Lifestyle: The Housewives Protective League: Another radio story by Tom Bernstein

Lifestyle: Tom Bernstein recalls another episode in his storied career in radio.

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The Housewives Protective League was a CBS Radio program modeled after a popular Magazine ‘Good Housekeeping” who’s Seal of Approval validated it’s advertisers. It originated in San Francisco when an ex food broker, turned radio personality sold the concept to CBS for 1 million dollars in 1947. The half hour program aired on all CBS owned radio stations, KNX in Los Angeles, and some to its affiliates from 1948 to 1962 in 14 major markets. Each city had it’s own Director/On Air Personality and a Merchandising Manager, which I was one of. The daily scripts were written by a team of writers in New York and were sent weekly to each station’s personality. They covered a wide range of topics from human interest stories to tips on fashion, gardening, good health and child care. Commercials were integrated into the program as endorsements. HPL as it became known, initially employed a staff of product testers in each city to evaluate the products and those that passed got the HPL seal of approval. Advertisers not only got on air commercials, but added support in the retail stores that carried their products. That’s were the Merchandising Manger came in. The majority of advertisers were food products, or health and beauty aids. The Merchandising Manager would set up special promotions for all HPL advertisers in retail chains mostly supermarkets,… in conjunction with a weekly personal appearance at one their stores. In Los Angeles they were called “coffee breaks with Phil “ (Phil Norman was the Los Angeles personality) and took place 3 Fridays a month. HPL advertiser’s products were sampled, featured in in-store displays and the chain’s Thursday newspaper Shopping ad specials. Each lady attendee would receive an orchid corsage complements of C&H Sugar. We also had two secretaries (my Wife was one) who served as hostess. Attendance was in the hundreds each week. Every personality has special fans. Phil’s was the Grey Ghost, a middle aged lady who suddenly appeared in the Coffee Break crowd, flashed him a smile and then suddenly disappeared. We attributed some strange fan letters he received to her, but she was quite harmless. An important function was taking the store manager to lunch prior to the Coffee Break, and finding a restaurant with a good bar were we the HPL staff could gather after the event. Another responsibility of the Merchandising Manager was assisting the sales department solicit new advertisers. We had frequent client lunches and dinners straight out of “Mad Men”. One in particular was like and initiation every new Merchandising Manager was supposed to experience. The client was the advertising manager of a small super market chain in an outlying community. She was a large, unattractive woman, apply described as a Wort Hog, who could drink us youngsters under the table. After dinner and much booze, she would act tipsy and asked to be taken home and then invite you in. One trapped victim excused himself, headed for the kitchen and fled out the back door. I some how managed to avoid that ceremony. HPL was quite successful maintaining a solid line up of local, regional and national, long term advertisers. When CBS shut it down in 1962, KNX Radio continued the concept with “The Food News Hour” hosted by a number of food related hosts. 

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