Radio’s powerful influence in the past
From this perspective
I have been told that it was a great day in the month of May 1922, several years before my time of course, when radio broadcasting made its debut in the Western New York region. The broadcasting momentum started then, and the broadening “communications” momentum continued.
“With the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi Ho Silver, the Lone Ranger, rides again.” These were the powerful introductory words of the Lone Ranger radio series heard on radio back in the 1930s and early 1940s. Ah yes, radio was in its early stage back then. I was a young boy on the family farm. When not working on farm chores or attending school, radio was one of our sources of entertainment.
Radio seemed to be part of family life for many, young and old. There was no television, or cell phones or I-pads, but almost every home had a radio.
Our only radio, was a dial radio in the corner of the living room next to the family piano. That spot was our home entertainment center. Daylight hours were the best time to receive a radio signal from the three largest local area radio stations. When the sun went down, the radio stations lowered their power and limited their transmitting directional signal. I can remember, with an ear glued to the radio, trying to pick up a broadcaster’s voice after dark, so to pick up the election returns in the 1940 Roosevelt and Willkie Presidential race. And, listening to the latest weather related school closings was a must. Radio, along with the newspaper, was our chief source of entertainment as well as local and world news.
There were a number of local radio luminaries whose name became a household word. The legendary morning person, Clint Buehlmann was an icon. We all remember when he referred to “AR -ther” (our thermometer) when he gave the outside temperature. And, of course, we remember Al Fox, the early morning farm reporter, and the clanging sound of milk pails to start the show at 5 a.m. Other local names which stand out are Ed Reimers, Jack Paar, Billy Keaton and his wife Reggie, BuffaloBob Smith, and a host of others.
Locally produced programming included: “Young America Speaks” featuring local high school students; each participant received a recording of their radio presentation. My older brother and sister were participants. There was the Children’s Hour on Sunday mornings with Uncle Bill and Aunt Susan; each weekly winner received a new pair of shoes. And, on Sunday mornings, the program “Local Church Choirs”; my wife, as a 12-year-old, was the accompanist for their choir on the studio organ. With the help of a box on the organ bench, she was able to reach the key board. And then later on in the 1970s, there was my radio show on local radio entitled “Focus on Education”.
Network programming included: The Firestone Hour and the Telephone Hour. Favorite news commentators included: Gabriel Heatter, Lowell Thomas, Walter Winchell, H.V. Koltenborn, and Fulton Lewis Jr. And, early evening drama included: Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy; The Lone Ranger, created and written by our own Fran Striker of Arcade, NY ; Fiber Magee and Molly (who can forget the opening of the door of the packed filled closet)? And, of course, there was the George Burns and Gracie Allen and the unforgettable Jack Benny and Mary Livingston show.
And we cannot forget his mother’s call “Henry … Henry Aldrich!” and the less than enthusiastic response, “Coming mother.” Ah yes, these shows were entertaining and hilarious.
There were many daily faithful listeners to the well known soap operas, such as: Pepper Young’s Family, Ma Perkins, Stella Dallas, Portia Faces Life, Young Widow Brown, The Guiding Light, Young Dr. Malone, As the World Turns, and a host of others. There were those listeners who would actually change their daily schedule so as not to miss their favorite drama.
You know, as a youth in the 1930s and ’40s, when time permitted with farm chores to do, we enjoyed listening to radio. And, I enjoy listening to radio today. But, radio programming has changed, and changed a lot.
We are so reminded, in the words from two of the radio shows of the 1930’s — “As the world turns” and “Time marches on.”
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and professor emeritus at SUNY Fredonia.