Paul Mills Rhymer was born in Fulton, Illinois on November 21, 1905. He was the eldest son of Sidney and Mabel (Gale) Rhymer. In 1907, the Rhymer family moved to Standwood, Iowa. Paul’s father worked for the Hall Signal company, maintaining railway signals for the Iowa railroad. While living in Iowa, Paul’s younger brother, Charles Elwood Rhymer, was born on March 13, 1908. Two years later, the family was living in Fremont, Iowa. By 1911, the Rhymer family moved to Bloomington, Illinois, settling in a house at 708 ½ West Monroe Street. Sidney moved the family to Bloomington to begin working for the Chicago and Alton (C & A) Railroad. While working for the C & A, Sidney served as a signal supervisor in 1914, and a signal maintainer in 1915. By 1919, Sidney was promoted to signal engineer and superintendent of telegraph for the C & A – a position Sidney held the rest of his life.

Sadly, when Paul was 15, his brother Charles passed away of diphtheria after about ten days of sickness. Charles’s death was relatively unexpected as the doctor treating him believed his health was on the mend the day before. However, that same day Charles became seriously ill. He passed away at 6:00 PM on September 23, 1921. Charles’ death left Paul an only child.

It seems that Paul was drawn to entertainment from an early age. When examining an old diary of his in 1937, Paul noted that he spent an “appalling” amount of time at the movies during his youth – spending a nickel a day (which would be the equivalent of about $.80 in 2023) at the Scenic Theater, located at 302 North Madison Street in Bloomington.

Paul also developed a keen interest in writing and engaging with music. While attending Edwards School in Bloomington, Paul received an honorable mention in The Pantagraph for an essay he wrote about the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance he attended. Paul was one of many Bloomington school children to attend this special concert on February 27, 1920, which occurred at Bloomington High School and was sponsored by the Amateur Musical Club. The event was organized by Miss Mabelle Glenn, the supervisor of music for Bloomington Public Schools, who requested that the students write their views on the concert. About 700 essays were submitted; as a result, the judges chose one student from each grade level to be awarded a prize for their work. As the competition for this project was rather intense, Paul’s honorable mention was quite an accomplishment. This early success inspired his passion for writing, and he started honing his craft soon after.

Not only did Paul write about music as a child, he also played musical instruments – as seen in his participation in the Bloomington High School Band as a trombone player throughout his high school years. Paul also enjoyed playing the piano, albeit poorly. He called it his “secret vice,” and while his unwilling audiences did not think his playing was pretty, they found they had to put up with it.

Paul continued to perfect his writing abilities in high school. One of the ways he did so was by joining the Short Story Club in 1923. The Short Story Club, organized by Ms. Grace Inman, was open to any student who had an interest in creative writing. However, to become a member of the club, students had to tryout to ensure they were capable writers. That being said, as a member of the Short Story Club, Paul excelled. He received an honorable mention in The Pantagraph in 1924 for his work—eventually winning the Merwin Cup in 1925 for his short story “Crilotte and the Engine.” The story described the relationship between Joe, a cab driver, and Crilotte, a beautiful and smart woman, as they partnered together to win a car race.

Additionally, Paul co-authored the story, “The Mechanic Skillful,” with Eugene Partlow, which was published in the juvenile section of The Pantagraph in 1925. This story detailed a proud couple, Mr. and Mrs. Newhitch, who were humbled by their son, Harold, whose continuous destruction of their property forced them to drop their egoistic behavior.

In addition to being an active writer, Paul was also very involved in extracurriculars as a student at Bloomington High School. By the end of Paul’s high school career, he was President of the Short Story Club, a member of the Latin Club, the Roosevelt Debating Society, the Hi-Y Club, the Le Cercle Francais, the Bloomington High School Band, the Humorous Department of The Aegis, and a Merwin Cup winner.

Following his graduation from Bloomington High School in 1925, Paul attended Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU). In many ways, Paul’s college career mimicked that of his high school career, as he was heavily involved in the university community. When Paul first began his career at IWU in 1926, he was involved in IWU’s English Coffee Club. As a member of that club, Paul engaged in guest lectures, directed short plays for the club members, and wrote papers of his own—while drinking coffee of course. Paul also began writing for The Argus, IWU’s student newspaper. He occasionally wrote short articles about campus activities. His work for The Argus won him the prize for the largest number of “best stories of the week” in May of 1927.

Paul’s writing developed even further when he joined the Black Bookmen, an IWU honorary literary society, in April 1927. Members of the Black Bookmen were responsible for writing pieces for the organization’s self-titled annual magazine, The Black Bookman. The entirety of the Black Bookmen’s members were responsible for writing and  editing the magazine. Paul contributed to the magazine by writing poems, as well as additional stories such as “The College Complex,” which detailed the lives of college “frat men.”

Outside of The Black Bookman, Paul had several book reviews published in The Pantagraph, including reviews on Deluge by S. Fowler Wright, Bad Girl by Vina Delmar, and All Aboard by Irvin S. Cobb. Paul’s reviews on Bad Girl and All Aboard qualified Rhymer for the “Review Prize” awarded by The Pantagraph.

The highlight of Paul’s college writing career came when his short story, “Hen,” was sold and published by the popular magazine “College Humor.” “Hen” told the story of Bill, a physically disfigured railway worker, who told what appeared to be, fictitious stories to account for his shortcomings in life. Throughout the story, the reader learns that Bill’s stories are truthful. Paul’s short story, “Hen,” served as an example of his early success for years to come, as numerous newspapers commented on this prestigious accomplishment later on in his career.

Outside of writing organizations, Rhymer was involved in Sigma Chi Fraternity and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. As a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity, Paul participated in numerous events and represented the fraternity in his work on campus. On occasion, his mother, Mabel Rhymer, would visit the campus for Sigma Chi events. For instance, Mrs. Rhymer, along with other mothers of Sigma Chi men, visited the fraternity to see a performance put on by their sons in 1927. That said, it seemed that Paul spent more time at the Sigma Chi house than at his classes, as The Pantagraph reported in 1937 that “he was less familiar inside classrooms…he would drop into classes now and then just to see how things were going…he preferred sitting on the Sigma Chi front steps talking, reading, or arguing.” Despite Paul’s inconsistent attendance, he was selected to be a member of Phi Kappa Phi, IWU’s Honor Society, in 1929 after making studying his priority throughout the school year.

Aside from joining numerous campus organizations, Paul also submitted numerous articles for the campus newspaper, The Argus. His articles were published in a section of the publication called “Hey! Hey!” This section of the newspaper appears to have been satirical in nature (akin to the modern Onion newspaper). One submission Paul wrote was deemed to be an “exposé,” where Paul claimed to have uncovered “one of the most dastardly plots ever conceived on the Wesleyan campus” in November 1928. Paul reported that he had conclusive evidence that members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity (rivals of his fraternity, Sigma Chi) organized Alpha Gamma Delta sorority members to distract members of Sigma Chi from their academics – all to win back a scholarship cup they had lost to the Sigma Chi’s earlier that fall. Paul claimed that he had concrete evidence that the five female students he named as accomplices were each paid “one dollar a week for their services.” Neither the TKEs nor the Alpha Gamma Delta’s made any comment in regard to this story, and no evidence of such a plot has been found in any other news source of the time period.

Paul also wrote that he and two fellow students, “who were interested in the welfare of the university,” assisted with an investigation of a Bloomington speakeasy. Paul stated that his investigative work in this case caused federal prohibition officers to raid the Nierstheimer Drugge Shoppe (located at 1302 North Main Street), which lead to five Wesleyan professors being arrested in the raid. However, no evidence of this raid has been found in The Pantagraph (Bloomington’s largest circulation newspaper) and the Nierstheimer Drugge Shoppe was still open in the same location following the reported “raid.”

Paul’s sense of humor made him very popular on campus, as his everyday activities and gossip about his personal life were mentioned throughout IWU publications. Even his relationship with Mary Jokisch, a classmate of his, was commented on in the humor section of the 1928 Wesleyana yearbook. The section concluded, “We would like to see: Mary Jokisch without Paul Rhymer.” Paul’s jokes were also published in The Argus, as was the case with Paul’s joke on a handshake between Wendell Scott and President Coolidge.

Despite his popularity and success on campus, it was necessary for Paul to drop out of IWU in 1929 to return home to help his widowed mother in Bloomington. Two years prior, Paul’s father, Sidney Rhymer, passed away from pneumonia on December 20, 1927 at the age of 51. Sidney’s death occurred less than a year after the family’s move into a new home at 414 Virginia Avenue.

1929 was a busy year for Paul, in addition to taking care of his mother, he found himself working several different odd jobs before landing in radio. He had a brief stint working as a filling station attendant, but was fired. He also worked in the same line of work his father had engaged in at the Chicago and Alton Railroad as a signal maintainer’s helper.

Following this, Paul began his one and only career in newspaper writing for The Pantagraph. For two months Paul was a visiting reporter in Bloomington. His job required him to call around the Bloomington area looking for personal information on its inhabitants. Rather than fulfill his job description, Paul spent his workdays back at the Sigma Chi house at IWU and used the house phone to call the parents of fellow Sigma Chi members to get the latest gossip from around Bloomington. In doing so, Paul produced fake stories using the information that had been shared with him (much like his stories that appeared in The Argus while he attended IWU). Paul’s hijinks worked for about two months until Bloomington residents began to complain that Paul never met with them, and that the information reported in the pages of the Pantagraph was inaccurate. As a result, Paul was fired from The Pantagraph –an event Paul later attributed to his success at NBC.

In multiple interviews in the 1930s, Paul recalled that his radio career did not begin immediately upon his move to Chicago, Illinois. Paul stated that he had a variety of jobs before working in radio, which included peddling magazines in Cicero, Illinois and working as a taxi cab driver in Chicago. That is, until he began his career in radio productions by joining the continuity department at the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in September of 1929. As a continuity writer, Paul prepared and wrote scripts to be read by announcers during broadcasts.

Paul’s career at NBC was not only a personal success but was also one for the entire Bloomington-Normal community. Once Paul landed his job at NBC, both The Pantagraph and The Argus announced his success to the community. The Argus, specifically, lauded the fact that IWU was contributing to the "Microphonic Playwright School.” The Argus applauded their alums, Paul Rhymer and George Redman, who were both working for NBC and credited IWU's creative community with influencing the next generation of radio broadcast writers. Although it would be a few years before Paul would pay homage to Bloomington-Normal in his writing directly, his early success allowed him to maintain a strong connection to the community in years to come.

Paul’s first success at NBC occurred with the radio show The Keystone Chronicle in December 1929. The show, written by Paul, detailed the happenings in a small-town newspaper office. Noted for its “faithful and sympathetic portrayal of small-town life,” The Keystone Chronicle described the love affair of Buck, “the bashful cub reporter of the Chronicle,” and Alice, the daughter of the newspaper editor. The show also included the experiences of those living in the small town, specifically the hardware store owner, farmer, a country agent, as well as other members of the community who happened to stop by the newspaper office. The inspiration for the show was attributed to Paul’s past working for “a small-town newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois.” Paul’s experiences as a writer for The Pantagraph, as well as his life spent in a small town, made the sketches a familiar and realistic. This was largely attributed to the fact that some of the characters and situations used for the show were based on real life people from Paul’s life as a newspaper reporter. The Keystone Chronicle, named for its original sponsor the Keystone Steel and Wire Company of Peoria, Illinois, changed its name to The Northwestern Chronicle in 1933. Along with a new name, the program had a new sponsor, Yeast Foam. Despite the name change, the program remained popular which helped Paul build a strong reputation as a script writer.

As The Northwestern Chronicle was growing in popularity, so too was Paul Rhymer’s new sketch Vic and Sade. Funnily enough, Paul was less than enthusiastic about taking on the role of script writer for the new show. It was reported that on a Saturday in 1932, the production manager of the Central Division of NBC, C.L. Menser, dropped into the continuity department, announcing that “he wanted a script about family life.” Failing to duck out of sight in time, that assignment was given to Paul, despite being a bachelor. In a 1937 interview, Paul recalled thinking that “it was a pretty tough injustice of that assignment at the time, for it meant that I would have to come in on a Sunday and work on it.” Regardless of Paul’s initial thoughts surrounding the show (or having to come in on a Sunday to write it), he settled down and wrote the first script. On Monday, the script was read, and it was a hit, and Paul was asked to continue writing. Vic and Sade served as an “attempt to show everyday American home life” by detailing the lives of the Gook Family, who lived in the fictional town of Cooper, Illinois. The family included Vic, an accountant of the Consolidated Kitchenware Company, his wife, Sade, as well as Rush, their adopted son.

Vic and Sade began being broadcast on NBC’s airwaves on June 29, 1932. The show starred Art Van Harvey as “Vic,” Bernadine Flynn as “Sade,” and Billy Idelson as “Rush.” Art Van Harvey, originally an advertising salesman, began his acting career on stage and eventually turned to work in radio. Bernadine Flynn was a noted favorite on the radio. Like Harvey, Flynn started her career on stage and moved to radio later. Billy Idelson, on the other hand, was just beginning his career as he took on the role of “Rush” at 12 years old. The cast size was small for a reason. Rather than having many voices, Vic and Sade used the three cast members’ skills to narrate the experiences of the entire town in the “little house halfway up in the next block.” As a result, only three voices were heard throughout the entire show. That is, until Uncle Fletcher, played by Clarence Hartzell, joined the program in 1940.

The cast of Vic and Sade was often credited for the success of the show as they seemed to naturally fall into their roles. Paul reinforced this idea, stating, “I don’t believe the show would have succeeded if I hadn’t been lucky in the casting.” While the casting was a large part of the show’s ascension to popularity, the quality of the scripts were also vital.

Additionally, the fact that Paul wrote “human, amusing scripts, built from independent episodes that never ran more than three days,” also lent to the success of the show as well. Paul stated that it would have driven him mad if he had to keep the same episode “dragging on through more than three scripts.” It took Paul between two to four hours to think up a 15-minute show. One newspaper article stated that Paul didn’t “eat his cereal until ‘Vic and Sade’ are fully dressed for the next day,” though later articles about Paul noted he started his writing after breakfast. In a 1940 interview, Paul noted that each script was as hard to write as the first one. He noted that “when the scripts become easy then I’ll know I’m no longer any good to Vic and Sade.”

When Paul first started working on the Vic and Sade scripts, he was a bachelor. However, on July 29, 1933, Paul married Marry Francis Murray in Chicago. Mary was born on August 16, 1909 to Kay and Caroline (Crewes) Murray. Originally from Chicago, Mary attended IWU and graduated in 1931. She was an active member of the IWU community, including playing intramurals, being a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, and editor and chief of The Wesleyana, the IWU yearbook, in 1929. Like Paul, she was a member of the English Coffee Club. Mary was a gifted student, having made the Scholarship Honor Roll for having a B+ average in 1931. Her success at IWU made her incredibly popular, as she was voted the most popular girl at IWU during her time there.

While Mary and Paul’s time at IWU overlapped, it was noted that they did not have a romantic relationship while attending college. After, Mary graduated from IWU in 1931 she moved back to Chicago to live with her parents, the same city Rhymer had been living in for three years. By 1933, when Mary was 24 and Paul was 28, the young couple was married at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal church in Chicago.

Following their marriage, they made their home at the Park Lane, Pratt Boulevard in Chicago. The couple spent most of their lives in the city, eventually moving to 1366 Dearborn Street in 1940. Although Paul lived in the city for the rest of his life, he regularly saw his mother, either by making trips to Bloomington or her traveling to Chicago to see him.

Despite Paul living in Chicago, Vic and Sade was firmly rooted in Bloomington. Although the show was set in an unnamed, small-town, residents of Bloomington, Illinois began to “...see a remarkable resemblance between the names of streets, telephone exchanges and names...in the programs.” So much so, residents of Bloomington began to send in fan mail noting such connections.

Vic and Sade’s ties to Bloomington was no secret, as Paul Rhymer would note that he used Bloomington as the basis of the show’s plots because he knew the town. Vic and Sade’s connection to Bloomington was clearly articulated by Paul in a list of character descriptions he provided for the Madison State Journal in 1942. For instance, Paul mentioned that Uncle Fletcher had recently moved to Bloomington—a fact that coincided with his physical emergence in the Gook house. With that, one could surmise that the Gook Family lived in Bloomington as well. Not only was Bloomington represented in the Vic and Sade scripts, but Rush was apparently "Paul Rhymer reincarnated.” Despite the constant connections to Bloomington or himself, Paul managed to avoid any direct comparisons between Vic and Sade characters and Bloomington residents as he used creative names such as, “Reverend Kindneyslide,” “Mr. Gumpox,” and “Ike Kneesuffer,” to name a few examples.

After beginning on the network as an early morning show, Vic and Sade “clicked immediately” with listeners and fan mail began pouring in. The mail came in much larger amounts than other long-time NBC programs, proving that Vic and Sade was an early morning favorite. As a result, the show gained an evening spot by January 24, 1933. The show was then presented at 9:15 PM over the NBC-WJZ Network Monday through Friday. In addition to the show being promoted, so was Paul when he was transferred from the continuity department to the NBC Artist Bureau as the show increased in popularity. Vic and Sade’s promotion to a night spot made the show even more popular as more listeners were able to tune in. By May of 1933, Vic and Sade became consistently available to Western listeners along the Pacific Coast every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 8:00-8:15 PM. With that, NBC began to broadcast the 15-minute program six days a week by June of 1933. The Evening Star reported that the growing popularity of the show was not attributed to exciting and fantastical characters, but rather “...because they are so human and natural.”

Vic and Sade’s tendency to detail the everyday lives of ordinary people did not prevent it from dealing in extravagance occasionally. For instance, in July of 1934, just a few weeks after celebrating the show’s two-year anniversary, Vic and Sade was recorded on the grounds of  “A Century of Progress” at the Chicago’s World’s Fair. In doing so, the script incorporated the sound effects of a giant lagoon fountain, which had to be specially turned on for the recording, overall using a total of 1,700,000 gallons of water during a 25-minute period. However, despite Vic and Sade’s popularity, as demonstrated by its World’s Fair broadcast, the program spent its first two years without sponsorship.

When the show went on the air, success seemed near and executives at NBC felt confident that the show would soon receive a sponsor. Despite the show receiving acclaim from listeners, it could not find a sponsor until November of 1934, when Vic and Sade was able to retain the same sponsor as The Gibson Family and Song of the City – Proctor and Gamble. Once Vic and Sade acquired a sponsor, the program was able to increase its airtime and host public events. For instance, to celebrate the show’s fourth anniversary, the program held a birthday party in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart with a giant birthday cake topped with 4 candles of increasing size, which were meant to symbolize “the program’s growth in scope and popularity during its career on air.” This growth, combined with the financial security that a sponsor provided, encouraged Paul to leave NBC and start script writing as a free-lance writer in 1934.

More listeners and a sponsor allowed Vic and Sade to add even more broadcasts throughout the week. For example, by September 1936, Vic and Sade was heard twice each weekday, Monday through Friday. This would only increase by March of 1937, wherein the sponsor of Vic and Sade added two Wednesday night broadcasts, airing at 6:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., on top of the two daytime episodes. All in all, Vic and Sade was aired 12 times per week! The continuous broadcasts made the cast of Vic and Sade incredibly busy. Billy Idelson (Rush) was attending high school at the time, which made his Wednesdays “dizzying,” and Art Van Harvey lived about an hour away from the radio studio, requiring him to spend the entire day on set. The same was true for Bernadine Flynn; however, thankfully she lived closer to the studios than Harvey. All this hard work would pay off by November 1937 during the Radio Ball - an award ceremony during which awards for the best “Chicago Radio Performances” were given. At the Radio Ball, Art Van Harvey received an honorable mention as the “Best Sustained Performance for an actor.” Bernadine Flynn also received an honorable mention as the “Best Sustained Performance for an actress.” Paul Rhymer also took home an award for the “Best Written Program” for 1937.

That same year, Paul also became a father. On September 20, 1937, Mary gave birth to Paul Parke Rhymer. “Parke,” as he was called, was born at Chicago’s Passavant Hospital and weighed 6 pounds 5 ounces. Parke was born just a few weeks after Bernadine Flynn had her first child, who was also a boy. In a press release about the birth of his son, Paul remarked “Bernadine will be back sometime next week, and believe me, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief—having one baby at a time is enough.”

Vic and Sade’s increasing success drew viewers towards Paul Rhymer. As a result, the media began to show interest in Paul’s personal life and how it influenced his writing for Vic and Sade. At this time, media attention for radio script writers was few and far between. Larry Wolters of the Chicago Tribune drew a comparison between the credit composers and Hollywood film writers receive to that of radio writers. Wolters’ wrote:

“But who recognizes the names of Bill Morrow and Ed Beloi, Carroll Carroll, Don Quinn, Paul Rhymer, Arch Oboler or the many others who keep punching the typewriters while the stars take the bows and wallow in the fan mail?...in radio writers are the forgotten men. Pondering this matter the other day it seemed like a good idea to track down one of these lads and find out what they are like...”

Paul’s writing style was analyzed by the media in an effort to know “The Man Behind Vic and Sade.” For instance, it was noted that Paul wrote Vic and Sade with “typewriters on the table in [the] bedroom; usually half dressed, with [a] bottle of milk and plenty of cigarettes on hand” (which is a very different style than earlier in his career). He was known to never have to revise his scripts on account of having the entire plot for the show made up in his mind before he even began writing. Paul’s “mathematical precision” in writing created a cycle of hilarious scripts mixed in with quieter, more ironic, ones. Paul was a dedicated writer, according to his wife, Mary. She explained that he would wake up early and write for hours, a burdensome task, until the script was fully complete. He would seldom stop until the final page had been written. After he turned in the script, he would make himself available to friends and family, as long as they did not “talk shop” with him. For Paul, the workday ended when the script was turned in – until the next morning where he would once again write to meet the deadline. A process he admitted to Mary, was exhausting, as he commented that he had written more than Charles Dickens. 

Not only was Paul’s writing process explored by his fans, so was his life story. The Pantagraph published reports explaining Paul’s life in Bloomington as a young adult. Other newspapers, such as The Times in Streator, Illinois, reproduced the story to share news on Rhymer. Whether his past job as a taxicab driver or his bad piano playing were discussed – it was commented on in the paper. Paul’s popularity must have been difficult for him as he was known to be a private man, who “liked to keep his personal and professional lives on clearly separated bases.” In the book, The Small House Half-Way Up In The Next Block (written by Paul and edited by his wife Mary), Mary commented that Paul was so shy that “he seemed diffident even in accepting compliments which came to him from listeners – although he took the greatest pleasure in hearing and reading good reviews of Vic and Sade.” Moreover, Paul’s work spoke more for himself than he did. As a result, Paul became quite a celebrity.

Never was Paul’s celebrity status more apparent than in his childhood hometown of Bloomington. So much so, that The Young Men’s Club sought to bring Paul Rhymer back to Bloomington to celebrate his work on Vic and Sade. The Pantagraph announced that Paul would be the guest of honor at the testimonial luncheon hosted by the Young Men’s Club on April 29, 1938. The entire staff of Vic and Sade accompanied Paul to Bloomington. It seemed fitting to honor Paul Rhymer, as well as Vic and Sade, as his show had given “favorable publicity” to Bloomington. Paul was honored as “The Man Who Put Bloomington on the Air.” Those who attended the event included the mayor of Bloomington, Mark Hayes; leaders of the Young Men’s Club (who presented Paul with an honorary plaque); members of  the IWU chapter of Sigma Chi; as well as the Governor of Illinois, Henry Horner.

In addition to community leaders, seats were reserved for those involved in Paul’s career as a writer, which included his mother, Mabel Rhymer, and his wife, Mary Frances Rhymer, both of whom received bouquets. Also in attendance were Paul’s former bosses who fired him from jobs at a filling station and The Pantagraph, Jerry Sampson and Russell Miller respectively. The banquet drew a large fan base, with 500 tickets sold for $1.25 (or $24.00 in 2023) ten days before the event. The arrangements committee anticipated a crowd of 1,100 people in attendance.

The so-called “Paul Rhymer Day” had a crowd of  over 1,000 people in attendance. Hosted at the Bloomington Consistory (the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts today), located at 600 North East Street, at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 29 – the event was the largest to occur in the Bloomington Consistory since it’s construction. That evening, Paul was escorted to the Consistory by a group of friends and welcomed to the building by the Bloomington High School Band. During the event, guests dined on Swiss steak, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes with gravy, a relish tray, Parker House rolls, coffee, ice cream, and angel food cake as the Bob Burnsmeier Orchestra played dinner music. Emil Wichmann , the president of the Young Men’s Club, along with John W. Rogers, chairman of the arrangements committee, gave the welcome address. Reverend Ralph G. Carson served as the Master of Ceremonies, while Mayor Mark B. Hayes facilitated presentations. Richard M. O’Connell, the Bloomington city attorney, presented the ceremonial plaques to Vic, Sade, Rush, and Bob Brown, as well as to Paul Rhymer. Reverend William Cutlip, a former IWU classmate and Sigma Chi brother, presented “Brother Rhymer” a plaque on behalf of the alumni chapter of their fraternity. Upon receiving these awards, Paul received a standing ovation. Afterwards, he said, “I should make a speech. How should I do it? All I can say is, Thanks!” Sigma Chi Fraternity then performed a skit they had written in honor of Paul, entitled “Brother Paul M. Rhymer.” Next, Paul showed his work to the guests by having the entire cast of Vic and Sade perform a skit he had especially written for the event, titled “Bloomington People and Bloomington.” The performance was deemed the highlight of the evening. Paul was also presented a “key to the city” by Mayor Hayes. One newspaper reported that it was a “small key because Bloomington’s a small city!”

Messages of congratulations via telegrams poured in from all parts of the country. Those, along with several poems written for the occasion, were read throughout the evening by Reverend Ralph G. Carson, toastmaster of the event. One such telegram sent by Charlie McCarthy (the famous dummy partner of famed ventriloquist of Edgar Bergen) read:

“It’s with elan and elation

We join Rhymer’s celebration –

And we send him invitation

To come see our habitation,

If they ever, silly boys,

Run him out of Illinois.”

A poem written by Edgar. A Guest, British-born American poet, was read as well:

“You couldn’t crowd into a hall,

The friends who want to cheer for Paul.

No building human hands have made,

Could hold the friends of Vic and Sade.

 

But here’s a thought for all he’s done,

For radio and for Bloomington.

May life reward him with its best,

His fan forever, Eddie Guest.”

If anything can be gathered from “Paul Rhymer Day,” it is that Paul’s work on Vic and Sade meant a great deal to those who lived in Bloomington.

Vic and Sade continued to grow in popularity over the years. As a result, the show, noted as the “Most Popular Air Family,” was broadcast over additional radio networks such as WHP and a nationwide Columbia network by May of 1938. The following year, Republic Pictures expressed interest in filming Vic and Sade; however, Vic and Sade did not grace television until July 1948 – nearly 10 years later. In the meantime, Vic and Sade continued on the radio.

During that time, Vic and Sade continued to succeed and adapt. An example of the show’s growth happened in August 1940 when the show went from a three-person cast to a four person cast, adding Uncle Fletcher. Although Uncle Fletcher had been mentioned on the show numerous times, he never appeared in the program before 1940., He would remain a staple for the rest of the show’s career. The addition to the cast proved a worthwhile change, as Vic and Sade was named the best daytime serial in a Motion Picture Daily’s survey in 1940. Additionally, by 1942, Rhymer continued to win awards for his script writing from Radio-Movie Guide and Motion Picture Daily.

By 1943, Vic and Sade had been named the oldest continuous daytime show on the radio networks after 11 years on air. For the remaining time of Vic and Sade’s initial run on radio, Paul continued to push the boundaries on how radio shows were written and performed. For example, in one 1943 script Paul had only Sade speak in a 15-minute monologue. When asked his reasoning, Paul stated that it was an experiment he had “wanted to make for a long time, and an accomplished actress like Miss Flynn can make drama out of such unromantic chores as washing dishes or running the carpet sweeper over the living room rug.”

Paul had to make less than ideal changes to the show as well. This was the case when Billy Idelson, the actor who played “Rush,” left Vic and Sade to join the Navy in 1943. Paul immediately selected 13-year-old Evanston, Illinois native, David Whitehouse, to replace Idelson. Paul’s choice proved worthwhile the following month, as he won the trophy for the best daytime radio program for the third year in a row. However, by September 1944 Vic and Sade left the air ways and signed off for the first time in 12 years. At the time the show had about 7,000,000 listeners and was appreciated for its being “slanted with comedy rather than the trials and tribulations of family life.”

Vic and Sade took about a year and half long break before it would be back on the radio over the Mutual Broadcasting Network in June 1946. Paul Rhymer stayed on as script writer for the program; however, the length of the show was doubled to 30 minutes as opposed to 15. The rest of the original cast, including Billy Idelson, joined Paul in Vic and Sade’s new start in radio. However, it seemed that the return of Vic and Sade to radio was short lived, as the radio show was exchanged for a spot in television by 1949.

Before Vic and Sade made its television debut, Paul’s mother, Mabel Rhymer, passed away. Following a short illness on account of a stroke she had a few days prior, Mabel passed away at the age of 66 on March 24, 1949. Following a short memorial service, she was buried at Park Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.

In July of 1949, a few months following his mother’s death, Vic and Sade made their television debut. Although Rhymer continued to write the scripts, Bernadine Flynn (Sade) was the only original cast member to join him on the television of the show. The rest of the cast was replaced with Frank Dane as “Vic” and Dick Conan as “Rush.” Despite Paul Rhymer’s quality script writing, the new cast members were not well received, with one newspaper columnist stating that they were not “quite as funny on TV as they were in their great days on the radio.” The article went on further, stating:

“Frank Dane, visually Vic, is reasonably satisfying but not much more than that. Dick Conan, who plays Rush, is a bit too bumptious for my taste...I’m a little confused about his age too. As I recall, the radio Rush was drafted in the last war. This one doesn’t look old enough to get out of the boy scouts.”

That being said, the show itself was viewed positively, with the same newspaper reporting that “the old radio programs, converted to television, was as fresh as spring water, whereas the new TV shows are tired before they’re born.” Despite somewhat positive reviews, the TV debut of Vic and Sade did not result in a long-term television series, as the show concluded after three weeks’ worth of episodes.

As Vic and Sade took a break from TV in 1950, Paul Rhymer worked on other script writing jobs. Paul wrote a script for a new TV show that, like Vic and Sade, described the happenings of a family. However, this family was noted as not being the same as Vic and Sade because they lived further down the block and were considered more folksy. Bernadine Flynn accompanied Paul on this job, and she took the role of one of the female leads. Additionally, Paul also wrote sketches for The Public Life of Cliff Norton, which described the “daily happenings that we all experience” in 5-minute monologues from 1950 to 1952.

Vic and Sade was absent from TV for about 5 years. But in September 1955, the Chicago Tribune reported that a pilot episode had been looked on with favor by NBC executives. Paul Rhymer wrote the script for the TV series, while Bernadine Flynn retained her role as “Sade.” Art Van Harvey had health issues at the time, so “Vic” was played by Bill Green in the pilot episode. Billy Idelson did not return to the role of “Rush,” so Eddie Gillian replaced him in that role. Despite the positive response from NBC, the pilot was not picked up.

Two years later, however, Paul Rhymer was back at work writing scripts for another TV version of Vic and Sade. This time, the show would star both Bernadine Flynn and Art Van Harvey in their respective roles. The show appeared in color on WNBQ from 10:30-10:45 every Thursday night. With that, rather than have the show follow a “movie type” format, the show was structured to have the viewers believe that they were watching a radio broadcast to appeal to the show’s original fans. Paul hoped that if the show appealed to its viewers, it would become an NBC network show. Unfortunately, that would not be in the cards for Vic and Sade.

Once Vic and Sade concluded, Paul continued to work in Chicago as a freelance writer and wrote book reviews for various Chicago newspapers. Described as a private man by his wife, Mary, Paul’s personal life left the newspapers once Vic and Sade left the airwaves. Outside of his career, Paul enjoyed getting away from the city and visiting a farm the family had purchased in 1940. The farm was north of Dekalb Illinois, in Mayfield Township. Paul found driving his car relaxing, so the far drive was enjoyable for him. Paul took numerous trips visiting friends as well, traveling to Canada for a fishing trip and picnicking in Fox River Grove as well.

Paul had a very close relationship with his friends, as he was most himself when he was with them. Described as an “outrageous clown competing for center stage,” Paul demonstrated his comedy genius when amongst his friends. So much so, in one instance Paul created fake instructions for the family maid in which he requested that she:

“1. Please tear out partition between kitchen and dining room.

2. Wash my car.

3. Paper the back bathroom.

4. Clean and press the living room rug.”

That said, outside of the memories and newspaper articles surrounding Paul, his personality remains a bit of a mystery. However, as The Los Angeles Times reported, “I don’t suppose that in fact we really need to ask what he was like. Behind the privacy was a humanist and a humorist with a keen view of the human comedy which he made enduringly public.”

Throughout his life, Paul also maintained his connection to Bloomington. One way he did was through his support of the Bloomington High School Short Story Club. He donated the “Paul Rhymer Medal,” which was awarded to the student who wrote the year’s best short story. In addition to this, Paul also maintained relationships with his Sigma Chi fraternity brothers by attending sporting events together and IWU’s homecoming. Although, his connection with Sigma Chi was expressed through close personal connections, Paul continued to be remembered by his fraternity as demonstrated by Sigma Chi’s involvement on “Paul Rhymer Day.”

Paul Rhymer passed away on October 26, 1964, at the age of 59 in Passavant Hospital in Chicago. Paul had been in poor health for a few years prior to his death after suffering multiple heart attacks. On the evening of October 26, 1964, he suffered a severe stroke and died shortly thereafter. Paul’s funeral took place at Graceland Cemetery Chapel in Chicago. Paul was laid to rest at Lexington Cemetery, in Lexington, Illinois where he would later be joined by his wife, Mary.

After Paul’s death, fans of the late writer remembered Paul by honoring his work on Vic and Sade. One newspaper wrote: 

“Mr. Rhymer’s prose was measured and weighed. His people spoke in small-town accents, but their comments and self-revelations also had a higher intellectual level for the preceptive listener. He wrote with difficulty, because any writing is difficult, humor most of all.”

To honor Paul’s writing and ensure its preservation, Mary, along with their son Parke, donated Paul’s scripts and other ephemera to the Mass Communications History Center of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in July 1969. Included in this large collection (which encompasses 16.8 cubic feet) are scripts from The Keystone Chronicle, The Public Life of Cliff Norton, and finally, Vic and Sade. However, Mary would not part with Paul’s typewriter – and it remained with her for the rest of her life. Mary and Parke most likely felt the Mass Communications History Center was an appropriate repository for Paul’s papers because of its mission “to make available to serious scholars significant historical records from all phases of mass media: radio, television, the press, advertising, public relations, theater, and cinema.”

Mary continued to honor Paul and his work long after his death. She published two compilation books of Paul’s Vic and Sade scripts. The first book came in 1972. Mary edited the book titled, The Small House Half-Way Up In the Next Block. The book contained an introduction written by Mary, in which she explains Paul’s life and legacy, as well as thirty of Paul’s Vic and Sade scripts.

In 1976, Mary published a second collection of Paul scripts, this time including thirty of Paul’s “most notable” scripts from 1932 through 1946, in the book, Vic and Sade: The Best Radio Plays of Paul Rhymer. In addition to publishing Paul’s scripts, Mary also commemorated her late husband by donating the family’s 138-acre farm in northern Illinois to IWU as a deferred gift in 1984. The annual income from the fund was used to support general education at IWU. Even in death, Paul supported the Bloomington and IWU communities.

Mary passed away in Chicago on May 29, 1991, at the age of 81. At the time of her death, she had been living in the Admiral, a retirement home in Chicago. She was buried in Lexington Cemetery, next to Paul.

Surviving Mary was the couple’s son, Parke. After graduating from Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, Parke attended Hamilton College and graduated with a degree in French. Following his graduation from college in 1959, Parke joined the Navy. He eventually left the Navy to become a corporate systems analyst, retiring in 1998. Parke passed away in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 2008 after battling cancer for several months. He was survived by his wife, Carole Taylor Rhymer.

Paul’s legacy in radio, and legacy of Vic and Sade, continues today. He is credited with changing the radio industry, as he developed a production style now called, “pure radio,” a style of radio where only one set and a few voices are used throughout a radio show – something Paul was an expert in as Vic and Sade had over 100 characters mentioned, with only four cast members. His work on Vic and Sade continues to be appreciated by modern audiences to this day. In 2022, IWU students and faculty performed two episodes of Vic and Sade, proving that the legacy of Paul Rhymer continues. Despite the fame and moving as a young man, he never lost his connection to and appreciation of Bloomington.

How to cite this page
MLA:
Fritz, Genevieve. “Rhymer, Paul.” McLean County Museum of History, 2023, mchistory.org/research/biographies/rhymer-paul. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.
APA:
Fritz, G. (2023). Rhymer, Paul. McLean County Museum of History, https://mchistory.org/research/biographies/rhymer-paul
Chicago:
Fritz, Genevieve. “Rhymer, Paul.” McLean County Museum of History. 2023. Retrieved from https://mchistory.org/research/biographies/rhymer-paul