"Rely on Spry."
-- Dan Seymour
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
On Monday, January 18, 1937, AUNT JENNY'S REAL LIFE
STORIES debuted on Columbia Network's daytime schedule for
Spry Shortening. As the listeners found out, this serial
program wasn't your typical radio soap opera--- and it wasn't your typical
relationship between program and sponsor, either!
Several daytime shows during radio's golden age have had some long running
relationships between program and sponsor. Almost by instinct, the listeners
associated Oxydol with MA PERKINS, Bab-O
with DAVID HARUM, and of course, Spry with
AUNT JENNY. The relationship between program and sponsor was very
impressive, but the relationship between Spry and AUNT
JENNY was not only impressive, but also unique in how they helped
each other out.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. First, let's take a look at the program.
AUNT JENNY'S REAL LIFE STORIES featured the people who lived
in the town of Littleton. These people had their share of happiness, sadness,
romance, and the other good emotional stuff radio soap operas were famous
for. The stories were usually completed in 5 episodes, and a new one would
begin the following Monday with different characters. You may notice that
I didn't mention Aunt Jenny's name among the people who were involved in the
story. There was a good reason--- she wasn't in the story. On the program,
Aunt Jenny served as hostess and narrator. Here is where the unique relationship
between program and sponsor took place.
When the story for the broadcast was completed, Aunt Jenny and program announcer
Dan Seymour briefly talked about the latest events in the story; then
turned their attention to the recipe of the day. Of course, the recipes
varied from main dish to dessert, but they all had one common denominator---
the services of Spry Shortening. Aunt Jenny wasn't bashful
in the least for mentioning Spry when it came to using shortening. She stated that no other shortening or baking fat came close in bringing
out the flavor of the ingredients as Spry could. Since
Spry was mentioned and talked about frequently between Aunt Jenny
and Seymour, the recipe of the day also served as Spry's closing
Since the program achieved respectable ratings during its long run, the on-the-air
combination of Aunt Jenny and Spry Shortening was a formidable
one--- but it didn't stop there. There was another form of advertising the
character and sponsor were featured.
In ladies magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, McCall's, Good Housekeeping,
and Woman's Home Companion, Spry magazine ads featured a recipe
that, of course, required the services of Spry Shortening. To
cap off the ad, a picture of actress Edith Spencer (who played Aunt Jenny on the program)
was found. She informed the readers that they could all be better cooks if
they used Spry. Of course, it didn't hurt if the magazine ad
gave a gentle reminder for the readers to tune in to AUNT JENNY'S REAL
LIFE STORIES--- as if the readers needed reminding of
This type of magazine ad continued until Ms. Spencer left the AUNT JENNY
program--- but the character of Aunt Jenny continued to be featured in
Spry recipe magazine advertising until the program's demise
in 1956. The character of Aunt Jenny (whose facial features were different
from Ms. Spencer's) were either pictured in cartoon form, or her name
was mentioned with the latest recipe without a picture.
The final episode of AUNT JENNY'S REAL LIFE STORIES aired on
Friday, September 28, 1956. With sponsors pulling out from radio at an alarming
rate, Spry stayed all the way with the program (Franco-American
products co-sponsored the program with Spry and other
Lever Brothers products during its final
3 months on the air). The radio listeners lost a good friend when Aunt Jenny
said her final good-bye to the listeners. For nearly 2 decades, Aunt Jenny
helped any cook from "butterfingers" to "expert" become better
cooks with her numerous and easy-to-follow recipes. Of course, they would
be better cooks if they used Spry Shortening.