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HUCKABY: When did the radio become obsolete?

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

The radio has been a staple in American households since the 1920s. In the '30s, Americans began tuning in on a regular basis for news and entertainment and assurances from the president that prosperity was just around the corner. They listened to "Fibber McGee and Molly" and "Amos and Andy" and FDR's Fireside Chats. Most Americans learned of the dastardly Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor while listening to their favorite Sunday afternoon radio shows on Dec. 7, 1941.

When I was growing up in Porterdale, we listened to the radio more than we watched television. We had an old Philco model, in the kitchen, with a great big dial, and it played most of the day. WGFS was our station of choice -- the "Voice and choice of the Piedmont Area."

We would listen to the "horn-blowers" -- commuters on their way to work who would ride by the station and blow their horns at station owner and morning host Bill Hoffman -- while eating breakfast. During the day, on days when someone was home, we would listen to music and the news and the "Bulletin Board" -- a feature where local residents could list items and services for sale or trade -- and sometimes we would play "Record Giveaway," a sort of poor man's trivia game where the first person to call the station with an answer to a question would win a five-pack of 45 records -- mostly demos that no one would ever listen to.

We would still be listening to WGFS in the evening at sign off time, when Perry Como would sing the Lord's Prayer.

Sometimes, of course, we would listen to WSB or WGST and my sister and I might switch the station to WPLO and listen to a little country music or WQXI for some rock 'n' roll, but we'd better not let Mama come home from the mill and catch us listening to Elvis, because she didn't like the boy. She thought he was vulgar.

I wish my mama could have lived to see what rock stars are like today. She'd be done forgave Elvis. Elvis might have shook his pelvis but he never showed it to anyone on live television.

At night, we might've listened to the Crackers games on the radio, or I might've tried to find a big league game on some static-filled channel coming out of Chicago or Cincinnati. On Saturday afternoons in the fall, the radio was always tuned to WSB because we had to listen to Ed Thilinius and Bill Mundy describe the action from Athens, or wherever else the Georgia Bulldogs might have been playing football. In the winter, we listened to the Kentucky Wildcats play on WHAS out of Louisville. My daddy was an Adolph Rupp man.

Of course we had to be ever-vigilant in case we were instructed to tune our radio to the civil defense station, in the event of nuclear attack.

By the time my lovely wife Lisa and I had set up housekeeping, television had long supplanted the radio as the primary means of entertainment and communication, but that didn't mean we didn't have several in our house. There was an AM-FM tuner in our stereo rack system and we each had a clock radio on our bedside table and we kept a radio on the kitchen counter as well. Bill Hoffman had retired by then, but I liked to listen to Ludlow Porch and all the whackos that called his talk show.

While I wasn't looking, modern technology had rendered the radio obsolete in our house. There is still a stereo rack system in the basement, but it is in the storage section and not plugged in. The speakers are not attached and I wouldn't begin to know how to restore it to a functional state. My kids do listen to music, but they have thousands of songs downloaded onto their iPods and plug them into tiny speakers that would dwarf the decibel capacity of our old-fashioned stereos. All of the old boom boxes we used to have were discarded a long time ago.

I quit carrying a headset radio to ball games when Larry Munson retired, so the ones I had up in the closet didn't have batteries and Lisa did away with our under-the-counter kitchen radio when she had granite countertops installed last spring. The clock on my 28-year-old clock radio still works, but the radio does not.

So there we were -- wanting to listen to the Georgia post-game show to see what Mark Richt had to say about the near-fourth quarter collapse and about the post-game tirade Bulldog coach Todd Grantham unleashed on the Vanderbilt coach.

We did what any other grown men would have done: We got in the car and drove around Rockdale County for an hour, listening to the car radio. I'm not sure we ever got satisfactory answers to any of our questions, though.

Sunday morning, I made another startling discovery. Radios are really cheap nowadays, and, for the record -- we now have one in every room. Never know when there might be a nuclear attack.

I wonder if anybody still plays "Record Giveaway."Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.