Friday, April 19, 2013
My grandkids take radio for granted if they notice it all what with Nintendo and TV. When I was little, it was one of our main sources of entertainment (next to the movies.)
We had our large radio, a floor model, next to my father's chair and it was there I first appreciated J-E-L-L-O bringing us Jack Benny and his crew. Upstairs I was privileged to have my own little radio from which came Little Orphan Annie, Og, Son of Fire, Don Winslow of the Navy, Jack Armstrong and The Shadow.
I was an early to-bedder in those days and forbidden to listen to anything after lights out, but I was told about Gangbusters by my friends. How exciting it was one night when I turned it on to the machine gun fire introduction and listened to the whole thing. Consumed by guilt, I confessed to my mother at breakfast. She had to put on a stern face and issue some sort of punishment which I have mercifully forgotten. At my aunt's, I heard Uncle Don utter his famous "that'll settle the little bastards."
In 1939 the Sunday night Orson Welles became a national byword with War of the Worlds, we were listening to the Chase and Sanborn Hour and Charlie McCarthy, not realizing what we had missed.
In junior high school, I became glued to the soaps, Young Widder Brown and Portia Faces Life. I would dash home after school, consume saltines and cokes and absorb the dreadful problems these poor women faced until my mother couldn't stand it any more and forbade them. I had hysterics that afternoon. It was like major surgery; but I survived.
In the evening, there was always I Love A Mystery - Jack, Doc and Reggie and their adventures - Fibber McGee, Henry Aldrich and others to console me.
In high school, the radio gave us the music we craved and what was hot and new. Many trips to Waxie Maxie's record store on 7th Street were the results of WWDC's selections. Once I remember an emergency trip to a record store in Anacostia (a bus fare and two transfers) to get - hot off the truck - Benny Goodman's "Why Don't You Do Right" sung by Miss Peggy Lee.
In Venezuela, short wave radio - a Hallicrafter or Phillips - brought us news from home and the latest music from KDKA Pittsburgh. In college, radio kept everyone up all night to learn that Harry Truman had indeed beat Tom Dewey.