Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy 72nd Birthday, GUIDING LIGHT!

THE GUIDING LIGHT debuted on January 25, 1937, on NBC's Red radio network as a fifteen minute serial.

When creator Irna Phillips was 19 years old she found out she was pregnant. She wasn't married and the father of the child wanted nothing to do with her. She ended up giving birth to a stillborn baby. Out of this tragedy she gained comfort in the sermons of Dr. Preston Bradley. The sermons at the non-denominational Chicago church centered around the brotherhood of man. Twenty-seven years later she used this minister's preachings and theme as the basis for THE GUIDING LIGHT.

THE GUIDING LIGHT was centered around the Rev. Dr. John Ruthledge, the people who lived near him, and the people who came to him for help. A lamp in his study was always on as a sign to those who need his help. The lamp was known by all as "The Guiding Light." Rev. Ruthledge ran the Little Church of Five Points in Five Points, a Chicago suburb. Rev. Ruthledge was a widower and had one daughter named Mary Ruthledge. A boy named Ned Holden was left in the Rev. Ruthledge's care. He raised him as his son.

Rev. Ruthledge left the Little Church of Five Points to work in Europe and was replaced by Rev. Dr. Richard Gaylord, then Rev. Frank Tuttle, then the Rev. Dr. Paul Keeler.

Before Rev. Ruthledge died he gave his lamp to Ned and asked him to give it to his good friend from the seminary, Rev. Dr. Charles Matthews. Rev. Matthews lived in Selby Flats, a Los Angeles area neighborhood. Rev. Matthews then became the keeper of "The Guiding Light."

Years later the locale of THE GUIDING LIGHT changed from Selby Flats to the fictional midwestern town of Springfield. This is the central location of the show today.

Listen to an early episode:

Other GL notes of interest:
GL's first television broadcast was on June 30, 1952, and was 15 minutes long. From that time until August 1956, the cast did the same scripts for radio and television each day. Although THE GUIDING LIGHT was still the number one radio show, it was cancelled due to a declincing audience. On September 11, 1967, the show was first broadcast in color. On September 9, 1968, THE GUIDING LIGHT expanded to 30 minutes. It expanded to 60 minutes on November 7, 1977. The "THE" was dropped from the name in the mid-1970s. GUIDING LIGHT is the longest running show in broadcast history.


  1. Here's to Guiding Light and may she continue to shine for years to come!
    Keep the Light On!

  2. I agree. It was be a very sad day of this program went off the air after 72 years.

  3. My grandmother listened to The Guiding Light on the radio. My mother listened then and continued watching it on TV. I have watched it since a baby(57 years). I would sadly miss it if it went off the air. There are not any other like it.un

  4. Ah nostalgia! What happened to Chucky?