Bettie McCall Lumley, radio personality

September 23, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Bettie McCall Roberts Lumley, who was a host for two popular radio shows during the golden era of Baltimore broadcasting, died Monday in her sleep at the Meridian Nursing Center-Long Green. She was 92.

Broadcasting in 1934 from the studios of WBAL, then located in the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. building on Lexington Street, she originated the role of Mary Landis in a cooking show of the same name. Mary Landis was derived from Maryland. She also sold advertising for the show, for which she was paid $130 a month.

Gene D. Roberts, a son, said, "It was a show that offered household hints like how to get spots out of a rug and recipes. She used to try out some of her radio recipes on us at home before she used them on the show."

Kitty Dierken, 84, who appeared on stage and radio and became the second Mary Landis, said, "She was a very nice person and we got along. She wasn't theatrical in any way -- just a real fine person."

Mrs. Lumley left WBAL in 1938 for WCAO, where she was host of "Your Friendly Neighbor."

A promotional advertisement for the show said, "Bettie McCall, a graduate home economist, an experienced and resourceful homemaker, is the Dean of Women Radio Commentators in the Baltimore area, having written more than 3,500 sponsored radio programs. Her pleasing personality and genuine love of people projects itself over the radio, making her a real 'Friendly Neighbor' to thousands."

She not only planned the daily 15-minute show but also was the writer, producer, narrator and commentator.

"She was easy to listen to -- very natural -- and that's how she got her following in Baltimore. If I heard her voice over the radio on a school day I knew I had overslept," said Mr. Roberts, a resident of Lutherville.

Mrs. Lumley also interviewed theatrical celebrities such as stripteaser Sally Rand, who performed at the Maryland Theater and whose signature act featured her dancing with two 7-foot ostrich fans. She even held a contest that promised a backstage meeting with Frank Sinatra, then a hit with the bobby-soxers.

She retired in 1954 and moved with her husband, J. Edward Lumley, to Gulfport, Fla., where they opened a gift and sundries shop.

She had married Mr. Lumley, a shipyard administrator for Bethlehem Steel Corp., in 1951. He died in 1986.

Mrs. Lumley was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to College Park when her father, an agronomist, accepted a teaching position at the University of Maryland. She earned a bachelor's degree from UM in 1924 and a master's degree from Columbia University in 1926.

In 1925, she married the artist Grant A. Roberts of New York City. After their divorce in 1929, she returned to Maryland and taught school in La Plata and Damascus before entering broadcasting.

She performed on the stage in Washington and with several area drama groups, including Baltimore's Vagabond Players.

She was active in Methodist church affairs in Gulfport and had been a member of the Women's Advertising Club of Baltimore and the Zonta Club.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Other survivors include another son, Grant M. Roberts of Williamsburg, Va.; a sister, Harriet Gormley Crowell of Glassboro, N.J.; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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