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Radio Days

Story ID:1327
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Tacoma Wa. USA
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Radio Days
by Kathe Campbell

Sinister and eerie hair-raising music fades, and then . . ."The S h a d o w Knows!" The slow, deep-voiced prologue resonates across my bed, raising lively shivers and goose bumps. After a brief pause to plug the sponsor's wares, this little tomboy thrills to the weekly adventures of this fallacious hunter.

I loved the radio, and 66 years later, I still do while wending my way up and down the mountain listening to "Old Radio" on the XM. Long before television, our family lived for Lux Radio Theater, Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen, along with mother's daily soaps. Radios resided in nearly every room in our home, even in the bathroom where dad caught the news and did a little jig as he lathered up.

Glorious music poured over the airwaves most weekends until programming was interrupted on one never-to-be-forgotten day. Mother was tying my Sunday School hair ribbon when the reporter made the most horrifying announcement of the century. Shocked and saddened, dad's voice exploded in blasphemies down the stairway on that December 7th, 1941 morning. I never saw my dad cry until that God-awful day.

I received my very own little white bedside radio at Christmas, the programs chasing the new decade worries and cares away, if only for awhile. After any schoolwork was finished, I was allowed to listen to two favorite half-hour serials before drifting off to dreamland. Besides The Green Hornet and Inner Sanctum, I was crazy for the westerns. We were big city dwellers, and unlike my family, I obsessed with anything that went yippee yay kio and clippity clop, clippity clop.

Occasionally, sleepy eyes drooped, and I leapt into the saddle upon a great golden palomino, his tail trailing long and silver, like a luminous comet. His ears flitted, his enormous liquid black eyes danced, and his soft flowing white mane perpetually caught the wind. The steed and I thundered across sage and sand toward a shimmering mirage . . . until . . .

"Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear - The Lone Ranger Rides Again! A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty 'Hi-yo Silver!' The Lone Ranger!" The great voices of Brace Beemer and Jay Silverheels had rousted me from my dreams, voices that could never be mistaken.

Episodes usually ended with one of the characters lamenting they never found out the hero's name, "Who was that masked man?" only to be told, "Why, that was the Lone Ranger!" as he and Tonto galloped away on Silver and Scout. Forever associated with the series was the familiar theme music, The William Tell Overture, and don't forget that silver bullet. I sent for one, as well as a half dozen other serial trinkets. At ten-o'clock it was time for me to unsaddle my pony and call it a day until the following week's thrilling episode.

Listening to my favorite half-hour dramas carried me off into a thousand fantasies. My heart rushed at murder and mayhem, the bad guys always coming to justice in the end. And I giggled out loud through a half dozen situation comedies, wondering how they would ever solve life's trials. My peers and I tuned in to Red Ryder, Death Valley Days, Life of Riley, Dr. Kildare, Our Miss Brooks, Fibber McGee and Molly, and The Great Gildersleeve. Yes, anticipated episodes awaited us all that one hour before a familiar theme lulled us away with the sandman.

Our family drove to San Gabriel, California over the Christmas holidays the following year. My Grandpa Buck, had a great ranch where he raised fancy horses for sale or lease to the movie studios to use in a variety of movies. One morning there came a knock on Buck's door and I heard men's voices greeting one another in loud tones. I vividly recall working a puzzle with Grandma Dulce and feeling I was being carried away in a time warp of sorts. The sound of one man's voice was so strikingly familiar, I ran through the parlor and out the door to make sure. I knew it! There was Jay Silverheels with one foot propped up on a fence rail bargaining with Buck for a new horse for his son. Frightened out of my skin over the presence of one of my favorite real-life celebrities, my limp hand shake must have seemed a sorry hello.

Rossini's raucous overture and those thrilling days of yesteryear were never quite the same, ever again.