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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

The radio, then and now

Friday, October 12, 2012

My kitchen radio entertained me as I worked around the house during the first ten years of my life as a wife and a mother. Public radio offered a half hour of daily reading from classical novels such as Grapes of Wrath or Lorna Doone. My chances to sit down to read were few and far between, but I could listen to those readings and get the charge my imagination needed. My other favorite programs included Our Neighbor Lady whose daily broadcast from her home in South Dakota was filled with cleaning hints, stories of her family life and at least one recipe and cooking help. Classical music and Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family were other favorites.

My mother-in-law had her favorites, too. She rarely missed a broadcast of the Kitchen Klatter program. My husband remembers that as kids they were sentenced to complete silence while she was listening to the Driftmeir family of homemakers sharing their personal news and never-fail recipes.

Their mother didn't know at that time that her offspring irreverently referred to them as the "Dripmeirs." I had never heard of that program until she sang its praises but it remained her program, not mine. It was on at the same time as Focus on the Family so I did not listen to it but she always phoned me to pass along the latest developments in their families' lives. She thought of them as very dear friends and fretted with them over leaky plumbing, rejoiced over the births of babies, both animals and human, and mourned with them in times of sorrow.

During the second decade of my married life I gave birth to four more children from then on there was so much going on around me that the kitchen radio was seldom turned on. That does not mean I heard no radio. I heard my husband's radio blaring from the tractor each time he passed close to the house while making the rounds of disking, planting or cultivating. His favorite stations were not the same as mine. My mother, too, commented on hearing his radio when he worked at their farm. There was no cab on his tractor and in order to hear over the sound of the tractor's engine, he had it cranked up very loud. One day she was at Mass. It was spring and the windows of the church were open for ventilation. He was working a field less than a block from the church. Father was reading the Gospel when the congregation was treated to Connie Francis belting out the song, "Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" as Dick drove his tractor around the field's end rows. The priest paused briefly and smiling, shook his head, before continuing once the tractor moved out of earshot.

Currently, about the only time we listen to the radio is when we are on a road trip. The purchase of a new van a couple of years ago accidentally brought us up to speed on the advances made in radio broadcasting. We were visiting our daughter in Milwaukee and were sitting on lawn chairs on the shores of Lake Michigan watching kite-flying professionals put on a show. My daughter had retreated to the car to feed her baby and later she said, "My goodness. You guys are right up there. I couldn't believe it when I found you had Sirius radio."

We were clueless as to what she was talking about. She explained it is radio's version of television's cable, a satellite radio service available by paid subscription. We didn't think we had subscribed to anything like that but, on checking it out, found that a year's subscription was a bonus for buying the new van. We bought the van in July and it was May of the next year when we listened to Sirius radio for the first time. The subscription was almost run out. On the way home that weekend we found the right buttons to tune in to the satellite and listened to a St. Louis Cardinals ball game.

We had been brought up to date with the developments made by the radio broadcast industry. We could choose what genre of music we wanted and it played with no commercial interruptions. We found broadcasts of old radio shows such as Amos and Andy and Red Skelton. This radio satellite deal will reach perfection in my husband's humble opinion, when it revives the Lone Ranger broadcasts he listened to as a kid. Hi-ho Silver, away! I want to hear Let's Pretend.

This is certainly another sign that we are getting old. We are happiest when the latest advances thought up by the brainy younger generation, bring back what we enjoyed in the past.

By Mary S. Roder
Musing With Mary

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