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Two way Family Favourites

The time in Britain is twelve noon, in Germany it's one o'clock, but home and away it's time for "Two-Way Family Favourites"

This was probably one of my earliest memories of radio and one of the most famous announcements on during the 1950s and '60s. One of radio’s highest peaking shows - it had an estimated audience of 16 million in Britain alone.

If ever a sentence can take you back to a time and a place it's that opening programme introduction which for over 30 years is firmly embedded in the memory of Sunday lunchtimes. I can still smell the roast beef and Yorkshires, I can still see the potato’s and sprouts bubbling away on the gas stove, causing condensation to run down the windows and almost drown the leather clad Dansette radio on the sill. I can still hear the dulcet and tinny tones of the radio tuned to the BBC Light Programme.

As soon as I hear the signature tune "With a Song in My Heart" I am immediately transported back to those wonderful days of the 50’s and 60’s and my awesome childhood.

The programme had actually started during the war as ‘Forces Favourites.’ Jean Metcalfe along with Marjorie Anderson, Joan Griffiths and Barbara McFadyean presenting. Women presenters were favoured because "the higher pitch of their voices suited shortwave reception".

Once the war was over, the stuffy BBC – who still had some female presenters wearing evening gowns, and men wearing dickie bows and suits - were determined to raise the moral tone of Family Favourites, as the programme had now become. Any mention of fiancées and girl-friends was strictly taboo; there was to be no banter or joking; and noisy jazz was forbidden on Sundays.

A special edition, Two-Way Family Favourites, linked service personnel in occupied Germany with their families at home, and from 1947 Jean Metcalfe was the announcer at the London end. One morning early in 1949, she noted that the name "Michelmore" had been inked in as the replacement for Derek Jones, the usual presenter in Hamburg.

Their conversations on the telephone link before going on the air soon took a flirtatious tone. That April, Cliff Michelmore came to London to meet her; But no hint of the romance was allowed to appear in Two-Way Family Favourites until after Cliff had left the programme in 1949 after just 12 months. They married in March 1950.

On Two-Way Family Favourites, Jean Metcalfe came to command a weekly audience of 12 million. One of them even left her 3,000 pounds, which the Mitchelmore’s put towards the purchase of The White House, Reigate, in 1958.

She would continue to present the show until about 1964 Some of the '50s British Forces presenters were: John Jacobs, Hedley Chambers, Don Douglas, Bob Boyle, Dennis Scuse, Bill Crozier and Derek Jones.

With the launch of Radios 1 and 2 in 1967 the programme took on a new shape from 1 October with Michael Aspel now being the main host, an extra 30 minutes took it up to a 2-hour show. The show also now had a Commonwealth-wide audience with contributions from ABC in Australia, NZBC in New Zealand, Radio Hong Kong and C.B.C. in Canada.

Like almost every other household in Britain it was the musical accompaniment to Sunday lunch, the wireless on the sideboard tuned into Radio 2 on VHF. Apparently some of the most popular requests around this time were: I'll Be Home by Pat Boone, Doris Day's Secret Love, Home Lovin' Man by Andy Williams, Every Time We Say Goodbye by Ella Fitzgerald, and The Green Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones.

When troops started to be deployed in Northern Ireland the programme added a link-up with BBC Belfast from 1971 and saw the return of Michael Baguley who'd hosted the Cologne leg back in 1953.

From 8 April 1973 Sandi Jones became the next presenter, having previously appeared on the programme as part of the BFBS Cologne team. Sandi continued until 1976 when from 2 May Jean Challis took over as the final presenter. Jean had also been on before, both from BFBS Cyprus in the mid-60s and standing in for Sandi in 1975.

The final full edition of Family Favourites aired on Radio 2 on 13 January 1980. The BBC had previously denied that the show was to be axed and indeed it became part of Pete Murray's Sunday Show from the following Sunday. Family Favourites stayed with Pete until May 1981, thereafter it became a daily and eventually a weekly part of Ed Stewart's weekday afternoon show before disappearing in 1984 (16) by which time the linkups were confined to Australia with Bob Hudson (17) and Ian Thompson in New Zealand. Radio 2 has since revived the title on a handful of occasions with past presenters Jean Metcalfe, Cliff Michelmore, Sandi Jones and Michael Aspel all taking part. Last year online station Solid Gold GEM AM briefly had a Sunday offering of Family Favourites with former Radio 2 and BFBS broadcaster Patrick Lunt.


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