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My Hobby: Old Time Radio

My favorite hobby is collecting and listening to Old Time Radio programs. I began collecting these vintage shows in 1972 while stationed in Yokohama, Japan where there was no English speaking Television, only the radio station , Far East Network (FEN) part of the Armed Forces Radio Service. This space will be used in the future to provide a list of my collection in data base form for people who are interested in trading.

Below is a short essay I wrote on why I got started in this unique hobby.

Return With Us Now to Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Every day after school I hurriedly ran home to plop myself down on the floor in front of the Crosley Radio. Where, every afternoon, I was transported to another world. A world made up entirely of a child's imagination. I can "see" them now, my favorite heroes; The Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion Tonto; The Green Hornet and his partner in crime fighting, Kato; Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; or Commander Corey of the Space Patrol and his sidekick Cadet Happy as they shot across time and space; and Superman as he sped across the sky in search of some wrong that needed righting. Those afternoon adventure heroes are alive today, with a form of immortality, because of my memories and imagination.

The Radio I loved so well is gone forever. But not forgotten. As long as I live I will reflect with fondness on those simple and far more innocent days. Simple and innocent because the good guy always won and the theme for all the shows was that it is wrong to hurt people and right to help them. How much simpler could life be?

Most people alive today cannot understand the joy I had, as a child, in using my imagination to propel me into strange far off places on adventures of a life time. Anyone who grew up with Television, as their nanny, could never live those adventures in quite the same way. TV unlike Radio has made our imaginations lazy and in doing so taken over the duties of entertaining us. With TV all you have to do is set back and say "entertain me" and it's all done for you. Not so with the Old Radio shows they gave us the tools for fueling our imagination. These shows required us to use our imaginations to complete the story line. We had to become part of the adventure for it to work. The best shows of the day were those programs that required us to use our imagination the most. When the bespeckled man in the business suit ducked into a phone booth, as Clark Kent, and reemerged as Superman saying "Up, Up and away" accompanied by a swishing sound you needed no TV screen to see Superman fly away to rescue Lois Lane or you as Jimmy Olson. Or when Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson "Come Watson, the game is afoot," you could see Holmes swing his cape around his shoulders and rush off on a new case and you as Watson followed.

With this fondness for the Old Radio programs I have managed to collect many of them and listen to them whenever I can. Foremost among my collection is, without a doubt, the most famous Radio broadcast of all time, H. G. Wells' "The War of the World's," on the Mercury Theater on the Air. That "panic broadcast," of Halloween 1938, virtually scared our nation right out of its wits. The young actor, Orson Welles, who went on to become a Radio and motion picture legend, leaped into fame and stardom with this one show. At the end of the program he tried to calm the public by closing the show with this epilogue:

"This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theater's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!

Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates, by tomorrow night . . . so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the Columbia Broadcasting System. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So good-bye everybody, and remember, please, for the next day or so, the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian . . . it's Hallowe'en."

My collection of Old Time Radio programs allow me to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Today, I don't have to wait for Saturday morning to listen to Sky King, I can pull out a tape and put it in my tape player, close my eyes, and become a part of my favorite adventure whenever I want.

These programs are as good today as they were when they were first aired. Surprisingly most of them are not out of date. On Dragnet when Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Frank Gannon track down a burglar or a ring of jewel robbers it is as though it were happening today. Only the occasional mention of a new 1953 Ford or Chevrolet being used by the suspects gives any hint as to the age of the show.

The very spirit of Radio is the imagination, the opposite of television. Radio is called the "theater-of-the-mind," where one little boy was stimulated into using his "mind's eye" to see the action coming across the airwaves into that Crosley and inspiring a fertile imagination. If it sounds as though I have a love affair with Radio I do. I fell in love with Radio at a very early age, and though the Radio I loved is lost to me, my love for it is not.