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PAUL MILLS RHYMER
(1905-1964) 

Paul Rhymer grew up in Bloomington, Illinois and attended Illinois Wesleyan University, spent his adult years in Chicago as a freelance writer. In the 1930s Chicago was the proving ground for radio dramas, and Paul Rhymer was in the right place at the right time to assist at the birth of script radio, as it was called. He quickly developed and became the foremost practitioner of what can be termed "pure radio," using one set (the small house), three (and later four) voices, and the imagination of his listeners to create a family, a neighborhood, a town, a world, and a time. Never was a community so magnificently peopled by verbal reference alone. 

He was not merely one of the great American humorists, but perhaps one the most important dramatic chroniclers of American folkways in the post-Depression years. In his characters, in his settings and plots, he captured the moods, the interests, the conflicts and concerns of small-town life in Mid-America. Ogden Nash once compared him to Mark Twain. What the latter did for Hannibal, Missouri, Nash said, Rhymer did for Bloomington, Illinois and the entire Middle West. 

The vitality, accuracy, and vibrancy of Rhymer's portraits make Vic and Sade, their life and times, universally appealing to fans old and new. To dip into Vic and Sade is not merely to take a nostalgic trip to a bygone era--it is to recognize that the people and pastimes of small-town America are flourishing today.
 

Paul was quite a character, given to sending postcards to his friends. John Holtman, NBC announcer, showed me one of the cards he had received at home: The front of the postcard was an old-fashioned picture showing a girl in a costume from the 90's, but written on the other side was something like this "Dear John, Mother wants to know what happened to the blanket we left in Grant Park last night. Please return it as soon as possible. Louise."
- Excerpted from Kermit Slobb
 

"He was the only man I knew who did mathematics on the toilet."

Vic & Sade

Dec. 27, 1943

 Few home towns have been so profitably exploited as Bloomington, Ill. (pop.: 32,868). Bloomington is the boyhood home of Paul Rhymer and the locale of his dearly beloved Vic and Sade (NBC, Mon. through Fri., 10:15-10:30 a.m., C.W.T.) —probably, the best, certainly one of the smallest soap operas on the U.S. air.  

Some 7,000,000 radio fans would find life harder to bear without Vic and Sade. They would also find it difficult to explain why. It is a soap opera in which nothing much ever happens. But it is as American as doubletalk. Vic, a typical, unpretentious bookkeeper for a kitchenware company, and Sade, his natively bright, homebound wife, in eleven years have built themselves considerable prestige as symbols of U.S. small-town living.

 They spend 15 minutes a day five times a week dramatizing the failure of the butcher to deliver the meat, the business of buying a Christmas present for the boss, the question of closed barbershops on Sunday, etc. They, plus their adopted son Russell, plus Uncle Fletcher, an absentminded, somewhat deaf, minutely anecdotal citizen, are the chief characters in the show. But the actors who play these four talk about an odd assortment of town characters who never appear.

 They include Mr. Buller, Vic's business associate, who pulls his own teeth; R. J. Konk, founder of Vic's lodge, the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way; Ruthie Stem-bottom, a family friend; Godfrey Dimlok, who invented a bicycle that could say "mama"; the Brick Mush (Vic & Sade's favorite breakfast food) salesman, who cries almost all of the time; Bluetooth Johnson; Cora Bucksaddle; Ole Chinbunny; Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan, Michigan; Smelly Clark, and others.

 How Does He Do It? How these characters manage to convey reality to radio listeners is something of a mystery even to Author Rhymer. He does not know how he does it, and is inclined to give the credit to actors Bernardine Flynn, a fugitive from Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, and Art Van Harvey, ex-grain broker, advertising man and vaudevillian, who have played Sade & Vic Gook from the beginning. Says Rhymer: "They could read aloud from the telephone directory and sound entertaining."

 Now 38, Rhymer was once amazed at NBC because "you make me sound eccentric." He wrote his own autobiography for the publicity department: "The place of my birth was Fulton, Ill. I tarried there a week. My family then moved to Bloomington, where I attended school for 14 years, at the end of which time I was a junior at Illinois Wesleyan University, wore wide pants and said 'hey, hey' conservatively on occasion.

 "I have driven Yellow cabs in Chicago, sold magazines in Cicero, and dived off the highest tower at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. ... I have been in love three times, and playing the piano is my secret vice. Like George Ade and Harry S. New, I am a Sigma Chi. I have a Studebaker open job and an immense vocabulary. I have been writing stories very earnestly ever since I was in high school, and I shall probably continue to do so."

 Rhymer gets about $35,000 a year for doing so. An ex-newspaper reporter who got fired for writing news stories about people he had not interviewed, he is intimately acquainted with some of his radio characters (they are among his mother's best Bloomington friends). He is an incorrigible practical joker. He once named all of NBC's vice presidents in his script as a gang of jailbirds, and is given to telling strangers that his handsome wife is three-quarters Eskimo, allergic to heat.


 
 
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