Real Radio

My daddy told me that just before I was born in 1933, Mr. Doc Tinsley bought the first radio in the area. No one knew what a radio was and it was rumored that Doc Tinsley had a device that enabled him to hear people talking at a distance. Not understanding exactly what this meant, everyone in the community was careful not to say anything bad about Mr. Tinsley.

The first radio that my family owned was a small table top model. It required an aerial that ran twenty or so feet outside the house. It stayed on most of the day and into the night until bedtime. Later we bought a Firestone floor model. This was like a piece of furniture. It was almost as large as today’s television console. It had a built-in aerial, push button dialing, and an alternate short wave mode. At this time FM technology was not available and all stations broadcast on AM frequencies. We could only receive Atlanta stations like WSB, WAGA, WATL, and WGST in the daytime, but at night we could also listen to WSM in Nashville, WCKY in Cincinnati and a few other “clear channel” stations. Clear channel meant that no other station in the nation could broadcast on that station’s frequency. Since radio signals travel farther at night, a station designated as “clear channel” could be heard at night in many surrounding states.
I remember always listening to the “Morning Merry-Go-Round” while we ate breakfast. This program, broadcast by WSB from the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta, was a mixture of news, music, and emcee chatter by Hank Penny the host. Another favorite was Frankie and Johnnie, the “Side Walk Snoopers.” They interviewed people on Peachtree Street in front of Lowes Grand Theater in Atlanta each day around noon. Their program was live and often we’d hear people we knew from Fayetteville being interviewed. There were “soaps” on radio too. Mother’s favorites were “Stella Dallas”, “Ma Perkins” and “Pepper Young’s Family.” The night time programs were the ones we enjoyed most. “Mr. District Attorney” , “Baby Snooks” and “Henry Allridge” were among my favorites. Daddy enjoyed “Lum and Abner”, “Amos and Andy”, and “Fibber McGee and Molly”.

If I could get home and study my lessons before four o’clock, I could listen to a series of fifteen minute serial programs designed for youngsters. There were “Terry and the Pirates”, “Dick Tracy”, “Jack Armstrong”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Little Orphan Annie” and some others that I can’t remember. By sending in the wrapper from a loaf of Merita Bread I joined the Lone Ranger’s Club; and with the seal from a jar of Ovaltine and twenty-five cents I became a member of the Little Orphan Annie’s Club and received a decoder badge. These programs were probably not as educational as “Sesame Street” or “Mr. Rogers” but they were a lot of fun and I enjoyed them.

Now days I watch a lot of television, but the pictures I saw on radio were much more interesting.