Tell Your Troubles To "Mr. Fixit" - One-Man Welfare Agency Of The Air
Dear Mr. Fixit:
I am a girl eighteen years old - a married man with two children - a taxpayer on Newstead - a widow with one child, and I would like to know when the sidewalk is going to be repaired in front of my house - if an Indian penny is worth a dollar - which is the richest Catholic church in St. Louis - if you know of anybody who would like an angora cat - if one can fish with a drop net in the Mississippi river - when are they going to pay the property owners for widening Fifteenth Street - can one get a marriage license in East St. Louis and be married in St. Louis. Please answer this during your program tonight as I will be listening.
Thank you kindly, Most Anybody
Above is a composite letter of typical requests received any day by Ray C. Schroeder, known to the radio audience as “Mr. Fixit,” who broadcasts for fifteen minutes over WIL at 6:45 every evening except Sunday. Every mail delivery to this station brings stacks of letters to Mr. Fixit.
This program is correctly known as the Civic Service Program, was started by Mr. Schroeder in October 1930 as a period for the discussions of civic questions, instructions about the city government, and to provide a medium through which radio listeners could receive advice and information about public affairs. About such subjects the program continued until Christmas of that year.
Just before Christmas, Mr. Fixit during his usual discussion mentioned a family that needed clothing and food. No sooner was the broadcast finished than offers came by all methods of delivery, giving not only sufficient food and clothing for the family mentioned, but enough to insure many others a Merry Christmas. Telling of this instance in later programs opened the door for Mr. Fixit - that of public welfare, and since then this has constituted a major part of the program.
Builds A House
Some of the services that have resulted from a request of Mr. Fixit have been little short of miracles. For instance, one letter he mentioned over the air was from a man in the country who, after starting to build a home, lost all his money. The foundation was built and the siding was on and as the weather was getting cold, to live in such a place was impossible. The day after this letter was read, five union plasterers offered their services to help the cause. So did plumbers, carpenters and even home furnishing stores, and soon not only was the cottage finished, but completely furnished.
Another request much more pathetic was [for] help to cover funeral expenses. Four leading undertakers offered their services and not only was the complete cost covered, but flowers were given, together with music for the service and automobiles to carry the family and their friends to the cemetery.
Many other examples of this Good Samaritan relief could be told. Each day brings many letters asking for employment and a countless number of jobs have been secured. Along with these pleas for relief come many offerings. A woman on the South Side wrote a letter telling that she was going to move and wondered if Mr. Fixit knew anyone who would want her piano. This letter was read during the program along with the address and phone number of where the piano could be found. According to reports, the telephone company had to add additional help to handle the calls that immediately came for this South Side number. Needless to say, the piano was not only spoken for but taken away soon after Mr. Fixit had concluded his broadcast, but the phone calls kept on until an announcement was made on this program the next evening telling that an owner had been found.
Finds Home For Dog
An equally interesting instance resulted from reading a letter telling of a family in University City that had a police dog they would give away. The first person that called was told to come for the dog the next day. So many requests immediately followed that the owner changed his mind. The new owner had already started making arrangements for a dog house and had purchased a new collar with his name engraved on it. The next day when he came for the dog the family was not home and so the dog was taken. The story goes that not everything was satisfactory and requests were made for the dog’s return, however Mr. Fixit also fixed this up and the dog remained with its new owner.
According to Mr. Schroeder, his most difficult problem is sorting over the mail he receives and selecting the letters for this program because as is the case in such instances many of the please do not come from the truly deserving.
The mail received is not all confined to letters regarding relief. Subjects of civic interest also bring a large response. A mention on a recent program that women should be required to buy fishing licenses just as men [are] brought a storm of protests from both women and men from all over the city. Because only a small percentage of the mail can be mentioned in the short time allotted to the program, many letters are never answered on the air. All are opened and read by Mr. Schroeder and wherever possible forwarded to other organizations in the city that are equipped to handle them.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 4/9/1932).