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All Our Yesterdays #26

Being an occasional series in which our Nostalgia correspondent - Hinde Cyte - looks back on iconic artefacts, moments and programmes which defined their era. Today he revisits a popular programme which kept the housewives of Dorset occupied and fulfilled whilst their gallant husbands laboured in the "city".

#26 DBC's Housewives' Choice [1946-1967]

An edition of the Dorset Radio Times from 1952 when the programme was at its most popular and regularly commanded the front page.

Housewives Choice was a Dorset Radio record request programme, broadcast every morning between 1946 and 1967 on the DBC Light Programme. It played a wide range of mostly popular music intended to appeal to women who had sensibly followed their husband's instruction to stay at home and mind the house whilst he played at being the breadwinner, occasionally taking his loyal and discreet secretary Cheryl to a slap-up lunch at the Kardomah or British Restaurant just around the corner from the office. Like many other BBC radio shows of the era of very limited broadcasting competition, it achieved massive audiences, and is very closely identified with the time in the public mind. Indeed it is hard to imagine an image either of a 1950s housewife or of her well-hoovered domain without hearing the distinctive strains of the programme's theme music: "Chained to the Kitchen Sink" by Addinsell Thrupiece.

Conception and presentation

The programme was designed to help support the needs of women like Celia Bex-Bissell who, on marrying Donald had dedicated herself to satisfying his needs and bringing up his children.

The programme was conceived by the Controller of the Light Programme, Alastair Reed-Threadbone, who had heard a similar programme on Somerset Hospital Radio in 1945. Largely aimed at anaesthetising patients with persistent war wounds and various forms of disruptive trauma, the format - anodyne music and inane chat - was considered ideal for preventing the imaginations of house-bound women from straying too far. Indeed it was described by one later critic and sociologist as "an anaphrodisiac of the most effective kind, guaranteeing that men exhausted from the business of keeping their short-hand typist's hands full would not be pestered on crossing the domestic threshold".

The show had a different presenter - often referred to at the time as a compère [not to be confused with a "quiz inquisitor" - an altogether more rarefied animal] -  every week who was normally a DBC staff announcer, contracted broadcaster, actor, comedian, singer or musician. Amongst the more than 250, mostly male, presenters ["who had a pretty good idea what women wanted and how to give it to them"] were a number of females of whom far the most regular and popular was the delightful Hester Nicely-Pointy [later Lady Garden], One of the most popular males was composer Arthur Fishwick, who sang his own lyrics over the theme music, beginning with "Dooodle-dum-de-doodle-dum" and ending with "I'll be with you all again tomorrow morning".

Cancellation and legacy

The world as it was when listening to Housewives' Choice was all a wife desired and as much as she reasonably needed.

The programme ended when the Light Programme was replaced by DBC Radio 1 and DBC Radio 2 in 1967. Its short-lived successor, Family Choice, was broadcast on both Radios 1 and 2, but by September 1969, both had disappeared victims of changing tastes, more affluent life-styles and a change in the law which permitted women both to leave the house on their own and congregate in groups of up to 4 in certain designated social spaces.

There have been two one-off revivals of the programme on DBC Radio 2, in 1990 with guest presenters Mrs Amanda J Threadbone and in 1995 with Audrey Badminton-Court. The former was, by general consent, by some distance the more successful.

Listen for Yourself

Allow yourself to be transported back to the world of the 1950s housewife with this short video which includes a number of highly evocative images, as well as - by kind permission of the Addinsell Threadbone Estate - an extract from the famous Housewives' Choice theme tune: Chained to the Kitchen Sink.

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