MARGARET MCBRIDE OF RADIO TALK SHOW DIES
By Albin Krebs
McBride, whose homey network radio programs delighted millions of
American housewives five days a week for more than 20 years, died
yesterday at her country home in West Shokun, N.Y., after a long
illness. Miss McBride, who was 76 years old, retired from network radio
in 1954 and gave up her New York apartment in favor of her Catskills
Mountains home, a converted barn about 100 miles north of the city.
Until a few months ago, she conducted from her living room a
thrice-weekly program on station WGHO in Kingston, not far from her
Mary Margaret – that’s what everyone called her; not Mary, and not
Miss McBride, but Mary Margaret – was a super saleswoman in radio’s
heyday. Sponsors begged her to carry their messages in her breathy,
homespun style, but she accepted only the products she tried and liked,
and, being a teetotaler since the age of 4, when she took the temperance
pledge, she dew the line at liquor advertising. She also disapproved for
cigarette smoking, so that was another Mary Margaret product taboo.
Mis McBride, an amply proportioned woman with a hearty, sentimental
approach to life, larded her programs with recipes for invariably
weight-gaining dishes. When she spoke of food, her listeners, many of
whom considered her one of the family – a favorite aunt, perhaps, or a
cousin – could depend on Mary Margaret to fairly drool with pleasure.
Lyrical Radio Repasts
To bring realism to her program, she said, she like to actually eat
several courses while on the air, always, of course, paying tribute to
he sponsors’ products. At the close of some of her radio repasts, Mary
Margaret’s description of a meal could take on fairly lyrical
qualities. “If I had to eat the same meal every day for the rest of my
life,” she said during one program, “this is what I’d choose,
fixed the way my mother did it: delicate buttermilk biscuits so hot you
can’t pick them up, with butter slathered on their delicate insides;
mashed potatoes that have been hand-beaten with cream and butter until
they are fluffy as a cloud; baby chicken fried to crisp brownness; and,
to finish off with, hot apple dumplings, rich with cinnamon, butter and
brown sugar, and thick yellow cream to pour over… There would also be
pickled peaches in thick syrup, grape jelly, spiced gooseberries, and
pear and cherry preserves.”
In addition to her gastronomical flights, Miss McBride offered her
listeners, mostly women who took time out for 45 minutes each weekday at
1P.M. from the drudgery of dishes and diapers to tune her in, interviews
with a wide assortment of people. Besides well-known personalities such
as Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman and Jimmy Durante, Miss
McBride liked to bring on zookeepers, plumbers, interior decorators,
businessmen, almost anyone she thought might prove interesting.
Although she was from a long line of Southern Baptists who took a
conservative view of tobacco, alcohol and sex, Mary Margaret had a keen
eye and a keener ear for subjects that would captivate her devoted
audience. And so, on one occasion, to the dismay of her network and her
sponsors, she invited Sally Rand, the fan dancer, to drop in on the
program. It turned out there was nothing to worry about. Good,
comforting, down-home-folks Mary Margaret skilled over Miss Rand’s
theatrical calling and elicited from her a touching memoir of her
poverty-stricken childhood in the Ozark Mountains.
‘Female Arthur Godfrey’
Such was Miss McBride’s influence that she received at least 1,000
letters a week, and when she talked about a controversial book or play,
a week’s mail could run up to 5,000 pieces. Occasionally, following a
misunderstanding with a sponsor, she would just let slip on the air how
she had been maltreated, and the offending soup maker or baker or
meatpacker would be bombarded by mail reproving him for hurting “poor
Mary Margaret.” Miss McBride was referred to some years ago as “the
female Arthur Godfrey.” He too had an interview show over daytime
radio. And in a way, the two of them pioneered the format of today’s
television talk shows.
Mary Margaret McBride was born Nov 16, 1899, in tiny Paris, Mo., the
daughter of Thomas Walker McBride and the former Elizabeth Craig. Mr.
McBride was “a farmer with itchy feet, and no sooner would he get a
rundown place in shape, then we’d move to another spread that needed
fixing up,” Miss McBride recalled some years ago. Mary Margaret’s
Great-Aunt Albina was wealthy and sent her to boarding school and the
University of Missouri, with the understanding that Miss McBride would
become associated eventually with a boarding school endowed by the
Went Into Magazine Writing
But after a year of college, Miss McBride told Great-Aunt Albina she
intended to become a writer. The old relative’s money stopped, and
Mary Margaret had to take a part-time job on a newspaper in Columbia,
Mo., earning $10 a week, until finally she received a degree. In 1920,
after she had worked briefly for The Cleveland Press, Miss McBride came
to New York, where she was a reporter on The Evening Mail. In the
following decade, she branched out into magazine writing, for The
Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and several other publications.
Miss McBride’s first radio job was with WOR in 1934. For a couple of
weeks she pretended, as ordered, to be a folksy grandmother telling
stories and reading recipes, but in the middle of one program, she
suddenly told her ‘live’ audience: “Look, I’m not a grandma, nor
a mother, nor am I married. Why don’t I just be myself?” Her
listeners approved, and for six years, Miss McBride was a WOR fixture.
Later she moved to CBS radio network but was uncomfortable in the
15-minute format given her, and eventually she switched to NBC, for the
long stay that won her national fame.
To celebrate her 10th anniversary on the air, Mary
Margaret’s devoted fans packed the old Madison Square Garden on Eight
Avenue at 50th Street, and on the 15th
anniversary, Yankee Stadium could barely accommodate her devoted
The funeral service
for Miss McBride will be private.
undated newspaper article.