When I lived in Los Angeles, there was an all-news radio station, KNX1070 “News Radio” that, despite its tag line, did not play “all news” all the time. There were breaks in the news for traffic and weather reports (“traffic and weather together!”). In the evenings the had the KNX Radio Drama Hour. I don’t recall if this was a daily occurrence, or if it took place once a week. But during that golden hour, the radio station replayed old radio shows like “The Lone Ranger,” and occasionally comedies like “The George and Gracie Show.”
I loved listening to those shows. It was like being transported back in time, but in some fundamental way. The people who listened to the original broadcasts did so on radios not much different from the radios on which I listened to the replays. There was nothing to see, nothing to watch. My imagination filled in the blanks as I listened to “The Shadow” or a George Burns comedy skit.
I grew up in a television era. In the heyday of my youth in the late 1970s, I remember watching The Dukes of Hazzard, and The Incredible Hulk, and The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Love Boat (and sometimes, if we stayed up especially late, Fantasy Island). As fond as I am of those shows, I sometimes wish I’d grown up in a radio era.
We have radio today, of course, but it is nothing like radio in the days when television was a glimmer. Our car gets Sirius XM satellite radio and we can choose from a host of commercial-free options. Broadcast radio plays music, or provides news reports, and bickering conversation in between a barrage of commercials. But I have a fondness for old radio that I can’t quite explain.
The old shows were rehearsed, but they were funny. They are funny still today, when I have a chance to hear them. The personalities appearing on the shows were celebrities in every sense of the word. Even the commercials were part of the show, often built in to the skits, (“The makers of Lady Ashbond’s Incense, the incense that is kind to your nose, presents ‘The Hour of Love…’”)
There is something delightful imaging the family gathered around the radio, listening to George Burns, or Bing Crosby, or getting the news from Edward R. Murrow. Radio is a simple enough to transport you to a different era. Modern distractions: the Internet, video games, television, all fade into the future.
After nearly 30 years, KNX1070 stopped the Radio Drama Hour in 2003. I wish there was a radio station—even a satellite radio station—that played full feeds from the 1920s, 1930s or 1940s. The could play the old dramas, the news, even the commercials. A radio station that did that today might be the closest we ever come to experiencing time travel.