Fully a creation of Radio the Daytime Drama Series of the Golden Age of Radio, better known as "Soap Opera" or "Soaps" were one of the most popular genre of OTR. Incredibly profitable for the networks these mostly 15 minute shows numbered 40 shows daily on the major networks combined, during the Soaps hey days. The reason the soaps were so profitable was the audience. Women between the ages of 18 and 80 who did most of the house hold products purchasing. Women at that time mostly spent there days home cooking and cleaning and could listen to the radio while they did the ironing or sweeping. Companies like Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and Lever Brothers, 3 of the biggest companies providing cleaning supplies, beauty items, and soaps (which is where the nickname came from) found it the best use for their marketing dollars to get to the audience that spent the most on those products. The shows also had very small budgets, small casts, (on average 4-5 actors, sometimes less) little or no sound effects and stock actors kept it cheap too. On most shows a single writer spit out 15 minute scripts 5 times a week, which was no easy feat but the shows did move at a turtles pace, sometimes a single scenes conflict taking 5 days to finally resolve.
Soap audience were the most loyal of all radio and many shows earned rating that primetime shows envied. Shows like Pepper Young's Family, Backstage Wife, The Guiding Light, Young Doctor Malone, Just Plain Bill, Our Gal Sunday, Stella Dallas, When a Girl Marries, The Right to Happiness, The Romance of Helen Trent, Young Widder Brown and Oxydol's own Ma Perkins; These shows many running 15, 20 years or more (Ma Perkins, Romance of Helen Trent, and Pepper Young's Family all ran 27 years) Radio audiences grew up with these characters and their Families and made them important parts of their daily routines.
One of the most popular series was Ma Perkins (or Oxydol's own Ma Perkins)...Ma had all the usual soapy drama points love, tears, two-timing, scheming and whole lot of melodrama. One amazing thing about this series is Virginia Payne played the title role of Ma Perkins for all 27 years and never missed an episode (7065 episodes!!!). Payne started as Ma at age 23 and did a very convincing older ladies's voice and refined the character into the fan favorite. The sponsor kept Payne's identity secret for years not wanting to ruin the illusion, in later years she would dawn a frumpy dress and gray wig for appearences.
On these series the pace of the show was so slow that Ma Perkins only had 2-3 story lines happening in a single year. Here is a single episode of the show....