Celebrating the Golden Age of Radio

Today, February 13, 2021, is World Radio Day. A day when we celebrate how radio brings us together. Because before there was the World Wide Web, there was the radio, broadcasting shows, news and stories from all over the world.

As a community theatre that isn’t able to gather together to rehearse or perform, we decided to revisit this medium that brought families together for decades before we moved on to the glows of our TVs, and later, our electronic devices.

I grew up hearing stories from my family about being gathered around the radio listening to the news, or a soap opera. I couldn’t quite grasp it.

And I will never forget watching The Night That Panicked America on TV as a child. This was a made for TV movie from 1975 that told the story of the chaos that hit the country during the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. I could not wrap my head around the type of power this medium held to create that type of immense panic.

But the radio and the info it gave us was part of the fabric of American life. Families in small towns and big cities alike could listen to the same concerts, dramas, and sports.

C. E. Hooper Company did a survey in 1947 that found that 82 out of 100 Americans claimed to listen to the radio.

Just this Christmas, my father told us a story about what a radio meant to his family. He grew up in a small mining town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. 

My dad remembers when his family first installed electricity in their home. They couldn’t afford to purchase both lights and a radio.  My grandmother decided on a radio.

I was a little surprised. But my dad said that his mother wanted the radio because it could bring the world to them. Hearing that made sense. And he has so many fond memories of listening to the radio with his family and learning about the world from his small town. The thought of getting news about World War 2 moments after it was reported seemed so sophisticated.

For years, I grew up visiting my mom’s childhood home, also in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The radio still stood in the living room, but I never remember it working. And I always thought it was so pretty it was just part of the decor.

My mom’s mother used to listen to Guiding Light on the radio, before it was broadcast on TV on CBS. A habit that was passed on once the show moved to television.

My family recently sold that house, and with it the radio. I just asked my mom if she had a picture of that old radio. She said she did in a way. Years ago, while visiting Elvis Presely’s Graceland, she was amused to see that Elvis (or at least his house) had the exact same radio. From a small town in the country to the King of Rock and Roll, the radio was accessible to most Americans.

So you may be able to imagine how excited I was when RCP president Chuck Goddeeris asked if anyone had a radio script they would like to propose for a new project. And then, RCP director Laurie Smalis answered that call!

She chose to direct the original radio script of the Maltese Falcon from 1941. Her production features a few RCP favorites!

And for those of you, like me, that are fascinated at the pure genius of the Foley Artist, our broadcast on Youtube will show our foley artist in action. I can’t wait for my kids to see this aspect of the production.

Our production will premier on the Rosedale Community Players Youtube Channel on Friday, February 26th at 8 pm. It is free to watch, but you will have the opportunity to donate to RCP, so we can keep finding ways to bring art to our community.

We hope you will join us. And while the production is free of charge, we do hope you will consider making a donation while enjoying our show. This has been a difficult year for all of us. So while we have enjoyed getting creative in order to perfor, we also hope to raise funds so when we can perform live again, we come back stronger than ever.

And if you have stories about listening to the radio during its Golden Age, please send us those stories. We would love to share them as we celebrate this wonderfully historical medium. Contact us via our website or on our Facebook page.

Devene Godau, Rosedale Community Player Promotions Chair

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