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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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by Karl Schadow © 2013
(From Radio Recall, February 2013)

In the October 2004 issue of Radio Recall (www.mwotrc.com) readers were introduced to a rather obscure but fascinating mystery series featuring a scientific detective who invented weapons for America's national defense: Peter Quill-The Crimson Wizard. This Update will focus on newly acquired material as the scripts for the third and finaf season (1940-41) 01 the program have recently become available to researchers.

Though the second season ended in July 1939, a year elapsed before the program returned with an audition on July 17, 1940 for a potential sponsor, the Paul F Belch Company of Bloomington, Illinois, promoting the WHIZ Bar. The program's writer Blair Walliser utilized a script from the second season (Isle of Terror May 19, 1939) in which Peter Quill neutralizes a supply of germ bombs stolen by the Red Circle spy ring. one of Peter Quill's great adversaries thrououghout the entire program.

The September 22, 1940 issue of the Chicago Sunday Tribune announced that Peter Quill would return on Sunday, October 6th to WGN and the Mutual network with the series being sponsored. However no sponsor was identified. In fact. in all of the subsequent program publicity in the Tribune, the sponsor was never mentioned. This was in stark contrast to years previous when the newspaper readily promoted the candy manufacturer with its Beich Time musical program on W-G-N in 1929.

During 1940-41 when Belch sponsored Peter Quill, display ads (see Fig. 1) appeared in its hometown newspaper The Daily Pantagraph (currently Pantagraph, www.pantagraph.com). Publicity in the trade periodicals exclaimed:"WHIZ in Midwest" (Broadcasting, October 1 1940) and "Beich Candy Co. Program Set for 9 Mutual Outlets" (Radio Daily, September 19, 1940). As Beich's distribution was nationwide, it is unknown why the firm chose to advertise on only nine of the more than 150 Mutual outlets available at that time.

In the late 1930s, Beich became a client of the N. W. Ayer & Son, Inc. advertising agency and through them had sponsored a local high school quiz program on WBBM (Chicago) in 1939. The employees at both Beich and the Chicago office of Ayer primarily responsible for Peter Quill's success are yet to be identified, though Carl E. Behr Sr. former VP and general sales & advertising manager at Beich, and Burke Herrick, head of Ayer's Chicago radio department were most likely involved.

Scripts for the 1940-41 escapades of Peter Quill are now part of the Blair Walliser Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society (see link at end of article). Each episode commenced with announcer Pierre Andre emoting that the program was entirely fictional. After a few weeks, the disclaimer was moved to the end of the program and the opening started with "The Paul F Belch Co. presents Peter Quill!' By December, Beich (and Ayer) had wisely added " ... and the thousands of candy dealers who serve you ... This proclamation was followed by the musical theme and The Quill Call. A brief mention of the. current episode's title led into the first commercial.

Upon arrival of the appropriate cliffhanger scene, a middle commercial ensued followed by ActII and the closing advertisement. The main product promoted from Beich's candy line was the WHIZ Bar Premiums were offered right from the first episode with a oottle of invisible ink the same as used by Peter Quill; was "yours for only 10 cents in coin or stamps and a WHIZ wrapper."

With the third episode, the ink disappeared permanently and was replaced by a fountain pen. However, the ante had risen, as it now required 15 cents and a wrapper. With the holiday season approaching, the pen offer was complemented by a pocket-knife. Members of the cast in character were otten enlisted to hype the attractiveness of the premiums. Even Peter Quill was asked to take time away from his experiments to promote the knife which was originally slated to be a jack-knife.

With the arrival of 1941 , new candies and premiums were exploited. Next up was a set of three pencils (one each of red, white and blue) with' God Bless America' inscribed. As this program was heard In Canada, one wonders why a corresponding set possibly with 'Oh, Canada' was not offered? The pencil set and all other premiums were only avaitable in the US and its possessions. The WHIZ Bar was accompanied by Lady Betty, Dipsy Doodle, and Pecan Pete. Of these, only Pecan Pete achieved significant fame.


Copy reprinted from the January 1, 1941 issue of The Daily Pantagraph is courtesy of the Mclean County(illinois) Museum of History. Used by permission of boththe Museum and the Panlagraph (Lee Enterprises, Inc.)

In the episode of January 19, 1941 , Pierre Andre sang a WHIZ Bar Jingle:

Now and then most people like
To do their taste a favor
And lots have found that WHIZ by Beich
Is tops with its grand flavor

The following week, he had one for Pecan Pete:

For a treat
He can't be beat
Watch for him
He's Pecan Pete

Andre then challenged listeners to compose their own jingle and send it to him personally (c/o listener's station). He'd pick the best one and the winner would receive a whole box (24) of Pecan Pete bars. To the probable dismay of the listeners and this author, nothing more was heard of this particular contest. Subsequently however free boxes of assorted Beich candies were sent to those who submitted the best entries in the proverbial twenty-five words or less; why they like WHIZ or Pecan Pete contest. Twenty-five such entries were selected each week over the next month.

Beich promoted the Pecan Pete bars in newspapers Including that published by the local university in Bloomington (see Fig. 2) Certainly Illinois Wesleyan was encouraging healthy eating habits of its student body, as immediately adjacent to the Beich ad was one highlighting Meadow Gold Homogenized MILK (see link to full page at end of article.)

In the final program's (March 30, 1941) closing commercial, Pierre Andre bid listeners good-bye until a later date. It is unknown why Belch discontinued its sponsorship of Peter Quill. Although the great wizard did not return to the air, Beich, through a host of agencies continued its radio ad'/ertising with spot campaigns during Wer1d War II and into the late 1940s. In 1948, it again ventured into network: radio with the WHIZ Quiz hosted by Johnny Olsen on ABC.

While the commercials were often jovial, elements of humor were occasionally interjected in the scripts. While investigating a case at the circus, Roger Dorn tells Gail Carson a 20 year-old joke about an elephant that after being fed coffee, swallows the grounds. In her retort, Gail calls him Fibber McDom which was also a nice tribute to the Fibber McGee and Molly program. While pursuing zombies in a later episode, Peter Quill states to Gail and Roger, "... it appears that dead men not only tell no tales, but also leave no trails ..."

Villains were not to be ignored when the evil cat·man, Magos Maskathai after having kidnapped Gall and brought her to his pitch-black domicile remarks " ... you, poor, ordinary, normal being· unable to see about you in this magnificent darkness ..." One of the funniest moments occurred during this exchange between the Red Circle's Dr Carnos and Captain Balsamo, a revolutionary who Is seeking arms and money from the spy organization:

Balsamo: Well ··Senor I must tell you, our pilots are not so good.

Carnos: You mean the planes crash often?

Balsamo: No Senor··usually only once.

Carnos: (Disgust) Ahhl I wish I had your pilots In my homeland for just one month. We would teach them to crash planes.

Balsamo: Senor, you do not understand. They all know how to crash planes. You should teach
them how not to.

One wonders if Balsamo is not a long-lost cousin of Pancho.

Peter Qull

©1941 Illinois Wesleyan University. Reprinted with
permission from the March 18, 1941 issue of Illinois
Wesleyan UniversityArgus.

There was plenty of "blood 'n' thunder" in Peter Quill's adventures as he and Secret Bureau Agents Darn and Carson battled the criminals. There were numerous brawls. People were killed in bombed buildings, exploding tunnels, in plane and car crashes. There were countless shootings, stabbings, and poisonings. Others were forced to jump out windows, were frozen or subjected to micro-organisms run amok.

In one of the most gruesome scenes in the program's history, a normally gentle ape who has been the recent recipient of a heart transplant (human), suddenly rips a cat literally to shreds, and then pets the remnants of the feline. These events transpire in, of all places, the laboratory of Peter Quill. In the episode" Ali Roads Lead to Madness· (March 9, 1941), listeners who were easily upset were told to turn off their radios before the program started.

There were incidents of torture as Gail Carson was to have her hand held in nitric acid and foot crushed under a power press if she did not obey her Red Circle captives. In a later episode, a child befriended by Gail and Roger is rescued atter being handcuffed and chained. In one of the more dastardly events, Gail is subjected to "milady's bath" by being strapped to a seat in a large tank which is about to be slowly filled with water This scene also illustrates one of the ether's supposed taboos, that of sexual innuendo.

In order to get Gail into the tank, Magos Maskathai and his savage servant kidnap her from her apartment as she is attired in only a negligee. Amusingly, negligee is crossed out in an earlier script in a similar situation, but somehow escaped the censor's pencil a second time. She is rescued from the tank alive by a chivalrous Peter Quill who, after remarking that she looks extremefy cold and wet in that negligee, takes off his coat and wraps it around her.

It would not do the program justice for this author to attempt an explanation as to the sheer ingenuity of the sound effects artists. To date, only Russell Raycraft has been identified as one of the these innovators. Other than through the use of a musical sounding board, echo chambers and filters, all else remains a secret. Director Walliser had much fun in taunting the press (and amused listeners) with publicity releases as to the way sounds were performed of various inventions Including the directional audio scope, magnetic sound screen and invisible lightning. Moreover, there are no clues from the scripts but cues as:

SOUND: California fog still coming down in torrents.


SOUND: We hear the whistle very softly, Remember, you're not calling a taxi.

Is that "wailing into the piano" effect by Marvin Mueller or in earlier seasons by Hugh Studebaker, The Quill Call?

We face the same dilemma with the music performed by the WGN Concert Orchestra under the baton of Henry Weber. The cues from the scripts reveal only general terms: MUSIC: Dramatic and very horrid climax. Did Peter Quill contribute to the delinquency of juveniles who listened to the program? Not according to research of the Chicago Recreation Committee who found in both delinquent and nondelinquent groups alike, listing the program in their top-ten. Moreover, the program was a favorite of TV's The Twilight Zone writer, Charles Beaumont as stated in Harold Lee Prosser's tome "Running from the Hunter" (Wildside Press LLC, 1996). Of special note is that nuclear physicist and emeritus professor A. M. Kiehn declared that the program actually encouraged him to pursue a career in science. (see link at end of article).

Even though scripts of Peter Quill are now available for research; until audio is located, the program will remain an uncanny mystery. This author (email: bluecar91@hotmail.com) is determined that another eight years will not elapse before this mystery is solved and wishes to acknowledge those who assisted his current endeavors: Dr M. A. Killmeier, Bill Kemp, Milan S. Jackson, Meg Miner and Barry Wintertand. IWU Argus page:
Professor Kiehn's website:
Blair Walliser Papers: