Friday, April 29, 2011

RADIO CENTRAL

I’m among those who have lived through the age of the radio and appreciate the role this instrument played in the progress of communication.  I own two Bose radios, a discount store “special” radio, and a wind-up broadcasting object that I used during two hurricanes.  I once had a short wave and a radio devoted especially to weather reports, and I also have an XM radio in the car that features international stations, old radio shows, NPR, Nashville country music stations, etc.  The two Bose radios and the discount “special” are plug-ins, and the other day when the storms hit Sewanee and knocked out the power, I had no battery-operated radio.   After sitting in a news-less world overnight, when I didn’t know whether a tornado was headed our way and all my neighbor’s homes were dark and silent, the following morning we went to Monteagle where power had been restored, got a cup of coffee at McDonald’s, and made a quick trip to Fred’s to buy a battery-operated radio.

That round black object, which looked like the head of an alien or a flying saucer, cost us the grand price of $6!  When we turned it on AM, we received a lot of extraneous noise like a helicopter chopping in the background, but we could hear the announcer, who had an endearing Tennessee twang, talking loud and clear about roofing, lawn care, podiatrists, side-by-side refrigerators, and complaining about the loss of internet …but no news about the power outage or weather reports!  When he had advertised for at least ten minutes, he announced a song would be rendered, and we sat through the singing of a ditty called “Down in the Boondocks.”  Reluctantly, I silenced the mouth of the flying saucer, and we drove to the local post office where news usually arrives early via the postmaster and various people who collect their mail while congregating in front of the building to converse about local happenings.  The news from there was that power would be restored by 11 a.m.  They were right on the money about the prediction.  In later ruminations about this method of communicating news, I wondered, “so who needs a radio or TV?”
Meanwhile, I have the little black box which I turned on this morning and received the news that Franklin County High School had been awarded a special recognition for collecting 5,000 pairs of jeans, more than any high school in the U.S. for a “Teens for Jeans” program.  This was laudable news, but after listening to more than two pages’ worth of ads that support this station, I gave up and went back to meditating on modern electronics and how addicted I had become to news that spewed from the television set.

Radio is really in my bloodstream since I grew up in the 40’s and listened to such programs as “The Shadow,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Let’s Pretend,” and the “Inner Sanctum.”  In the 50’s, I cherished the radio because it was a way of passing time during our sojourn in snowy Limestone, Maine where my former husband had been sent as a radar specialist.   Listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s radio program, while keeping warm under an electric blanket, became a nightly habit until we returned to Louisiana and bought a television set. 

My grandfather Paul loved radio and had a Special Land Station, KFLD, back in the late 20’s.  He performed radio experiments for the government to help develop the science of radio communication.  Grandfather took over a back bedroom in the old Victorian house in Franklinton, Louisiana and set up radio equipment there.  He enjoyed radio work until lightning struck the room and set it on fire – luckily the fire was quenched before the rest of the house burned down, but, following the fire, my grandmother declared that Grandfather should take up a new hobby.  However, I don’t think that gardening ever supplanted his love of operating a radio station.
When one of my daughters began carrying a boom box around with her during her teen-age years, my love affair with radios suffered a temporary hiatus, but she grew up and discarded the boom box, and by then, I had begun to rely on television for the news. 

Meanwhile, the small black object sits on a side table in the dining room and begs for listening, and I’m thinking about turning it on at noon to see how many fresh vegetables, sump pumps, refrigerators, and pest control services I can buy before I find out whether another storm is headed this way.
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