Radios & the Faithful

by Bill Newman

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 Mystic.

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.


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