Before The TV Era: Recalling Those Radio Days

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This very old fan’s radio memories go back many decades, before the flickering little light box took over in the late 1940s. I recall when radio served as the major family home entertainment center. All sat around and listened to the latest news, soap operas, live music and classic comedy.

I still have vivid memories when the sounds of important world events came into our living rooms. Roosevelt elected President, the German airship Hindenburg crashed and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Most shocking was the invasion of Earth by Martians. Though a fictional drama, it was broadcast in 1938 in breaking-news style. Many people who tuned in after the realistic program was in progress, panicked and fled for their lives.

Another memory always with me is this photo of my mother, sister, brother and me in 1930, the year after my father died. Behind my brother is our big, floor-model Philco radio. Several weeks later, the radio and other furniture were gone. My widowed mother explained that we were “sheriffed”, a legal seizure creditors applied for unpaid bills.

Actually, the age of radio was very brief, only from the early 1930s to the early 1950s. Another memory is from the transitional time from radio to TV. Just out of the Navy, I was writing for the long-gone, daily Beverly Hills Citizen newspaper. One 1953 assignment was an interview with the then-famous radio advice personality, Mr. John J. Anthony.

Through the 1940s, his very popular, nationally-broadcast weekly radio program featured his sessions with people in emotional trouble. They told their sad stories, and his oft-repeated “no names, please” was a familiar phrase.

After the interview, Mr. Anthony invited me to perform on one of his first TV episodes. As with most programs then, it was broadcast live. I was given brief instructions on how to tell the story, based loosely on one of hundreds of letters Mr. Anthony received regularly from lovelorn people.

I can’t remember what the problem was, but I do recall that my face was never shown on camera. As I emoted the sad tale, there were only close-up shots of my wringing hands, a blinking eye and tragically clenched teeth. I also remember that Mr. Anthony impatiently advised me at least several times: No names, please.

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