The Housewives' Protective League was a long-lasting daily radio feature which ran over the CBS radio network from 1948 to 1962. American broadcaster Allen Gray (1920- ) was one of the program's regional directors; he was affiliated with the show from 1950 until its demise.
Gray (nee Ernest Bundgaard, a.k.a. Ernie Allen) was born in 1921 in Iowa and, after graduating from Council Bluffs High School, attended the University of Iowa where he majored in speech and radio broadcasting and worked for WSUI, the University's radio station.
Mr. Gray's first professional radio jobs were at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa and with KORN in Fremont, Nebraska. Mr. Gray enlisted into the service in 1943. He rose to the rank of 1st lieutenant before being honorably discharged in 1946.
Out of the army, Mr. Gray and his family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was employed as DJ, newscaster, announcer and assistant program director for the radio station KFAB. In 1950, Mr. Gray joined CBS radio in New York City.
In 1951, Mr. Gray was "farmed out" to CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis/St. Paul to assume the role of director and lead talent for that region's "Housewives' Protective League" series.
The Housewives' Protective League began in California, the creation of Fletcher Wiley, a one-time food broker turned radio broadcaster. Originally just a local program, the HPL concept and series soon caught on and satellite programs--around 12 total--featuring different hosts were soon being broadcast out of Chicago, St. Louis, New York and San Francisco, among other cities. In 1947, Wiley sold his idea and interest in the show to CBS Radio. HPL was radio's answer to the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval".
For the show, consumer products were tested and evaluated by various "testers" in the community. Satisfactory brands got endorsed and promoted by HPL both on air and via on-shelf, grocery store displays. As described by Mr. Gray:
"[HPL was] a consumer-oriented program which tested the advertised product before airing them [their commercials]. We each had a 'tester's bureau,' mine in Minnesota had 800 members. I never sent out less than 100 samples [of a product] and we demanded an 80% approval from our questionnaire which asked such questions as: Was the product what it claimed to be? Was the price fair?. . . We accepted no alcohol or tobacco advertising dollars, and armed with 80% (or better) approval, we approached grocery groups for (and got) distribution and displays. Our shelf talkers were everywhere. Ninety percent of our advertising dollars were grocery store related. The material we used was from some of the ablest writers in the industry. There were about 10 writers in all who were asked to provided 10 scripts each week, for which they were paid 10 dollars per story. It was dependable income for many seasoned writers."
Though much of the program was about selling, the daily broadcast themselves were not sales pitches. In fact, the program's scripts covered a stunningly wide gamut of subjects from human interest stories to parables to profiles of famous people to tracking down the origins of certain words and phrases to funny stories to information on everything from fashion to gardening to good health and child rearing.
According to Mr. Gray, as late as 1962, the series was still generating over 5 million dollars annually but nevertheless CBS radio (who wanted to move to an all-news format) chose to end the program.
After HPL came to an end, Mr. Gray undertook various activities--from having his own radio talk program/call-in show over WCBS to running his own food brokerage business, to running his own advertising agency and for a time running his own art gallery--before returning, full time, to broadcasting.
Gray began his daily, nationally heard Coffee Break program in 1964. According to one source, Coffee Break "could be about anything but couldn't be boring." Coffee Break was a daily series of five-minute vignettes similar in form to HPL "(in fact, Coffee Break often reutilized many old HPL scripts); it ran for 12 years.