Pinky Pie

Little Kathy Baxter, old radio dramas & Me

Posted on: December 6, 2010

Not exactly a picture of the Hessel family gathering around the radio.

On the way to the mall Sunday morning for my walk, I heard the sad story of little Kathy Baxter who apparently had become an orphan on Christmas Eve. The plane carrying her parents home from Europe had disappeared somewhere over the ocean.

No one wanted to tell the little blonde, blue-eyed Kathy, but somehow she just knew. Perhaps it was the pushy reporter who tried to snap a picture of the “Baxter kid” for the paper, despite the objections of the caretaker, Miss Buff.

On “Night Before Christmas,” a 1953 drama on XM Radio’s Radio Classics channel, Miss Buff tried to keep up a bold front, suggesting to Kathy that she open one of the gifts under the tree.

It was a music box with a lovely tune until it wound down, providing a melodic symbol of the sadness that had entered Kathy’s life. While her caregiver was getting her cookies and milk, Kathy ran out of the house unnoticed.

And then as Miss Buff discovered Kathy was gone I arrived at the mall. I had to walk not knowing if Kathy or her parents were safe.

After an hour of walking, I returned to a very different story on XM radio. This one was memorable because a broad – it’s what she would have been called when this show was recorded – demanded her fellow take her out dancing. “I gotta get out into a swell smoke-filled dance hall,” she said.

Going to any place that is smoke filled is not exactly my preference. But then I arrived home and never learned if her old man took her out dancing to any swell places. Mine never takes me dancing. (A family joke.)

Comedy, drama or suspense, these old radio shows draw me in. I love the sound effects and the quirky music that signal suspense, drama or some other transition. It’s fun to identify voices of actors who later became famous on TV or in movies.

I love these programs for the same reason that I fell in love with public radio. Sounds replace pictures, which means they give your imagination a good workout.

The only problem is that poor Kathy and her folks were left in the lurch – until I got back in the car Sunday after the Hanukkah program at the synagogue. I discovered the Kathy Baxter program was back on the air and she was still lost. Poor dear. And Christmas Eve, too.

But then a police officer came to get Miss Buff, who had returned home after a fruitless search for Kathy. “You better come with me,” he said tersely.

They walked into a Catholic church, where they discovered Kathy in a pew. “I guess you should have known to check church first,” the officer said.

(Ah, the moral.)

Back home, Miss Buff put Kathy to bed and then began reading “The Night Before Christmas,” trying to keep from choking up. Just when it appeared she could not keep from crying, the doorbell rang.

“Mommy! Daddy!” Kathy cried.

It was Christmas miracle.

Will there be another? Monday morning I heard part – but not all of a Dragnet episode in which a church reported a missing baby Jesus from a church. It was also Christmas Eve.

Although I didn’t hear the ending, I’m pretty sure Jack – Just the facts, ma’am – Webb will find the evildoer and the baby Jesus before Christmas morning.

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