Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Classic Radio: Unshackled - Happy 65th Anniversary


9/23/1950 - present. Syndicated.  
Production: Pacific Garden Missions, Chicago, Illinois
The Longest Running Broadcast Drama In History!
Official website: www.unshackled.org

It was 65 years ago this week that Unshackled debuted over WGN in Chicago with the dramatization of the life of evangelist Billy Sunday.

Above: One of the earliest press articles on "Unshackled" from Broadcasting, March 24, 1952.
Click on the image to read in context of the original magazine.

This broadcast series tells the true stories of countless individuals whose lives were "unshackled" by salvation in Jesus Christ.  Probably none of the original cast and crew members could have ever imagined that radio drama would soon cease on the major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Mutual,) and only Unshackled would go on to have an audience who would tune in more than a half century later for any of the 7,000 times it is broadcast a week, to listen in 15 languages in over 140 nations.

Unshackled holds a special place in my heart. As a teenager, I was an old-time radio collector and an usher in the church who secretly struggled with an addiction to pornography.  One day as I was fiddling with my radio I was startled to hear a radio drama on a random AM station and the program was telling the story of an alcoholic whose life was transformed and renewed by Jesus Christ.

This program was Unshackled, and I wanted to hear more.  My amazement was from so much more than hearing a current radio drama. This was the first time in my life that I truly understood that not only did Jesus want me free from this addiction, but that he was still with me and if he could do it for that man whose story I heard on the radio, then he could do it for me too. The stories on Unshackled have ministered to me countless times and I have partly created this blog so that more people can learn about the dynamic media ministries like Pacific Garden Missions Unshackled, whom God has ordained to preach the gospel to the world.

I hope that Unshackled will stay on the air for many more years. Unlike 99% of broadcast dramas on radio or television, Unshackled has as its fuel, a theme that will never end.........lives transformed by the Gospels and redeemed by the love of Jesus Christ.

Internet resources for the history of Unshackled:

For a Chicago Tribune Article recognizing the series 65 years:

For a more complete history of Unshackled please visit their official history page:
at http://www.unshackled.org/history_1.html 

For biographical information on one of the series earliest scriptwriters, producers and directors, Eugenia Price (1916-1996)

Also seek out these texts from used bookstores and libraries:

Bailey, F. C., & Unshackled (Radio program). (1962). These, too, were unshackled: 15 dramatic stories from the Pacific Garden Mission. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House.

Price, E. (1982). The burden is light: The autobiography of a transformed pagan who took God at his word. New York: Dial Press.

Price, E., & Bailey, F. C. (1953). Unshackled: Stories of transformed lives, adapted from "Unshackled" radio broadcasts: stories from Pacific Garden Mission. Chicago: Moody Press.

Classic Television : Story From The Book (A Story From The Book)

Story From The Book (A Story From The Book)  

Early Children's Television Series which used cutouts to tell Bible Stories.

(c. 1949-1950 WCAU, Philadelphia; 1950 - 1951, WPIX, New York). 

Philadelphia Inquirer television schedule from Sunday, November 27th, 1949 when "Story From The Book" aired at 4:15 pm.  When the series aired on WPIX in New York it tended to air earlier in the Sunday schedule.

For at least four years I have researched this program, one of the earliest Bible series made for children.  The surviving details are scarce but this was a series about "Bible stories told with cutouts"or Bible stories told with "miniatures scenes assembled as she talks" by a woman named Jean Seeley. Newspaper television schedules from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York Times show that this series moved from Philadelphia station WCAU to New York's WPIX in 1950 where it aired for a full year.  

Jean Seeley's series was praised in the International Journal of Religious Education and slightly criticized by New York Times television critic Jack Gould as being worthwhile for children, but that it could have used a better production.

Any information about Jean Seeley or her series is greatly welcomed.  She was briefly described in some sources as being an accomplished storyteller.  She would have lived in near Philadelphia in the late 1940s, and moved or commuted to New York from 1950 to 1951

Gould J. (1951, Mar 11). CHILDREN'S PROGRAMS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111816265?

Griswald C. T. (1952, January) TEACHING RELIGION THROUGH TELEVISION. International Journal of Religious Education