The year is 1932, and the nation is still suffering from the effects of the Great Depression, recovery is in sight, fueled by industry success as much as government programs. The listeners of The World Adventerer’s Club and other travelogue series in this early part of radio’s Golden Age were offered glimpses of exotic places and extraordinary events without leaving their own front room.
The renewed interest in far off lands and cultures was, at least in part, also a reflection of the political situation. Many nations during this time were expanding their influence around the globe establishing colonies and outposts. You can still hear a faint echo of this influence in the stories — some of the episodes carry a decidedly “colonial” attitude toward the native inhabitants of these countries … who are sometimes characterized in a manner that, by today’s standards, would be offensive.
The setting for the series is a well-to-do gentleman’s club of the type that flourished in the 1890’s from Europe to the US. There’s even an all male chorus on hand, common to those establishments, which each week extols the virtues of living on the edge where adventures, discoveries, and the real threat of death are constant companions
Using the cigar-smoky, brandy in hand, parlor as a backdrop, each episode takes the form of a report being told to the other members of the club by someone who’s just returned from some adventure in a far away, mysterious place. Members in the radio audience need only sit back in their chair, close their eyes, and imagine that they, too, are basking in the camaraderie of the club – as they share their experiences.
Sadly, nothing is known about any of the regular cast members of this show. We do know that Hanley Stafford was the featured story teller in at least six of the episodes. Hanley Stafford, who was born on September 22, 1889 as Alfred John Austin, took his stage name from his birthplace of Hanley, Staffordshire in England. No stranger to US radio his was the voice of “Daddy” for “Baby Snooks” and “Dithers” in the “Blondie” radio program. He died of a heart attack just a couple weeks before his 79th birthday on September 11 1968.
The series was transcribed by a California company named Transco. Of course, one of the benefits of transcription is that all 32 of the 15-minute episodes produced are still available for us to enjoy today. A tribute to the enduring nature of this series, it should be mentioned that much later, from January 1947 to January 1948, another series borrowed it’s format for a set of 30-minute episodes under the simplified name The Adventurer’s Club.
And now, find a deep wingback chair, lean back, and prepare to enter a time when most of the world was truly unknown and any exploration revealed wonders, opportunities and dangers.