Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Five radios

I remember my first transistor radio, a Zenith with a leather case and an earphone that looked like a hearing aid. I think that I received this radio as a present for First Communion (halfhearted Catholic childhood). My most vivid memory of this radio involves summer and a "beach chair" (lawn chair) on which I sat in front of my grandparents' house, one leg elevated, listening to WABC and WMCA (the Beatles, the Four Seasons' "Rag Doll"). I had bruised my leg very badly trying to jump up the steep steps of my stoop, two steps at a time.

I remember my parents' FM radio, which sat on their bedroom dresser. This radio took several minutes to warm up, and I liked seeing the red-orange warmth as the tubes came to life. In early adolescence, I listened to hours of blues from the twenties and thirties on this radio, via Columbia University's WKCR. Yes, those were my Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

[ ]
I don't remember a second transistor radio, but I must have had one, because I do remember listening to Jean Shepherd on WOR when I was in high school. I listened in bed with an earphone and never fell asleep.

I remember the kitchen radio, AM-FM, always tuned to WOR in the morning ("Rambling with Gambling") or to news station WINS ("You give us 22 minutes; we'll give you the world").

4, 5
I remember the AM radios in the family station wagon (a Ford Torino) and my first car (a Honda Civic 1200). As a college commuter in those cars, I listened to Gambling in the morning (with helicopter reports on traffic) and Bob and Ray in the afternoon. Being stuck in traffic on the approach to the George Washington Bridge was a lot more bearable with Bob and Ray, Mary and Harry Backstayge, and Wally Ballou ("-ly Ballou here").

[Reading about WKCR in the New Yorker prompted me to write this post. My model is Joe Brainard's I Remember, a book with a simple and brilliant premise.]

[Update, May 29, 2008: I just found a photograph of the Zenith on Flickr: Zenith Royal 12.]

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

I remember my first radio, a red plastic Airline AM radio I got for my birthday one year. I used to DX (listen to faraway stations) at night and fall asleep to WBZ or KYW so that my mother had to turn it off.

I remember my first short wave radio, a Heathkit that my father and I put together. We strung a wire antenna out the window and grounded it with a section of pipe.

I remember the car radio in our Honda, how I used to listen to WBZ when driving through Wisconsin on my way to Northfield, Minnesota. I remember David Brudnoy interviewing Kitty Dukakis and listening until the WBZ signal faded, somewhere between La Crosse and Rochester.

Michael Leddy said...

Norman, thanks for the reverie. I remember the short wave radio that I borrowed from you, many years ago.