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Forgotten radio scripts discovered in state archives

Apart from the Smith Tower and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Seattle skyline looks much different in this Washington State Ferries image from the early 1950s. (Photo credit: Department of Commerce and Economic Development Photograph Collections, Washington State Archives)
LISTEN: Forgotten radio scripts discovered in state archives

A collection of long-forgotten radio scripts created in 1952 to promote Washington State Ferries was recently discovered by an employee of the Washington State Archives in Olympia.

The scripts are from a series of short features known as “Your Ferry Line.” The series was designed to highlight Washington State Ferries as more than simply a practical mode of transportation, and to encourage local tourism.

Each radio feature was about five minutes long, and featured a Betty Crocker-like fictional character known as Ann Green. Green, portrayed by an unidentified actress, was paired with real-life Seattle radio announcer Reg Miller of KJR to act out short daily dialogs about local history, parks, Puget Sound area communities, and other attractions accessible by ferry.

In this sample script, from June 30, 1952, Reg and Ann discuss the merits of Washington State Ferries as an oasis for mothers looking to edify and entertain their young children during those long, boring days of summer.

REG: For the child, there’s the exciting maritime activity of Seattle’s harbor, busy with ships of every size and kind, the thrill of passing over the smooth surface of Elliott Bay aboard a powerful ferryboat in the midst of all this aquatic hustle and bustle. He has a thousand impressions of sights and sounds fascinating and wonderful.

ANN: And on a clear, hot day, how welcome the view of surrounding foothills and mountains, how pleasant the coolness of Puget Sound breezes to mother! She can relax, do a bit of knitting of sewing, read a story in her latest woman’s magazine, or just take it easy and enjoy herself.

REG: She can still have her morning or afternoon cup of coffee, too, because those ferryboat lunchrooms are really proud of their coffee. Of course, there are snacks for hungry young appetites, as well, quickened by the fresh air and walks along the promenade deck.

This month marks 65 years since Washington State Ferries was created as a public entity to acquire and manage what had been privately-owned and operated car and passenger ferry routes in the Evergreen State.

In an email, Washington State Archives staffer Benjamin Helle said that finding the ferry scripts wasn’t a complete surprise. “[I] came across them as I was rifling through the collection looking for material to celebrate the 65th anniversary on June 1. [I’m] always keeping an eye out for interesting things.”

Other documents shared by Helle show that it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Ann Green while the series was being developed. In a memo to the radio production team dated February 15, 1952, then-Washington State Ferries publicity director Marianne Cassar wrote, “it strikes me that the impression given is that Ann Green is a know-it-all, preachy tin god who has no attachment to her audience.”

Cassar continued, “And regarding any plugs for the ferry system – they should be extremely subtle. The public is quick to pick up an attitude of self-praise and they certainly aren’t going to tune in a program just to continually hear us telling how wonderful we are.”

Cassar, who was described by The Seattle Times in 1950 as a “former New York publicity woman,” went on to become a renowned Pacific Northwest stained-glass artist whose work graces several local churches, including Central Baptist Church in Tacoma and Seattle’s John Knox Presbyterian Church, as well as a bank in Honolulu and a building on the University of Washington campus. She passed away in 1987 at age 76.

In the 1952 memo, Cassar’s artistic sense was already on display, as she went on to suggest ditching that “preachy tin god” Ann Green in favor of a much more elaborate series featuring a full family of characters, including mom and dad, two kids, and a friendly “grand dad” who would partake of various activities that required transportation by ferry to reach.

With skillful writing and compelling characters, Cassar wrote, we can make people “want to get out to the spots we describe and USE OUR FERRIES.” And, yes, the all caps are there in Cassar’s original memo.

It’s unclear why, but Cassar’s not-so-subtle suggestions were rejected. Perhaps all that writing and all those characters would have exceeded the project budget. Either way, know-it-all Ann Green and avuncular Reg Miller set sail on the local airwaves, presenting as many as 40 episodes over a few month period in the spring and summer of 1952. However, for unknown reasons, it looks like the pair had only this single run of radio adventures on behalf of Washington State Ferries.

No memo has yet turned up in the archives documenting Marianne Cassar’s thoughts when the maiden (and, it’s believed, only) radio voyage of Ann Green came to an end. If such a memo ever does appear, it’s easy to imagine what it might say.

I TOLD YOU SO.

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