It’s been a lot of years since I’ve watched soap operas. I have a feeling that’s true of a lot of people. There was a time when we had “stay at home” moms, people who actually based their day around being at home, raising kids, errands, housework…with that quick mid-day break known as “All My Children”. It was a large, captive audience, looking for some spice in their life that they would get by watching TV.
I wasn’t into soap operas for a very long time. There was a four year stretch when I worked an evening radio shift. I’d get up around 10 or so, and then around noon flip on AMC. That was back in the days of Palmer & Daisy, Jenny & Greg, Tad the Cad and of course, Erica Kane. Those with a good enough memory could recall Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, the grand matriarch who, for a time, ruled that town. Of course, that was a long time again. I think Erica Kane was only on husband 3 or 4.
When I began working as Larry Nelson’s producer in the early 1980s, the folks at KOMO-TV noticed that I made a beeline out of there by 11:30 every day so that I could be home in time to catch “All My Children”. The next thing I know, they decided to do a segment on my daily soap dash. To tie into it, Ruth Warrick–the actress who played Phoebe Tyler Wallingford–came into the radio studios and I got to interview her. Ruth was quite the actress, but one of those many aging stars who found a comfortable niche and spent the rest of her acting days being that role. It’s not until you dig into her past that you discover she appeared as Orson Wells’ first wife in “Citizen Kane”. For her 80th birthday, she hosted a standing-room-only showing of the movie. She passed away in 2005, so the show will only outlast her by six years. Eventually, I was able to interview Daisy & Palmer, another “couple” from the show.
Lives change. My work schedule no longer allowed me to catch a show that was on at noon. The VCR arrived on the scene, allowing me to tape daytime shows and watch them later. But soon I realized I could just watch an episode a week and stay caught up. Then it became every couple of weeks. I think I began to lose interest once Jenny blew up on that wave runner. As the years rolled by, I’d occasionally check back in to see how things were going in Pine Valley and, as you would expect, it was always such a soap opera.
After all, it was supposed to be.
Thanks, Agnes Nixon, for creating this fictional town in Pennsylvania and for the 41 years of stories that followed. Here’s the show open as I remember it. With that, here’s the poem that appears in the full version of the credits, printed in the book–
The Great and the Least, The Rich and the Poor,
The Weak and the Strong, In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow, In Tragedy and Triumph,
You are ALL MY CHILDREN.
Just might have to catch one more episode before the show goes away this September. After all, we have but One Life to Live. But that’s another story…