Harlow Van Voorhees’ Episode Guide: The Apple Sisters #15

The following is a message from one of our special contributors. Enjoy!

Hail, hail, radio fans!

Well, I know now that’s not a wholly accurate greeting. My niece Frances-Jean told me I need to call you  “Podcast Fans” or people were going to start thinking of me as a “silly, useless, old man.” Well, maybe she’s right, but I just can’t wrap my head around all this new technology. Back in my day, a “macintosh” was the type of apple you could eat and a “mouse pad” was what you used when your mouse was menstruating. And we were content. I try to keep up with this changing world, but it always backfires in old Harlow’s face. Last week I tried to buy a DVD for my niece’s birthday and apparently I got her a regular when she wanted a “blue ray”(?). And the week before that I participated in what I was told was a “flash mob” but turned out to be a legitimate riot.

No thank you!

Give this old man life’s simple pleasures. Like The Apple Sisters’ Variety Show. This week we’re just about half-way through their boat adventure. As you can imagine, when this show originally aired and I was just a young boy, it was very titillating to fancy the Apple Sisters on a boat, perhaps in nothing but their bathing gowns, swim scarves and water aprons. Their hands and feet completely exposed. You have to understand that the Apple Sisters were the Kardashian sisters of their day (even better because there wasn’t a plump one). So this series of episodes always holds a special place in my heart and my britches.

Let’s get into another excerpt from my Apple Sisters Episode Guide.

The Apple Sisters Episode #15 – Original Airdate: 9/12/1943

Plot Summary:  A pirate boards this ship and is intent on pillaging and plundering. First Seedy helps him to meet his maker, and then she helps him to meet his maker. The girls go to the mail room to find out how their listeners get rid of unwanted guests. Then they sing a rousing rendition of their Shut-Up Song. Mayhem ensues.

Notes:  The Apple Sisters boat shows were all recorded on a real boat at sea. It was actually less expensive to produce the shows on a boat rather than create splash sound-effects in the studio. This was, of course, a direct result of WWII bucket rationing.

We get to hear a little of Seedy Apple’s proselytizing in this episode. Coincidentally, this episode came out the same month that a well-intentioned but ultimately ill-conceived breakfast cereal she bankrolled was released in supermarkets. Sugar-Frosted Eucharist was marketed as having “a full day’s supply of niacin, riboflavin and salvation.” Despite these bold claims, the cereal never caught on. Consumers described the cereal as “bland” and “sacrilegious.” Eventually it was purchased by the Ralston Corporation. In the following years, they would make some significant changes to the brand. The first was to reduce the amount of riboflavin which, as it turned out, was at poisonous levels. They would then go on to add tiny chocolate bits to the recipe and give the cereal’s cartoon God mascot a wizard’s hat, renaming him Cookie Jarvis and the cereal Cookie Crisp.

This episode features Ptolemy Slocum as Captain Morgan. Most listeners were not familiar with him by that name, although many would be by his stage name Toffee Waffle. Starting in 1922, Ptolemy performed on the vaudeville stage as Toffee Waffle the Jolly Imbecile. His act consisted of crude songs, impressions of animal flatulence and his famed ability to “eat any shoe for 50 cents.” In the waning days of vaudeville, Ptolemy took his act to circus-sideshows where he was consuming anywhere from 6-10 shoes a day.

Ptolemy Slocum plays an interesting role in Apple Sisters history. He was introduced to Cora Apple a few days before the first Apple Sisters’ Variety Show was set to be broadcast. Cora mistakenly pronounced his name “puh-tolemy,” not knowing that the P was silent. The real Cora Apple, who is actually quite a bit dumber and more sensitive than the version of herself she plays on the radio, was devastated by this social gaffe. Vowing “not to be tricked by words ever again,” she began preemptively pronouncing all consonants silently, making her almost completely indecipherable and delaying the first episode by six weeks until her sisters could talk her out of it.

Sadly, Ptolemy Slocum would pass away in October of 1945 from a rare case of what doctors call “shoe-gut.”

Until next time…