This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Adventures in Old Time Radio
by Brian Rogers © 2016
Reviewed by Mark Anderson
(From Radio Recall, December, 2016)
Brian Rogers has been listening to radio for a lifetime; and in this slim volume he recounts the programming, personalities, and innovations that helped him find his livelihood and pursue his interests in all things audio. When you open this book to start reading, you can just about hear the three-tone signature of the NBC network or any other memorable sounds that you might ' conjure up from your own listening. Rogers is an admirable guide in helping us leap across the years, from live broadcasts to Internet. He recounts the day that his father brought a "tall powerful Silvertone console" to the living room of their Detroit home. With equal aplomb, he tells us how lately he found a bargain basement sale of radio programs on the Internet, and that he "scurried down their cyber stairway" to see what was listed.
Otherwise, some essays about programs are rather cut-anddried. Father Coughlin and the Hindenburg are such stagnant entries, and a rehash of the October 30, 1938 "panic broadcast'' has no bite.
Twenty-eight chapters in 75 pages is a bit like skipping stones across a lake. The essays were written for the "Great Lakes Monitor" newsletter for the Michigan Area Radio Enthusiasts. The essays, as now published, are undated; and as readers we could have benefited from a new cut-and-paste arrangement by subject. To replace spontaneity with narrative flow is sometimes an OK thing.
This approach would maintain the personal connection. Rogers gives us glowing tributes to Art Linkletter, Ernie Harwell, Mercedes McCambridge, John Dehner, and Richard C. Hottelet, whom he honors as "the last of the Murrow boys." Rogers gives us insight into their lives, and gives us ample historical context. Research along with reminiscence is a key to keeping us tuned in. Sequence would enhance impact.
Rogers succeeds in recognizing a key element in the radio world: The Voice. Beyond the writing and the machines, Rogers tells us that certain individuals have that "gift of God." Edward R. Murrow certainly is one example, whose comforting-if-insistent voice could fit his environment like hand-in-glove. Rogers also cites John Dehner (hard-working, worldly man) as an example: a man who could speak the lines of a weary dust-covered horseman of the American West, or, in another instance, a sophisticated European gentleman.
The lesser known "voice legend" that Rogers writes up is a fellow named Paul Carey, who achieved acclaim as a baseball broadcaster in small town southeastern Michigan. If we need a model of dedication, Rogers asserts, we have this man, who would hitchhike from his college campus in East Lansing to broadcast Prairie League games in the hinterlands of Detroit. Ernie Harwell heard Carey, and said he was great.
Technological innovation is not beyond Rogers' grasp. Chapter Eleven in its entirety is a concise history of the evolution of broadcast technology. The dictates of U.S. Time Zones, followed by wax discs, are quickly supplanted by a search in the 1930s for an innovation in tape technology developed by I. G. Farben in Germany; a search which extends east after Normandy, to the unearthing of the miracle machine. This is enticing stuff. World War II has thus become a main element to Rogers' reflections. Personally, we should take note, Rogers had good reason to unplug his father 's "purple plastic RCA model" off his nightstand and 6 take it to school so that his teacher could use it to tune into the German surrender in Europe.
This piecemeal book is a pleasant read, both personal and in-depth. I am only left to ponder the future of the enigmatic young Carol, in war-time Detroit, who had her sixth birthday on June 6, 1944 (Chapter 13). Young Brian went to her house to fetch his sister who was there at Carol's birthday party. Carol's father answered the door and asked young Brian if he wanted to "listen to General Ike." The penny dropped at that moment for Brian concerning the importance, not only of paying attention to adults, but also, of the far and fascinating reach of radio news. Carol, most likely, was in the next room, safe and happy among her young friends, in her new calico dress.