Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Radio Days

I’ll never know whether times were simpler then or it was just the innocence of my simplistic eyes. We could close them and conjure the pie in Ma Perkins’ oven or Jack Armstrong paddling down the Amazon dodging poison darts and leaping piranhas.

We memorized the Art Deco pattern of the speaker behind which the voices intoned. Roosevelt said fear not, even as the Shadow knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men. Eighty years later I think Lamont Cranston’s Shadow had it right. I don't believe anything anything has lurked since then.

In 1938 Orson Welles and his ensemble broadcast a version of War of the Worlds. He reported at Martian landing by a spaceship in New Jersey This was the birth of fake news which Fox now cultivates in their plantation.

I was, of course, a mere slip of a lad. I took great pleasure in the thrill of expectation, fulfilled. The world could be relied upon when Fibber McGee opened the door of his hall closet and the warehouse of civilization tumbled out. I knew the routines of Benny’s vault or Allen’s Alley and believed the ranking of top tunes on the Make Believe Ballroom show, unaware of payola. 

Trust was the operative word. We never doubted that Edgar Bergen’s lips didn’t move when Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd spoke. They probably held beauty pageants and we imagined Miss America. I visualized ball games; I could even smell the green grass and hot dogs. If it started to rain in Cincinnati, did I open my umbrella in New York? I wouldn't put it pass me. 

Blessed are those of us suckled by radio. It was a tonic for communal imagination. Our auditory faculty was extended until television came along which reset the ratio of our senses. In the same way the web of the computer screen with its collage of blurts, emojis and phrases is displacing print technology, for better or for worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment