Old Soaps
By Naomi Hersh Clackum - 2001

Hardly any of us who watch the soaps can remember back far enough to when television fare did not include them.  The following information was researched and written to enlighten you, the reader, as to just when these had their beginnings.

The very first soap, or serial, as they were once called, was a 15 minute drama, which aired on WGN radio, called "Painted Dreams."  After that, NBC originated four others, "Betty and Bob, starring Don Ameche (if you're not old enough to remember him, don't worry, your mother probably is).  This, in fact was the very first "real" network soap.  In 1933, came "Just Plain Bill", "The Romance of Helen Trent", and "Ma Perkins".

By the late 1930's there were thirty radio serials.  Soap companies started producing those programs that advertised their products, thus coining the phrase "soap operas".    Because of the dark times America was going through in the early 30's, (read your history books), these soaps enabled many women to escape the hardships of the times, even for a few minutes of the day.

In the mid-30's, "Guiding Light", "The Road To Life", and "Women In White" dealt with the professional lives of ministers, doctors, and nurses.

The soaps enjoyed much popularity through World War II.  In 1947, television brought to viewers, for a short time, "A Woman To Remember", from NY.  Then in 1950, CBS aired "The First Hundred Years", but cancelled it a year later.  By 1951, "Search For Tomorrow" was created, which aired for years, until it's final episode in 1982.  Also in 1951, "Love Of Life" had its debut.      Within five years. 25 more soaps were aired.  Unfortunately only a handful lasted more than a few months.  Of these were, "The Secret Storm" and "Guiding Light", which still aired after 61 years! 

In 1956 came, "As The World Turns", lasting 42 years, and "The Edge Of Night".   Nineteen sixty-three brought "General Hospital" to the TV screen, and "The Doctors", soon to be followed by "One Life To Live" and "All My Children", which attracted younger viewers.

In 1973, "The Young And The Restless" had it's premiere, followed by many others, some of which failed and some that became quite successful.  All of which leads us to the conclusion that, no matter who may poke fun at them for their oftentimes outrageous and unbelievable storylines, the soaps are definitely here to stay.

The idea of a daytime drama, geared mainly towards the interests of women (though men watch them too), has lasted over 60 years.  Personally speaking, these soaps have entertained, enlightened, and brought many a tear to four generations of women in this writer's family.

Keep watching.  Take heart, because no matter how bad our own problems seem......they are always so much worse on the soaps!