My growth from child to adulthood occurred through the 1940s and 50s. I graduated from high school in 1960. I was always fascinated with the radio. I remember lying on the circular-weaved carpet on the floor of my Grandparents living room, placing myself directly in front of the large speakers hidden beneath the cloth cover of the big wooden framed console that was the radio. We liked to turn most of the lights out for these listening sessions because it helped us concentrate. After-all radio was a tool to trigger your imagination.
We each had our own vision of the Green Hornet’s car-or how that mansion looked, the one with the creaking door that opened into the mysterious world of the mystery or if the mysterious voice of the shadow meant h wasn’t a person, just a shadow of one. With a change of the dial we could hear the wonderful big bands and imagined a large dancehall filled with glitter, sparkle and beautiful people. We each had our own idea of what Fibber and Molly really looked like and wondered if Amos and Andy were actors or real people?
In the 50s portable and car radios gave us music mobility– Radio then was often programmed to the time of day- At our local radio station we had a country singer named Jimmy Cox who came into sign the radio station on the air – he’d sing and play his guitar and read livestock market reports-Daytime belonged to the wives and mothers-we had a local piano player who’d sing requests, a woman who did a recipe show each day and a pleasant voiced announcer who would play a lot of Frankie Carl piano records (the station owner liked Frankie Carl) Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Perry Como.
When I was in Junior High School I asked the radio station manager if I could come in on Saturday morning and do a short broadcast featuring news from our school. To my amazement he said I could and I did. When I reached my first year of high school I worked nightly hosting a program during which other high schoolers requested songs and dedicated their requests to someone special or to someone they wanted to date or to someone they wanted to break up with or to someone they just didn’t like at all – Talk about message songs. The broadcasts bravely brought that sinful sounding rock and roll to our town.
More of us were getting Television sets at home – I remember rushing home after school and watching the test pattern until Captain video began the broadcast day late in the afternoon. The Star Spangled Banner was never more frequently heard than during those golden years when the TV stations signed on and signed off. Broadcasting through my lifetime clearly reflected the times in which we were living.
Today we have more radio and television stations than we can count. We can watch real life drama, wars, and disasters as they happen. We even make up our own drama with reality TV shows. Mom and Pop owned and operated local hometown radio stations are meeting the same fate as Mom and Pop grocery stores, in later years even Mom and Pop owned video stores. Large multi-million dollar corporations now buy up every radio license in sight operating literally hundreds, in a couple of cases thousands of them from a corporate center in a city somewhere else.
Corporate radio programmers now focus on narrow demographic groupings and sometimes questionable scientific surveys to dictate broadcast content.
To be honest radio listening and broadcasting in the 40s, the 50s, the very early 60s was a lot more fun – Despite the fact today’s generation can pick and choose from an unlimited number of radio and television stations 24 hours a day there’s something missing, a cultural void that can only be accurately remembered by those of us who were there before. You really had to be there.
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