It’s a beautiful day in Chicago

Everett Mitchell (1898-1990) was the host of a nationally broadcast NBC radio program called (deep breath here):

THE NATIONAL FARM AND HOME HOUR.

It came on every Saturday at 12 noon and was broadcast live from WMAQ’s legendary Studio A on the twentieth floor of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, with a live band and a studio audience.

The ritual was that after the band had finished playing its opening march music — The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), better known to us grade-school twerps as “Be kind to your web-footed friends for that duck may be somebody’s mother” — Everett Mitchell would step up to the microphone and say:

“It’s a beautiful day in Chicago!”

Of course he would usually have to qualify that in some way, for instance:

“Well, it is a bit on the cloudy side, and there’s some rain and thunder and sleet and hailstorms and gale-force winds and slush piling up on the streets” or whatever the weather was like in Chicago on that particular day. Then he always added:

“But it’s a great day to be alive, and we hope
it’s even more beautiful wherever you are.”

At this point I usually turned off the big Zenith radio in the living room and went outside to play, since I was a suburban child with absolutely no interest in the week’s agricultural news, I just wanted to hear the opening ritual.

When I was six or seven years old I pestered my mother for weeks about it, and she finally took me and my brother down to the Merchandise Mart on the El (we lived in Evanston) so we could be in the studio audience and see a live performance of the show. Everett Mitchell was rather more corpulent than I had imagined, but otherwise I was very impressed.

Me reading the news on KPFA, around 1968

From that day on I was determined to be a radio announcer when I grew up, and in fact I later did spend several years working as the news director of a California radio station.

(See my post Mitterrand and the Panthéon for an episode from that period.)

 

 

 

 

 


Many years later, I did a Google search on Everett Mitchell and came upon a website called dupageheritage.org (now apparently no longer online) which included the following text:

In May of 1932, in the darkest hours of the Great Depression, Mitchell rebelled at accepting the pessimism that blanketed the entire nation like a heavy fog. After listening to gloom on the train, “The Bankers’ Special,” while commuting to his office, a series of thoughts crowded into Mitchell’s mind including an old nursery rhyme his mother had taught him. When he stepped to the Farm and Home Hour microphone that noon, he ad-libbed which was against NBC regulations, “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago. It is a great day to be alive, and I hope it is even more beautiful wherever you are.”

Although a note arrived during the program directing Mitchell to report to the president’s office when the program was over, by the time he reported the switchboard at NBC was swamped with calls for “the Beautiful Day man,” many of them pleading with him to “say it again tomorrow because it makes me feel so good.” He did say it the next day and until he retired more than thirty years later. President Roosevelt gave Mitchell wartime permission to continue to use his “Beautiful Day” introduction even when all radio references to the weather was [sic] banned.

The slogan was also taken over by other Chicago radio personalities. It seems to me that Jack Brickhouse used to say it on WIND while describing the Cubs baseball games, and according to Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations it was also used by Don McNiel as his traditional opening for The Breakfast Club from 1933 to 1968. (I never knew it went on that long; can’t imagine why.)

A government website, www.nal.usda.gov (NAL stands for National Agricultural Library), described The National Farm and Home Hour as “the most popular radio program of all time in this country. The National Farm and Home Hour was aired over the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) from 1928 to 1960, and was cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NBC as a public service program for farmers and homemakers.”

By the way, Everett G. Mitchell (1898-1990) was White and is no relation to Everett D. Mitchell, a much younger Black man who is a judge in Wisconsin and was a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2023. If you do an internet search today for “Everett Mitchell”, you are much more likely to find articles about the Wisconsin judge rather than the Chicago radio host.

14 thoughts on “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago”

    1. The house in my lead photo no longer exists. After my father sold it, it changed hands once or twice more before it was torn down and replaced.

  1. The tone reminded me of “Good morning Vietnam!” My grandfathers would have been listening to the farm report, but you were a bit young for that. I loved riding in the El.

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