Ten Years of Breakfast Club History
(From the 1942 "Breakfast Club Family Album")
Formerly known as the "Pepper Pot" under the leadership of Bill Kephart
and King Bard as announcers, with Walter
Blaufuss and a small orchestra, this hour of network "fill-in" was
re-christened "Breakfast Club: and on June 23, Don McNeill became "messer
of ceremonies." Charlie Butler, the engineer, and sleepy Joe Englehart and
his violin, were familiar names. The vocalist was Dick Teela. This year saw the
advent of Rug Dance, Memory Time, the One Act Plays and Elmer.
Singing acts were added to the show. Old Time Breakfast Clubbers will recall
the first appearances of Marian
and Jim Jordan (now Fibber McGee and Mollie), the Merry Macs, Songfellows,
Three C's, Morin Sisters, Ranch Boys, Fields and Bill
Thompson. In March the first out-of-studio broadcast, a pickup from Florida,
where Babe Ruth was entertaining fifty youngsters at the Yankee training camp.
In April Jack Owens replaced Dick Teela and in October, within a week, Jack became
the father of Mary Anne Owens and Don McNeill the proud papa of Tommy. Boy! And
how they bragged!!
Familiar names this year were Gale Page, The King's Jesters, Hollywood
Hi-Hatters, Rangers, Mary Steele, 3 Flats, Sylvia Clark,
Dr. Pratt, and the Doring Sisters. Edna O'Dell became the first
regular girl vocalist. Orchestra names to be remembered are Arrigoni, Martin
(both deceased), Fashauer, Spiegle, Kayser, Short,
Krenz, Kooden, Kendle, Wheeler, Ballentine,
Smith. Many are still with the band. World cruises in fantasy were part
of the year's entertainment. In December, Tommy and Mary Ann, at the ripe old
age of 14 months, made their radio debut.
In March, Clark Dennis became official tenor, shortly prededed by Helen
Jane Behlke as the feminine half of the team. When the funeral services for
King George were broadcast before Breakfast Club, Walter Blaufuss and Don composed
"My Cathedral"---still a favorite hymn with listeners. Donny was added
to the McNeill family in April and in September the Breakfast Club was awarded
the Radio Guide Medal of Merit as an outstanding program. In November Annette
King and Jack Baker joined the fold along with Bob Brown, "Prime
Minister of the percolator."
Aunt Fanny made her debut, along with Johnny Johnston. Clark
Dennis left the show to join Fibber McGee's show. The Three Romeos
crawled out of the woodwork and started to sing. Jack and Annette carried on.
Helen Jane Behlke departed, and on Christmas morning, driving to the studios with
a car full of gifts for the underprivileged children who were guests that day,
Don was arrested for speeding.
Perhaps the year's highlight was the famous "Breakfast in Bed" broadcast
with Don fulfilling a long felt ambition to conduct the show, pajama-clad, from
his own bed at home, complete with wife and kiddies, while Jack, Annette and the
orchestra carried on from the studio. The book of poems "Memory Time"
made its appearance. "Inspiration Time" was added to the show, the Ranch
Boys left to travel 4,000 miles across the country on horseback, and Annette
King became Mrs. Frank Reid, Jr.
In May, Annette left to await the arrival of Sir Stork---who made a later personal
appearance with a swell baby girl. In February Baker became every-day soloist,
no longer dividing male honors. Among others, Ralph Smith and his "Mokey",
Bill Krenz and his piano...Elmer and his romance, the Dinning
Sisters, Vass Family, Vagabonds, Cadets, Morin Sisters,
and Escorts and Betty carried on with Don. Evelyn Lynne and Nancy
Martin became Breakfast Club regulars.
of the Radio Guide picked Breakfast CLub as their favorite program and Don as
favorite M.C. Nancy, Evelyn and Jack rated tops. Don built his cabin "Lumbago
Manor" (it has a creek in the back. More than 120 radio station representatives
and agency men attended a broadcast---an unofficial record inearly-rising for
wireless executives. Local sponsorship on individual stations was a huge success.
Listed on the roster of sponsors were jewelers, bakers, grocers, laundries, dairies,
refrigerators, furniture companies, headache remedies, department stores, auto
dealers. Members of the cast received samples of almost every product sold except
from the automobile manufacturers.
Guide readers placed the Breakfast Club, its singers and master of ceremonies
on top of its list of air favorites. Swift & Companiy became coast-to-coast
sponsor #1. Over 100,000 fans sent their autographs to Jack Baker for his Scrap
Book---reversing the usual process. Don built a new home in Winnetka, deciding
it was cheaper than getting sued for back rent; and in October, Cream of Wheat
and Acme Paint became members of the sponsor family. Evelynne Lynne left to marry
Eddie Koontz and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Marion Mann now shared honors
with Nancy. The Swedeharts of St. Paul were born in the minds of the Escorts and
Robert Patrick McNeill (No. 3) was born to Mrs. McNeill.
to the 1942 Breakfast Club Family Album index page
As a result
of an honorary degree at Saint Bonaventure College it was now Mr. Donald Thomas
McNeill, Doctor of Letters, or Dr. McNeill for short, but not for long. While
Walter Blaufuss recuperated, Kogen and Gallichio carried on. The cast began drawing
straws to promote the sale of bonds and stamps, as war quickened the tempo and
morale-building value of the show, In cooperation with the U.S.Treasury, 400 Bond
Breakfasts were held throughout the nation. In a broadcast from Chicago on American
Heroes Day, over $25,000,000 in bonds were sold. Don started his tenth year as
M.C. and Radio Guide listeners made him "Star of Stars." The first anniversary
of Swift Sponsorship was celebrated. Cream of Wheat was among those present. The
Quiz Kids and Don exchanged appearances. Hollywood finally discovered that there
was a Breakfast Club and offers to make a movie were being considered by the gang.
The Breakfast Clubbers were appearing in person more and more often throughout
the country at large bond rallies, Army camps and patriotic affairs. Now an American
institution, the show is the nation's official getter-upper!
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