The Happy Gang

by Don Bell
(Peterborough, Canada)

Happy Gang Blue Plate Special, circa 1945

Happy Gang Blue Plate Special, circa 1945

Are any of you 50-plusers old enough to remember the old "Happy Gang" radio program that once ran on the CBC? I recently came across a little commemorative booklet for the Happy Gang show that my Mom had sent away for. It was published by its sponsor Colgate-Polmolive-Peet in the late 1940s, towards the end of WWII.

As a youngster growing up on our farm in the late 1940s/early 1950s, I can recall listening to the show every day at lunchtime with my parents. Dad would hurry the chores, and Mom would tune in CBL Toronto and yell out the back door, "Hurry, the Happy Gang is coming on!" Later, in 1951, when I had to enroll in public school, I resisted going because I wouldn't be able to listen to the Happy Gang anymore.

The popular lunchtime variety program ran weekdays throughout the war and postwar period, from 1937 to 1959, for nearly 4900 broadcasts. It was broadcast nationwide on the CBC English radio network, and in its later years was broadcast in the United States by the old Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) network.

Knock! Knock!

As soon as you heard the familiar introduction:

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Who's there?

It's The Happy Gang!

Wel-l-l-l, come on i-i-i-i-n!

You always knew you were in for a fun time of mirth, mayhem, and music with the cast Bert Pearl, Blain Mathe, Herb May, Bob Farnon, Hugh Bartlett, Eddie Allen, and Kathleen Stokes.

The Happy Gang show's format included short skits and comedy routines by cast members, a variety of classical pieces played by Mathe on the violin, and traditional melodies played by Stokes on the Wurlitzer Organ.

Light songs were sung by Allen or Pearl, and sometimes farcical songs were performed by the entire cast. "There'll Always Be an England" was sung daily throughout the war years, never failing to stir the emotions during those troubled times.

The Happy Gang also made a series of short, five-minute ads promoting the sale of Canadian Victory Bonds to support the war effort.

Hugh's Goon Stories From The Goon Club

A popular feature on the Happy Gang show was Hugh Bartlett's "Goon Stories." Gooniest of all, perhaps, is the one about two men on a fishing trip:

Two young men had been fishing all day, and had caught absolutely nothing. Suddenly, one of the men got a tremendous strike; he fought the fish for nearly fifteen minutes, then it got away. So, they decided to row home -- it was getting late. As they were rowing home one of the men said: "Gosh, I hope we can get out tomorrow and get that big fellow." And the second man said: "I sure hope so. Did you mark the spot where we hooked him?" "Yes, I did," said the first. "While you were playing with him, I leaned over the side and put a great big X on the side of the boat, right where your line was." And the other fellow said: "You what! Why you're crazy! How do you know we're going to get the same boat tomorrow!"

Here's another Goon Story:

It seems that a great maestro was leading a large symphony orchestra, when the dulcet strain of a single violin from the string section reached his ears. The beautiful tones were such as he had never heard before. Turning to see from whence they came, he was struck by the sad expression on the violinist's face. Calling a halt in the rehearsal, the director hurried down to where the musician was sitting.

"My good fellow," he said, "You play so beautifully -- why do you look so sad? Do you have any money troubles?"

"No," replied the violinist, "My car is paid for, and I owe no bills, and I have money in the bank."

"Well, then, are you in poor health? I will get you the finest specialist in the world -- the finest money can buy," spoke the maestro.

"No," replied the violinist, "I've never had a sick day in my life."

"Is it domestic trouble that makes you feel so sad, then?"

"No," replied the man, "I married the most beautiful girl in the world; she's a wonderful cook, and a perfect companion."

Exasperated, the great maestro clenched his fists and shouted, "Well for heaven's sake, what IS it that makes you look so sad?"

The man looked for the first time into the maestro's face, and replied wearily, "I just don't like music, that's all."

Bob's Gram Stories

Bob Farnon's "Gram Stories" were always funny, especially this one:

This story concerns a little six-year-old girl, Mary. The time is 2 a.m., and Mary is sleeping very restlessly. After tossing and turning in bed for a while, she jumps out and toddles into her mother's room:

Mary: "Mummy, tell me a story."

Mom: "Hush, darling. Daddy will be in soon and tell us both one."

The Gram Stories were my particular favorite. They were often "Gramatized" or dramatized by the Happy Gang members who added their zany voices.

Eddie's Fast Gags

Besides singing a silly song or two on the broadcasts, Eddie Allan popped in to bug Bert with his gags now and then:

"Bert, why is a caterpiller like hot muffins?"

"Ed, something tells me I'm not going to like muffins after this... but go ahead... why"

"A caterpiller is like hot muffins, because it's the kind of grub that makes the butter-fly... Get it?"

"Ed, you'd butter-fly, after those gags!"

Kathleen's Wurlitzer

The rich Wurlitzer music played by Toronto organist, Kathleen Stokes, a well-known, well-loved Toronto organist of the time, was always memorable. She had played in theatres during the silent movie era and shared one of her experiences in the booklet:

"I was playing the organ with a theatre orchestra one time, and imagine how I felt when a huge rat came out from somewhere inside the console and walked very slowly but deliberately across the keyboard! I didn't dare stop the show by screaming, but I stopped playing. I was too scared to move, anyway. But, adding insult to my already outraged feelings, the orchestra leader was giving me dirty looks for playing wrong notes! He couldn't see -- the rat on the keys!"

Keep Happy

Remember, it was dark days of World War II when this tiny Blue Plate Special booklet was published, and it ends with the following words:

"The kids though they were pretty smart -- but they forgot about this spot on the back cover! So...

"We leave just this one thought with you. We have no way of telling what the news of the day will be, on the day that you read this book of ours. We do know that all of us have much to worry and be blue about these days. And the Happy Gang is dedicated to trying to bring at least some cheerfulness, and maybe a little courage, to you every day, just as long as we are able.

"The Gang tries to practice what it preaches, and we really mean it, friends, when we... 'remind everybody, everywhere, above all to remember to KEEP HAPPY, won't you?'"

Amazing Finds

While looking through some old documents from his grandparent's house, one of my frequent website visitors found something that would excite any fan of The Happy Gang.

Years ago, his grandparents had written to The Happy Gang radio show at the height of its popularity and requested the Gang's autographs. They were so pleased to receive a reply on official Happy Gang stationery signed by Bert Pearl.

The Happy Gang Old Time Radio Program Letter

And on a separate sheet were the autographs of all the stars of the show:

Bert Pearl, Hugh Bartlett, Jimmy Namaro, George Temple, Eddie Allen, Blain Mathe, Cliff McKay, and Kathleen (Kay) Stokes.

The image of the treasured autographs is shared in loving memory of Harvey and Allyene Waring, longtime true fans of The Happy Gang.

The Happy Gang Old Time Radio Program Star Autographs

Another visitor to this site came across an old publicity shot of Bert Pearl and The Happy Gang while going through some family photos belonging to her parents. Our thanks to Vicki for this gem of a photo showing the entire cast at the time.

Bert Pearl and His Happy Gang Photo

Back row from left to right: Bobby Gimby, Hugh Bartlett, Blain Mathe, Joe Niosi, Jimmy Namaro, Lloyd Edwards. Front row: Bert Niosi, Kathleen Stokes, Eddie Allen, Dorothy Deane, George Temple. Inset: Bert Pearl.

Thanks Happy Gang!

The Happy Gang Theme Song

You've given us lots of wonderful memories.

"Keep happy and healthy,
The heck with being wealthy,
So keep happy with the Happy Gang!"

Comments for The Happy Gang

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The Happy Gang Lives On
by: John Leslie Foster

Hello There! I am the son of Leslie L Foster who by the way was the last remaining member of the Happy Gang. My name is John, and my dad played the accordion for about the last seven years on the Gang. He took over for Eddie Allen when he went to MC for the show. My dad passed away in Feb 07 and was the last remaining member alive.

I have several tapes of the Happy Gang, including one show celebrating my dad's birthday, March 19, 1919; and one show celebrating my birthday, Nov 28, 1958. This brings back a lot of memories, as I remember my dad's countless stories of the Happy Gang.

The Happy Gang Lives
by: Anonymous

From John Leslie Foster. By the way, my dad, Les Foster, is the bottom guy on the left in the above [video] picture.

I Loved The Happy Gang
by: Gladys Free

I would love to get a copy of some of the broadcasts from the Happy Gang.

Thank you Kindly, Gladys Free.

by: Anonymous

My parents named me Kathleen after Kathleen Stokes. I play classical piano but not the organ.

Words To The Happy Gang Theme Song
by: Anonymous

Hi, does anyone have all the words to the happy gang theme song? A senior's group I visit would like them to sing at a senior function. Thanks.


The Happy Gang Theme Song
by: Don (Webmaster)

Hi Sue,

The Happy Gang's short theme song saw several variations over the years. This is the wartime version published in "The Happy Gang Blue Plate Special" booklet:

(Sung to the tune of the 1917 song "Smiles")

Here we are, the Happy Gang's here,
Here we are, how do you do,
Here we are to chase away your troubles
With a song, a melody or two.
Use Palmolive Soap daily in your shower
Then you'll start each morning with a bang!
Won't you join us when we sing and shout out:
"We're Palmolive's Happy Gang!"

The show often ended with the upbeat verse and reminder to...

Keep happy and healthy,
The heck with being wealthy,
So keep happy with the Happy Gang!

Happy Gang Photos
by: Anonymous

Hi all. Sorry, don't know anything about this Happy Gang, but I do have photos of the members with their signatures on them, also a group picture. They were in a house we bought.

Buffalo Fan
by: Tim

Growing up in Buffalo (and Crystal Beach, Ontario) I listened to The Happy Gang everyday.

My Mom even kept me out of kindergarten so I could continue listening.

CBL Radio knew no borders!

Don't Play Bingo Tonight Mother Lyrics
by: Anonymous

I too grew up listening to the Happy Gang, and loved them all! I'm looking for the words to "Don't Play Bingo Tonight Mother" which I believe Bert Pearl wrote with one of the rest of the gang.

Can anyone help me find the song again, words and tune?

Thanks a lot.

Don't Play Bingo Tonight Mother
by: Don (Webmaster)

I came across a couple of verses to the old song while writing The Happy Gang article, but I don't know the simple tune it was sung to.

Don't play bingo tonight mother
Stay home with daddy and me.
Don't play bingo tonight mother
We need your company.

Daddy sits nightly with tears in his eyes
Wondering if you will come home with a prize.
So don't play bingo tonight mother
Stay home with daddy and me.

Happy Gang Collection
by: denis

I have a Palmolive Happy Gang Family Foto, a Happy Gang BLUE PLATE SPECIAL, and a Happy Gang Fun book.

My Lunchtime Entertainment
by: Dave Smith

When I moved to California, I didn't realize Toronto would become a second Hollywood. I saw Bert Pearl walking down Hollywood Blvd. I found his telephone number in the phone book and called him up. We got together at his apartment and enjoyed some interesting conversation. He was the musical arranger for Giselle MacKenzie.

When I last saw him, I had said I'd like to start up my own "Happy Gang." He said, "Go ahead, I wish you luck." That was the last I heard from him.

I am involved with an Improvisational Group, and we start our show with "Here we are The Happy Gang's Here" (sung to "There are Smiles"). Bert Pearl wrote a second song: "Keep Happy with The Happy Gang, Keep Happy start the day with a bang, a Happy Friday to you from the boys and Kay Stokes, hope you like... etc."

Remembering The Happy Gang Show
by: Len Jeffrey

Hello to everyone.

I remember listening as a very young boy every lunch hour to the Happy Gang Show. I don't remember much except it was funny and that it had a religious song on every show. I lived in Toronto at the time.

I worked at a music store years later in Toronto called "Lloyd Edwards Yamaha Music Centre" where I repaired electronic devices. It was years later when I found out that Lloyd Edwards was a member of The Happy Gang Show! He had joined the gang later on I was told.

If you would like to write back to me, please write your comment below, as I happened to "stumble" upon this site. Thanks!

Happy Gang Memories
by: Jean Salmon

I grew up listening to the noon hour Happy Gang show on the radio. Once they came to London, Ontario, where I lived, and as they marched down the centre aisle where they were performing, Eddie Allen stopped and shook my hand. I was about eleven years old at the time and thought I had died and gone to Heaven.

I obtained Eddie Allen's autograph many years ago via a friend when he was attending a wedding reception. He wrote it on a paper table napkin which was by his plate -- what a treasure that is.

Vintage Magazine Featuring The Happy Gang
by: Anonymous

Hello, The Happy Gang was a little before my time, just "a little" mind you. I actually have an a magazine type book on this show autographed by cast and crew. Pretty cool stuff.

The Happy Gang
by: myna lee johnstone

As a young child I loved this show, especially the beginning. Our radio was always on for this daily broadcast.

Happy Gang Collection
by: denis

I have a Blue Plate Special book, a Happy Gang Fun book, and 2 photos of the Palmolive's Happy Gang Family Foto when Colgate celebrated its 143rd Anniversary.

Bert Pearl's Return
by: An Old Airman

I listened to the Happy Gang every day, and the broadcast that I remember best was one that caught everyone off Guard. Bert Pearl had been off the show for quite a long period when he was very ill. On this show, the group was singing a song when all of a sudden Bert joined in. The music stopped, and everybody went wild because they hadn't expected him. You could tell that there was a lot of crying and hugging going on. I was only about 5 years old at the time, but I cried right along with them.

The Happy Gang
by: Vivian

While sorting out my 95-yr-old aunt's belongings, I came across a "signed" postcard from The Happy Gang. There are 10 people on the postcard and signed by all 10 on the back.

My Picture of The Happy Gang Group
by: Doreen

Going through my collector items, I came across the picture that had been given to me by my Mother. Must be from the late 1940s or early 1950s. There are 27 people & one dog.
What great memories, & we are wearing the same kind of shoes again today.

Cliff McKay
by: Anonymous

My grandfather was Cliff McKay; I miss him dearly.

Can Anyone Help?
by: GreatNephew

When I was a young fellow, over 40 years ago now, I remember stories about my Great Uncle Vin (his name was Vincent Crissey, although I don't know what his real Italian root or original surname was) by marriage, but he passed away while I was still fairly young - though I do have a few memories of him.

As the stories went, though, he was a great trumpet/cornet player & I remember seeing old B&W photos of him playing in clubs, etc. with a band, and I seem to remember that he may have played from time to time with Bert Niosi and/or The Happy Gang.

Vincent Crissey resided in London, Ontario - certainly as long as I knew him, and he likely would've since marrying my Great Aunt Aura (nee Marsden). Unfortunately, both of them AND their two boys have long ago passed away.

Does anyone out there remember him having association with the band? Perhaps as a backup or stand-in or something? If you can help me out, it'd be extremely, greatly appreciated.

Further to Last Comment
by: GreatNephew

I've found a book with a photo of my Great Uncle Vin when he played with the Joe DeCourcy orchestra at venues like Chateau Laurier, the Connaught Hotel and the Old Mill. Cliff McKay is shown in that same photo as a member of the Joe DeCourcy orchestra.

Lyrics To a Happy Gang Song?
by: Anonymous

My mother (now 91) used to regularly listen to the Happy gang during the war. She often sings the following lyrics. Can anyone please provide the sheet music and title of this song? I'd like to learn how to play it on the trumpet:

"We live on the sunny side,
Where we see the funny side,
And all through life, we'll always be
Good friends together."

If you have any information, please share it. Thanks!

Happy Gang Song Books
by: Fred Isenor

I have both the Happy Gang song books published by Gordon V. Thompson in the 1940s. Notice on the big hit "Don't Play Bingo Tonight Mother" there's another verse that is not on their RCA Victor record. The song was written by Al Harvey of the Al & Bob Harvey brother duet, and the music was written by Bert Pearl.

Kathleen Stokes
by: Lois

My Dad, John Belfry, was a young friend of Kathleen Stokes' family. He often recounted stories of wonderful times with Kay and her family. Especially summers in Ontario. She was golden!

I was very young when my Dad learned of the terrible boating tragedy involving Kathleen's family. Many family members drowned. My dad lived in another province when this happened. It made headline news in the newspapers. Thereafter Dad just never talked about his wonderful summers with Kay.

I've often wondered what life was like when my Dad was young and Kay was a joyful part of his life.

Happy Gang Memorabilia
by: Jessica summers

I have a Blue Plate Special book, a Happy Gang Fun book, and 2 photos of the Palmolive's Happy Gang Family Foto when Colgate celebrated its 143rd Anniversary.

Happy Gang Replacement Show
by: Anonymous

Does anybody remember the radio show that replaced the Happy Gang? It ran at 1:15 P.M. on CBL, following Radio Noon at 12, the news at 1:00, with the weather for northern Ontario, Rainy River, Fort Francis, Sioux Lookout, etc. The McKinnon Sisters were part of this show.

After The Happy Gang
by: Don (Webmaster)

According to Wikipedia, The Tommy Hunter Show (1960-65) replaced The Happy Gang on CBC Radio in the summer of 1959. Tommy Hunter later moved to television in 1965 to replace Country Hoedown as a weekly country music program.

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