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Radio Days

by Judy Richardson | Published April 14, 2022

Radio Days

It occurred to me after breakfast my good friend Miles Browne, that before I launch into how television has changes during my lifetime, I should not neglect to mention what a big part radio was of our lives before television came along.  In the 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s radio was a major source of news and entertainment.  The radio was a major piece of furniture. What I remember in my early childhood was the music on the radio. Even though I was a baby during the war years, I can remember the words to dozens of songs. I have a vague memory of standing on a table singing “Accentuate the Positive” to some soldiers who were clapping. Many radios also had a short-wave feature, and the ham radio operators communicated with each other all over the world. 

I recall listening to Jack Benny, Fibber Magee and Molly, The Shadow, The Great Gildersleeve. Other favorites were Our Miss Brooks, Superman and the Lone Ranger. My mother played the radio during the day as she did her housework. I can still see her at the ironing board listening to her soap operas like Stella Dallas and The Romance of Helen Trent while she did her ironing. Many radio programs later became television shows. One of my favorite movies is The Christmas Story set in those radio days. And seeing Ralphie and Randy laying on the floor gazing at the radio is very familiar. Our radio had push buttons, but we were not allowed to touch it.

As a child I did not pay much attention to news programs on the radio. I do remember quite distinctly the voice of Walter Winchell saying, “Good evening America and all the ships at sea.”

In Iowa, WHO radio had and probably still has one of the strongest transmitters in the country I recall hearing how folks in Texas could turn in to WHO late at night. When we traveled, we could hear it across Nebraska.

Traveling in the 50’s meant changing the car radio to various bands to get a signal. Still, as the years passed, the radio continued to be an integral of part of our culture. Radio in our cars kept us informed and entertained. Sports events are still broadcast by local stations. Today radio is a major source of music and news to those in their cars going back and forth to work and on trips and in out of the way places where wireless access is difficult. If you can afford a monthly or yearly subscription, you can get about anything on Sirius with no commercials due to satellite technology.

I think one of the best examples of the power of radio before the days of television is the famous broadcast of The Mercury Theatre on the air of H.G. Well’s novel, The War of the World in 1938. Some were cleverly tricked into believing there really was an invasion from Mars. While I was not born yet, my friend Miles remembers the original broadcast. His older brother, smelling a rat, suggested they check with some other stations. The  Browne family in South Dakota were not fooled like some folks in New Jersey.

Today I listen to the radio every time I get in my car with choices that include a vast menu of music from every decade of my life, or just my favorite artists. Love that Elvis.

Also posted in The Good Ole Days