Not yet a mother or a quilter, my leisure time (when I had any) was spent embroidering flowers along the hems of my denim skirts. My companion (besides my also-young husband) was public radio. I listened to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday afternoons as I fashioned French knots from cotton floss.
NPR’s now-famous news program, “All Things Considered,” premiered in 1971; I was an instant fan. The following year, the program announced a quirky contest, “Commercials for Nicer Living.” The assignment was to promote (in 120 words) a product more personally meaningful than, say, a brand of toothpaste. Winners’ commercials would be produced by NPR staff and aired on Fridays. I hopped to it and wrote a 120-word jingle extolling the joys of homemade pie, drove to town, and mailed my entry off to to NPR headquarters in D.C (including in the envelope a self-addressed, stamped postcard so I could be notified if I were a winner).
Imagine my delight the day my postcard returned! “Dear Mrs. Fons,” Ira Flatow wrote, “We have played it 3 or 4 times . . . if you keep listening, you might hear it again.” I kept listening but, alas, I never heard my winning ad for pie.
On Thanksgiving Day 2021, when two of my three children were home in Winterset for the holiday, we got to talking about National Public Radio (over our pie), how formative NPR had also been in their lives, how as adults public radio is their source of information, their comfort, their companion when walking, driving, and sometimes even sewing. I put down my fork, dug into my archives, and produced Ira Flatow’s congratulatory message from 1972.
Rebecca, my youngest, a genius at searches, said, “May I see that, please?” Soon she was keyboard-deep in NPR’s audio archives, and in much the same way that my 22-year-old self inclined my ear toward the plug-in radio in that old farmhouse, we listened raptly to the winning commercials—one promoting the joys of wading, another eschewing noisy alarm clocks in favor of one’s internal clock, and MY PIE JINGLE!
With permission from NPR, have a listen!
PS In corresponding with NPR for permission (thanks, Mason and Jenna!) to publish the audio clip, I learned that my jingle was first broadcast on on September 29, 1972.