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Using the Modern Radio Adventures of Ellie Adder, PI
in History and Social Studies Activities

The Ellie Adder radio programs are first and foremost exciting detective stories. Each story is set in a location and time period that has interesting connections to significant historical or social events. We recommend the use of the Ellie Adder stories as preludes to more formal studies.

The list below is chronological and along with a summary of the story appears the historical and/or social cue for further inquiry. Each detective story is under 15-minutes long and leaves ample time in the usual 50-minute hour for students to seek out further information.

Each story has an associated PDF file with questions and links to start the students’ investigations. The PDF files can be given to the students or printed out.

The Case of the Silver Screen Horses. Ellie finds herself in San Antonio, Texas in 1932, where she is hired to catch real horse rustlers on a make-believe motion picture.

  • Early sound films and how actors adjusted to talking in films.
  • Treatment of horses in cowboy films.
  • Moviemaking in San Antonio.

The Case of the Hunter and the Hare. It is 1933 in the depth of the Depression and Ellie finds herself caught up in a child’s fairy tale come true.

  • How the Depression effected rural communities.
  • Relocation of orphans from urban centers on the East Coast to rural areas.
  • Celtic folk tales.

The Case of the Sign of the Chimes. This adventure involves secret documents and double agents high in the sky over San Francisco in 1939.

  • Early passenger air travel.
  • Development of radar.
  • Espionage.

The Case of Meteors & Movie Stars. This adventure has Ellie staying at a fabulous, desert hotel and involved with movie stars and meteors. It’s 1939 and mystery blows in with the desert wind.

  • Passenger rail service, the Harvey Hotels and women architects.
  • Rights of authors across media and licensing of copyright.
  • Meteor craters.

The Case of Cupid on the Half Shell. Unintentionally cast in the role of Cupid, Ellie finds herself playing match unmaker in this tale from Galveston, Texas in 1940.

  • Illegal gambling on Galveston Island.
  • The historic Galvez Hotel.
  • Interurban railroads.
  • John Sealy Hospital.

The Case of Spies by the Sea. In 1942, the US Government enlists Ellie’s help in catching spies who are broadcasting shipping information to German submarines in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on true events from World War Two.

  • Submarine warfare on the Gulf Coast.
  • Radio direction finding.
  • Espionage.

The Case of the Wild Ride. In 1949, Ellie buys a car and over the course of a day stops a runaway horse and saves the rider with a wild car chase across Texas.

  • Women’s rights to property.
  • Violence against women.
  • Women’s roles in aviation.

The Case of Aunt Alice. It is 1953 and Ellie receives a visit from her great aunt Alice. Together, they take on Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  • Anti-communist activities in the 1950’s.
  • The role of the Office of Strategic Services in World War Two.

The Case of the Journey Beyond Reason. In the year 1955, amid atomic bomb scares and alien visitations, Ellie travels into a case that’s almost “too hot to handle.”

  • Concerns for nuclear war and bomb shelters.
  • UFO’s and concerns over alien visitations.

The Case of the Secret Sauce. This adventure is about the theft of a priceless pirate’s treasure chest and is set, near the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, in 1963.

  • The Age of Aquarius and influences on society.
  • Fan fiction and questions of copyright.

Extra – All of the Ellie Adder, PI stories are presented as radio plays. This was a style of storytelling popular from the early 1920’s until the middle of the 1960’s. A study page for the history of radio is also included.

Lesson Format – Each lesson has three parts.

  • First, is a link to the particular Ellie Adder episode dealt with in the lesson.
  • Second, is a period of open discussion.
  • Third, are several questions.
  • Additionally, on the second page are links and some notes on the major themes mentioned in the episode. Sharing this page with students is optional.

After listening to the episode, I would let the students discuss their reactions to the story and then see what historical, social or political themes they saw there. Then, I’d let them research the questions. I would hold off on the page of links and notes and share that as needed. Finally, we would discuss their answers to the questions.

The Ellie Adder stories are set in time periods in America that are quite different from today’s world. We have attempted to avoid stereotypes and out-of-date attitudes but you will find some ethical concerns in the stories. These are fair game for discussion too.