Its First Daytime Serial
“And here is Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins again.”
-- Bob Brown
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
Monday, December 4, 1933 was a historical day in network broadcasting. At 3:00 PM on NBC’s Red Network, the first episode of OXYDOL’S OWN MA PERKINS was presented. This was more than the debut of a program. It was the first daytime serial on network radio sponsored by a Procter & Gamble product--- and more importantly, a Procter & Gamble SOAP product.
From the very beginning, OXYDOL’S OWN MA PERKINS was a popular daytime serial, and Oxydol was a popular product for washday. It was the soap many housewives used to take the drudgery out of washing the laundry.
For those of you who are not familiar with washing the laundry during the 1930’s, it wasn’t anything like the way we wash the laundry today. If you know your American history, you already know the 1930’s meant “The Great Depression.” There were washing machines back then, but they were also expensive--- especially at a time when money wasn’t plentiful for a lot of people. The common way to wash the clothes was with a washtub, a washboard, water, and a lot of elbow grease. The housewife had her choice of using bar soap, flaked soap, and granulated soap. Although some of these products said they were soap, there was a noticeable difference in how they cleaned clothes. If an inferior soap was used, the housewife frequently scrubbed the clothes on the washboard and had very little to show for her trouble--- except sore arms, chapped hands, and an aching back. This was wonderful for the makers of liniment and hand lotions, but it was miserable for the housewife. When the washing was finished, the housewife was sore, exhausted, and not in the best of moods. Fortunately, the housewife didn’t have to go through all that extra scrubbing--- as long as she used Oxydol.
Announcer Bob Brown stated that Oxydol’s suds went right to work in eliminating dirt 25-40% faster and washing white clothes 4-5 shades whiter than the other soaps. With white clothes whiter, there wasn’t a need to boil the clothes. Using Oxydol didn’t exactly make washing the laundry a barrel of chuckles, but it did help the housewife get through this unpleasant chore faster and easier.
Brown’s narration was basically the way Oxydol was sold on the program’s commercials during the 1930’s. With The Great Depression beginning to fade into a bad memory, washing machines were becoming affordable. In many homes, the washtub and washboard were being replaced with the modern washing machines of that time. As always, Oxydol continued to save time and work, but an adjustment was needed to sell the soap in the 1940’s. The commercials focused on how white the clothes were after an Oxydol washing.
From the beginning, Oxydol was known as the soap that washed white clothes whiter without boiling and without bleach! During the war years, the listeners heard announcer “Charlie Warren” (an alias used by several different announcers on the MA PERKINS program) talk about Oxydol’s “Hustle Bubble Suds” and how these pudgy fellows lifted out dirt and helped to wash white clothes “White Without Bleaching.”
After World War II ended, the theme of Oxydol’s advertising concerned how the laundry looked after it was washed. Clean was important--- but it wasn’t good enough for Oxydol. The laundry had to have a sparkle to it. That meant a wash that was sparkling white, sparkling bright, and sparkling clean. In other words, the laundry had “That Oxydol Sparkle.”
As the 1940’s were coming to a close, there was an even better Oxydol on the horizon. Announcer “Charlie Warren” (not sure of the announcer’s true identity in this commercial) told the listeners about New Lifetime Oxydol . The reason why this product was known as “Lifetime Oxydol” was because it washed white clothes “White For Life.” What this means, white clothes washed in Lifetime Oxydol had a brilliant new sparkling white for the life of the clothes--- as long as they were washed in each washing in Lifetime Oxydol, that is! Of course, clothes will eventually wear out and be reduced to cleaning rags--- but they will be “White For Life” while sopping up an unpleasant household mess.
Since Lifetime Oxydol washed clothes “White For Life,” that meant Procter & Gamble went as far as they could with their granulated soap. Let’s face it, you can’t improve on “White For Life”--- or can you? Procter & Gamble realized it made sense that to wash white clothes whiter, the soap itself should also be white. It’s a possibility that white clothes could be washed whiter if the soap was chartreuse with pink polka dots, but Procter & Gamble just didn’t see it that way. To the company, the white soap in New White Oxydol made all the difference. Announcer “Charlie Warren” (a.k.a. Dan Donaldson) pointed out the white soap in New White Oxydol washed white clothes whiter even if they were dried inside. Announcer “Warren” described New White Oxydol as “The Whiter, Whiter Soap For A Whiter, Whiter Wash.”
As the 1950’s began, detergents were becoming the popular product for washing the laundry. In order to survive, the soap brands had to come up with something to compete with its laundry rival--- and Oxydol was no exception! The housewives already know of Oxydol’s whitening ability, but now they would know about “Deep Cleaning Oxydol.” Announcer “Charlie Warren” (Dan Donaldson again) informed the housewives that Deep Cleaning Oxydol washed away the toughest dirt from the clothes with just 1 rinse.
Before we go any further, you may have noticed colored clothes haven’t been mentioned in any of the previous paragraphs. The main theme of Oxydol’s advertising over the years was its ability to wash white clothes whiter. It wasn’t that Oxydol washed white clothes only and thumbing its nose at colors. In all honesty, Oxydol was the soap to use for washing colored clothes. No, it didn’t wash colored clothes white, but Oxydol did wash them to a brighter color than before. Instead of “White For Life,” Oxydol washed colors “Bright For Life.” To sum it all up, Oxydol was the soap to use for all types of laundry.
With laundry detergents becoming popular, the original Oxydol Laundry Soap came to an end in the mid 1950’s--- but not the Oxydol name. As with many other former soap brands, Oxydol became a laundry detergent. It carried over its outstanding whitening quality, but something new was added. Oxydol was the first detergent to have its own color safe “Oxygen Bleach.” This Oxygen Bleach helped Oxydol wash away the dirt and gunk from the laundry, while washing the laundry white and bright--- without adding anything else. In selling this new product, Oxydol was the detergent that “Bleaches As It Washes.”
Although Oxydol sponsored OXYDOL’S OWN MA PERKINS for a long time, there was an eventual parting of the ways. On Friday, November 30, 1956, the final broadcast took place under Oxydol sponsorship. The following Monday, the program was sponsored by the “Multi Sponsors” package. The program continued its story with various sponsors until Friday, November 25, 1960. This was the sad day when MA PERKINS and the other 5 remaining radio serials aired their final broadcasts on CBS Radio. As for Oxydol (the detergent), it was a sponsor or co-sponsor of different daytime serials on television.
Oxydol’s 23-year sponsorship of MA PERKINS was a tremendous experience for both sponsor and program. It was as close a program/sponsor relationship as there was during radio’s golden age. Although the program’s title was really MA PERKINS, it was known on the air as OXYDOL’S OWN MA PERKINS. It left no doubt in the listeners’ minds what product sponsored the program.
As if the housewife needed reminding, on the back of the Oxydol box toward the bottom, there was a reminder to “LISTEN IN DAILY TO OXYDOL’S OWN “MA PERKINS” (as it was exactly printed on the box). At this time, I haven’t come across another product who had a program reminder on its packaging.
It didn’t mean much on that December day in 1933, but the debut of OXYDOL’S OWN MA PERKINS marked the beginning of the dominance Procter & Gamble would eventually have in sponsoring the daytime serials on radio and television. With the numerous P&G soap products sponsoring the serials, the program earned the slang name “Soap Opera.” This didn’t set too well with the sponsors of drug and food products, who were also popular sponsors of daytime serials. I acknowledge the drug and food companies had a valid complaint, but when it comes to the serial’s slang name, I leave you with this thought--- “would you want to listen to a Drug Opera?”