|Spring 1996||Thoughts Of A Collector||Summer 1996||Newark Convention Experience|
|Fall 1996||Tape Problems||Winter 1997||On Line With The Internet|
|Spring 1997||Squealing Tape Problem||Fall 1997||Thinking Back|
|Winter 1998||Going to Newark Convention||Spring 1998||1997 Convention Report|
|Spring 1999||The Fog Zone||Summer 1999||Analyzing Shows|
SPRING 1999, Vol. XXVII, No. 2
THE FOG ZONE by Henry R. Hinkel
The Old Time Radio Digest on the Internet is a fun place to be. The topics vary and sometimes go astray but are always enjoyable and interesting to read. The names of the contributors are often familiar, but you don't really know who they are. It's fun to pick out the "young ones" from the "old guys" by reading their messages to the Digest.
Recently, one contributor wrote that he just listened to a Great Gildersleeve Show from the early 40's where Gildy asked Leroy to go to the kitchen and bring him a Coke and to get one for himself too. He then said that they went on for a couple of minutes raving about how good the Coke was. He then asked "What's so great about having a Coke? Am I missing something here?"
Obviously the question was asked by a "young one". All the answers that later appeared on the Digest had to be from the "old guys". Here are some answers that came from all over the country, but basically the thoughts and memories were the same:
"That show was broadcast during the war. Sugar was rationed and soda and pop were not as plentiful as before."
"I remember going to a local gas station where we would get our soda from a cooler filled with ice. It tasted great on a hot summer afternoon."
"I remember getting soda from a vending machine where the bottles would drop down a chute."
"We only drank soda on special occasions, such as birthday parties or picnics."
"Families did not have a lot of money then, so it was rarely spent on buying soda, it was used for other things."
"If we wanted to have a soda, we went to the local soda fountain to get a Coke."
All the above remarks were contained in a larger paragraph by each contributor detailing all the events surrounding how they managed to get a soda to drink. This, of course, started my own "little gray cells" to working. I have to reach back into what I call the "fog zone", where some memories stand out and others have to be prodded and pushed before they come back in focus. But, then again, I'm not always sure if this is what really happened or what I think happened.
I don't recall there ever was a shortage of soda because of the sugar rationing, but families in my neighborhood never kept a supply of soda on hand. There was always soda for a party but it was usually purchased in quarts rather than individual bottles. Quarts were cheaper and easier to carry than a dozen of loose bottles. No handy six-packs in those days. A quart was never opened unless it was to be all used up. You couldn't save it for a couple of days because it would go flat. Several types of bottle stoppers were available but none really worked for any length of time. If you wanted a drink, you drank water.
Near a local park was a tavern that did a brisk business with cold soda. They had a soda cooler inside near the door. The cooler was about the size of your kitchen table, insulated and made of metal. The cover was a hinged door that you opened to get at the drinks that were buried in chipped ice and ice water. Sometimes you could see the flavor you wanted, other times you had to "feel" along the bottom of the cooler for your bottle. There was nothing like a hot summer day, your throat parched dry, sweat running down your back, when you plunge your arm into a cooler holding 33 degree water and ice, to try and find the flavor you want to drink. It "kinda" takes your breath away. We also placed both hands into the water to just above the wrists to bring down our body temperature to help cool us off. But, you couldn't keep your hands or arms in the water very long before they began to ache. Several years later, these coolers were replaced with electric vending machines that dropped your bottle down a chute. This was quite a contrast to having your fingertips go numb in search of that elusive bottle of root beer!
Many neighborhoods were dotted with local drug stores and most contained soda fountains. Many a nickel was spent here for a "Cherry Coke" or an ice cream sundae. Ice cream was another thing you didn't have at home very often. If you did, you had to get it "hand packed" at the soda fountain and eat it immediately when you got home.
Pepsi and Coke were the two major brand names but practically every community had one or two bottling works that made its own local brand of soda. These local brands were more popular with the general public than the national brands because it was cheaper. I know of one local family owned company who had a fella working for them who helped mix the brew, bottled the drink, load the truck, and then delivered it to the stores. I don't know how many others worked there, but the owners never had to worry about union problems. These small local soda companies, like the local beer breweries, eventually faded away without much notice. Today they are hardly remembered and are slowly fading into the "fog zone".
Of all the replies sent to the original question, there was one answer no one seemed to touch on. No soda drink is refreshing if it is warm. The average family during the 30's and 40's did not own a refrigerator. Everyone had an "ice box". Families had to keep the food cool, not the soda. Soda bottles did not cool down unless placed against the block of ice, and this would cause the ice to melt faster. Chipping ice for your drink was also not normally done. The faster the ice disappeared, the more ice you would have to buy. No one liked to drink warm soda. During the winter months, our family would put soda in an unheated hallway to keep it cool. Sometimes bottles would be placed on the outside porch for a quick chill, bursting if not brought in on time.
It wasn't until after the war (WWII) that everyone wanted or could afford a refrigerator, a telephone, a new car, or any other "modern" convenience that would make every day life a little better. I remember members of family having their names placed on "waiting" lists at different stores in order to purchase a refrigerator or other appliances that were in demand. No one was concerned with the brand name, just the product. News would spread quickly in the neighborhood when someone was notified to pick up their new refrigerator. Today, refrigerators not only give you instant ice cubes, you can also have racks to place your soda cans in like the old vending machines.
You may ask, "What has this to do with Old Time Radio?" Nothing really .... the only thing in common is "history". Back in the 30's and 40's, it was not history, just normal every day events that no one was concerned about. "What's so great about having a Coke?" Nothing really .... when you can now just go to your refrigerator any time, and take one out for a quick cold drink. But, it is still part of "history" when a long time ago you had to put your arm into that bone chilling ice water to try to find a cold drink.
Who would have imagined that today you can go to a drive through window and pick up your bag of hamburgers, fries and drink anytime of the day. Back in the good old days we had to wait for a summertime "Field Day" or "Picnic" to get your hamburger hot off the grill to have with your Coke. Today you can listen to OTR on your portable Boom Box or car radio. There was a time when portable radios did not exist, most cars didn't have radios and most people didn't have cars.
Are things better today or way back when? I guess as a whole, things are much better today. But then again, when I reach back through the "fog zone", Gildy was right .... that Coke did taste much better when I pulled it out of that ice chest.
Just some thoughts of a collector.
SUMMER 1999, Vol. XXVII, No. 3
ANALYZING SHOWS by Henry R. Hinkel
As I have mentioned in previous articles, I enjoy reading the OTR Digest on the Internet and especially some of the questions asked by the "young ones". A question was asked concerning the time change of the 15 minute Amos and Andy shows to the new half-hour format. The inquiry was upon reading and checking newspapers and other articles of that time, no mention was made as to why the change in format or how come people did not question or complain about the change in a very popular radio show. Times change.... attitudes change.... ideas change.... and in the passing of time a simple explanation is often over looked.... no one really cared.... it was just another radio show.
Today, among collectors and historians, everyone seems to want to be an analyst to disect history into a pat and logical explanation of things. The simple explanation was.... no one cared.... it was just another radio show. Back in those "good old days" if given a choice of listening to Amos and Andy, or Bob Hope, or going to the movies to see Errol Flynn or Robert Taylor, guess what the choice was.... the movies. Amos and Andy and Bob Hope would be on the radio again next week. The movies usually played for only 2 or 3 days then was gone forever.... never to be seen again except 20 years later on the "Late Show".
Just about everyone listened to the radio, but it was only a small part of a person's life. There seems to be a misconception among young OTR collectors that people used to sit and stare at the radio when they listened. Old printed radio advertisements showed the family gathered around "looking" at the brand new radio floor model console as they listened to their favorite program. Not so.... Mothers would often be in the kitchen preparing things for tomorrow's supper, fathers may be reading the newspaper or magazine, the kids would be doing homework and all of them would have one ear tuned in to the radio. All would pause in what they were doing to catch some rapid-fire series of jokes, to hear what happened when the girl screamed, or whose body fell to the floor. I can remember stopping what I was doing and turning my head to look at the radio when the villain entered the dark house, hearing the stairs slowly creak and waiting to see if the victim heard it too. It seemed like everyone could do more than one thing at a time.... and chew gum too. Did you ever try talking to a die-hard sports fan or walk slowly past the TV when they were "involved" in the sporting event? How about talking to a young child when they are watching cartoons? The concentration seems to be a little different than it was back in the "old days".
Another contributor commented that Lux Radio Theater did not hold up to the original movie and that it did not hold and keep a large audience because of this. This is only partially true. The writers had to tell a story in 45 minutes that the original movie told in 90+ minutes. The listeners did lose in this respect because they never had a chance to get the full impact of some stories because of the condensed versions. Listeners would tune in for two reasons, first they had enjoyed the movie, second to listen to the radio cast do the story compared to the movie cast. The original movie cast did not always appear in the radio cast.
It was a tough job for an actor to try and do the part originally done by Bogart, Robinson or Cagney. I remember listening to a couple of stories when I thought the radio cast was better than the movie cast. But radio could not compete with the visual effects. You could not get the same feeling listening as the spy in "Saboteur" falls from the torch on the Statute of Liberty as you did when you watched the drama unfold in the movie.
Lux Radio Theater had a good following with rural America. The working farm family could not go to town anytime they wanted to, there was too much work to be done. Lux provided the movie stories that the rural families could not get to see. Remember, movies only played for 2 or 3 days and were gone. We had 3 movie theaters in our city of 40,000 and they all showed different movies. As kids we were lucky.... we could see everything from Charlie Chan and Boston Blackie to the big MGM musicals and everything in between. Rural America had to depend on the Lux Radio Theater and similar shows to bring Hollywood into their homes.
OTR collectors are now the lucky ones.... we have stumbled into a hobby that most people do not know exist. We entertain ourselves by listening to those detectives get hit on the head week after week, chuckle with the antics of Amos and Andy, listen to high drama or old movies, travel to unexplored worlds, or just relax with Sinatra, Crosby, Jolson and Lanza. Let's enjoy what we are actually privileged to have.
Let's not try to analyze all the in and outs, what and wherefores, the why and howcomes. As William Shatner said to a die-hard trekkie who peppered him with technical questions -- "For God's sake, it was only a television show". This was radio, performed by professionals for our entertainment and their livelihood. We will never see this era of radio, as we knew it, again. Let's be glad we found this hobby and what's more important, enjoy what most the world knows nothing about.
Just some thoughts of a collector.
Send questions and comments about the NARA NEWS Magazine to: Hank Hinkel, Old Timer
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