6 Things to Discover From Old Time Radio

Back before cell phones and x-box, before tablets and computers, before cassettes and 8 tracks, and before television was introduced, there was radio, the electronic home entertainment of the times, pure and simple.

And it was the radio programs and music that brought radios to life.

Until television arrived in the 1950’s and 1960’s into most homes, radio provided hours of family entertainment. Picture this: the family gathered together around the radio set to listen to their favorite show waiting to be informed and entertained. Radio brought the outside world into your home. Radio programs connected you to Presidents, comedians, and singers. Radio brought new voices into your home. Radio captured people’s attention.

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There are actually thousands of things you can discover from listening to old-time radio music and programs, like the adventures of Amelia Earhart, the music of Bing Crosby, the comedy of Jack Benny, mysteries like the Creaking Door, or President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats.

Here are some other things I have discovered after using old-time radio programs.

  1. Comedians like Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton had radio programs, as well as well as duos like Fibber McGee and Molly, and George Burns and Gracie Allen (better known as Burns and Allen). Many other comedians like Bing Crosby and Frank Morgan as The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy also had programs that would keep families in stitches. There were hundreds of comedic programs performed by comedians who became very well-known.
  2. There are several other genres in old-time radio. Mysteries, radio plays, quiz shows, talent shows, science fiction, and soap operas, filled the air waves. Folks could listen to religious programs, sports, holiday programs, and westerns. Everyone who owned a radio probably had a favorite show. My mom’s favorite programs were a western known as “Lone Ranger” and a soap opera called “Stella Dallas”.
  3. Many old radio shows went on to become television shows like Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, Truth or Consequences, Lassie, Tarzan, and many more.
  4. Many old-time radio recordings have been preserved for listening today. Places like otrcat.com have done a marvelous job of preserving and categorizing favorite programs of the past. You can sample many recordings and purchase those that are favorites for an elder in your family. Old time radio programs and music also make great gifts.
  5. Old time radio is great for reminiscing. Folks like my parents reminisce about the radio shows they enjoyed. My dad’s favorite comedians were Bob Hope and Red Skelton. He loved the radio shows and later television specials both of these funny men performed in. We purchased a Bob Hope program that he listens to, not only in the car, but on a cd player at home. Below are some questions to spur the memory about old-time radio.

Questions for reminiscing about old-time radio:

  • Did your family have a radio growing up?
  • Was the radio a source of entertainment for your family?
  • Who in the family would sit around and listen to the radio?
  • When would you listen to the radio?
  • What programs did your family listen to?
  • It seems most people had more than one favorite program. What were your favorites?
  • Who was your favorite radio personality?
  • Who was your favorite comedian? singer?
  • Which children’s shows were the favorite in your family?
  • (In addition to these questions, ask questions about specific shows.)

6.  Ways to use old radio programs:

  • An older family member can listen to old radio programs while in the car or while sitting in his living room. He can listen alone, but it’s also fun to listen with others, because old radio programs can be a wonderful spark for memories and a great conversation piece.
  • Get the family, especially children, to listen to the programs with an elder. With the right radio program this can be a fun intergenerational activity.
  • As a Recreational Therapist in long-term care, I played old-time radio programs for residents. They enjoyed it in their rooms as an individual activity and also listened as a group in common areas and activity rooms. Listening with others brought forth memories that were shared with one another which can still make this passive activity into an active one.
  • Old radio programs and music make great gifts if you find out which programs your older family member enjoyed. Or maybe, which ones they would have liked to listened to!

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