History

The Odyssey radio drama series has helped kids learn & grow in their Christian faith over the course of the last five decades.  Read more below about how Adventures in Odyssey got started.    

In the Beginning...

It began as an experiment.  In 1986 Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family wanted to produce a high-quality drama series for the radio.  He hoped that it would appeal to Christians looking for alternatives to Saturday morning cartoons or simply families in search of wholesome entertainment.  Steve Harris and Phil Lollar, the show’s creators, brainstormed what the series could be.  They decided that it should be set in a small town (called Odyssey) somewhere in the Midwest and hearken to the golden age of radio without sounding dated.

Whit's-End-Outside_cropped

In 1987, a 13-week test series was aired on Focus on the Family broadcast.  It was called Family Portraits and chronicled the lives and times of Odyssey residents – including John Whittaker and a special “soda shop and discovery emporium” called Whit’s End.  

Audience response was so favorable that Focus went one step further and created the weekly radio program that would eventually be called Adventures in Odyssey. 

Timeline

  • 1985
  • 1990
  • 1995
  • 2000
  • 2005
  • 2010
  • 2015
  • 2020
1980s

December 17, 1983 – “Spare Tire” airs.  It is the first Focus on the Family radio drama.  

November 23, 1985 – “House Guest” airs.  (First Focus radio drama featuring Hal Smith.)

July 23, 1986 – “Gone Fishing” airs.  (Another foundational drama.)

January 5, 1987 – First Family Portraits drama (Whit’s Visitor”) airs on the Focus on the Family daily broadcast. 

August 10, 1987 – Radio drama “Tilly” airs; it was based on the book by the then unknown author Frank Peretti.  

November 21, 1987 – First Odyssey USA episode (“Whit’s Flop”) airs on 200 radio stations.  

April 23, 1988 – Name changes to Adventures in Odyssey.  First episode to air: “The Quality of Mercy.” 

May 1988 – First retail package (Odyssey USA) released.  

Barclay Family

June 18, 1988 – The Barclays first appear on Odyssey in “Family Vacation.”  

December 10, 1988 – In “Connie,” Connie becomes a Christian.  

March 18, 1989 – Whit unveils his greatest invention in “The Imagination Station.”

Chickfila Booklets

Summer 1989 – Chick-fil-A puts Adventures in Odyssey booklets in its kids’ meals.  

July 8, 1989 – Dr. Regis Blackgaard arrives in Odyssey. (“The Nemesis”)

1990s

March 3, 1990 – In “By Any Other Name,” Bernard first appears in Odyssey.  

August 5, 1991 – Adventures in Odyssey starts airing daily on stations around the country.  

September 1991 – First Adventures in Odyssey video released:  The Knight Travellers. 

Strange Journey Back

October 1991 – Focus on the Family moves from Pomona, California, to Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Summer 1992 – First novel released:  Strange Journey Back.

June 27, 1992 – Harlow Doyle first appears in Odyssey in “Harlow Doyle, Private Eye.” 

Katrina Meltsner

January 8, 1994 – Eugene meets his future wife, Katrina, in “Truth, Trivia, and ‘Trina.”

January 27, 1994 – Hal Smith passes away. 

September 3, 1994 – “Gone…” airs.  Whit leaves.  Jack Allen comes to town. 

Jason Whittaker

November 5, 1994 – Tom Riley elected mayor of Odyssey in “Tom for Mayor.”

December 3, 1994 – Jason Whittaker moves to Odyssey.  (“A Name, Not a Number”)

December 24, 1994 – “Unto Us a Child Is Born” airs.  Stewart Reed Barclay is born.  

September 2, 1995 – In “The Time Has Come, ” Eugene become a Christian. 

October 7, 1995 – “The Final Conflict” airs.  The album Darkness Before Dawn is finished.  Dr. Blackgaard dies.  

January 13, 1996 – “Pokenberry Falls, RFD” features the Barclays leaving for Pokenberry Falls.

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

May 18, 1996 – Paul Herlinger steps in as the voice of Whit in “The Search for Whit.”

Summer 1996 – First Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production released. (Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol)

November 2, 1996 – “Home, Sweet Home” airs.  Whit returns to Odyssey.

January 1997 – Adventures in Odyssey goes on vacation and takes a break from production.  Re-airs the best of Adventures in Odyssey.  

September 6, 1997 – Production resumes with “For Whom the Wedding Bells Toll.”  Jack Allen & Joanne Woodston marry.  Eugene & Katrina Shanks get engaged.   

November 1997 – The Complete Guide to Adventures in Odyssey released. 

Adventures in Odyssey The Complete Guide
Adventures in Odyssey 10th Anniversary

November 8, 1997 – Margaret Faye elected mayor of Odyssey. (“The One About Trust”)

November 29, 1997 – “New Year’s Eve Live!” is recorded in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to celebrate Adventures in Odyssey’s 10th anniversary. 

May 23, 1998 – In “The Graduate,” Connie finally graduates from high school. 

March 6, 1999 – Tom Riley opens the Timothy Center. (“Opening Day”)

October 1999 – First Passages book – Darien’s Rise – is released. 

December 18, 1999 – “A Look Back celebrates a millennium of Adventures in Odyssey episodes.

Darien's Rise Book
2000s
Whit's End House

February 7, 2000 – “Mandy’s Debut” recorded live at National Religious Broadcasters’ convention in Anaheim, California. 

April 1, 2000 – Official website launched at WhitsEnd.org

December 2, 2000 – “Opportunity Knocks” airs.  The Novacom saga series of action – adventure shows begins.  

May 26, 2001 – Wooton Bassett’s first appearance at Whit’s End.  

January 5, 2002 – Whit’s End Connellsville opens in “Grand Opening.”

Wooton
Novacom Saga

January 26, 2002 – Eugene & Katrina finally tie the knot & promptly leave the show for several years. (“Plan B: Missing in Action:)

July 6, 2002 – “Exit” airs.  The Novacom saga ends.  

July 13, 2002 – “500” airs, a show celebrating 500 Odyssey episodes.  

July 25 – 27, 2002 – “Live at the 25” recorded at 25th anniversary of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

January 25, 2003 – The Washington family first appears in “The Toy Man.”

November 22, 2003 – Connie almost gets married. (“Something Blue”)

Washington Family
Eugene

December 2003 – Gold Audio Series begins. 

Fall 2004 – Adventures in Odyssey video games released.  (“The Treasure of the Incas” and “The Sword of the Spirit”)

April 2, 2005 – “A Most Intriguing Question” airs. Eugene returns to Odyssey with much fanfare.  

October 22, 2005 – Eugene learns that his long-lost father, Leonard, is alive. (“Prisoners of Fear”)

December 3, 2005 – Connie starts writing a book.  (“Tales of a Small-Town Thug”)

September 20, 2006 – The first Official Podcast episode is released.

Adventures in Odyssey Podcast Hosts
Washington Family

December 16, 2006 – The Washington family becomes foster parents to a girl named Kelly.  (“The Chosen One”)

March 10, 2007 – Eugene Meltsner discovers that he has a brother, Everett. (“The Top Floor”)

September 29, 2007 – Leonard Meltsner leaves for Africa. (“A New Era”)

March 8, 2008 – Odyssey considered for Best Small Town in America.  (“Suspicious Finds”)

June 2008 – First Kidsboro novel released – Battle for Control

August 2008 – 50th album released:  The Best Small Town.

The Best Small Town

August 16, 2008 – “B-TV: Live” is recorded in Colorado Springs.  The Birthday Bash is attended by 4,500 people from 44 states & 7 countries.

September 2008 – Adventures in Odyssey:  The Official Guide released.

September 19, 2009 – Andre Stojka first appears as John Avery Whittaker.  (“Passages: Darien’s Rise, Part I”)

2010s

February 2, 2010 – Paul Herlinger passes away.

February 8, 2010 – An Adventures in Odyssey CD travels to outer space in the International Space Station with astronaut Terry Virts.

Voyage of the Vikings

March 6, 2010 – The first episode of the relaunch of Adventures in Odyssey airs.  (“The Inspiration Station”)

Summer 2010 – The first Imagination Station book, Voyage with the Vikings, is released. 

December 3, 2011 – 700th episode airs. (“How to Sink a Sub”)

March 24, 2012 – Eugene & Katrina find out that they can’t have children. (“To Mend or Repair.”)

Summer 2012 – The Get in the Show Contest finds a new voice for Adventures in Odyssey.

November 21, 2012 – The 25th birthday of Adventures in Odyssey

AIO 25th Birthday Live Show
Mission Trip

Summer 2013 – Focus on the Family hosts the A.C.T.S. (A Call to Serve) contest, giving fans an opportunity to serve their communities and win a missions trip to Costa Rica and become an Adventure in Odyssey ambassador.  

September 2013 – Odyssey reaches more audiences as episodes in Spanish begin airing on select radio stations in Central and South America.

January 1, 2014 – The Adventures in Odyssey Club launches under the name “Odyssey Adventure Club.” The service contains access to nearly every single Adventures in Odyssey episode, plus exclusive monthly adventures.

January 16, 2014 – Dave Madden (voice of Bernard Walton) passes away.

December 6, 2014 – Wooton Bassett proposes to Penny Wise. (“The Ties that Bind, Part 14”)

January 2015 – “Candid Conversations with Connie,” Odyssey’s first-ever audio book is released.

February 2015 – The Adventures in Odyssey Club launches globally allowing international members.

December 9, 2015 – Adventures in Odyssey’s 60th album (“Head Over Heels”) is released.

June 1, 2016 – Renee Carter starts working at Whit’s End. (“Things Not Seen”)

May 19, 2016 – Alan Young (voice of Jack Allen) passes away. Janet Waldo (voice of Joanne, his wife) passes a few weeks later on June 12.

December 1, 2016 – “Untech the Halls,” Odyssey’s 800th episode releases on the Adventures in Odyssey Club.

April 8, 2017 – Pastor Wilson Knox moves to Odyssey. (“No Friend Like an Old Friend”)

Summer 2017 – Adventures in Odyssey holds the second “Get in the Show” contest, with the winner joining the cast on a cruise ship.

November 3, 2018 – After Olivia makes a bold promise to the drama club, Morrie Rydell decides to secretly test her integrity. (“The Good in People”)

November 13-17, 2017 – Adventures in Odyssey celebrates its 30th anniversary on the first-ever Focus on the Family cruise to the Bahamas.

May 12, 2018 – Eugene takes his foster son Buck on a road trip to learn more about the boy’s history. (“Out of the Picture”)

April 27, 2019 – Buck Oliver’s old mentor Mr. Skint returns to Odyssey after a long absence. (“The Long End, Part 2”)

October 26, 2019 – Emily and Matthew are trapped inside an unfinished escape room in the basement of Whit’s End. (“A Sacrificial Escape”)

2020s

February 25, 2020 – Adventures in Odyssey is Awarded, “Radio Program of the Year,” by the National Religious Broadcasters.