The Whisperer — “Tea Time for Teenagers”

The Whisperer (1951) aired “Tea Time for Teenagers” on July 8, 1951 as the second of its 26 episodes, only 13 of which (2-14) are in circulation. The man known as the Whisperer is in reality one Philip Galt, a lawyer who was in a terrible accident in which his vocal chords were crushed. He used this strange disability as a cover to infiltrate the organized crime Syndicate in Central City, passing on to the local crime affiliate their next crime or proposed illegal operation from the Syndicate’s national bosses. Upon completion of a successful operation by Dr. Benjamin Lee and his nurse Ellen Norris that returned his voice, Galt decided to continue his undercover role as the Whisperer, setting up the local Syndicate branch and then foiling their crimes and getting them arrested, convicted, and behind bars as lawyer Philip Galt. Ellen Norris is now Galt’s assistant and love interest and is the only one who knows Galt doubles as the Whisperer.

Philip Galt/The Whisperer was played by Carleton Young (1905-1994). He appeared in a number of radio shows and did some TV, but worked primarily in films, appearing in almost 200, primarily in small, uncredited roles. A few notable films in which he did have a credit were Reefer Madness (1936), Kansas City Confidential (1952), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In this famous western starring John Wayne, James Stewart, and Lee Marvin, Young played the newspaper editor who spoke the great line, “No Sir, this is the West: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Outside of his professional life, Young appears to have had a sense of humor, exemplified by the following quoted passage from his wiki page: “Young had a few interests beyond acting, forming the Los Angeles Smog Corp. to manufacture cans of “Genuine Los Angeles Smog”, which reportedly were sold in the “Fun Shop” at Farmers Market. Hal Tamblin was listed as a vice president of the corporation, according to a 1962 item in The Times, and Art Ryon, author of The Times’ “Ham on Ryon” column, claimed to be an executive of the whimsical outfit. Salesman Stan Goodman of Baldwinsville, NY, a longtime friend of Mr. Young, and his wife Noel, came up with the idea to sell the city’s notoriously polluted air so tourists could take an authentic “slice” of Hollywood back home. Goodman’s grandson, attorney Robert C. Goodman of San Francisco, still owns one of the few extant cans of vintage LA smog captured in time by Young’s Los Angeles Smog Corp.” Young tried marriage a  few times and seems to have gotten it right the third time when, in December of 1945 he married Chinese-American exotic dancer Ngum Yee “Emma” Hom (1918-2003), whose stage name was Noel Toy, the “Chinese Sally Rand.” They remained married until his death in 1994. She died on Christmas Eve 2003.

“Tea Time for Teenagers” is a lot of fun, as you will hear. Purely by accident while doing research on Carleton Young, the actor who plays the Whisperer, I discovered he had a part in the iconic anti-marijuana film Reefer Madness from 1936. Then it hit me that “Tea Time for Teenagers” is as close to a radio version of the film as you are likely to experience. Both overlap in obvious ways, including scenes, message, and the drug (marijuana) being sold. The method by which the Syndicate infiltrates a high school campus looking for a prime candidate to become the local pusher who then attempts to hook students on the drug, and the promises made to the local pusher of big money are the same. Both the 1936 film and this 1951 radio play are in essence PSAs (Public Service Announcements) warning of the dire consequences of using this gateway drug, even if the examples cited are somewhat hyperbolic and may result in slight smiles from the listening audience of today (the same effect the 1936 film had on many a pot-smoker in the 1960s and 1970s, when the counter culture was at its height and extolled the virtues of marijuana every chance they got). So settle back and enjoy an anti-marijuana cautionary tale from over 70 years ago, and reflect on how American culture and its laws have changed since the post-World War II era, when young Americans not fighting in the Korean “conflict” in 1951 might have received the message offered in “Tea Time for Teenagers.”

Play Time: 25:32

{Airing at 5 PM on Sunday evening in early July of 1951, the neighborhood gang took the warning given in the story to heart, and while meeting at the nearby newsstand the following morning (summer vacation was in its early days) they decided to opt for uplifting adventure stories and future marvels, the sort which they had come to rely on in some of their favorite pulps. Future (combined with Science Fiction) (1950-54) was a new pulp offering colorful tales by newcomers and proven veterans alike, witness the cover stories by George O. Smith and L. Sprague de Camp featured below. It was a bi-monthly in 1951. Super Science Stories (1940-43, 1949-51) tried to hit the sweet spot between adventure and the wonders of super science, and through mostly no fault of its own and even after a second attempt, didn’t last very long. The issue shown below would be its next to last. It was a bi-monthly in 1951. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) had become a long-standing favorite with the gang, where imagination trumped scientific accuracy and didn’t blink a bug-eyed monster’s eye or think twice about it. Page-turning excitement and sense of wonder marked many of the magazine’s space-faring tales, which is one of the reasons it lasted so long when other of its brethren had disappeared from newsstand shelves, and why uncounted numbers of its stories (by many a popular author) are now considered entertaining classics and have been reprinted many times in collections over the decades. It too was a bi-monthly in 1951.}

[Left: Future SF, 7/51 – Center: Super Science Stories, 6/51 – Right: Thrilling Wonder Stories, 6/51]


To view the entire list of Old Time Radio episodes go here.