The first one was an oblong box of perhaps fourteen inches in height. The top was somewhat rounded at the outside corners. The front was adorned with two knobs and a small fan-shaped dial, inside of which were a series of numbers and a red needle-like pointer. Except for the intricate tubes and wires, the back was hollow. There was a legitimate reason for this vacancy.
A dry-cell battery that supplied the power for the unit must be plugged in and slid into this cavity. A length of wire called an Aerial, connected to the base of the power transformer and strung through a window to a long pole outside the house completed the installation. Our family now owned our “FIRST RADIO.”
Everyone in the family was cautioned about turning on this wondrous gadget. The battery must be saved for important purposes like the war news, with Edward R. Murrow fading in and out from London, England.
However, these warnings were sometimes ignored by myself and my siblings if we were lucky enough to be alone in the house at the time for Let’s Pretend, Jack Armstrong – All American Boy, or Gangbusters to be aired; and, of course, Hi-Yo-Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again.
Although inclement weather often affected reception, there were times during favorable conditions, and if the aerial was high enough, that stations as far away as W.C.K.Y. in Cincinnati, Ohio, could be received or we would sit entranced as we listened to the harmony of Lula Belle and Scotty from station K.N.O.X. in Knoxville, Tennessee.
As a general rule we were allowed one or two programs after supper and the evening news. Usually these programs were Amos & Andy, Lum & Abner, or perhaps Fred Allwn. It was also not unusual for some of our neighbors, who as yet did not own a radio, to gather in our living room to listen and laugh at the antics of these popular personalities. The one program which was hardly ever missed was the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry, coming from clear channel – W.S.M., in Nashville, Tennessee.
The veracity of radio celebrities was never doubted and names like Minnie Pearl, String Bean, George D, Hayes (the solemn old judge), Eddie Arnold, and (local- W.B.T.’s) Grady Cole became liken unto family members. If they said that Martha White flour was good, no one would take exception to this fact.
In the early to Mid-1940’s, electricity came to the rural areas through the inauguration of the R.E.A. (Rural Electrification Administration). Poles and wires were strung throughout the countryside and to almost every house. Radios became smaller because of no need to house batteries. A simple wire plugged into the overhead socket supplied the power, and the radio became a constant companion for most households.
I suppose that the worse let-down for me; was when I learned that LUM & ABNER did not, in fact, work in the Jot-um-Down Store: That Kingfish and the lodge of The Mystic Knights of the Sea did not exist: That the hoof beats of Silver were created by a sound engineer: And the castles, kings and dragons of Let’s Pretend, were only words read; by actors standing on either side of a Microphone.
Today, we are aware of all of the technology required to produce Radio as well as Television programs; but to a young innocent boy in the days of yore, it was the real thing. Even now, in my mind, I can visualize AMOS, sitting in his Taxicab and KINGFISH leaning against the door, discussing the antics of SAPPHIRE: Or hear the thundering hoof beats of the great horse, SILVER, and the hearty “HI-YO-SILVER; A-WAY!” as the LONE RANGER and TONTO sought yet another wrong to be righted.
A vivid imagination was all that was necessary to make any radio program real. “I KNOW: I’ve BEEN THERE!” Dj.