Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


OLD-TIME RADIO mysteries can lead to other revelations. Recently Sirius XM “Radio Classics” offered “Murder in the Sky,” a Phyl Coe Radio Mysteries program originally broadcast on September 28, 1937.

So whoever is Phyl Coe?

Think of Phyl Coe as radio’s Nancy Drew. And, as I learned from old-time radio sources, Phyl’s bbf Tom Taylor was later to star as a guy wearing a cape and leaping tall buildings. Also, Phyl’s name broadly hinted at her sponsor, Philco, the pioneer radio giant that invested a bundle in her career.

Not bad cred for a “beautiful girl detective,” as described by Paul Urbahns in “Phyl Coe Mysteries,” Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club, August 2007. Here in Part 1, let’s learn more about Phyl and Tom. Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see the innovative means that sponsor Philco used to hype the show.

Image from “Phyl Coe,” by Paul Urbahns, Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club.

Radio’s Nancy Drew. Both Nancy Drew and Phyl Coe were amateur sleuths. Nancy’s father was attorney Carson Drew. Phyl’s dad, Phillip Coe, apparently deceased, had been a world famous criminologist. Mothers weren’t mentioned. Phyl was a bit older than the perennially late-teen Nancy.

Nancy had boyfriend Ned Nickerson. Phyl’s pal Thomas Taylor is described as her “admirer,” though he seems to spend a lot of time saying “Yes, dear” after she says, “Quiet, Tom.”

On Thirties Air Travel. Such repartee arises in Phyl and Tom’s cross-country overnight flight to New York City. I’d conjecture it was aboard a Curtiss-Wright Condor, as this craft was known for its sleeping accommodations.

Curtiss-Wright Condor in 1934 American Airways livery. Image from Airliners Between the Wars, 1919-39 (Colour), by Kenneth Munson, Blandford Press, 1972.

Tom says, “Wanna go outside and watch her land, Phyl?” “I don’t think so, Tom.” To which Tom responds, “OK, darling, no other woman but you could keep me from watching an airplane land… I think I’ll just sit here and gaze at you.”

Later, another passenger quips, “I guess the three of us are going to be sleeping companions, eh?” Tom says, “Not exactly, but we’re all going on this same plane, if that’s what you mean.” (Everyone chuckles.)

The Superman Connection. Phyl Coe was portrayed by Peggy Allenby, who later played Mattie Lane Grimsley on TV’s Edge of Night soap opera. Tom Taylor was portrayed by Clayton “Bud” Collyer. From 1940 to 1951, Bud starred as radio’s Clark Kent and, voiced down a tone, Superman. He also later hosted TV game shows Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see how Philco marketed Phyl and her pal. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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