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Radio Daze

by Albin Johnson

Recently, on a whim, I tried searching for some Industrial Arts school projects I had saved from my college days. I thought my grandchildren might enjoy seeing my attempt at building a basic "crystal radio set". It used no batteries or electricity. The radio was certainly crude by today's transistors and printed circuit boards, but certainly amazing science before the electronic age.

Anyway, no luck! Lost!! Maybe the internet could help! I then started researching. Soon using e-bay, I found a basic crystal kit I could build. Looking further, I found a treasury of radio facts and refurbished old radios. This was exciting, even at my age!

I still listen to the radio when writing, painting art work, and when constructing wood and leaded glass projects in the garage. I generally prefer classical music and operas as the music seems to stir my mind. In contrast, a sprinkling of country western can calm my nerves.

My wife and I purchased our first TV in 1952 and I have embraced it ever since. There is an overwhelming array of lurid, stupid, dumb, slightly better, almost watch able, and the all too infrequent good programs. The ones I enjoy most are usually doomed to cancellation. I won't even "touch" upon the current popular music video programs as the performers do enough touching and groping without me.

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My early Minonk years contained a household of radios. Dad loved them. I remember a Rockwell type painting that showed a family clustered around a 1940's radio that could have been us. Elections and war news were family required participation. When we moved into the apartment across from the bank, Dad installed radios in virtually every room. The enclosed pictures show models and styles of similar radios we had.

The folks bought identical Philco 48-200's that were placed in the bathroom and the kitchen. Our old "cathedral" style radio had been retired and put into storage; it was replaced with a Philco floor model similar to the one shown. The bedrooms had plastic table models like those other pictures included. I think dad bought Philcos because that was the most popular manufacturer of the day.

Page 3 When I went to bed, I turned mine down low and eventually fell asleep. By 1945, some of the Big Bands would play slow "love songs" or ""fall asleep feeling good music". Dave Garroway held sway late at night from Chicago. Any one remember, "Big wind blew in from Winnetka, big wind blew right out again"? Unfortunately he soon moved up to fledgling TV, no longer romantic in TV's effort to be humorous.

In the mid 40's, after school and early evening radio meant "spine-tingling", adventure and drama. Classics such as "The Green Hornet's buzzing" with Brit Reed and faithful Cato, or "The Shadow" who knew where the evil lurked, or "Capt. Midnight's" club with spinning propeller. And what was all that stuff stored in "Fibber McGee's" closet? Later, I wonder how many young men like myself enlisted after hearing Gabriel Heatter explaining that "There is BAD news tonight in Korea"?

When I graduated from MCHS in "48, I received an expensive Philco model 46-350 portable radio. It was powered by a huge battery that weighed a ton. The enclosed photo shows an identical model minus the leather strap handle. It had a sliding "tambour" lid that covered the dials.

The radio arrived just in time for our graduating class's boat trip to Mackinaw Island. We left Chicago on a large steamer and were gone for 3 days. Those who did not become seasick spent very little time in their rooms opting to visit all the people who were there from various high schools. When the conversations flagged, we sat mesmerized by the music playing on mine and other radios. I don't recall the battery letting me down.

Today, I am an AM/FM fan. No tapes, CD's or ear phones, just straight radio playing with low volume music coming from low tech speakers. I do miss Dave Garroway, Roy Acuff, harmonicas, Peggy Lee, balalaikas, Patsy Cline and any musician who can "wail" or any singer like Judy Garland who can make me dream.