“   .  .  .  Billie the Brownie  .  .  .  from Schuster’s!”

 

    Contrary to popular opinion, Larry Teich did not create Billie the Brownie.  He did, however, write, produce and was featured in every Billie the Brownie program during its long run.  Since Larry did not reveal to us how he became involved with the program only an educated guess can be made.


    Teich had started in radio at station WLS in Chicago.  In 1926 joined WHAD, the Marquette radio station, operating it with the help of Milwaukee Journal personnel.  In June 1927, he took the old station off the air from a microphone at Marquette and put WTMJ on the air.

“Captain” Larry Teich

    Teich conducted the Seck Hawkins radio club for one half hour daily and one full hour on Sundays.  The Seckatary Hawkins club was a syndicated newspaper feature which the Journal carried in a special 2 page section for boys and girls.  Hawkins was an imaginary boy elected secretary, “Because he was supposed to be such a good speller.  However, he couldn’t spell secretary, hence his misspelled titled,” Teich said.


    When the Journal dropped the syndicated feature in 1930, Teich organized “Our Club” and switched thousands of children from Seckatary Hawkins to his new self, Captain Larry.  The paper and the radio station both promoted the club.  As Captain Larry, Teich wrote daily children’s articles and serials for the Sunday paper.  On the air, Teich had children sing, recite poetry and play instruments.

Lawrence E. Teich (Dec 1903 - 13 Jan 1978)

    “The mothers caused me so much trouble by pushing their kids at me that soon the kids who got on the program were kids whose mothers didn’t get in my hair,” said Teich.


    When Captain Larry retired from “Our Club”, Larry Teich went to work with increased enthusiasm on the Billie the Brownie program.  Teich wrote stories, told them and built such enthusiasm among the small fry that soon the show was broadcast every day during a seven week Christmas period.  The program got over 94,000 letters in one year from children.


    The first mention of Billie the Brownie on radio was 18 November 1928.  In the ‘Reindeer News’ of that day it said, “Hear about the Reindeer Parade!  Hear about Santa’s thrilling trip to Milwaukee and Schuster’s.  Over station WTMJ between 5:30 and 6 p.m. daily.”


    This was at the same time that the Seck Hawkins radio program was on.  Schuster’s also sponsored a Time Service at that hour so we might assume that Larry Teich producing the Seck Hawkins program felt that Billie the Brownie was a natural for radio.  On 22 November 1929, the ‘Reindeer News’ tells us, “Hear about the Live Reindeer over WTMJ every evening during Seck Hawkins meeting”.


    The first Billie the Brownie program broadcast over the air with Larry, Billie and Santa was on 8 November 1931, as from a news item in the Milwaukee Journal, “Santa to be heard on WTMJ.  Attention boy and girls.  Beginning this morning at 11:30 and continuing every day at 5:30 p.m. Billie the Brownie will speak to you over WTMJ.  The wee man has just returned fro Santa Claus’ castle on the North Star with a message for all of you.  We will have news of Me-Tik, the Eskimo, Prancer and Dancer, and finally of Santa of himself.


    “You know, Santa is due in Milwaukee on November 28, and, Billie has promised in advance that Santa will be heard every day on his way to Milwaukee.  The first broadcast of Santa will come direct from the North Star, according to Billie the Brownie, and will bring all the sounds of Santa’s toy shop busily working, making toys for all the kiddies.


    “And just as a a secret, Billie advises that when he left the North Star, Santa had a cold that was making him angry at the misbehaving toys, and that was going to make him unusually strict with bad boys and girls this year.” (The North Star was Santa’s North Pole radio station.)


    Also in the 15 November 1931 Seck Hawkins Club page of the Journal, Captain Larry writes as follows: “During the last week boys and girls have been thrilled by the program which brings them the voices of Santa Claus and Me-Tik.  Since members have been so interested in them I am printing their pictures so you may see them.  I wanted to do this last year but I didn’t obtain their pictures soon enough.”


    “If you haven’t heard the program I suggest that you listen today and every day.  It begins right after the meetings each day.  In other words tune in at 11:30 each Sunday and at 5:30 each day.  Not only will you hear the latest news and gossip about Santa and Me-Tik, the Eskimo, and the reindeer but you will hear the news directly from Billie the Brownie so you can be sure it is the right dope.  Through special arrangements we will let you hear the noises from Santa’s toy shop.”


    The sound men were really busy from the very beginning of the Billie the Brownie show.  According to Schuster’s history, “Ross Coles, Schuster’s Production Manager, is a great help to Billie the Brownie, often telling him, so they say, just what to do and say on his famous broadcast.”


    The ad for the Billie the Brownie program of 8 November 1931, shows Santa and Me-Tik pictured in a replica of an early microphone.  The pictures Larry refers to on the Seck Hawkins Club newspaper pages, show Santa in a sleigh with two reindeer and Me-Tik holding onto the reins and also a picture of Me-Tik in front of a drawing of an igloo.