Barbara Hale went from Perry Mason to promoting the first countertop microwave

When did you first use a microwave oven? If the answer was 1968, consider yourself one of the fortunate few. While the technology was not new — American inventor Percy Spencer came up with his "Radarange" in the mid-1940s — primitive microwaves were far too expensive and clunky for home use.

Appliance giant the Amana Corporation introduced a countertop microwave model in 1967. It was also called the Radarange. Finally, a nuclear family could nuke food in the comfort of the suburbs. Too bad they had to wait 16 years for the Hot Pocket to come along.

But here's the thing. While the Amana Radarange could cozily fit atop your Formica counter, the sucker was expensive. Consider that in 1970, Sears was selling a cheaper knock-off for $430. But could you really put a price on cooking a hot dog in minute? Yes, yes you sure could. With inflation, that works out to about $3,000 in modern money. Gulp!


So how was Amana to go about selling a kitchen appliance that cost as much as a used car? Easy. Amana hired one of the most beloved stars of television.

Barbara Hale has recently wrapped up her nine-year run on Perry Mason. She took home an Emmy Award for her role of Della Street on the pioneering mystery series. Hale was credited in all 271 episodes of the series. Perhaps that's why she took it relatively easy after Perry Mason ended in 1966. Hale popped up on an episode of Custer and Lassie, and reunited with Raymond Burr on Ironside, but her guest roles could be easily counted on a hand.

If you wanted to see Hale on TV at the dawn of the '70s, it was best to look in the commercials.

Hale turned up in several commercials for the Amana Radarange. "Hello, I'm Barbara Hale, and I've made the greatest cooking discovery since fire," she said in the ad.

"Set the timer. Push the start button. That's all," she explained. Remember, this was new to people. "Why you could have sizzling bacon with all the fat cooked out in minutes," she promised. And Hale was a face you could trust.

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UnicornPrincess 59 months ago
Perry Mason and commercials is not what I love Barbara Hale for... her most memorable role was the scientist in The Giant Spider Invasion!
EdCaf 59 months ago
The best part of this story was the link to the old Sears Wishbooks! I actually saw stuff in there my mom bought for me...the old NFL bedsheets...multiband radio!
SheriHeffner 59 months ago
When I was younger, they use to show those Radar Range commercials during CBS Thanksgiving Parades coverage. I bought my first microwave oven in 1985. It was a huge thing without a turntable and it claimed you could cook a cake and hamburgers and chicken and all kinds of things in it. But I never tried to cook raw meat in it. My sister almost broke it trying to cook a stuffed pepper in it with an aluminum tray. That microwave lasted twelve years. Then I bought one from Sears that lasted fifteen years. The one we have now has lasted eight.
AgingDisgracefully 59 months ago
I'm disappointed in this thread.
No one has suggested, "This is Gary Burghoff for the Radarange..."
MarchLeeWarn 59 months ago
I used one before that, although it was no meant for family use. My childhood friend's father owned an auction barn. He let his son (my friend) run the concession stand. It had a microwave cooker for the Landshire sandwiches we kept in a cooler. As pay, I got to eat a couple of sandwiches (I still have a guilty yen for those sandwiches.) and I got a couple of dollars for working on Saturdays.
Michael MarchLeeWarn 59 months ago
Yes, they were made for commercia use, and either too expensive for the home, or nobody saw a market for home use before that. Like a lit if things, early microwave ovens were built like tanks.

I remember hearing about the home Amana Radarranges on "Truth or Consequences", either they were prizes or "promotional considerations".

It took till 1967 for there to be home microwaves, but others soon followed. I can't remember what years, but Heathkit soon sold a kit most of the assembly was mechanical. And "International Crystal" that sold mostky electronic componentsbut some test equipment and CB sets sold microwave ovens too.

I guess in both cases they were a niche market, before lots of comoanues jumped in, so small companies could do okay for a while.

They were still expensive, and primitive, since the timers were mechanical turn the dial to the right time and it ticked down
GeoRubik 59 months ago
I still use mine every day. I've had it for 40 years.
stephaniestavropoulos 59 months ago
For those of you who are interested in trying old school microwave cooking, [or you, or someone you know/knew had the books and want to take a trip down memory lane;] check out the book that was written by Alan Brady's b-i-l, and Lumpy's father that came out 45 years ago, {1974,} last month. 9 years later, {1983,} he came out with a second volume on microwave cooking. I'm of course, referring to Richard Deacon.
I can remember seeing him on tv doing demonstrations.
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