Ma Perkins (sometimes called Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins) was a radio soap opera which was heard on NBC from 1933 to 1949 and on CBS from 1942 to 1960. Between 1942 and 1949, the show was heard simultaneously on both networks. Oxydol dropped its sponsorship in 1956.
The series was produced by Frank and Anne Hummert with scripts by Robert Hardy Andrews, Orvin Tovrov and others. Ma Perkins began August 14, 1933 on WLW in Cincinnati. On December 4 of that year, it graduated to the NBC Red network. On NBC and CBS the series ran for a total of 7,065 episodes.
"America’s mother of the air" was portrayed by actress Virginia Payne, who began the role at the age of 23 and never missed a performance during the program's 27-year run. Kindly, trusting widow Ma Perkins had a big heart and a great love of humanity. She always offered her homespun philosophy to troubled souls in need of advice.
Story and characters
Ma owned and operated a lumber yard in the small Southern town of Rushville Center (population 4000), where the plotlines pivoted around her interactions with the local townsfolk and the ongoing dilemmas of her three children, Evey, Fay and John. One of her children died during World War II. Ma's daughter Fay was played by Isabelle Krehbiel and Rita Ascot. Gilbert Faust had the role of John. Evey Perkins was played by Dora Johnson, Laurette Fillbrandt and Kay Campbell, who later became known for playing Grandma Kate Martin on the television soap opera All My Children. Shuffle Shober, Ma's best friend, was played by Charles Egelston (and later Edwin Wolfe), and Murray Forbes (1905-1987) portrayed Willie Fitz.
In "Sounds from the Past," Chris Plunkett offered an overview of the series:
- Typical of Hummert productions, Ma Perkins had her share of tears, crises, and drama, but with a plotline much slower paced than the average soap opera. In a typical year, no more than three or four major complications were covered --interspersed by long "quiet spells," filled with (brutally) protracted discussions on the meaning of life amid the ever-changing tapestry of family, friends, and the small town around them... Early in the drama’s run Ma was portrayed as quite combative and spiteful, but her character soon developed (and softened) into the kindhearted sage and conscience of the entire community. There were various dramas that unfolded over the years, some more far-fetched than others. Two of the more memorable plot stretches involve Ma exposing a black market baby-napping ring, and Ma harboring Soviet political dissidents inside her home.
When the show finally ended the day after Thanksgiving Day, 1960, it was one of only eight entertainment shows still on the CBS radio network.
- Virginia Payne - Ma Perkins
- Charles Egelston - Shuffle Shober, Ma's best friend (1933-1958)
- Edwin Wolfe - Shuffle Shober (1958-1960)
- Dora Johnson - Evey Perkins (1933-1944)
- Laurette Fillbrandt - Evey Perkins (1944-1945)
- Kay Campbell - Evey Perkins (1945-1960)
- Isabelle Krehbiel - Fay Perkins (1933)
- Rita Ascot - Fay Perkins
- Margaret Draper - Fay Perkins
- Gilbert Faust - John Perkins