On July 23, 1942, just seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II, the Lobero stage was the setting for a live broadcast of one of radio’s first talk shows, “America’s Town Meeting of the Air.”
The subject of the evening’s discussion was a topic that was suddenly thrust to the forefront of the minds of American youth – “War Marriages, are they Good or Bad?”.
“America’s Town Meeting of the Air” was an NBC public affairs radio series which began in 1935. It was created and hosted by George V. Denny, Jr., a former New York stage actor. NBC wanted to create a program that would replicate the local town meetings of Colonial America, and began each program with the ringing of a town crier’s bell and an announcement, “Town meeting tonight! Come to the old Town Hall and talk it over!”
“Town Meeting” was not radio’s first debate program but it was innovative in that it opened its weekly discussion to live audience questions. Audience participation was highly encouraged – people cheered or applauded when they liked what a speaker said, and they hissed or booed when they felt the speaker was wrong.
The weekly live series was usually broadcast from New York City’s Town Hall, but several times a year the show traveled the country. July 23, 1942, was the first Santa Barbara broadcast, and audience participation was so lively that “Town Meeting” returned to the Lobero Theatre each of the next four years.
“War marriages” became a topic of debate not long after the United States joined World War II in December 1941. In 1942 alone, 1.8 million weddings took place, up 83 percent from 10 years before. And two-thirds of those brides were marrying men newly enlisted in the military.
UCSB’s El Gaucho newspaper (the predecessor to today’s Daily Nexus), encouraged readers to attend the Lobero broadcast, and a student columnist wrote:
“The topic this week is the all-important one of war marriages…. Older people probably don’t have to worry about a problem like this one, but believe you me, it is uppermost in the minds of a lot of the so-called younger generation.”
“Those in favor of these marriages look at the whole situation from what is to me, a purely Hedonistic viewpoint. ‘What the hell,’ they say, ‘I’m going to war… If we do get married now at least we will have had a taste of happiness.”
“These are the young in heart and the strong in body. These are the men who can’t conceive of lost sight, missing limbs, or any of the other catastrophes which make war the hell that it is.”
While we wait in the wings for things to return to normal, we hope you enjoy a peek into the Lobero archives.
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