Travel to Treasured Lands
Hancock Church Silver in “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty”

Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society

Radio_Orphan_Annie_2_web Pictured here are the "New 1937 Secret Wig-Wag Signs" from the Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society booklet issued in 1937. Pictured below is the 1935 decoder pin that came as a premium from Ovaltine, Radio Orphan Annie's commercial sponsor. Children who had the decoder pin were encouraged to listen to the radio show, during which they'd receive an encoded message that could only be decoded if one was in possession of that year's decoder pin. The pin changed from year to year, insuring that only current members could decode the secret messages. (And, no doubt, insuring that children would pester their parents to buy Ovaltine.)

2006_013_5DS_webFreemasonry influenced a number of the fraternal groups that were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and indeed many fraternal groups were founded by Masons. The Radio Orphan Annie Secret Society shows the influence that such groups had on popular culture as well. The"Wig-Wag" signs pictured above, for example, show how far those who created the Radio Orphan Annie Secret Society went in drawing from actual fraternal groups. Historically, individual Masons have held different opinions on precisely what they feel they can divulge to non-members. Despite this, there has always been consensus among Masons that they are obliged not to reveal the passwords, signs, and grips (i.e. handshakes) that are used to by Masons to identify each other. A number of fraternal organizations were patterned after Freemasonry - many have three initiation degree rituals and most have passwords, signs, and grips that a member promises not to divulge. The "Wig-Wag" signs, while intended for a children's group that might only be generously labeled as a "secret society," are similar to the type of signs that a member of a fraternal group will learn upon initiation and promise not to divulge to non-members.

Radio_Orphan_Annie_1_web So, perhaps it's not terribly surprising to find that Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society had its own set of passwords and signs. (Interestingly, and possibly because this was aimed at children, who are not, typically handshakers, there are no grips.) Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society, like some other fraternal groups (the ones for grown-ups), made sure that the passwords changed from year to year, insuring that only active members had the current password that would identify them to other members and/or allow them to gain access to the group's meeting.

The 1937 booklet for Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society was sent to children who joined the club that year. Little Orphan Annie started life, of course, as a comic strip, first published in 1924. Starting in 1930, a radio show began airing. The Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society radio show started in 1934. If you're not old enough to have joined the Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society, you might be familiar with it from a funny scene from the 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, in which the main character, Ralphie, receives his secret decoder from the Radio Orphan Annie Secret Society.

Because our rituals policy permits us to share once-secretive information for fraternal organizations that have gone out of existence, we can share with you the passwords and signs for the Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society from 1937. But remember, these must be used with care, as Annie herself reminds you in the booklet that accompanies this information:

"Sometimes outsiders may pretend that they are members of Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society when they're really not members at all. So whenever you want to find out for sure if anyone is a 1937 member - ask him to give the password to prove it.

You say to him: "Give me the 1937 secret password."
He should answer: "SIM-COR." (This new password is made up of the first syllables of the two words, "Simmons Corners" - the town were Annie lives with her foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Silo.)"

The signs, of course, are pictured at the top of this post.

Top and bottom:
Radio Orphan Annie's Secret Society, 1937.
Call number: PN 6728 .L55 R3 1937
Gift of Robert A. Frank

Center: Radio Orphan Annie Decoder, 1935, National Heritage Museum Collection, Gift of Robert A. Frank, 2006.013.5



It would appear that there might have been, but we only have this single issue, so we do not have any more info on the secret passwords for other years.




I see the ROA password for 1937 is "SIM-COR"

Are there passwords for the other years?


That's great! More proof that sometimes the most interesting things can be found - literally - right in your backyard.

Thanks for the comment.



I just found a decoder pin in my yard! It has the date 1935 and found this site by looking up the words on it - it looks exactly like the one in this pic! Super excited!!!!


Hi Joe.

That's great - thanks for writing.


Joe Smith

I am getting a repro. 1940 ROA speedomatic Decoder pin from the A Christmas Story house website it is just like the original.


Hi Pearl.

Thanks for the question. I’d suggest taking a look at a book like Tomart's Price Guide to Radio Premium and Cereal Box Collectibles, or something similar, which should help you match your object with the many different “premiums” that were offered. Good luck!



I found a pin with Annie's head on it. What year could it be?


Hi Connie.

Thanks for writing - yes, you can usually find many of these for sale on sites like eBay. Our museum received its pin as a gift in 2006.



I have one of the pins. Are they sold on the internet?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)