Monday, February 16, 2015

Mary Margaret McBride in West Shokan

Ray Faiola of Ellenville has uploaded to Youtube a pilot of a 1951 television program with Mary Margaret McBride, who interviews Ed Dowling.  Dowling was the director of the first major Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie.   The interview takes place in her West Shokan home, which is a two-minute drive from mine. The panoramas of the reservoir and the mountains look as they do today.  McBride's house is still there; I've met the owner. 

McBride was a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt frequently visited the same West Shokan home in which the interview takes place. According to Wikipedia, during World War II McBride was among the first to break the color barrier in radio.  She broadcast on all the major networks until 1960. She was known as the first lady of radio.  One of the old timers in West Shokan told me that he recalls Mrs. Roosevelt's visits.  In this 1960 newspaper article, Roosevelt writes about an afternoon at one of McBride's local radio broadcasts:

On Monday of this week I went from Hyde Park to West Shokan, where Mary Margaret McBride lives in a house on the side of a mountain. The house is built of redwood, and the porch looks out on the reservoir.

Mary Margaret McBride was her charming self, sounding as though she had really never thought till that minute of the things she was about to say, and yet never forgetting the thread of what she said or of what she wanted the person she was interviewing to say. I think she is one of the most expert interviewers I have ever known.

She had about 50 of her neighbors as an audience, and she does this local broadcast, with local commercials, just as she once did her New York broadcasts. I just have a lovely time talking to her, so I enjoyed every minute with her and was delighted to have lunch with her afterwards, sitting on her porch and drinking in the beautiful view.

She is one person who accumulates books just the way I do, so everywhere you go in every room of her house, there are books and more books. I was encouraged, for I never have enough room for my books and I felt I could now go on building shelves in many places I had not thought of before.
Someday I hope I will have the time to read the books I now have on my shelves, besides all those I know I will accumulate in the next year or so.

Wikipedia describes her last years, which were spent in West Shokan: 

As time went on, she appeared in smaller radio media markets, in upstate New York, and toward the end of her life hosted "Your Hudson Valley Neighbor" three times a week on WGHQ Kingston, NY from the living room of her home. Her longtime companion and business partner, Stella Karn, died in 1957.[2]

She died at the age of 76 on April 7, 1976 at West Shokan, New York. McBride's ashes were placed in her former rose garden. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in radio.[3]

 Her name was spoofed on the classic CBS-TV sitcom I Love Lucy in Episode # 79, "The Million Dollar Idea", which aired on January 11, 1954. In that installment, Lucy (Lucille Ball) comes up with an ambitious idea to make money. She decides to appear on television selling her Aunt Martha's salad dressing. Assisting her on the program is her best friend Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) as "Mary Margaret McMertz."

McBride's celebrity was hardly a secret confined to daytime radio listeners, either: her 15th anniversary celebration in 1949 was held in Yankee stadium, the only facility large enough to hold the 75,000 people who filled every seat and formed huge crowds outside. Her magazine show was on the air continuously for 25 years.