Monday, March 09, 2009

Bob Emery, Pt. 4

Originally published in the February, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

“Big Brother” Bob Emery ... a Legend in Children's Programming
Donna Halper

WEEI did its first broadcast in late September, and within only a few days, the Big Brother Club was back on the air, this time with a much bigger budget and a much better signal. 6 October 1924 was the first "club meeting", and the show was very well-received.

Bob began writing a monthly column for the Edison company publication, "Edison Life", wherein he kept everyone at Edison up to date with what the club was accomplishing. It was in an issue of "Edison Life" that he explained why he had chosen the name Big Brother. He explained how the show came to be - that he had felt it was time for a children's show that did more than just read bed-time stories, a show in which the kids could participate, and not just sit passively listening to the announcer. "[Next, I wanted to] create a character who would have a good influence on children. The Big Brother idea serves this purpose. We all remember we looked to our Big Brother for assistance, and if we had none, how we all wished we did."

Further, he stated that the show had no advertising purpose (this would soon change), and that its sole intent was to "...create good-will among its members, and also to instill into the minds of the children the meaning of a "Big Brother Act", and the significance of the club slogan - Be Somebody's Big Brother or Sister Every Day." (Edison Life, November 1924, p. 322) As part of the desire to have members participate, Bob also began writing a Sunday column in the Boston Herald; kids were asked an opinion question of the week, and the best letters to him were published in the newspaper. Imagine what a big deal that must have been for a child in the 1920s - not only being listened to by an adult, but having your opinion appear in a major newspaper!

- Donna Halper is a lecturer and broadcast consultant based in Quincy, MA. Her love of radio history is evident in the way she captures the essence of her subjects.


Post a Comment

<< Home