"When everything around you is changing, turn to the part of you that doesn't change, that is calm, centered, and connected to something bigger." - Ariane De Bonvoisin
Fade in: Yesteryear
The gangly young girl stretched out on the sculptured carpeting beside her younger, sassy sister. Both of them demonstrated multi-tasking as they used their favorite Crayolas to complete coloring pages while listening intently to the radio. The object of their attention was a solidly built unit that stood against the West wall of the living room and was the source of many exciting family evenings. Built of wood and kept shiny by repeated and frequent polishings, the floor model radio was massive by most standards. The dark cabinet featured rounded corners, a cloth covered speaker in the front and metal knobs and dials, worn from constant use.
It wouldn't be long until their Father arrived home from work just in time for the evening meal, but until then, the girls could catch up on the latest installment of one of their favorite radio programs, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. The serial program featured a Canadian mounted policeman and his sidekick, a Malamute named Yukon King. Every week, the Mountie, his dog, and villains embarked upon adventures set in the frozen North. These stories transported the girls to places they could only imagine.
Excitement escalated during the minutes prior to each broadcast and when Mother located the correct position on the radio dial, the girls settled down to listen intently to the somewhat static laden stories. The sounds emitted from the radio were magical - sounds of thunder, rainstorms, wind, horses' hooves and a variety of other special effects. The sounds of nature painted vivid pictures in the minds of the listeners and enabled them to be "right there" where the action was taking place. The stories kidnapped the girls' imaginations and carried them away on enchanting mind experiences. It was especially fitting to listen to Sgt. Preston during the cold, dark evenings of winter. The swirling snows and howling winds of Kansas further heightened their visual journeys.
When the evening meal was over, the girls relinquished the radio to others. For a short period of time each night, they were allowed to listen to shows favored by their parents. Their father preferred Dragnet, Gang Busters and a show about the FBI. Mother enjoyed comedies such as Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy, Red Skelton, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. They both liked listening to the big bands such as Benny Goodman and Guy Lombardo.
The girls knew that after they had gone to bed, the parents listened to the news before retiring.
Fade in: Today
Today, the radio - as we knew it then - is almost forgotten as a form of communication. Few radios are found in homes and fewer still are used as a source of information. Most radios in use today are tuned in to music and a talk format. The majority of listeners are in their cars driving to and from work and are merely "passing time" with the radio.
Years ago, gathering around the radio to listen to our favorite radio shows was a family ritual...one that I now realize was a precious part of growing up together. The radio wasn't a luxury in those days...it was a necessity. It not only kept us in touch with a very big world community - it kept us in touch with each other. We were informed and entertained by the radio - we laughed and cried; we danced and sang; we learned about the price of a bushel of wheat during harvest and how weather was affecting the crops; we listened to the President address the nation during times of war and we heard peace celebrated on the streets of New York; we cheered when announcements were made naming schools closed due to snow ( and ours was closed) and we ducked into the basement when the radio issued tornado warnings. The radio was like glue that joined us together as a family - whenever we sat down and listened together.
Just the other day, I came across a broadcast of a show that I recall listening to with my Dad. It was called The Shadow and was the closest thing to a radio version of a film noir (a highly stylistic post-war film genre of Hollywood drama) that I can recall. The key phrase of the program was "...only the shadow knows..." and that phrase remains a constant reminder tumbling around in my memory of those precious moments on the rug, our family sitting around our favorite entertainment of the time...the radio.