Radio: Theater of the imagination

Lynn Moncus

Bill Stratton, a good friend, knows me rather well and frequently provides columns by Delbert Trew for me to read because he knows I will understand both the language and the subjects. In other words, Bill knows my country ways and knows I’ve been around for a year or two.

This week, Mr. Trew wrote about early day radios and some of the wonderful programs aired back then. Memories erupted as I read along, recalling the evenings in the canyons spent listening to such programs as well as to world news.

The first memories to appear were about my earliest years during which we didn’t have a radio, but Grandmother and Grandpa had one and welcomed us most evenings as we walked across the canyon to their house. Well, one of us didn’t walk much then and was carried that long distance over a very rough trail that either went straight down or straight up most of the way. I don’t really recall those first programs but do remember the trip both ways unless I chose to sleep on the return trip while Dad carried me in his arms.

Grandmother gave us her battery-operated radio when we moved into her house in the 1940’s, and it provided many hours of entertainment as long as the battery was charged and the signals were coming in. Buying batteries during the war was no easy task, but the one we had took numerous charges. When it would run down, we’d take it to Tommy Garrett or some other neighbor who had a wind charger and could revive the battery.

Winter months were best for getting good signals in those canyons, and we would sit around the table by lamp light while listening to such programs as “Mr. District Attorney,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” “The Shadow,” “Bob Hope,” and “The Grand Ole’ Opry.” Often we listened to KVOO from the Phil Tower in Tulsa, and after their 9:00 news, we’d turn off the radio, blow out the lamp, and head into those unheated bedrooms.

We’d listen to the early-morning news, again by lamp light, and would then go about the business of the day. Mother often listened to “Mary Worth” and “One Man’s Family” in the afternoon, and if I happened to be at home, I’d then listen to “Tom Mix” and “Superman.” If the battery happened to be getting weak, we saved it until evening so all of us could enjoy the entertainment. When it would go dead, Mother would read detective stories to us, keeping us entertained in an even better fashion, but we’d look forward to getting the battery recharged so we wouldn’t miss too many of our favorite programs and so we could keep up with the war news.

We had some telephone wire that acted as an antenna and gave us a chance to pick up those distant stations. We could get Tucumcari, Amarillo, and Clovis during the day but would lose them at night because their signals weren’t as strong as those of the more distant stations.

I can still see us huddled around the table as the battery became weak and the volume more and more limited. We’d try to catch the last word of the news and would then hope we could capture a few words the next morning.

Those were great times spent together. We didn’t even have to get depressed while listening to the ads as most of them were almost as interesting as the stories or were sung to catchy little tunes. The programs were for people of all ages and contained language to which all could listen without becoming embarrassed. I’m glad Bill gave me a chance to wander back in time to a wonderful era