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Old Time Radio Shows

Rita Putatunda
Listening to an old time radio show can be a trip down memory lane into a time, when the radio was one of the main sources of entertainment.
There used to be a time, not too long ago, when stories were made up of words, and the audience had to conjure up how the characters looked and what the locations were like with their mental imagery. Between the 1930s and 1950s, radio programs were the main source of entertainment and a way of keeping track of everything happening in the country and abroad.
These shows gave people a chance to make use of their imagination, get into the skin of the characters, and become a part of the unfolding plot. One set of old time radio programs, that families really enjoyed, were the detective stories of Sherlock Holmes, which were aired frequently both in America and England.
These programs were brought to life by the excellent actors that lent their performing voices, such as Basil Rathbone and Carlton Hobbs. While the fans of some classic movies will recollect these actors playing characters like Holmes in movies, listening to them on a radio show was a different experience altogether.
The voice modulation they employed could bring to life an emotional scene, or daunting villains and gorgeous heroines far better than any TV program or movie could.
Another classic example of an old time program that captured a generation's imagination was 'You Bet Your Life' which was hosted by Groucho Marx, featuring a number of competitive questions sprinkled with a lot of humorous conversations. Here's an example:
"Groucho: May I kiss your wife?
Contestant: That would have to be over my dead body.
Groucho: Have it your way. Fenneman, get the gun!"
When the participants answered a question correctly, a duck was brought down, and a quack sound could be heard, which told the radio audience that a contestant had made a fortune. The prizes could include anything, like donuts or money.
Then there were comedy shows, such as 'Abbott and Costello', which used to be a source of great entertainment. The 'Fibber Mcgee and Molly' program, which ran for a long time right from 1935 to 1953, appealed to that audience because it was full of running jokes. The people listening to it could visualize the comedy in it.
Another old-time favorite used to be any program that had Bob Hope. While there have been many great comedians over time, Bob Hope's fantastic timing and witty comebacks made him a class apart. The informal format of his shows allowed his guests to take part in the banter, and the show would be strewn with outstandingly funny comments being tossed about.
The variety of shows hosted by comedians like Bob Hope would also include singers, like Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, the performances of which made these shows priceless.
People in those days waited eagerly for their weekly dose of favorite programs, like The Shadow, Suspense, the Jack Benny Show, The Life of Riley, Amos and Andy, and their much-loved entertainers, like Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Orson Welles, and so on.
In fact, one of the most notorious presentations of an old time radio show was the airing of the 'War Of The Worlds' by Orson Welles in the late 1930s. Meant to be a special program for Halloween, it was aired on 30th October.
Created like a news broadcast, families listening to it thought that Martians had landed on Earth and were decimating large parts of New York, when communication lines seemed to go dead. The impact that it made created widespread panic, which is indicative of the power and quality of such old time radio shows.
There was a wide variety in the genres of these shows, which included mysteries, thrillers, classics, comedy, etc.
The technology today is giving these old radio shows new life through DVDs, CDs, podcasts, and streaming audio. Many people are opting to listen and collect these programs because they find the experience of taking part in the theater of the mind, great fun.
Unlike electronic games and TV, it requires them to create their own pictures. In addition, it also serves as an entertaining way to experience a slice of the history of America, covering a fascinating time period from the 1930s to the early 1950s.