Home ANS Feature Remembering the Country Church of Hollywood, where fictional radio drama blended with real life

Remembering the Country Church of Hollywood, where fictional radio drama blended with real life

by Mark Ellis

By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Country church of HollywoodHOLLYWOOD, CA (ANS — September 30, 2016) — It was compared to a “Garden of Gethsemane,” improbably set in the midst of Hollywood near the Capitol Records building. Built in 1934 on the venerable A.G. Bartlett estate known for its gardens, it had 150 mature trees surrounding its gleaming white facade. The clapboard sides resembled a Southern mountain church, with a steeple that soared high above the front entrance.

The man who built the church, Dr. William Hogg, had a nervous breakdown after World War I, but soon followed a calling from God as a Tennessee circuit preacher with a pioneering vision for Christian radio ministry. Indeed, the leafy site he chose on Argyle Avenue became the first radio church built on the West Coast, and the second or third in the nation.

Country church interiorIt’s knotty pine interior and 100-year old oak pews were graced by speakers such as Billy Graham, Roy and Dale Evans, and Bill Bright. Dr. Hogg created a radio show, “The Country Church of Hollywood,” that was heard coast to coast on CBS radio from 1934 until 1966.

Dr. Hogg created a radio drama set in the mythical rural community of “Goose Creek.” Dr. Hogg and his wife played the roles of a country pastor and his wife, Parson Josiah and Sister Sarah. “Meetin’ Time” was highlighted with hymns followed by a message from the parson.

Rudy AttwoodInstead of conventional preaching, he followed a style somewhat similar to Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.” At fictional Goose Creek, the show included folksy humor, hymns, and stories. It quickly gained a sizeable following.

Others on the program included Rudy Atwood at the piano and the Goose Creek Quartet, whose members included Thurl Ravenscroft (later the voice of Tony the Tiger), Bill Days, John Knox, Art Jaissle, Bill MacDougall, Herman Hosier, Al Harlan, Jack Coleman, Dick Brown, John Lundberg and Ken Brown.

Fire destroyed Hollywood churchBettie Brown grew up across the street from the church property before the church was constructed. “They put up a big tent and we were curious and went over there,” she says, recalling events in 1933.

“People used to come all day and they could buy sandwiches and pie and cold drinks, stay all day and enjoy the grounds and wait for the evening service. In the tent they had a contest on who could say the books of the Bible in one breath. If you could say it you got a Bible. Those were special times,” she says.

Photo captions: 1) Country Church of Hollywood from the air. 2) Church interior. 3) Rudy Atwood plays with the Goose Creek Quartet. 4) Fire destroyed the church in 2007. 5) Mark Ellis.

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Mark EllisAbout the writer: Mark Ellis is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and also founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world. He is also co-host for “Windows of the World” with ANS founder, Dan Wooding, which is aired weekly on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv).

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