Listen Children, “Let’s Pretend”

The history of the Let’s Pretend children’s radio show began several years prior to its premier in 1934. Let’s Pretend followed a format that was developed in 1928 for Aunt Jymmie and Her Tots in Tottyville. The radio program first aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) radio network on October 27, 1928. Each week, a group of young children entered a magical kingdom, where the fairly tale kings, queens, princes and princesses lived. Additional characters, such as witches, trolls, wizards and evil stepmothers appeared as necessary, in particular stories. Aunt Jymmie and Her Tots in Tottyville ended on February 28, 1929, when it was replaced with The Children’s Club Hour.

The Children’s Club Hour, actually a weekly series of 30-minute episodes was first broadcast on March 2, 1929. Hosted by Howard Merrill, the format continued to focus on fairy tales; however, adolescents and preteens took over the roles that were previously played by the younger cast members of Aunt Jymmie and Her Tots in Tottyville. Lasting only a little over a year, The Children’s Club Hour ended with its last broadcast on Jun 22, 1929. Host, Howard Merrill went on to find success as a writer for Abbott Mysteries, Secret Missions and Sherlock Holmes, among others.

The time slot was passed on to Estelle Levy and Patricia Ryan, who with writer, Yolanda Langworthy created The Adventures of Helen and Mary. This children’s show aired June 22, 1929. In December of 1931, the program was changed once again and Levy and Ryan took on the acting roles of the newly created Land O’Make Believe, until it ended on March 17, 1934.

In 1934, CBS approached former vaudeville performer, pianist and actress, Nila Mack. After the sudden death of her husband, who was on business in California, Mack left New York to return to her childhood home in Arkansas City, Kansas to take care of her ailing mother. She became program director for the CBS Arkansas City radio station, where she was put in charge of a children’s show.

Let’s Pretend was born the same year, under the direction of Nila Mack. Each episode began with a tune or word from its sponsor, Cream of Wheat. Following the advertisement, Uncle Bill Adams would greet the audience with “Hello Pretenders.” Mack created a show that would present one complete story in an episode. She did not believe children should wait a week to hear the conclusion. Along with announcers George Bryan and Jackson Wheeler, the show employed a group of young actors to portray the storybook characters. Some of the regular child actors included Sybil Trent, Arthur Anderson, Jack Grimes, Miriam Wolfe, Gwen Davies and Michael O’Day. Arthur Anderson stayed with the show until it ended. He also wrote Let’s Pretend and the Golden Age of Radio, which was published in 2004.

During its long run, Let’s Pretend garnered two Peabody Awards, the Women’s National Radio Committee Award and five Radio Daily Awards. In 1953, Nila Mack suffered a fatal heart attack and Jean Hight took over as director.  After broadcasting for nearly 20 years, Let’s Pretend aired for the last time on October 23, 1954.

Enjoy this episode compliments of Old Time Radio:

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13 Responses to Listen Children, “Let’s Pretend”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I listened to Let’s Pretend every Saturday morning in the early ’50s. I still remembered the song. Thanks for the memories. Ellen

  2. Art Blaufeder says:

    Let’s Pretend kept me glued to the radio every Sat. a.m. I loved the show, loved the sponsor’s product and loved the theme song…”Oh, Cream O Wheat is so good to eat, yes we have it every day. We sing this song, ’cause it makes us strong and it makes us shout hooray. Its good for growing children and grownups too to eat, for all the family’s breakfast, you cant beat Cream O Wheat. Wow… that really takes me back! Artie

  3. B Grant says:

    What a wonderful show that was. I am 82 now, but remember how much happiness it brought me as a child.

  4. Sngrant says:

    Does anyone remember a tag line? I think it was “the best of everything that’s good, and may all your good dreams come true”. I have fond memories of this show, too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I could not wait until Saturday morning to hear the next story. John Farnandez

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am so glad I was able to find this – Let’s Pretend was a wonderful part of my childhood. I am now 87 and remember it so fondly!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I would sit up side down and pretend to walk on the ceiling as I listened to the magic of Let’s Pretend_______I’m 79 now______what a wonderful show!

  8. Marialivia Jackson says:

    Last week, for some unknown reason, I found myself singing the Cream of Wheat jingle — remembered all the words, except that I mistakenly sang “Ole” instead of “Horray.” I figured later that no one said “Old” back then, at least in my neighborhood. I looked forward to “Let’s Pretend” all week — the story I really liked best was “King Thrusthbeard”! I’m 84 now and listened to the show when I was 8 or so. The actor I remember was Jack Grimes.

  9. Malcolm Dunn says:

    I’m 79 now, and remember Let’s Pretend like it was yesterday what a great show indeed. Couldn’t wait for next Saturday. Thanks for the memories.

  10. Anonymous says:

    My sister and I listened to Let’s Pretend on records. She gave me a collection of the programs on cassette tapes for my children to listen to. How will my grandchildren listen? I’m not sure, but I will find a way. This kind of feast for the imagination enriches childhood and builds character.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m 76 and still sing the birthday song from Let’s Pretend for family and friends. This program and Eddie Arnold, the Tennessee Ploughboy. at noon with my dad were my favorites!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Can’t believe that I am making this comment. I am 81 years old and fondly rember listening to Let’s Pretend on Saturday mornings. Radio, unlike TV allowed us to be part of the story as we listened.

  13. Dale Ogren says:

    I am delighted to find this information about “Let’s Pretend!” I listened to this program every Saturday in the early 1940’s. During WWII the US Government substituted a propaganda piece one Saturday, a truly frightening story about the Japanese landing in California and taking over our country. Little children were forced to march in school instead of having recess. But the fairy stories were wonderful! And the names of Sybil Trent and Jack Grimes were engraved on my heart. I loved the orchestra that played the Cream of Wheat commercial sometimes. I taught my husband the song, and we sang it outside the dining hall at camp every morning that we had Cream of Wheat for breakfast. I once bought some records of the stories, but they weren’t actual radio programs and didn’t have the real voices. Disappointing! How I would love to hear them again. And I loved the one about King Thrushbeard, too.

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