One of my interests that I’ve never touched upon here is my love for radio. No, not the garbage that is sent across the airwaves today but the Golden Age of Radio that stretched from the start of radio in 1920 (where the very first radio news broadcast was done just down the road in Detroit, Michigan) until the mid-1950s.
There’s just something about the 1930s and 1940s specifically that intrigues me. Things were so much more simple back then that looking back, it is a completely different world. I especially love the slang and words of the day and still try to incorporate them into my everyday life just for my own amusement.
I think that whole radio era was just magical. They writing had to be up to par because it was words that set the tone and gave our minds an idea of what was taking place. You couldn’t have dead air and you had to let the listeners know what was happening without talking down to the audience and being overly narrative.
The types of shows that were on radio are really no different than what is on TV these days. Comedies, dramas, thrillers, news, sports, variety shows, talk shows, action/adventure, game shows, musical programs… All of it could be found and those same types of shows can still be just as easily found today on your big screen plasma HD TV. Radio created the template and they were just wingin’ it at the time!
Being a TV freak as a kid, it is amazing I even bothered with old-time radio but I owe it all to my love of comic books and already budding nostalgic tendencies. You see, my very first old-time radio cassettes (yes, cassettes) were The Great Radio Commercials and Superman on Radio. I picked them up ’94/’95 at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and both were released by a company called Nostalgia Lane. Cracker Barrel used to have a pretty big OTR section in the ’90s, but phased them out early in the 2000s for retro DVD releases, which is a shame because nowadays you pretty much can only order radio shows online and they are usually in volumes for around $30 or $40 last I checked. I’m not sure of the exact dates of these tapes’ releases, but in the case of the Superman tape, the copyright is 1977. Obviously, Cracker Barrel didn’t have a tape that old sitting around for that long, but it is still pretty interesting and lends another layer of nostalgia to the release.
I grew up and fell asleep with both of these tapes. The weird thing is, I would listen to them at night while laying in bed. It was how I would relax before having to get up the next day and go do something I hated with a passion (school). Sometimes I would be wide awake listening to them and other times I would drift off into Dreamland. Then other times I’d wake up and they’d still be playing! I also remember on more than one occasion my sister would yell at me to turn the volume down because her room was right next to mine.
I listened to both of those tapes so much that at one point I was convinced I was wearing them both out so I made copies of them. I still have those copies and the original tapes as well. For the rest of the ’90s, I began adding to my collection. It was my own little private hobby. Imagine a teenage kid listening to all these shows that took place 50 and 60 years ago. I had no one to discuss them with, I just tried whatever looked interesting to me (I gravitated mostly to comedies) and a trip to Cracker Barrel was never complete without having my parents buy me a new radio tape. Although I wouldn’t say I have a big collection, I think I have some decent stuff and I love them all.
The days of listening to them at night are over (that’s what happens when you begin sharing a bed with someone) but on the rare occasion and when the woman is out of town, I’m not adverse to pressing “play” on the tape deck. In later years, I was able to get some CD sets, but it is still the tapes from my teenage years that I love best.