What Was So Special About Jack Benny in May 1943?

Cast members for the Jack Benny radio program; why did Babe mentioned it on his envelope in the last letter?

I’m only a few weeks into blogging Babe’s letters and it’s been interesting to see the little nuggets that have popped up along the way. Perhaps the most intriguing so far was the mention outside his last envelope about listening to Jack Benny. He tells his parents, “If you didn’t hear it, ask someone who did why I mentioned it.”

That, of course, sent me looking for what might have been significant about the last Jack Benny program on NBC radio. And even that was an assumption on my part. Was he talking about listening to the Jack Benny show? If so, which show was he hearing? He dated the letter “approximately” May 5, 1943. Jack Benny’s most recent Sunday night show would have been on May 2.

I was able to find a number of episodes online, including the May 2, 1943, show here and the April 18, 1943, show here. I found a site where I could download the Easter Sunday, April 25, 1943, show as well. I didn’t know if Babe was referencing the Jack Benny show. And if he was, I didn’t know when he might have heard the show from Camp Wheeler in Georgia. Would he have heard it the same time everyone else heard it? Was it broadcast nationwide at the same time every week?

Anyway, because I didn’t know, I listened to all three and couldn’t figure out what might have warranted a mention by Babe to his parents. Maybe it was an inside joke. The sponsor was Grape Nuts. Benny was freshly back on April 11, 1943, from a bout with pneumonia, while George Burns and Gracie Allen and Orson Wells substituted for him. In the April 18 episode, actress Loretta Young made an overwrought appeal for listeners to buy war bonds.

Sometime in May, at a war bond rally at Gimbels’ basement in New York City, the president of Garcia Grande cigars, Julius Klorfein, bought Jack Benny’s $75 violin for $1 million. Was that news on the radio somewhere? There was an item about it in the May 23, 1943, St. Petersburg Times.

Who knows? It’s maddening. There’s something there…and I may never know what it’s about.

4 thoughts on “What Was So Special About Jack Benny in May 1943?

  1. This is Bob Watson from Cochan, GA again. Just curious to know if you found out anything regarding the Jack Benny broadcast mentioned by your uncle. You may or may not know this, but the Jack Benny program was one of a few shows that broadcast two broadcasts on the night of broadcast. The first, at 7pm ET for the East Coast, and another at 11:30pm ET, or 8:30pm PT for the West Coast. A great deal of the time, the West Coast broadcast was slightly different than the East Coast broadcast to keep the show topical for both East and West Coast listeners. Unfortunately, most of the broadcasts that are preserved are West Coast broadcasts. It’s entirely possible, if you listen to the recording of the shows in question, that whatever was mentioned in the East Coast broadcast to garnish your uncle’s attention may not have been repeated for the West Coast. A good resource, if you have not already checked, is the International Jack Benny Fan Club. It’s president, Laura Leff, might be able to help, if she is not too busy. The web address is jackbenny.org.


    1. Once again, thank you Mr. Watson! More great insight. I had no idea that the show was recorded twice. I’ll follow up with Laura as you suggested to see if she might have a way to shed light on this. Thank you once again.


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