Appendix D: – Canadian Radio, Some Background
So, CBC radio continued to provide a “national theatre of the air” to Canadians into the 1960s. This time became known as the Golden Age of Canadian radio drama. The number of original works by Canadian playwrights broadcast during this golden age (1939 to the mid-1950s) reached about 3500 (Londré and Watermeiser 352). Four producers reigned on the CBC for this golden age of Canadian Drama: Andrew Allan (now National Drama Supervisor), Esse W. Ljungh, J. Frank Willis, and Rupert Caplan. They were supplied a steady stream of scripts from Alice Frick, the National Script Editor – in charge of play selection and liaising between the CBC Drama Department and Canadian writers. Nolton Nash credits Andrew Allan as being “the man who gave Canada its first national theatre” (“Cue the Elephant!” 13). Allen’s inspiration for the above-mentioned goal of providing a “national theatre of the air” seems to be the 1929 BBC handbook94 (Drakakis 7).
Allan saw radio as essential to Canada, saying: “Broadcasting is one of Canada's principal means of survival and only in radio could we have enough drama to make a theatre in Canada” (Nash, 13). Former CBC president Al Johnson recalls the personal impact of Allan’s productions, saying “It was our Canadian Theatre. Without it, for me, Canada would only have been Saskatchewan” (Nash, 13). Nash also quotes another Saskatchewanian, Frances Hyland, who was inspired by Allan’s shows when she was becoming an actress in the prairies: “We didn't have a whole lot in Regina. Listening to CBC Radio drama was my theatre. The CBC was literally holding the country together, with a couple million people all listening to the same program … They were telling Canadian stories to me” (“Cue the Elephant!” 13).
Through the Golden Age of Canadian radio drama, there was a one-woman playwriting industry by the name of Mary Pattison working in Saskatoon. Among the programs recorded in the archives is an interview with Mary Pattison on CBC Saskatchewan’s The Noon Edition in November 198695. During the interview, she looks back at her writing career on the fortieth anniversary of the debut of her long-running serial The Jacksons and Their Neighbours, which ran on the CBC Prairie region Farm
94 Drakakis quotes the 1929 BBC handbook which, “set out the case for radio as a national theatre, with its 'means of spanning the unprofitable dramatic ground which lies between the commercial and the artistic; between the business theatre of today and the national theatre of tomorrow'” (7).