Saturday, March 26, 2005

Living in the Past

When I was a kid growing up in East Texas back in the 1940s and 1950s, I was pretty much physically isolated from the rest of the world. Travel wasn't one of my family's activities. But my imagination wasn't isolated. As soon as I learned to read, I was patrolling the streets of Bayport with Frank and Joe, roaming through the jungles of Africa and South America with Tarzan and Bomba, and walking the surface of Barsoom with John Carter. At the movies, I was riding the Old West with Johnny Mack Brown, Tex Ritter, Allan Rocky Lane, and a host of others. And I was visiting (via the radio) Allen's Alley, Duffy's Tavern, and 79 Wistful Vista. So I didn't feel deprived.

Later on, after I started driving, I listened to radio stations from such exotic faraway places as Chicago (WLS), New Orleans (WNOE), and Gallatin, Tennessee. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Gallatin, Tennessee?" That is, that's what you're thinking if you weren't out cruising the southern summer nights in the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s with your car radio reaching out to hear Gene Nobles, John R., and the Old Hoss Man advertising Randy's Record Shop, White Rose Petroleum Jelly, and Silky Strate hair dressing. I loved those disk jockies and the records they played, many of them records you didn't hear on just any station. And that's why finding this website sent me into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia. Listening to the sound bites near the bottom of the page and hearing the voices of John R. and Gene Nobles transported me to a time long ago and far away, to riding shotgun in Bob Tyus's 1940 Chevrolet and Fred Williams's '50 Ford, or driving around in my own '49 Dodge with the Clunk-O-Matic transmission. Those were the days.

3 comments:

Kent Morgan said...

You think you were isolated; what about growing up in The Pas, which is north of the 53rd parallel. At least you had plenty of books while I was reading the Tom Swift collection in our very meager school library. The town did not have a library at the time and most of my reading material was magazines purchased at the local tobacco store.

The radio situation was very odd. During the day you could pull in only one station located in Flin Flon about 100 miles north plus the national CBC network. At night the 50,000 watt clear channel stations blasted in, which was fine in the winter when it was dark by the time I came home from school via the local poolroom. In the summer it was very different because it didn't get dark until 10 to midnight and you could not pull in the stations until it was dark. I worked in the local theatre as a ticket taker and would turn on the radio after getting home from the late shift about 11:30/midnight.

On the good nights you had plenty of choice - WJR Detroit, WCFL, WGN and WSL Chicago, KSTP and WCCO on each side of the Mississippi in the Twin Cities, KMOX St. Louis, KOA Denver, KSL Salt Lake City plus stations in Rochester, NY, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Omaha whose call letters I forget. I guess it was my northern Manitoba version of trainspotting. We weren't able to pick up Nashville, Gallatin or the Shreveport station that a Winnipeg friend listened to growing up.

Because of interference from the large apartments buildings near where I live, reception in my house is spotty even with an antennae. But it's much different at our cottage on Lake Winnipeg about 60 miles north. Once it gets dark, I pull out my small but powerful radio and try to pull in as many diffrent stations as I can. It's not the same, of course, with all the talk shows, but there is a jazz show on KMOX on Saturday nights and you do find music other places once in awhile.

Anonymous said...

My mother-in-law in Annawan, IL, listened to WSL. I have some booklets about the station that she had and saved.. Is there anyplace that I could send them so that others would enjoy them?

Bill said...

Maybe the station itself would like to have them. Or maybe you could post them on the 'net.