In the early 30's the most common type
of radio was the console. The cabinet was a richly polished wood
and the tone was always excellent. A major part of the radio was
the aerial which was no more then a piece of wire that hung out
of the window or was fastened to a free standing metal object such
as a radiator.
If the console was short it was necessary to squat or kneel to
see the dials. Some time in the 30's Zenith came out with a console
with a sloping panel at the top that contained all the dials. The
radio was advertised as' "no squat, no stoop, no squint."
One of the big names in radio at that time was "Atwater Kent."
Somewhere along the way the table radio came into being. They
were often in gay colors and of modern design. I always felt that
the table radios of the 30's were the forerunners of the diner and
juke box design of the 50's.
The magic of radio is that it only took hearing to appreciate
it. The characters in the programs looked exactly the way you wanted
them to. Unlike watching TV you could lie on your back in bed and
enjoy a radio program. On Monday nights most women did the ironing
while listening to the Lux Radio Theater. This was a program that
dramatized famous movies.
There were programs for everyone. The 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. time slot
was devoted to boys. We had Jimmy Allen, King of the Mounted, The
Shadow, Tom Mix and numerous other adventure stories. There was
always something mystical such as Chandu the Magician or Omar the
All of the programs had some sort of a premium that you were able
to get at no cost by sending in a certain number of box tops from
a cereal or a health drink.
Sunday night was the big night on Radio. There was an all star
line-up Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor among others. When
we lived with my grandmother in the Bronx Sunday night was the highlight
of the week. My grandmother would give my sister and I .25¢.
It was our job to go to the neighborhood candy store and come back
with as much candy as we could. The candy was put in a large bowl
and placed in the middle of the living room table. When the first
program went on we took seats around the table and were allowed
to start eating.
There were eight people at the table and it seemed that everyone
had a pretty good idea of how much each one had. My grandmother
could disqualify anyone from having more if she felt they ate too
much or too fast. My sister and I loved to see a disqualification
as we felt it would be more for us.
If I had my choice today I would trade television for the golden
days of radio at the wink of any eye.