Aunt Jenny, The Go-To Gal of Littleton
As I noted a couple days ago, "Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories" was a soap opera which played on the radio from 1937-56. The people of the town of Littleton would have problems, then Aunt Jenny would gossip about them with the narrator, and then talk about how Spry could have made things better. I couldn't actually locate the episode of "Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories" that went along with Baking Power Biscuits that we used in constructing Magic Meat Pie, but I did discover a 90-second radio ad from Jenny's show.
In the spot, Aunt Jenny is NOT the drawling hayseed depicted in "Aunt Jenny's Favorite Recipes," but sounds instead like an aged Mrs. Drysdale. The narrator urges her to share her secret for broiling fish (FYI: the secret is to brush the fillets with Spry). Petunia, Littleton's only black resident, says, "Ummm-mmm! It sure do sound lip-smackin' good!" Then the narrator acknowledges the world-wide shortage of Spry (presumably caused by an international gang of Spry thieves), but urges you to "keep Spry on your marketing list until you do get it," because of its unsurpassed blandness. I guess he'd let you take it off your list now, though.
Shedding additional light on Aunt Jenny and her Spry-empire, investigative Reporter and WO'C reader Ivan uncovered a 1948 Spry radio spot which includes a catchy jingle ("Rely on Spry, S-P-R-Y!"), and an announcer discussing Spry's classified "Cake Improver Secret!" Jenny, who evidently was suspected of working for the Nazis at this time, couldn't be trusted with the secret and so was not part of this commercial.
I also learned that Richard Widmark made his acting debut on Aunt Jenny's radio program in 1938. Strange but true.
Oh, and here's a 1939 radio program listing:
+ 10:45 AM: "Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories" -- Spry Shortening. The story: Molly married Chris Johnson only after her true love, Bill Crawford, disappeared after an airplane crash in South America. Then Bill returned. Tomorrow: What did Molly do?
So, with all this background, I bring you my reconstruction of the story behind the biscuits. I call it. . .
Kiss of Spry
We start with an organ playing the Aunt Jenny theme-song, "Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms." while we watch a tin of Spry spin round and round, making the comical Spry Chef on the label seem to be tossing a pie at his own backside.
We fade into a cluttered parlor furnished in Victorian style, complete with doilies, antimacassars, and antiballistic missiles. A young woman dressed in the height of 1940s fashion (a macrame plant hanger around her neck, her hair stylishly wrapped around toilet paper tubes), is sipping invisible tea with a middle-aged woman with glasses and Sears-bought dentures, dressed in a paisley gown designed by Peter Max.
The younger woman, we'll call her Molly, is clearly troubled, and confides, "Oh, Jenny, I'm so fed up on all those jokes about bride's biscuits. Ever since I married Chris, because my true love Bill Crawford disappeared after an airplane crash in South America and I needed a father for my unborn child, all his mother can do is make jokes about my cooking! My father is the town's evil bank president, and so I grew up in luxury, never learning to clean, or sew, or make biscuits, and Mother Johnson won't let me forget it! I'll 'bride biscuit HER, the old biddy. And I know she's the one spreading those rumors about me having toilet paper rolls in my hair!"
The older woman, Aunt Jenny, says kindly, "An' there's not a word of truth in 'em. Besides, now, anyone can make good biscuits--or can buy them from Petunia's bakery, which is a heck of a lot easier. And you can also easily end those 'Bride's Biscuits' remarks -- just follow this Spry receipt carefully an' you'll see!"
Molly takes the folded piece of paper, reads it with apparent shock, and exclaims, "But, but . . .this paper says, 'Take a 3-pound can of Spry. Grease Old Woman Johnson's back stairs with it. Then call that nice young gangster, Richard Widmark, and hire him to push her wheelchair down the stairs.' Jenny, what does this mean?!?"
Jenny's eyes twinkle as she explains, "Land sakes, Molly, if you want people to stop carpin' at you, you have to be willin' to take action. Me an' Calvin have an ideal marriage ever since I banged him on the head with a large, economy-sized can of Spry, causing severe brain damage, after he complained about my pie crust once too often."
Young Molly mulls this over, her large hands gripping the fragile teacup a bit too tightly as she thinks about her various problems. "You may be right about Mother Johnson, but what I really wanted to talk to you about is my love life. For you see . . . my truelove Bill is still alive, and has returned from the jungle with a fortune in uranium! He doesn't know that little Bobby is really his son, and that I married Chris only to escape the scandal of being [pregnant pause] . . .a pregnant girl with large paws. But I . . .I still love Bill, now that he's rich and alive and stuff, even though I am married to Chris. Whatever shall I do?"
Aunt Jenny's face puckers in concentration as she thinks of some words of guidance for her young visitor. Finally she says, "Well, I think I'll need to sleep on this one, since our 15 minutes are over. But I can tell you right now, if you follow my biscuit recipe and use only 1/3 cup of milk, you would have a mighty hard, dense biscuit. The kind of thing that could bludgeon a man to death, leaving his widow free to marry somebody else. Think it over and we'll talk some more tomorrow."
"Oh, and I want to tell all my listeners that Mr. Hitler is the kind of friend America needs right now, and so we shouldn't get involved in his little tiff with Poland. And I hear he likes cake, and is stockin' up on pure, white, bland, Aryan Spry, which proves that he can be trusted."