Little Orphan Annie

“Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine.”

After drinking gallons of Ovaltine Ralphie finally receives his long-awaited Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin in the mail. After decoding his first message he finds out it’s only a crummy commercial telling him to “Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine.”

Not to ruin the hilarity of the scene for everyone but it wasn’t entirely accurate. Contrary to popular myth, the secret messages at the end of the Orphan Annie radio shows did not promote Ovaltine. Oh, the rest of the show certainly did. There was an Ovaltine commercial before the start of the program, and another one at the end. The virtues of Ovaltine were extolled by announcer Pierre Andre twice in each episode. But Annie’s secret messages, which appeared several times each week, were brief previews of what would happen in tomorrow’s exciting adventure. Orphan Annie was a fifteen minute juvenile serial show based on the comic strip by Harold Gray. Debuting in 1931, it was the first late-afternoon children’s serial.

At times, Pierre Andre would ramble on for up to three minutes about Ovaltine, and the latest gimmick on how to get premiums, Ovaltine-related merchandise. The episode included here is an example of how the show was used to push these and other premiums.

The show may best be remembered for its catchy opening song:
Who’s that little chatter box?
The one with pretty auburn locks?
Whom do you see?
It’s Little Orphan Annie!
She and Sandy make a pair
They never seem to have a care!
Cute little she,
It’s Little Orphan Annie
Bright eyes, cheeks a rosy glow,
There’s a store of healthiness handy.
Mite-size, always on the go,
If you want to know–“Arf,” it’s Sandy!
Always wears a sunny smile,
Now, wouldn’t it be worth the while,
If you could be
Like Little Orphan Annie

1935 pin was the first Orphan Annie decoder was introduced by Ovaltine. It was a small round pin with the year and “Radio Orphan Annie’s SS” and two crossed skeleton keys. The “SS” stood for “Secret Society.”

1936 pin was badge shaped with a secret compartment on the back. The two keys still crossed in the middle and “Radio Orphan Annie SS” was shortened to the initials “ROA SS.”

1937 was a sunburst design with the now-standard year, two keys, and “ROA SS” on it.

1938 model was known as the “Telematic” decoder pin. It featured a larger circular pin with a large star on it. The two keys, year and initials “ROA SS” remained

1939 model was known as the Mysto-Matic decoder pin. It was a plain circular decoder pin with a very large “ROA” in the center. The “SS” was removed, but “Secret Code” added. The two skeleton keys remained.

1940 model was the model feature in “A Christmas Story” This decoder had an eagle, shield and American flag on the front, with 1940, the skeleton keys and “ROA” on the back. Each was individualized with a unique serial number stamped on the back. The numbers and letters appeared on the edge of the wheel, rather than on the front or back.