Your Neighbor Lady

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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My favorite neighbor has died.
 
“The Neighbor Lady,” Wynn Speece, never lived within 100 miles of my house in Volga but she showed up every day anyway …on the radio.. and was a constant companion to my mom and thousands of other homemakers and farm wives.
 “Hello good friends” was her on-air greeting for 64 years as she opened a program filled with helpful household hints, stories about her family, recipes, listener letters and commercials that she would read live.
Advertisers would line-up trying to get on her show because products endorsed by “The Neighbor Lady” sold like hotcakes… hotcakes made from “Martha Gooch” flour, of course.
 
She first signed-on the air in 1941 over WNAX radio in Yankton which had one of the most powerful signals in the world reaching into at least five states.
 
During the forties and fifties, The Neighbor Lady’s audience numbered into the hundreds of thousands..mostly women listening as they went about their household chores.
The program was such a big hit that the radio station had people whose only job was to open and answer bags and bags of mail which averaged a quarter million letters a year.
 
During an interview for Keloland News years ago, I asked The Neighbor Lady about her amazing popularity.
“Back then,” she said, mine would often be the only woman’s voice many of these ladies would hear all day..especially during the winter.”
It was that same sweet gentle voice that was so comforting and reassuring to those whose husbands or sons were off fighting in the war.
 
When I was little I just remember her as the nice lady on the radio every morning; a white plastic Philco radio that sat on the kitchen cabinet next to a drawer filled with Neighbor Lady recipes.
 
When Wynn Speece made personal appearances, huge crowds would turn out to see her demonstrate kitchen appliances, prepare a favorite hot dish or dessert or sign a copy of the annual WNAX Neighbor Lady cook book.
But mostly, people just wanted to see her..the woman behind the voice.
 
Wynn Speece "The Neighbor Lady" and husband, HarryShe was a big star… and even though it wasn’t shining as brightly by the mid 80’s when we did our interview, I was awe-struck.
After saying how great it was to meet her, Wynn said she and her husband, Harry, were longtime fans of Keloland and never missed watching Steve and ME on the news.
How about that?
We’ve had lots of good visits in the years since. I just loved hearing about her lifetime of experiences on the radio.
She was an icon to so many and as genuine as the love she had for Harry who passed away a couple years ago.
 
Now we must talk about the Neighbor Lady in the past tense too.
Even though she lived until the age of 90, it’s hard for those of us who knew and admired her, personally and professionally, to say
“Goodbye good friend.”

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