About Site

The Bixbys
Written about November 1958


John Merriman preparing to take the class on a trip to his farm, May 22, 1959Background: John Merriman was my teacher for two years, both fifth and sixth grade, at the Claibourne-Richwood Elementary School in Richwood, Ohio.

Once he brought a tape recorder to class.  We were all fascinated to listen to our voices being played back, and we even played the tape  at double speed so that we could laugh at what we called the Donald Duck effect.  (This was before Alvin and the Chipmunks came along.)

Going one step further, Mr. Merriman encouraged us to produce a "radio program" on tape.  The result was the following script, complete with commercials for a sponsor whose name was probably a Merriman invention.

I wrote more than half of this comedy, probably in November of 1958 (give or take a couple of months; see the credits at the end of the show).  The form is imitative of sitcoms of the era on both radio and TV.  We had sound effects; we instructed actors to move "off-mike" when entering and exiting; and we even had theme music, both full-length and a short "sting" for the ends of scenes, which according to my notes I stole from the obscure 1956-57 Gale Gordon TV sitcom called The Brothers.  My notes don't indicate the orchestration.  Perhaps we just hummed the music.

Audio Link


To continue reading this page while the audio plays, 
right-click on the Audio Link button and choose
Open Link in New Tab.  For other audio, click here.

Here's that theme music and sting, recreated in 2011 from the melody I wrote down in 1958.

The writing is surprisingly literate for 11-year-olds, although it relies too much on the announcer's narration and not enough on dialogue.  The plot, however, is rather thin.  We as yet knew little of life, so we had few resources on which to draw.  We strung together juvenile jokes, both verbal and practical, with various cliches from other broadcast comedies that we had seen and heard.  These cliches included the surprise party, the misunderstanding that leads to comic results, and the whole 1950s childbirth routine.

Back then, a pregnant woman kept her condition secret from her husband at first, although she began knitting baby clothes.  When her time came, everyone rushed to the hospital with her.  But the father wasn't allowed in the delivery room.  He paced around the waiting room in a state of great agitation, ready to hand out celebratory cigars.  Such were the rituals of giving birth, at least as we children understood them from listening to radio and watching TV in what we now know as the Golden Age.


ANNOUNCER  (Barbara Bugg):  It's time once again for a visit with that hilarious family, the Bixbys!  Today's episode is entitled "The Surprise Baby Shower," and is brought to you by Burpsi-Cola, the extra-light soft drink.

We'll join the Bixbys in a moment, but first a message from our sponsor.

SPOKESPERSON  (Nancy Mosier):  I wonder how many of you drink an ordinary soft drink without realizing what you're missing by not drinking a Burpsi-Cola, the only true soft drink.  You see, a Burpsi is really soft, really light.  In fact, it's so soft that it's all bubbles!  And you just try to find anything softer, lighter, or more flavorful than these Burpsi bubbles!

Now about our new contest:  To show our appreciation for the amazing acceptance of Burpsi-Cola by the public, we have decided to conduct a Burpsi-Cola Bottle Cap Contest.  Inside our bottle caps we have inserted the letters that spell Burpsi.  If you can get all of these letters, you will receive a brand-new, 1959 model, two-toned, quality-engineered ball-point pen.  Isn't that wonderful?

So remember our slogan:  Live the modern way.  Have a Burpsi today!  Get Burpsi-Cola in the regular, large, or glutton size bottle.  That's Burpsi-Cola, the only true soft drink!

ANNOUNCER:  And now to today's story.

Note all the old-fashioned first names among the cast and characters.  Nowadays few Americans name their children Martha, George, Eileen, Herb, Herman, Muriel, Lucy, Henry, or Melvin.  And our non-speaking roles included Inez, Mabel, and Myrtle.


We have several well-known actors on our program today.  First, in the leading role of Martha Bixby we are delighted to have Eileen Jividen.  In the role of her husband, George, we have Herb Conley.  The renowned actor, Bob Marvin, will portray Herman La Bauchie, the practical-joke player.  Muriel Ballard, the up-and-coming young actress, will play Lucy Ames.  Her husband, Henry, will be played by Ken Fulton.

In the role of Susan, the Bixbys' 15-year-old daughter, we have Nancy Mosier.  You should be delighted to know that the 10-year-old brat, Jeffery, will be played today by the perfect actor for this part, Keith Forrider.

As Melvin Winngate, Susan's boyfriend, we have lovable John Millington.  And, finally, as Jim Whitsneizer, the young man whose wife is to have a baby, we have Tommy Thomas.

Sixth grade, Richwood, Ohio, 1958



Our story today begins in the Ames kitchen.  Inez Ruppledove and Martha Bixby are talking on the party line when Lucy picks up her telephone.

I should explain this plot device.  Many of our telephones in Richwood were still  "party lines," where several homes shared the same wire.  When you picked up your phone, it was like picking up an extension.  Instead of a dial tone, you might hear a conversation already in progress.

Eventually every home would get its own private line.  But nine years before, Hank Williams had sung, “Oh, the woman on our party line's the nosiest thing; she picks up her receiver when she knows it's my ring.  Why don't you Mind Your Own Business?  Well, if you mind your business, then you won't be mindin' mine.”

LUCY AMES  (Muriel Ballard):  Hm?  Oh, I'm sorry, Martha.  This party line!  When is that telephone company going to change it over?  (hangs up)

Hmm.  It seems I heard them saying something about a baby.  Do you suppose Martha's going to have another ba—  why, of course!  Martha must be going to have a baby!

Say, I know what.  I'll get up a baby shower for her!  Yes, a surprise baby shower!  I'll call up Herman, and Inez — boy, will Martha be surprised!  Let's see, what's Herman's number?

ANNOUNCER:  So Lucy got together a group of Martha's friends for the shower.  Little did she know that Martha was not expecting!  You see, she got a little mixed up with what she heard of the conversation.


Later that evening, Melvin and Susan were sitting in the porch swing.  Herman was coming up the street toward the house, but they didn't notice him.

MELVIN  (John Millington):  Uh, Susan, if I tried to — er — to kiss you, would you c-call for help?

SUSAN BIXBY  (Nancy Mosier):  Well, I don't know, Melvin.  Do you think you'll need any?

HERMAN  (Bob Marvin) :  Ha-ha!  (approaching, loudly)  That's the best one I've heard all day!  Do you think I'll need any!  Ha-ha-ha!  (quiets down)  Say, I've got a joke to pull on your mother.  You two keep quiet, will ya?

ANNOUNCER:  Herman went up to the door and rang the doorbell.  (sound effect)  Martha was upstairs washing her face.

MARTHA BIXBY  (Eileen Jividen):  Oh, me.  I wonder who that could be?  (running downstairs)  Coming, I'm coming!  (opening door)  Hey, there's nobody here!

ANNOUNCER:  Herman had run around to the side door while Martha was coming down the steps.  He let himself in the door and came up behind Martha.  He had already put on a grotesque false face, so when Martha turned around —

MARTHA B:  Eek!  Aah!  George, someone's down here!  Help me!  Aah!

GEORGE BIXBY  (Herb Conley):  Martha!  What's wrong?  (running downstairs)  Did this man try — oh, so it's you, Herman!  What do you mean by scaring my wife like that?  You should be ashamed of yourself.

HERMAN:  Aw, George, you know how I am.  I do this all the time!  Come on, shake hands.

GEORGE B:  Oh, all right.  (loud buzz)  Yaaououch!


ANNOUNCER:  The next day, Martha went shopping.  Lucy came to the house to tell the Bixbys about the shower.  (doorbell)

GEORGE B:  All right, I'm coming.  (opening door)  Oh, hello, Mrs. Ames.  Come on in!

LUCY A:  Thank you, but I can't stay too long.  I just wanted to tell you that we're planning to have a surprise baby shower here tomorrow — and we wondered if you'd let us.

GEORGE B:  Well, it's all right with me, but I'll have to ask Martha when she gets back, and —

LUCY A:  Oh, no, don't!  You see, this party's for Martha.

GEORGE B:  Wait a moment!  Martha's not going to — say, there has been an increase in the amount of knitting she's been turning out!

SUSAN B:  But Father, she said she's knitting that for the Whitsneizers!

JEFF BIXBY  (Keith Forrider):  Yeah, I had to take a whole basket of that stuff over there yesterday.

GEORGE B:  She's probably just trying to cover up.  She didn't tell me that you two were on the way for a long time.  I wonder why she does these things.  (pause)  Well, Mrs. Ames, thank you for coming over.  Sure glad you did.

LUCY A:  You're welcome.  Goodbye.  (door closes)

SUSAN B:  I wonder how she found out, when Mother wouldn't even tell us?

GEORGE B:  Women have a way of finding out these things, Susan.  You should know, as long as you stay on the telephone!  You probably know more about some of those girls than they know about themselves.


ANNOUNCER:  That evening at the dinner table, the family nervously tried to find out if Lucy was right.

GEORGE B:  Uh, Martha, we — er — we have something to ask you.

MARTHA B:  Well, come out with it.

SUSAN B:  Er — Mother, are you going to have a baby?

MARTHA B:  What?  Am I going to have a baby?  Ha-ha!  Where'd you get that idea?

JEFF B:  But what about the surprise mmphmmph-mmmph?  —  Hey, Susan, why'd you do that?

MARTHA B:  I'll get the dessert and then maybe I can find out where you got that idea.  Me going to have a baby!  Ha-ha!  (fades away into kitchen)

GEORGE B:  Trying to cover up again!  I wish she'd come out and tell us.

I enjoyed writing this line of Jeff's.  Even at age 11, I must have realized that I had no inclination to parenthood.


JEFF B:  Yeah.  I don't know whether to expect a howling, screaming, yelling baby, or peace and quiet.


ANNOUNCER:  The next day was the day of the shower.  At exactly 1:55, Lucy came over to talk to Martha while Henry kept the guests outside.

LUCY A:  I came over here to look at your young tomato plants, Martha.  I'm thinking of putting some out, myself.

MARTHA B:  Oh, yes.  Come on out to the garage.  (fading out)  I just picked these up at the nursery yesterday.  (door closes)

HENRY AMES  (Ken Fulton):  All right, everybody.  Come on in, and hurry!  (shuffling-about noises)  Herman, get behind that chair.  Inez, you crawl in here.  George, come on down and get in the closet.  That's right, Mabel.  All right, is everyone ready?


HERMAN:  Okay.  Quiet now, here they come.

MARTHA B  (approaching):  Really, I think you'd do better with hybrid tomatoes.  They seem to —


MARTHA B:  Huh?  Hey, what's this all about?

LUCY A:  Martha, all these friends of yours are here to celebrate the baby that is on the way.  We're so happy about it that —

MARTHA B:  Wait a minute.  Last night my family thought the same thing.  And now you — who got the idea that I was going to have a baby, anyway?

LUCY A:  Well — I — well, aren't you?

MARTHA B:  Of course not.  Who thought this thing up?

HERMAN:  Well, Lucy told me.

GEORGE B:  Same here.

HENRY A:  Where'd you hear this choice bit of gossip, blabbermouth?

LUCY A:  Well, I picked up the telephone one morning and heard Inez say that — well, she didn't exactly say it — she — um — they were —

HENRY A:  In other words, you started a rumor.  Right?

LUCY A:  Well-l-l-l —

The rest of the script is in someone else's handwriting, probably that of Muriel Ballard, the daughter of the pastor at my church.

My guess is that she inserted the purse incident only to establish that the Jeffery character was, as the announcer had described him, a brat.

The portion in red was later crossed out and presumably not performed.


ANNOUNCER:  Everybody began to talk at once, but they soon quieted down.  Someone suggested that since they were there, they may as well have a party.

LUCY A  (suddenly):  Oh, Jeffery, you little monster!  Who do you think you are, taking those things out of my purse like that?

JEFF B (very surprised):  Well-l-l — I — uh —

LUCY A:  Nonsense!  Give me that purse right now!

ANNOUNCER:  Meanwhile, Henry began telling this joke to George.

HENRY:  A farmer and a professor were traveling together when the professor suggested asking riddles to pass the time.  "Every time you miss a riddle, you give me a dollar, and every time I miss, I'll give you a dollar."

"You're better educated than I am," replied the farmer.  "I'll give you 50 cents."  The professor agreed and told the farmer to ask the first riddle.

"What has three legs walking and two legs flying?"

The professor gave up and handed over the dollar.

The farmer didn't know either and handed back 50 cents!

In old comedies, the sponsor's product was often worked into the plot.  They'd still be doing it today if programs were still sponsored by a single advertiser.

ANNOUNCER:  At that moment, Herman came in with the refreshments:  hamburgers and Burpsi-Cola.  He passed the tray to Martha first.

MARTHA B  (taking a bite of the hamburger):  Eeek!  Oh, goodness!  What is this, anyway?

HERMAN:  Well, I guess that now, since you've already sampled my delicious cooking, I can tell you about it.  Do you remember when you asked me to plant those rose bushes?  Well, I found several worms while I was doing it, and decided that I would dry them and try to play a joke on you.  You see, Martha, the "meat" is cardboard, and the "bun" is cotton stuffed with the dried worms and covered with tan tissue paper.

MARTHA B:  Oh, Herman!  You make me sick!

HERMAN (laughing):  You'll probably be a lot sicker because you took that big bite out of the hamburger.  Ha-ha!

ANNOUNCER:  However, things soon quieted down.  The group decided that since Martha was such a good sport about it, they would give her their presents anyway!

Then the guests went home.  Later that night, Martha found half of a candy box and a shoelace on the floor.

GEORGE B:  This reminds me of a poem I read yesterday in "The American Legion Magazine."  Would you like to hear it?

ANNOUNCER:  Not waiting for Martha to answer, George recited:

GEORGE B:  A left-shoe Oxford, man's size ten,
     The upper half of a fountain pen,
A bottle of some strange yellow gunk,
     Toothbrush, keys to house or trunk:

Their negligence we wouldn't mind,
     When parting guests leave stuff behind,
If only they would sometimes choose
     To make it something we could use!


ANNOUNCER:  The next day, the Bixbys decided to give the presents to Myrtle Whitsneizer.  The Bixbys were hoping it would be a girl, because other than two sheets, a blanket, and a basinet, the presents were for a girl.


One day about two weeks later, Martha was hanging some clothes out on the clothesline when one of her neighbors told her that Mrs. Whitsneizer had gone to the hospital to have her baby.  Immediately Martha dropped everything and drove out to the hospital.

Just as she got out of the car, she saw something that looked like a mental patient racing from the hospital whooping and shouting.  As he came closer, Martha saw that it was Mr. Whitsneizer.

MR. WHITSNEIZER  (Tommy Thomas):  My wife just had a baby!  My dear Myrtle just had a baby!  Waahooo!  Whoopee!

Care for a cigar, Ma'am?

MARTHA B:  No thanks.  This just isn't my brand.

By the way, Jim, what are you going to name her?

MR. W:  Oh, it is not a girl.  It's a boy.  Yipeee!

ANNOUNCER:  As Martha got into the car, she was wondering what would be done with the girl-baby presents.  As she looked back outside, she saw a nurse telling Mr. Whitsneizer something.  Then came another loud whoop.

MR. W:  It's a girl!  It's a boy!  It's twins!  Hey, Mister, have two cigars!

ANNOUNCER:  Laughing, Martha started the engine and drove away.


This final commercial and the closing are again in my handwriting.


SPOKESPERSON:  Several people have written in to us here at station HAMS asking questions about our fine product, Burpsi-Cola.  One person asked about the miracle ingredient that makes Burpsi turn to bubbles.  Well, here it is;
it's spelled D-E-L-L-E-P-S-S-T-I-S-I-T-I-E-R-E-H-L-L-E-W-S-
E-L-B-B-U-B-O-T-N-R-U-T-Z-X-Y-N-O-sodium.  But we call it
DL-9 for short.


A lady recently called in, telling us how much she liked our product.  At least that's what we think she said.  Here's how she described Burpsi-Cola.

(played, almost unintelligibly, at double speed):  IwouldliketotellyouhowmuchIlikeyourfineproductBurpsiCola

(normal speed):  Thank you, Mrs. Duck.

(double speed):  Yourewelcome.

(normal speed):  Do you see what I mean?  Even ducks are drinking Burpsi-Cola.


Another person, a human being this time, sent us a jingle.  It goes like this.

(to the Blue Danube Waltz):
Burpsi-Cola is fine
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
Whenever you dine.
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
It fizzes up good
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
Or surely it should.
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
Live the mod-er-n way,
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
Have a Burpsi today!
     Burp-burp!  Burp-burp!
Go down to the store
And then buy
A Burpsi!


We appreciate those letters, folks.  We're glad to know that you're drinking a lot of regular, large, and glutton size Burpsi-Colas.  Keep on drinking them, will you?

(double speed):  Allrightallright!

ANNOUNCER:  We hope you have enjoyed today's episode of The Bixbys.

This program was produced and directed by Tommy Thomas.  It was based upon a story written by Eileen Jividen, Barbara Bugg, Tommy Thomas, and Bob Marvin.  This story was adapted for radio by Muriel Ballard and Tommy Thomas.  Our Burpsi-Cola commercials were done for us today by Nancy Mosier, and the jingle was sung for us by Linda Congrove and Brenda Stockwell.  Our executive producer was John W. Merriman.  This has been a John Merriman production.

And now this is Barbara Bugg signing off for Burpsi-Cola.  Good day!



Back to Top
More RichwoodMore Richwood
More BroadcastMore Broadcast
Read Comments