Old Radios, Aging Broad

Despite years as a radio journalist, I never looked inside the machine that sent my stories out into the world.

Then I found this, the backside of my grandmother’s old radio:

Guts-eye view of my grandmother's 1948 Crosley radio
Guts‐eye view of a 1948 Crosley radio: aren’t those vacuum tubes gorgeous?

At the bottom of the picture, as if lying down for a long nap, lies what you’re no doubt looking for: the radio dial. Here it is, full frontal:

Four wave bands — AM, FM, shortwave, and police — with push buttons for on/off, sound, and station controls.

I’d forgotten that radios once had shortwave and police bands on top of the information and music channels we utilized most.

In my grandmother’s day, AM radio was primo. Lawrence Welk was her favorite! When he switched to television, so did she.

Scope the station buttons on the lower right of the picture. You’ll find my grandmother’s favorite AM station, KPO, marked by its broken, smudged glass. It’s an old San Francisco radio station. Did Welk produce his show there?

From the station buttons, my radio friends will recognize KGO, KARN and KONO. The others are all California‐based, still on the air, 70+ years later.

The FM band would have meant Future Media to my grandmother. But I wonder if she ever listened to the police band. Maybe shortwave radio? On a lonely Saturday night after her son had left home for university?

This old radio enchants as does the larger set of my grandmother’s furniture.

Entertainment center with cocktail cart; console includes turntable on upper left with storage for 78‐speed records below.

I remember the glitz of her Adolphus Hotel apartment. Dinners included soft jazz emanating from the black box and cocktail ice clinking from the cart. Fancy, intimidating moments for a little Pampa girl.

Perhaps it’s not the memories, but nostalgia for old equipment? Today’s gizmos can’t replicate the simplicity of a one‐function device. Solid state and digital technology isn’t as warm as wood and doesn’t glow like tubes. Also, satellite voices talking to the masses never impact as deeply as locals who name names.

But you reach a point where the past can’t keep talking to you.

So, we donated these pieces to Vintage Sounds Houston. They’ll find a home for these gems.

Meantime, I clear out my space, listening to the future now.

Which voice do you tune in?

On the Radio Road

The glory of a road trip is its implied permission to slow down and see.

Even quickies allow a glance of both.

First, I beg your advance forgiveness. This post is intensely personal.

Yesterday involved a quickie trip, four hours by car north to Kilgore, a small east Texas town near the Louisiana state line. There, at the Texas Broadcasting Museum, DH joined 17 other inductees into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

Big honor, big deal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dQtG38hfjw

This first‐ever RoadBroads video is worth your viewing time. Objective? Of. Course. Not.

Truthfully, 55 years’ work in one industry—radio and television—across four states and six cities merits celebration. In today’s world, where do you find that kind of dedicated work and unending passion? 

Our present‐day rush‐rush‐rush world celebrates the opposite: speed and superficial over slow and deep. The 240‐mile drive forced me to experience the latter.

The heavy blanket of morning fog hovered across fields that resembled where I grew up. Those Texas Panhandle wheat fields told me to leave. Now they spoke of memory rising in solitude.

The mist of this slow Saturday sunrise, sight offered hope, oddly.

Afternoon and a drive back home to Houston changed the view. A different kind of hope.

Something about the sun insistent on cracking with light, Cohen‐like. Clouds. Breakthrough. More hope.

I smiled, understanding unnecessary.

In between these trip bookends, the day became a trip down memory lane. Like DH, I worked in radio/TV news in a previous life. We used equipment like this every hour on the hour. We dubbed it The Board.

Translation: it’s one piece of equipment, used in the dark ages (aka ‘70s to early ‘90s) of radio to communicate with listeners like you. Standing before The Board in a now‐silent control room , my fingers twitched at my sides. Ancient muscle memory reactivated. Palms flattened against my thighs. My mind returned, smiling at the The Board, to the studio in Pampa—or was it Lubbock? Austin? Houston?

I backtimed to meet the network clean. Fingers hovered above the cart’s green “start” button, right thumb flat against the mic lever ready to go live, bladder squeezing tight for an overdue break, and lips ready to pronounce another station ID: “KPDN, Pampa, Texas. 740 AM on your radio dial. It’s eleven o’clock.” 

I swear I heard the station jingle in my ear, through non‐existent head phones. My mouth even whispered the time. In my memory, the network sounder blended in and the join was clean. “Yes!” I whispered.

Later, I saw these rabbit ears atop the now‐tiny‐looking television. Do you remember?

Change rules. Then and now, it always has. Even when we don’t like it.

Perhaps we can embrace that truth, beginning with slowing down. Going deep.

Seeing. Remembering. Celebrating.

Special memories. Special days. Special people.