The date reminded me of stories my Mom would tell about listening to the radio. On Friday evenings, her family would go down the road to Aunt Nellie’s house on Helmer Lake and both families would sit close to the radio and listen to programs from far away. It was an important social event. They listened to variety shows and serials sponsored by soap companies (hence the name “soap operas”).
Mom is gone now so I cannot ask her what programs they listened to most, but she told us about the Jack Benny Show and Fibber McGee and Molly. The Shadow was so disturbing that some people wouldn't listen to it.
Radio transformed America because it brought strangers and strange ideas right into the American home, the bedrock of the American gestalt. Radio personalities from far off cities were discussed as if they were members of the community and some, like they were family members.
Radio continued to be important even after TV became available. The radio brought us news throughout the day--local happenings, breaking events, weather, and sports. I remember my Dad and uncles listening to Detroit Tiger games on the radio. My father-in-law did too. My Mom had the radio playing in the kitchen almost all the time.
AM signals didn’t travel far during the day but when the sun went down, we would get signals from all over. My favorite stations were WOWO in Ft. Wayne, CKLW out of Windsor Ontario, and of course WLS from Chicago. They played rock and roll and Top 40 songs all night. This was our “secret” vice. My Dad didn’t like “Rock and Roll crap.” His derision made the music even more delicious. More importantly, we could listen to our heart's content using an inexpensive transistor radio and an ear phone. Many of us strung wires in our bedroom to improve reception. We got even better reception with the car radio.
Ah, the car and the car radio. Two freedom machines, one inside the other. We could go where we wanted and play our music out loud! We could howl with Wolfman Jack, drum along with Wipeout, and sing with everything. Sometimes we even sang the right words! And who could forget submarine races and making out while the radio played in the background? (Mom would be saying “Oh my!” right about now.)
Radio has been with us for a long time. Today we have many radio options--FM, AM, satellite radio, and internet radio just to name a few. We can listen to radio stations from around the world in real time. We also get uber-local information from the same device. Radio has changed a lot since my Mom’s time but it's still woven into the fabric of our lives.