parrot
RJ&R snazzed up their Poll Parrot character a bit during World War II and beyond
The approximate Route of the Poll Parrot between 1858 and 1860
The Poll Parrot and Star brands of shoes were two of the shoe manufacturing and retailing subsidiaries of Roberts, Johnson & Rand, a Division of the International Shoe Company of St. Louis, Missouri which RJ&R also controlled. There was nothing particularly 'international' about International Shoe Company until its 1959 launch of an International Retail Sales division. Roberts, Johnson & Rand (RJ&R) had been manufacturing shoes since the turn of the century, had done very well supplying the military during World War I, and had begun marketing Poll Parrot shoes in 1928. RJ&R had acquired the Poll Parrot line from its creator, Paul Parrott, in 1928. Paul Parrott had begun manufacturing Paul Parrot Shoes in St. Louis in 1922. Not to be confused with the Hal Roach Studios' comedian of the 1920s, James Parrot [as 'Paul Parrott']. The comedian Paul Parrot had appeared as "the new clerk" in one of Hal Roach's shorts, "Tight Shoes" (1923). The play on the actor's name and the title of the short were apparently yet another of Hal Roach's inspired ironies. The Paul Parrott of the former 'Paul Parrott Shoes' stayed on with RJ&R as a senior regional factory representative for both the 'Poll Parrot' and 'Star' brand shoe lines. From the September 13, 1934 edition of the Kingsport Times:
"Mr. Paul Parrott, for whom the "Poll Parrot" shoes were named will be in the city Friday and Saturday and will give demonstrations on his famous line of shoes for boys and girls.
Mr. Parott is the factory representative out of St. Louis, and is completing a tour of cities throughout the South and Tennessee. He also will present a complete line of ladies' fancy novelty, ladies' arch type shoes that are being worn throughout the South and East."
From the outset in 1928, RJ&R's Poll Parrot brand began aggressively advertising throughout the midwest of both the U.S. and Canada. The 'Poll Parrot' brand was Roberts, Johnson & Rand's regional premium children's brand and their 'Star' brand was their economy to medium quality brand for adults. Poll Parrot's primary competition was then, and always had been, Buster Brown Shoes. Buster Brown Shoes was a far wider known children's shoe brand throughout North America. RJ&R necessarily ramped up all manner of promotions during the 1930s and 1940s in an effort to gain regional market share from Buster Brown Shoes.
R J & R prominently advertised both lines as "all leather in vital parts", "all leather" referring only to counters, insoles, and lasts. One of Poll Parrot's initial promotions was a contest for a "real Shetland Pony" named "Bimbo" during a 1932 promotion for their "Poll-Parrot Pony Club" campaign. From the April 17, 1932 edition of the Texas Avalanche Journal:
Here's the cutest, friendliest, gentlest little Shetland pony you ever saw. His name is Bimbo. We're going to give him away. Some lucky boy or girl will be the proud owner of this dandy little pony, saddle, bridle, and all--and he won't cost a penny. Let us tell you about it.
We're putting on a big contest for the children. We want you all to know more about Poll-Parrot shoes--how well these wonderful shoes fit your feet-- how stylish they are--the comfort that comes from their flexible, easy-bending soles--how they hold their shape, and the long wear that Poll-Parrot solid leather shoes will give. We want you to know that Poll-Parrot shoes for live, red-blooded, active boys and girls, have built into them the same smart style, the same fine fit, and identically the same all-leather quality and good value as Star Brand Shoes for Mother and Dad.
Now about Bimbo. The very first time you have a chance, stop in at the store and join the Poll-Parrot Pony Club. It won't cost you a cent. We'll give you a button to wear. That won't cost you anything either. Then you write us a letter and tell us, in not more than thirty-five words, why Poll-Parrot shoes are better shoes for boys and girls to wear. That's easy, isn't it? And, Children, that's all there is to it. The boy or girl who writes the best letter will be the one to get Bimbo--absolutely free. What do you think about that?
Throughout the 1930s, the Poll Parrot line also distributed 'Poll Parrot Shoe Money' in the form of discount savings coupons intended to approximate dollar bills in appearance. "Shoe Money," a term all too familiar to post-Depression America, was a long common euphemism for the bills one might keep in one's shoes for an emergency--or to hide from a wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or landlord. Because the Poll Parrot line was actively targeted to juveniles and parents, the firm's advertising tended to prominently feature illustrations of children at play, the Poll Parrot line's mascot, "Poll Parrot," and its slogan for both the Poll Parrot and Star lines: that their shoes were "every improvement pre-tested" prior to releasing their shoes for sale.
RJ&R subsequently obtained huge contracts from the government for shoes for the war effort throughout World War II. As International Shoe Company it acquired the famous Florsheim and Converse shoe brands during the 1950s. International Shoe Company changed its name to INTERCO, Inc., in 1966. It acquired furniture maker Ethan Allen in 1979. The current company, Furniture Brands International, Inc., is the largest domestic manufacturer of residential furniture in the United States. Though now a predominately furniture manufacturing concern, up until the 1990s INTERCO, Inc. still operated two famous shoe subsidiaries and lines--Florsheim and Converse. INTERCO Inc. divested itself of the two popular shoe lines during their bankruptcy and restructuring of 1996 that resulted in Furniture Brands International, Inc.
International Shoe had previously produced the well-received Red Goose Adventures beginning in 1931. They'd also produced the Robin Hood Club beginning in 1934. With the advent of popularly available Radio then well underway by 1936, Roberts, Johnson & Rand devised a clever Radio promotion for their Poll Parrot children's shoes line: a juvenile advetnures serial Radio program featuring two young children as the male and female protagonists.
R. J. & R. syndicate The Cruise of The Poll Parrot in 1936
One of the more cleverly conceived serial Radio adventures of the era, the series' thirty-nine, 15-minute episodes were performed and transcribed such that potential buyers of the independently syndicated production could buy either:
- one of the three complete, thirteen-episode adventures
- the entire thirty-nine episode series of three adventures
- or the last twenty-six episodes which, though consisting of two, thirteen-part adventures, were structured so that the final twenty-six installments sounded like a complete twenty-six installment serial.
It was a clever marketing structure for the era, given the target clients. This was after all the period following the Great Depression. Targeted at retail shoe stores, the first broadcasts of the syndicated series appears to have aired during the Fall of 1936, though it's possible that the series first aired even earlier during 1936.
The adventures follow Johnny Robbins and Suzanne 'Sue' Grange as they embark as eventual passengers on the whaling bark, the Poll Parrot. Based out of New Bedford Harbor, New Bedford, Massachusetts, the port was a major center of the American whaling industry since Revolutionary War days. The Poll Parrot was commanded by its new skipper, Captain Roy Dalton [performed by twenty-three year old Marvin Miller of 'The Millionaire' fame] and his new First Mate--and best friend--George Wainright. Actor Marvin Miller also voiced the squawks of 'Poll Parrot' throughout the series. The three macro-adventures of the series comprised thirteen, 15-minute episodes each, centering around whaling adventures, a search for buried treasure, the dangers of storms at sea, and mutiny. All in all, three varieties of serial adventure, each scripted to both educate and entertain children and their families at the dinner hour each evening.
The series prided itself on incorporating well-researched historical information into each installment so that the series both educated and entertained its audiences. Set in the Spring of 1858 New Bedford, the whaling bark 'Poll Parrot ' was owned and operated by Grange & Sons of New Bedford, with Ezra Grange, Sue's older brother and co-owner of Grange & Sons, accompanying the ship's complement on Captain Dalton's maiden cruise as the Master. Former First Mate Roy Dalton had just received his Master's Papers and the Poll Parrot would be Dalton's first command as skipper. Captain Dalton undertook provisioning his first whaling cruise with a relatively free hand--for a whaling ship captain of the era. Ezra Grange mysteriously promised Captain Dalton all the funds he needed to both assemble the most reliable crew possible, and the very best stores and equipment Dalton could obtain for Dalton's initial cruise. Captain Dalton engaged his best friend George Wainright as his First Mate--albeit reluctantly. Wainright was understandably hesitant, given the traditionally dubious reputation of most whaling ships and their crews or the era--and his suspicions regarding Ezra Grange's unusually generous budget for the cruise. The first episode also introduced the Spaniard, "Altesti", one of the villains of the adventures, and "Old Dicken" the peg-legged cabin-hand and his pet parrot, "Poll Parrot," the namesake and mascot of Grange & Sons' whaling ship, the Poll Parrot.
Each installment of the three adventures opened with Poll Parrot squawking the series' catch phrase, "Poll Parrot Shoes speak for themselves." The sounding of 'six bells' would then signal announcer Dave Ward's introduction and opening exposition regarding the night's installment.
From the August 29, 1937 edition of the Pampa Daily News:
New Radio Serial to
Be Heard on KPDN
"Cruise of the Poll Parrott," exciting radio story of the sea and adventurous days of whaling, will be brought to the air for KPDN listeners for the first time at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The new 15-minute feature which will be offered under sponsorship of Seale's Shoe Store, Inc., each Tuesday and Friday at the same time, is a popular program for children.
It has adventure, thrills and an educational value equal to any modern day radio program. "Cruise of the Poll Parrot" has a cast of 11 characters, including one who takes the part of "Old Polly," the ship's mascot. They keep the story moving at a fast pace all of the time, and once you begin listening to the program, you'll be waiting for the next episode of thrills.
The story centers around two juvenile characters, Johnny and Sue, and the story of a whaling ship which sets sail supposedly on a whaling expedition but really to seek a valuable treasure.
The adventures that follow are breath-taking. An important part of each episode is the educational material cleverly entwined in the thrilling adventures.
Principal characters of the "Cruise of the Poll Parrot" are Captain Dalton, George Wainwright, his best friends and first mate; Dickson, the cabin boy; Johnny Robbins, and little Sue Grange, sister of the ship's owner, Ezra Grange.
Then there are the villains, the Spanish Altesti and his partner Red Mulhooley. Much of the action of the radio plot is centered on a volcanic island where treasure is buried.
The first episode will be heard over KPDN at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The premiere installment of the first 13-part adventure had announcer Dave Ward framing the setting and characters that would make up the following thirty-nine episode series. Listeners were introduced to Johnny and Sue and Sue's older brother and part-owner of Grange & Sons, Ezra Grange. Roy Dalton was introduced having that day received his Master's Papers and his commission to skipper the Poll Parrot. Roy Dalton led us to his best friend George Wainright. Ezra Grange then led us to the infamous Spaniard, Altesti. Old Dicken, the peg-legged cabin hand and Poll Parrot, the ship's mascot, were then introduced.
The second episode finds the mysterious circumstances of the impending cruise mounting. We meet Old Man Breckenridge, the one man at the port of New Bedford that knows all the history and secrets of the port. Little Sue Grange seemed fascinated with the adventures of whalers and expressed her interest in joining the complement of the Poll Parrot, lamenting that no one takes her seriously due to both her age and gender. Her older brother, Ezra, would hear none of it.
Old Dicken's pet parrot seems to have an uncanny knack for sensing mystery and danger, often blurting out its concerns in squawking, yet prescient mimcry--or is it just mimicry . . . ?
Altesti, a shipping agent for DaSilva & Company--one of Grange & Sons' competitors--was discussed along with his unaccountable aggression towards Captain Dalton, Ezra Grange, and his crew. Sue Grange, tomboy that she was, seemed even more interested in the impending cruise the more she heard the seasoned men of the sea discussing Altesti's clouded past--and the possible dangers to come on the cruise.
Rather than spoil the remaining episodes and adventures, Sue Grange did eventually get aboard the Poll Parrot, as did Johnny Robbins. Captain Dalton ultimately set sail on a "year and a half cruise" with what he believeed to be a complement of thirty-four crewmembers--only to discover once at sea that he'd gained at least two more crewmembers. Sue and Johnny then undertook a series of mysteries, whaling adventures, a treasure hunt, and brushes with pirates and mutineers. They also encountered the infamous Altesti, Poll Parrot crewman 'Red' Mulhooley, an exploding volcano, a hurricane at sea, a trained black leopard, the "world's greatest magician," and a wild Jaguar; all in the course of their thirty-nine installments of the fast-paced yet historically informative series. Several intriguing questions and mysteries overshadowed Captain Dalton's first cruise on the Poll Parrot as he left New Bedford Harbor:
- Why had Ezra Grange taken such extraordinary pains--and expense--to provision the Poll Parrot's first cruise under Captain Dalton's command?
- What was the mystery behind Johnny Robbins' last name?
- How many stowaways were really aboard the Poll Parrot?
- Why was Johnny's last name on Ezra Grange's secret treasure map?
- Why did Ezra Grange hold Johnny's last name against him?
- How had Altesti remained undiscovered aboard the Poll Parrot?
- What was the secret behind Seaman 'Jameson's' past?
Those questions and more remained mysteries as Johnny Robbins and Sue Grange undertook their eighteen months of thrilling adventure aboard the whaling ship, the Poll Parrot.
Production and Broadcast History
Produced by Roberts, Johnson & Rand (RJ&R) out of St. Louis, Missouri and recorded and transcribed by Premier Radio Enterprises, all thirty-nine syndicated episodes were immediately available for potential subscribers during the late Summer and Fall of 1936. Since RJ&R's target clients were children's shoe retailers the series usually aired in local or regional affiliate stations across the midwest, irrespective of their network affiliation. As it turned out, the series was ultimately broadcast as one or two, thirteen-part adventures, or as a full, three-adventure, thirty-nine episode series throughout the midwest from 1936 through 1940. We logged, for example:
- A 1936 WHBL (ABC), Sheboygan, Wisconsin run for Hessler Shoes
- A 1936 KDYL (NBC-Red), Salt Lake City, Utah run
- A 1936 WHIS, Bluefield, West Virginia run for Elletts Shoes
- A 1936 WKRC (CBS), Hamilton, Ohio run.
- A 1937 KFYO (NBC-Red), Lubbock, Texas run
- A 1937 WSAL, Denton, Maryland run for Long & Short, Inc.
- A 1937 KPDN, Pampa, Texas run for Seale's Shoe Store, Inc., then Jones-Roberts, Inc.
- A 1937 KPLT, Paris, Texas run for Perkins Bros. Company
- A 1938 KTAR (NBC), Phoenix, Arizona run for The Boston Store
- A 1938 KTSM (NBC), El Paso, Texas run
- A 1938 WKST, New Castle, Pennsylvania run for Miller's Shoes
- A 1939 KADA, Ada, Oklahoma run
- A 1940 WKPT, Kingsport, Tennessee run
Some broadcast sponsors also offered a "Cruise of the Poll Parrot Game" as a premium with every pair of Poll Parrot Shoes purchased during the broadcasts.
As World War II approached, demand for The Cruise of the Poll Parrot waned. Having aired for almost four years, the mostly midwest market had been saturated. Roberts, Johnson & Rand had accomplished their goal and were regularly advertising in full color in magazines such as Life and The Saturday Evening Post. The production was commended for both its entertainment value and its adherence historical accuracy; all told, a fairly respectable return for a relatively short juvenile mystery-adventure serial of the era.
The series wears well to this day. During the course of the series, listeners learn in detail about sailing, whaling, the anatomy of whales, the geology of volcanos, the Civil War, and jungle denizens. The better circulating exemplars are both complete and well transferred. We have no doubt that the series would hold as much interest for 8 to 11 yr olds today as it did in 1936--as long you could tear them away from their iPods or Television long enough to introduce them to the series.
|Poll Parrot Cruise
||Anthology of Golden Age Radio Juvenile Adventure Serials
||Affiliated Broadcasting Company (ABC); NBC-Red; CBS; several independent stations and local affiliates and regional networks while in syndication.
||Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
||Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
||36-09-16 01 Captain Dalton Assembles His Crew
||Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
||36-09-16 to 36-12-09; Affiliated Broadcasting Company (ABC) [WHBL]; Thirteen, 15-minute programs; Wednesday evenings at 6:30.
||Roberts, Johnson & Rand, recorded at Premier Radio Enterprises of St. Louis, Missouri;
||Elletts Shoe Store of Bluefield, West VA; Julius Hessler Shoe Store of Sheboygan, WI; Seale's Shoe Store of Pampa, TX; Miller's Shoes, New Castle, PA; Jones-Roberts, Inc., Pampa, TX; The Boston Store, Phoenix, AZ; Long and Short Inc, Federalsburg, MD; Perkins Bros. Company, Paris, TX
||Marvin Miller, Dave Ward, Joseph Kearns (?)
||Jonathan Obadiah 'Johnny' Robbins, a runaway
Suzanne 'Sue' Grange, Ezra Grange's little sister
Ezra Grange, co-owner of Grange & Sons
Captain Roy Dalton, skipper of the Poll Parrot [Marvin Miller]
First Mate George Wainright
Old Dicken, a peg-legged cabin hand of the Poll Parrot who lost his leg in a whaling accident
Poll Parrot, Old Dicken's pet parrot [Marvin Miller]
Old Man Breckenridge, the Poll Parrot's Ship Keeper
Second Mate Jowett
Buscara, the Third Mate
Mr. Nicholson, Fourth Mate and Helmsman
Altesti, the Spaniard
Pancho, Altesti's peg-legged henchman
'Red' Mulhooley, troublemaker and one of the Poll Parrot's ordinary seamen
Seaman 'Jameson,' a man with a secret
'Jaggie the Jaguar'
||Johnny Robbins and Sue Grange
||Estimated Scripts or
||Episodes in Circulation:
||Total Episodes in Collection:
|RadioGOLDINdex; Hickerson Guide; Same Time, Same Station, Martin Grams' Radio Drama.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.
Missouri-born Marvin Miller, then an announcer and actor at KMOX--the St. Louis, Missouri key station for CBS during 1936 had already portrayed both "The Old Scoutmaster" and "Montgomery Mouse" on the Robin Hood Club, for the Central Shoe Company of St. Louis. The floor above KMOX was occupied by Premier Radio Enterprises, a St. Louis transcription company. Roberts, Johnson & Rand contracted with Premier Radio Enterprises to produce, record and press a modular, thirty-nine episode transcription set of The Cruise of the Poll Parrot. Young Marvin Miller was pressed into service as both Captain Roy Dalton, Master of the Poll Parrot, and the 'voice' of squawking "Poll Parrot."
The only person actually credited in the series was the announcer and narrator, Dave Ward.
The complement of the Poll Parrot while at sea was exposited by Old Dicken in Episode No. 8 of the first adventure as follows:
- Ezra Grange, co-owner of Grange & Sons
- The Poll Parrot's Officers:
- Captain Roy Dalton, Skipper
- George Wainright, First Mate
- Mr. Jowett, Second Mate
- Mr. Buscara, Third Mate
- Mr. Nicholson, Fourth Mate [and Helmsman]
- Four Boat-Steerers, one each for the Poll Parrot's four whale boats
- Sixteen Ordinary Seamen, four for each whale boat
- Four Ordinary Seamen who remain aboard the Poll Parrot during whaling operations
- The Ship's Cooper, who takes care of the whale oil casks and acts as Ship's Carpenter
- The Ship's Cook
- The Ship's Steward, who also acts as the Ship's Doctor
- Johnny Robbins, the Cabin Boy
- Sue Grange
- Old Dicken
- Poll Parrot, the ship's mascot
And of course--unbeknownst to Captain Dalton--Altesti had also stowed away aboard the Poll Parrot.
Others mentioned were:
- Old Man Breckenridge, the Poll Parrot's Ship Keeper
- Ezekial Kipp, co-discoverer of the secret diamond mine
- Jonathan Robbins, Sr., Johnny Robbins' father
- Pancho, Altesti's peg-legged henchman
- Seaman 'Jameson,' a crew member with a secret
- The volcanic Galto Island, noted for its active volcano, 'Old Smokey Mouth'
- Lawrence Stanhope and his family on Ascension Island
- Dirk Briscoe, the Privateer
- First Mate Hollings, of Dirk Briscoe's Privateers
- Governor and Mrs. Cotton, of Tristan da Cunha
- Captain Bruno Karsh, of the 'Afrikaner'
- Annabelle Wilson, Captain Karsh's fiance
- Mr. Briny, the hook-handed First Mate of the Afrikaner
- Blackie, Mysto's black leopard
- Mysto, the "World's Greatest Magician"
- Jaggie, the wild Brazilian Jaguar
Contrary to widely disseminated misinformation about The Cruise of the Poll Parrot from Martin Grams' Radio Drama, the OTRR, The Vintage Radio Place and most others, the series didn't begin in 1937. The Cruise of the Poll Parrot was first recorded during the Summer of 1936 and first broadcast during the Fall of 1936, fully a year before the widely and authoritatively declared run dates for the canon by Grams, the OTRR, other 'credentialed OTR historians', the Vintage Radio Place, et al.
Nor, as the announcements for the series support, were the first twenty-six episodes the longer of the three [or two] adventures. It was the first thirteen-part adventure that was the true, stand-alone macro-adventure. The prevailing above cited 'authorities' for the series to date have characterized the first twenty-six episodes as the longer macro-adventure of the series. It was just the reverse:
- The first thirteen episodes are almost entirely expositional, setting down the characters, mysteries, as yet unanswered questions, and framework for the actually two thirteen-part adventures that succeed the first thirteen episodes. And in fact those first thirteen episodes could just as well have been combined with either of the two succeeding sets of thirteen as a prologue to either of the other two adventures. The only element that might have been left unresolved in that manner would have been the ultimate disposition of Altesti the Spaniard.
- The syndication was structured such that a subscribing broadcast station or sponsor could air from thirteen to thirty-nine episodes and still maintain both continuity and a satisfactory beginning and end to each thirteen-episode increment:
- A first adventure we characterize as "The Search for Altesti." The Poll Parrot doesn't even leave New Bedford until Episode No. 5. The remainder of that thirteen-part macro-adventure comprises the search for Altesti, suspected of stowing away aboard the Poll Parrot. That adventure comes to a plausible conclusion at Episode No. 13, during which Altesti and 'Red' Mulhooley join forces, attempt to find Ezra Grange's 'treasure map', attempt to kill Capt. Dalton and Ezra Grange, and take Sue Grange at knifepoint. Johnny Robbins saves the day by disabling both Altesti and Red Mulhooley.
- A second adventure we characterize as "A Whaling Adventure and Buried Treasure." The first episode of that set is taken up entirely with Old Dicken's revenge on the old Blue Whale that had resulted in Dicken losing his leg years before. The remaining twelve episodes comprise the search for a diamond mine on the volcanic Galto Island. Altesti is consumed by sharks during Episode 15, the second episode in that block of thirteen. That macro-adventure resolves itself at Episode No. 26, the last of that block of thirteen episodes, with the diamonds salvaged from the--then--vanished diamond mine safely hidden aboard the Poll Parrot and the Poll Parrot 'setting sail for home.'
- The final macro-adventure of the three, we characterize as "An Adventurous Return Home." Had a subscribing station or sponsor ended their subscriptions or broadcasts at either Episode No. 13 or Episode No. 26, the listening audiences would have heard two stand-alone, thirteen-part adventures that ultimately resolved themselves independently of each other. The second and third adventures both resolve themselves with the Poll Parrot setting sail for a return to New Bedford. For those stations or sponsors who wished to take the series even further, RJ&R structured the final adventure to greatly expand on Episode 26 with several other perilous situations enroute back to New Bedford.
- Thus it was the last twenty-six episodes that could be construed as one, longer, twenty-six installment adventure if a subscribing station or sponsor wished to air it that way--and at least one did. The last twenty-six episodes comprised a brief whaling adventure, the search for Ezra Grange's diamond mine, and the exciting, perilous return home.
- But of course that was the very point of the manner in which The Cruise of the Poll Parrot was recorded, transcribed and syndicated. Retail shoe stores of the midwest of the era--especially those targeted by RJ&R--were still mostly 'mom and pop' or family-owned small businesses. There were few 'chain-stores' exclusively engaged in retailing footwear during the era. RJ&R's primary competition of the era was Buster Brown Shoes, already widely advertised and distributed throughout North America. RJ&R began as a regional shoe manufacturer of the era, understandably still targeting mostly midwest retailers and department stores of midwest. It therefore made perfect sense for RJ&R to structure The Cruise of the Poll Parrot so that it could be successfully marketed to small businesses of relatively modest means--as well as to department stores and sustaining broadcast outlets. This was also the 'Dustbowl Era' or what was referred to as the 'Dirty Thirties,' during which much of the economy of the Midwest had been decimated, further exacerbating the effects of the Great Depression that immediately preceded it.
- The whole point of RJ&R's aggressive and expensive promotions of the era was to expand the Poll Parrot and Star lines beyond the midwest, while still maintaining and defending a healthy market share on their home turf. Judging by their greatly expanded advertising campaigns of the 1940s and 1950s, Poll Parrot and Star Shoes ultimately achieved those goals.
Universally misnamed "El Teste", the Spaniard villain of the first and second adventures of The Cruise of the Poll Parrot was actually named Altesti. Apparently some OTR wag felt it was more 'fun' injecting a schoolyard vulgarity into the canon of American Vintage Radio than actually listening for or researching the actual name of the Spaniard. As it is, "El Teste" smacks more of Beavis and Butthead humor than Jr. High schoolyard vulgarity. You can almost hear the infantile snickering as someone first included all those "El Teste" references into the circulating canon of titles back when Beavis and Butthead was all the rage. Altesti was a shipping agent for DaSilva & Company, one of Grange & Sons' competitors. We make the point simply because several of the erroneous circulating anecdotal titles of the canon use the name "El Teste" somewhere in the title. The whole Beavis and Butthead thing amused us as well--for about a week until we grew out of it. Apparently others in the hobby have taken a couple of decades longer to mature than the rest of us.
Virtually all of the circulating titles of the canon are anecdotal, and even the anecdotal titles are mostly inaccurate or misleading as to the underlying scripts. It's obvious that the author(s) of the circulating titles never fully listened to the series--a regrettably common practice throughout the mostly commercial OTR component of the Vintage Radio collecting hobby. Whoever first 'logged' the canon simply listened to the expositional introductions or closes and 'guessed' at a title. That's why so many of the previously circulating titles seem to be one episode off from the actual script plot.
And yet the overwhelmingly commercial OTRR has declared all of the previously circulating title errors and erroneous dates as "Complete and Accurate" in their archive.org The Cruise of the Poll Parrot sets. Clearly none of the OTRR's legions of 'researchers,' 'certifiers,' and 'listeners' ever actually listened to the full canon--or their results were yet again vetoed by OTRR management to curry further favor with the commercial OTR vendors and authors that prop up the OTRR with their donations and commerce:
- The OTRR also authoritatively states that the series was recorded and aired in September 1937. As a matter of historical fact The Cruise of The Poll Parrot was both recorded and first aired more than a year earlier--in 1936. The OTRR appear to have relied entirely on an extensive 1972 Same Time, Same Station inteview with Marvin Miller for their 'historical information.' During that interview (available further above) Miller states that he'd participated in The Cruise of the Poll Parrot in 1937. His memory was simply off by a year. This is completely understandable given that Marvin Miller had performed in literally thousands of recordings and hundreds of roles in Radio, Film and Television during the intervening thirty-five years. Needless to say, given Marvin Miller's hundreds of far more ambitious and successful projects, his few weeks of work on The Cruise of the Poll Parrot could quite understandably have been misdated within his extensive memory. Barely 23 at the time, Marvin Miller was already a very busy young actor and staff announcer at KMOX, St. Louis at the time he participated in The Cruise of the Poll Parrot. He was almost 60 when he recorded the Same Time, Same Station interview. I'm lucky to remember the second car I owned for a few weeks, let alone what I was specifically working on during a given two-week period thirty-five years ago.
- The OTRR authoritatively states that Marvin Miller was 24 when he performed in the series--he was probably closer to 22 during the Summer of 1936.
- The OTRR authoritatively states that the main villain of the series was named "El Teste"--he was named Altesti.
- The OTRR authoritatively states that the mascot, Poll Parrot, was owned by "Old Dixon"--Poll Parrot belonged to Old Dicken. There is no 'Dixon' anywhere to be found in the canon of scripts from The Cruise of the Poll Parrot.
- The OTRR has butchered yet another canon by stereo-izing both sets they deliver from archive.org at 48/22. As best as we can determine, no one was broadcasting either stereo AM or stereo FM in 1936, let alone at such an abysmal bit rate--unless the OTRR is privy to yet another secret no one else in the history of Broadcast Radio knows. But of course the whole point is that the OTRR's copies aren't true stereo at all--they're simply bi-monaural. And that accomplishes what, exactly? . . . other than forever ruin an otherwise nominal set of The Cruise of the Poll Parrot. What a shame that those thousands of archive.org downloaders have no idea how much better and more authentic the canon could sound at a reasonably encoded monaural transfer. Or perhaps that is the motivating factor--to drive more downloaders to the OTRR's 'preferred vendors' (e.g., largest institutional donators) for authentic sounding recordings of the canon.
We don't make this stuff up folks--no one could. Heaven knows there are far too many 'credentialed experts' and 'credentialed OTR authors' making things up in this hobby--and profiting very nicely from it, thankew very much. If you're one of the trusting folks they're profiting from--oops! "Complete and Accurate" apparently implies a vast continuum of things to people these days--or it simply means fixing the 'facts' to prop up one's assertions, reputation, or ego.
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The Cruise of the Poll Parrot Radio Program Biographies
|Marvin E. Miller [Marvin Mueller]
(Captain Roy Dalton and 'Poll Parrot')
Stage, Radio, Television, and Film Actor and Announcer
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
1936 The Robin Hood Club
1936 The Cruise of the Poll Parrot
1940 National Barn Dance
1940 Quiz Kids
1940 Chicago Theater Of the Air
1941 That Brewster Boy
1944 The Kemtone Hour
1944 The Whistler
1944 The Raleigh Cigarette Program
1944 Crisco's Star Playhouse
1944 Attorney For the Defense
1944 The Andrews Sisters Show
1945 The Haunting Hour
1945 Pacific Story
1945 Music By Ray Noble
1945 Songs By Sinatra
1946 Moon Dreams
1946 The Don Ameche Show
1946 The Billie Burke Show
1946 The Drene Show
1946 Woodbury Hollywood News
1946 The Cat
1946 Strange Wills
1947 I Devise and Bequeath
1947 Favorite Story
1947 Famiy Theater
1947 Favorite Story
1947 The Frank Morgan Show
1947 Command Performance
1947 Mail Call
1947 Old Gold Time
1947 The Young At Heart
1947 THe Bickersons
1948 Your Movietown Radio Theatre
1948 The First Nighter Program
1948 Tell It Again
1948 NBC University Theater
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 The Chesterfield Supper Club
1948 The Railroad Hour
1948 The WOodbury Journal
1949 The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet
1949 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1949 The Gordon MacRae Show
1949 The Hotpoint Holiday Hour
1950 The Amident Show
1950 The Adventures Of Maisie
1950 Guest Star
1950 Father Knows Best
1951 The Louella Parsons Show
1951 Broadway Is My Beat
1951 The Pendleton Story
1952 Stars For Defense
1952 Night Beat
1952 The Great Gildersleeve
1952 Stars Over Hollywood
1952 Fibber McGee and Molly
1952 Space Patrol
1952 I Was A Communist For the FBI
1953 Cousin Willie
1953 Rocky Fortune
1953 That's Rich
1953 The Six Shooter
1954 Crime Classics
1954 Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator
1954 Lux Radio Theatre
1955 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1957 Armchair Adventures
1958 The Jimmy Wakely Show
1958 Heartbeat Theater
1960 Have Gun, Will Travel
1960 The Sound Of Friendship
1964 Theatre Five
1968 An American Gallery
1973 Same Time, Same Station
1973 Hollywood Radio Theater
1979 Sears Radio Theater
Here's To Veterans
The Story Behind the Story
Marvin Miller, Storyteller
The Frank Morgan Show
Marvin Miller circa 1945
|From the February 9, 1985 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Famed for Role in
'The Millionaire' Series:
Marvin Miller Dies
Marvin Miller, whose half-century as an actor, announcer and narrator is best recalled for his television role as the man who gave away million-dollar checks, died Friday in Santa Monica Hospital.
The 71-year-old Miller suffered complications from a diabetic condition and went into a coma after a heart attack Sunday, his wife, Elizabeth, said.
Miller began in radio in St. Louis as a Washington University freshman and then went to Chicago to launch a network radio career that eventually took him to Hollywood and into films and television. He was active until several months ago.
Even after he officially retired in December, Elizabeth Miller said, he narrated a couple of industrial films. Last fall, he was heard with numerous other long-time performers on a special Halloween radio show.
Although he acted in, announced for or narrated countless radio and television shows and appeared in several dozen films, Miller was best known as Michael Anthony, the "ever-faithful" executive secretary to mysterious billionaire John Beresford Tipton on "The Millionaire."
Each episode of the television series, which made its CBS network debut in January, 1955, started with Miller's character passing out a million-dollar check to startled recipients.
Asked in 1982 what that role had done for his career, Miller replied: "It killed me. I never did another important part in a movie or television series. I'd go in with an agent to a casting director and he'd say, 'Hey, the audience would expect you to give away a million dollars.' "
Miller was born in St. Louis on July 18, 1913. He broke into radio there when he was 18, earning $5 a week doing a one-man show in which he performed all the parts.
In 1939, just after he and St. Louis artist Elizabeth Dawson were married, they moved to Chicago--then a major network radio center. He had so much work--he was heard on an average of 45 shows a week--that Variety dubbed him a "one-man radio industry."
He would announce one program, then immediately perform a dramatic role--or perhaps several--in another. On the soap opera, "Backstage Wife," for instance, he was heard as Rodney Brooks, Fritz Sterner and Edward de Manfield. Among the shows he narrated was "Armchair Adventures."
For nine years, he was the voice of "The Whistler," keeping millions of Americans glued to their table Philcos with his resonant words, "I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. . . ."
In 1944, Miller moved to Hollywood, where he began by announcing for the Red Skelton radio show and was radio's "Coronet Storyteller," narrating and doing all the voices for that five-nights-a-week ABC show. That became "Behind the Story" and then "Marvin Miller, Story Teller."
He did many shows for the Armed Forces Network during World War II and appeared in films beginning with "Johnny Angel" in 1945. Other movies included "Intrigue," "Forbidden," "Peking Express," "Deadline at Dawn," "Dead Reckoning" and "Hong Kong."
When television came into its own, one of his early roles was that of a Chinese philosopher-detective in "Mysteries of Chinatown."
Of all the work he did, his wife said Friday, he was proudest of having recorded the entire King James version of the Bible for Audio Books.
"He was meticulous about researching the pronunciations of names and places," she said. "It took him five or six years to do it." she said.
He narrated many industrial and educational films, as well as cartoons for UPA, Hanna-Barbera and Disney. In recent years, he had been the taped voice on many a museum's guided tour.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Melissa, a Century City attorney, and a son, Anthony, of Minneapolis, a toy company executive.
His wife said no funeral service is scheduled, but a memorial service will be announced at a later time.
Burial will be at Westwood Village Memorial Park.
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