(When I listened to my transistor radio way back when, I thought I was being modern and never could have imagined the world of music we line in today. This contributing authors story takes us back even further… and I discovered an amazing interview when Arthur Godfrey discovered Patsy Cline on his show!)
Radio was an important part of our lives growing up in the ’40s and ’50s. Each school day morning we waked and dressed by the programs on the radio. Each school day the Rev. J. A. Pate, the preacher from West End Baptist Church, started us off. We knew by the time his daughters ended their closing song we needed to be dressed and at breakfast.
As we buttered our hot biscuits, Brother Simmons came on with music provided by Jack and Coolidge Ham. When they sang the theme song, Farther Along, We’ll Know All about It we believed they were singing “Father Alone Will know all about it” and were not quite sure what the It was.
After school and chores, we listened to the Lone Ranger and his faithful companion, Tonto, and “the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse, Silver”, anticipating the question ”Who was that masked man?” and knowing that once again the silver bullet would be left behind.
On Monday night we heard popular movies enacted on the Campbell Soup Theatre. Later that week we might get to hear Dr. Christian heal the sick and give wise advice to the confused, or laugh with the canned laughter of You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx.
On Saturday night when most of our friends were listening to the Grand Old Opry from historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, we listened to The Hit Parade.
Our friends at school might talk about Inner Sanctum Mysteries, but we knew that as soon as we heard the creaking door we had to turn to another station.
Inner Sanctum Mysteries
Fibber McGee and Molly always had the closet door open and everything fall out as the audience laughed. Fannie Bryce delighted us with the antics of Baby Snooks.
Fibber McGee and Molly 9/19/ 50
Life was simpler in the postwar days and the jokes were gentler, lacking the sharp retorts and risqué remarks of later years.
Our Miss Brooks radio show 11/22/53
Our Miss Brooks was very different from the teachers we saw at school each day, but Lum and Abner might have come out of rural America.
Lum and Abner Thanksgiving 1945
Arthur Godfrey and Patsy Cline
Arthur Godfrey’s’ Talent Scouts and Queen For a Day made listeners feel that someday they, too, might be recognized publicly.
The voices of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were as familiar as our own pastor’s and we had confidence that they were in control and that God would bless America as Kate Smith sang.
God Bless America, First Radio performance, Armistice Day November 10, 1938, Kate Smith
I remember listening to the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been bombed in 1941 and the nomination of Strom Thurman by the Dixiecrats years later in 1948. On election night we were hugely disappointed as Democrats to hear that Thomas Dewey was to be our new president; when we woke the next morning radio told us Harry Truman had prevailed.
Radio allowed the imagination to flourish and each listener saw the characters in their own heads and were often disappointed when television portrayed them differently.
Radio could be enjoyed sitting with the family at night, or very quietly alone after others were asleep. It seemed a more personal medium that placed the listener in the center of the action, rather than the observer through television.
Radio helped to homogenize the speech of its listeners, allowing the Alabama farmer and the Italian-American in New York to understand each other, Dialects and sentence structure evolved into a more recognized standard speech. Regional and ethnic differences faded in the light of the common experiences from the radio.