For the Young and the Young at Heart: Big Jon and Sparkie

There is plenty in OTR to keep "serious" listeners busy. By serious, we mean grown ups! The simple fact is that sponsors wanted to put their message (and their money) where it would be heard by the people who had cash to spend.
Through the years, this made for some interesting programming decisions. The radio noir and hard boiled detective shows of the post-War era were meant to appeal to the adventurous vets coming back to a humdrum home life. The radio soaps were designed to tug at the heartstrings of the stay-at-home housewife who did most of the shopping for the household. Comedy variety programs were for the whole family.
Programming for kids was often an after thought, sustained programs without sponsors, since kids don't buy anything because they don't have any money. However, cereal makers realized that even though the kids were not the ones buying breakfast cereal, they did have a big influence on what Mom picked off the store shelves.
Kids may or may not have been a profitable market, but producers still managed to create some terrific programming for them. Examples include the long running serials The Lone Ranger and The Adventures of Superman, crime fighter programs like The Green Hornet, The Blue Beetle, Captain Midnight and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and the adventure serials like Little Orphan Annie, Buck Rogers, Tailspin Tommy and Tom Corbett Space Cadet.
One of the best loved kids shows was Big Jon and Sparkie, which managed to become popular on the radio at the dawn of the Television Age. Of course, kids who had TV back then usually had to deal with blurry, snowy pictures and bad sound, whereas radio programs came in full colored imagination.
Big Jon and Sparkie was good fuel for active imaginations with its cast of fanciful characters, all voiced by Jon Arthur. The characters were mostly based on people that Arthur had known growing up in Cheviot, Ohio. They included taxi drive Eukey Betcha, Mayor Plumfront, Clyde Pillroller the pharmacist and Daffodil Dilly. The star was Sparkie himself, "the little elf from the land of make-believe, who wants more than anything else in the world to be a real boy".
Sparkie first showed up on the radio as an impudent scamp who would interrupt Arthur's announcing duties at WSAI, Cincinnati. Creating Sparkie took a good deal of coordination. Arthur's own voice was recorded on a reel to reel tape machine and played back at an increased speed to increase the pitch and elfish quality of the character.

The show ran as a quarter hour serial after school, and a longer Saturday morning program. On the No School Today programs on Saturdays, kids who had written in could have their name called out for Happy Birthday wishes. The format was widely copied by children's TV shows on local stations across the country, but Big Jon and Sparkie never made it to the small screen. Which is OK, they did just fine during their run from 1950 through 1958. The show found a second life on the Family Radio network from 1962 until 1982.