Commercials on Yiddish radio
On radio stations that carried Yiddish-language broadcasts in the 1930s and
'40s, an inordinate amount of airtime was devoted to advertising. At the height
of its popularity WEVD landed accounts from brand-name sponsors like Manischewitz,
Hebrew National, and Campbell's Soup. But smaller stations like Brooklyn's WLTH
and WBBC were perpetually having to go into the community to rustle up business
from mom-and-pop stores on the Lower East Side and along Pitkin Avenue in the
Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
Much to their listeners' dismay, these stations often filled as much as 50
percent of the broadcast day with pitches. Often inspired, occasionally insipid,
commercials from neighborhood stores were the lifeblood of Yiddish radio.
To the ethnographer, these shards provide a vivid snapshot of what ordinary
people wore, ate, drank, and cleaned their houses with. For the rest of us,
they're simply some of the most memorable ads ever created -- from the Joe and
Paul clothiers jingle to the language-murdering ad copy of Mitchell Levitsky,
WEVD's advertising king.