Little Red Caboose / Run, Rabbit, Run

Big Jon Arthur and Sparkie

Columbia MJV-105

Total Time: 5:29

Although Jon Arthur created and produced Big Jon and Sparkie for kids, it is a wonderfully inventive and gently humorous show that many adults will find utterly charming. It may be for its opening theme, The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Big Jon is the regular mild-mannered father figure that loves and cares for Sparkie. “Ukie” is the pretty goofy but adventurous cabbie who is their friend. But the show really revolves around Sparkie who sounds like a little “elf from the land of make-believe” but acts and thinks just like a real boy. In that earlier time, a “live” voice like a cartoon that was a part of a “real” show was something special for kids. It’s still special to listen to today, as Jon Arthur’s gentle and witty writing about a small town’s characters (although it’s Cincinnati!) makes this show great fun. For the record, Jon Arthur did nearly all of the voices and oversaw the show’s production single-handedly. His use of sound effects and interlude music is exemplary. He was quoted as saying that all the ideas on the show were from real life, or were sent in by the show’s thousands of young fans.

The show began as a half hour, and was changed to a syndicated twelve-plus minute radio serial format in 1951. These rare episodes are from that period. Mayor Plumpfront, is getting married to the “fabulously wealthy” Florida widow Daffodil Dilly. We are with the boys coming back from an adventure-packed trip to Africa, and as the wedding plans near completion, kidnappers take Daffodil Dilly! The boys work to crack the case. The second major adventure in this group is a mystery involving Bunny, Sparkie’s Boston Bulldog. It’s called “The Canine Mutiny.” The small-town qualities of so many old time radio favorites such as Fibber McGee and Molly, the Great Gildersleeve, Vic and Sade and are mirrored in The Further Adventures of Big Jon and Sparkie. And it’s not a stretch to say that Jon Arthur liked I Love a Mystery. What radio adventure serial after Morse’s I Love a Mystery wasn’t influenced by its finely drawn, individual characters dealing with unexpected twists of plot?The Further Adventures of Big John and Sparkie developed through the 1950s and went to a longer format broadcast on Saturday mornings as “No School Today.” Sparkie’s irrepressible sense of belonging in a real if slightly wacky world, is very involving. John Dunning, in “On the Air, The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio,” says “It remained, for those who heard it, one of the ”

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