Saturday, February 17, 2018

the imaginings of radio times

At the time (late 1940's?) when the Grolands got the first television set in our neighborhood, I was used to listening to radio dramas. Radio dramas included "The Lone Ranger" and "The Shadow" and "The Green Hornet," most during the early evening hours when a kid like me might be expected to stay up. Action stories, tough guys and not a lot of meat on the bone.

But later at night, after I was supposed to be asleep, I would turn the radio on very low and listen to serious drama written by serious writers like Roald Dahl. Some were scary (the man who was about to be embalmed even though he was still alive -- if paralyzed -- after an auto accident) and some simply keep you wide-awake (as the man who took up a bet that he could light a lighter 10 times consecutively or, if he failed, have pinky finger cut off; winning meant he would have access to the beautiful wife of the man who posed the bet). As anyone can tell you, listening to scary stories in the dark is scarier still.

Radio was all listening. The listener filled in the colors and shapes and movements of the voices that etched the stories. That imaginative participation was crucial to radio ... and delicious.

When the Grolands got their TV and I was invited over to see "Howdy Doody," I recognized immediately how limiting a visual medium could be. Howdy Doody was assinine. I didn't even wait for the show to end before I manufactured an excuse to go home. If I wanted to see a movie-like story, the Saturday afternoon matinee was good enough for me, even if I did wish I would watch movies in my own house and not just in a movie theater.

Adding a visual component was a wonderful addition, but it also truncated the vast opportunities provided by a radio tale and its imagination-compadre. Dress, looks, scowls ... all that and more leapt off an infinite palate when whispered late at night on the radio. On the screen, you only had one choice... and of course the first TV's provided only black and white tableaux.

To fill in with imagination -- it was as natural as apple pie, until it wasn't. And at that point, I think, imaginations began to wither on the vine.

Death by dessication.

Or maybe not for others.

1 comment:

  1. We miss what's gone and are suspicious of what's replaced it. Change is a bitch that encompasses good and bad.