June 8th, 2011
Have you ever heard this before? “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”
It’s the famous intro to the radio drama The Shadow. The Shadow was an invisible avenger who learned the “mysterious power to cloud men’s minds, so that they could not see him.” Even though I wasn’t born until long after the show ended, I know that line and so do many younger than me. That quote speaks to the powerful legacy of radio.
Take a step back in time and imagine that radio is an essential part of American daily life – no television, computer, smart phone, ipod, gaming consoles, and so on. Radio is what informed and entertained an estimated 82 out of 100 Americans of all ages from the early 1920 to the mid 1950’s. That, my friends, is the Golden Age of Radio…
Throughout the 1930’s, radio kept people connected to their country and to each other. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president from 1933-1945, delivered his “fireside chats” via radio to keep Americans informed and inspired. During these chats, FDR spoke about critical issues like unemployment, the economy, national defense and eventually World War II. Radio was an essential part of American life, and families and friends gathered around their radios to be informed and entertained.
Some think of radio today as a boring medium, but the Golden Age of Radio showcased a vibrant offering of programs. Radio listeners had options: children’s programs, westerns, comedies, dramas, mysteries, musical varieties, classical music shows, quiz shows and even horror. Shows such as The Shadow, Amos and Andy, Abbott and Costello, Blondie, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie were immensely popular.
Still think radio sounds boring? On October 30, 1938, thousands of listeners who had unfortunately tuned in late thought that Martians were actually attacking America. Needless to say, they panicked! What they really heard was not a news report, but a radio adaptation of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds produced by a young Orson Welles.
On Monday, June 13th at 6:30 p.m., join us at the Chesapeake City Branch for a Golden Age of Radio program presented by Michele Ringger-Weil of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. For those of you who experienced this era firsthand, come reminisce with memorable faces, voices and shows of the Golden Age of Radio. For those of us who didn’t, come learn about fascinating radio programs and personalities from times gone by.
What are your favorite memories of radio? Is there still a place for radio in our tech-saturated lives?