The “Radio Little Orphan Annie's Secret Society” manuals each had an identical Silver Star “hunchback” promotion. Each year, if you notified the company for one by mail, they would mail you a “Star Pin and Folder” in a separate envelope.
For nearly half a century, America loved and cheered this frizzy-haired moppet as she leaped from one adventure to the next. As her creator, the late Harold Gray, said: “Annie is tougher than nails with a heart of gold and a fast left, and she takes care of herself because she has to.”
She was controversial. There's, no question about that. But most people kept her on the side of motherhood, honesty and decency. That was OK with most Americans.
Annie's best adventures were from the memorable years of 1935-1945. Annie, the round-eyed girl, never grew up, thank goodness.
Other characters included Daddy Warbucks, the mysterious multi-millionaire who adopted Annie; Punjab, the inscrutable protector of Annie and Daddy; the versatile, scary, tuxedo-clad Asp; and doesn't forget Sandy, a dog that could take over Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie any old day.
Thrill as Daddy destroys corrupt labor leaders and politicians and single-offhandedly takes on a Nazi submarine and set a new record selling War Bonds. What a gal she was. An extra to the series was a fond and penetrating introduction by Gray's admirer, the great Al Capp himself.
Several years before his death, Gray was asked if Annie would continue to sell the idea that life is a battle with victory for the brave and headstrong alone,” said Gray. He answered that “Probably, she'll never gasp complete victory. And I hope a long-suffering public will continue to encourage her for at least another 50 years.”
A song that was put out by Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society went like this: “There was a cute little girl and a great big dog. We see them every day and the cute little girl and the great big dog are playing the hours away. There's something about their manner, which seemed so happy and lighthearted for the cute little girl and the big dog.”
The reader might wish to know how to become a Silver Star Maker of Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society and learn the special secrets that only a Silver Star member can know.
The program began in 1935 through 1945. “Little Orphan Annie” so captivated the public that she rapidly went from one newspaper to several hundred others.
Once the strip was omitted from the Chicago Tribune, prompting outraged fans to besiege the newspaper. This resulted in a front-page apology. Readers did not want comic readers to mess with their story lines.
Harold Gray was a cartoonist for 44 years. For 34 of them, he was associated with the Chicago Tribute-New York News Syndicate. Though he died in 1968, Little Orphan Annie continued, durable and — dare we hope? All but immortal. Just as Harold Gray would have wanted it.
After being discharged from the Army as a lieutenant in 1917, Gray Joined the Chicago Tribune as a staff artist. In 1920, he went out on his own. Annie first saw the light of newsprint in 1923, while Gray was working as an assistant to Sidney Smith, creator of “The Gumps.” After retirement, he made his home with his wife in Connecticut and wintered in LaJola until his death.
Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.