With Homemade Pie, You’ll Never Go Wrong!

In the early 1970s, I was a young bride earnestly making a new home out of an old farmhouse seven miles from the nearest town (Winterset, Iowa, county seat of Madison County).

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.


17 Responses

  1. Pauline Robinson
    | Reply

    What fun! A good memory for you, and now for your family as well…and maybe a new tradition to add to Thanksgiving dinners. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. Vicky
    | Reply

    This is a real gem of a story & your jingle is delightful. Listening to it in present day with your family after Rebecca found it must have been a little like time traveling.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Not only is Rebecca an amazing Internet sleuth, she makes a mean apple pie herself, all from scratch.

  3. Alison Vernon
    | Reply

    Oh how fun!! And I agree about “pie”!

  4. Diana R Annis
    | Reply

    What fun! Such a great memory and just the best to be able to share with your children! ❤

  5. Linda Owen
    | Reply

    My husband comes from a family of 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. Out of all of his siblings and their spouses, I am the only one who, as far as I know, has ever made a pie. (And yes, the crusts are from scratch.) So at his large Christmas family gathering, it goes without saying that I am the pie lady. Your pie ad was spot-on; everyone loves (good) pie. So it’s baffling why so few people make them, as they practically make you an instant hero!

  6. Barbara
    | Reply

    It took a while to hear it, but it was so good when you finally did, thanks to Rebecca. By the way, I love pie, especially, apple, cherry, and blueberry!

  7. Jim Graham
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    NPR and such a refreshing and even whimsical little spot on the radio seem to have disappeared from our consciousness in this day of national devisiveness. Thanks for this little reminder of what was once right and genuine.

    Also thanks for sharing the nugget of pure enjoyment you must have found in learning that your little ditty had actually been selected.

    I’m going to buy a pie! If I had time to make one it would be because I decided to make time to make one. I’m not quite there yet. Maybe I need to play your advertisement over and over like Madison Avenue does with theirs.

    • Linda Duff
      | Reply

      Mr Graham,
      I think you should travel to Winterset and you and your sister could have a pie-baking memory-making day (or more) of fun! Lots of kinds to make, and one must savor them … so perhaps a pie a day?
      Linda Duff

  8. Cathy
    | Reply

    Congratulations for your winning pie jingle! How exciting for you and now your children! On that date I was a newlywed awaiting for my overdue baby boy. I love homemade pumpkin pie and cherry pie. Thanks so much for sharing your story and jingle!

  9. Jeannie
    | Reply

    Oh my goodness.
    No prizes they said – but wait –
    what joy even decades later!!!!!
    Such fun and bringing smiles to those of us who know you and remember those long gone homemaking days. A radio contest, hidden talent prompted into action, a well kept self addressed post card, and a tech sleuth daughter – the perfect formula for a delightful memory. Thanks for sharing!

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Thank you, Jeannie. I describe myself as “the opposite of a hoarder,” always adding, “but I keep the important stuff.” One of the fun things about this is that though I hung onto Ira Flatow’s postcard I didn’t have a copy of my jingle. This was before photocopiers—or (heavens!) phones with cameras. I didn’t think to make a hand-written copy. Listening to my jingle, I thought to myself, “not bad writing!”

  10. Ester Mae Cox
    | Reply

    Ester Mae

  11. Julia Schroeder
    | Reply

    Fons, thanks for sharing! Brought back memories of family life on the farm, in southwest Nebraska!

  12. Angela Baker
    | Reply

    What a great memory! Super cool that you unearthed this. Have you ever read “The Prize Winner of Definance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less” by Terry Ryan? It’s a breezy, entertaining memoir of growing up in a big Catholic family with a plucky, can-do mom in the late 50s and early 60s – the Sweepstakes Era. The mom is an Ogden Nash-Erma Bombeck combo who saves the day again and again for the family with her clever, strategic contest wins.

    Anyway, happy holidays and thanks for this.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Angela, thanks for bringing this book to my attention! I’ve ordered a copy because the project I’m personally writing at the moment is set in the late 50s. Reading Ryan’s book will help me with my time-frame.

  13. Judi Burr
    | Reply

    Love your ad! So much fun.

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