Submitted by Susanne Bacon
I can go without television for a long time. My parents got their first set when I was turning 9. German television back then had only three channels, two national public ones and one regional public. Until then, we had been listening to vinyl records and … to the radio.
We had some wonderful radio shows back in the day. I specifically remember a call-in one where people asked for or offered free used items, but also services. My mother answered one of those phone calls one day to help a family with two special needs kids. They developed a life-long friendship. The mornings of Christmas Eve were all about a two-hour Christmas tale featuring a fictitious dog called Knuddel (pronounce K-nooddle), and kids were asked to draw or paint pictures and send them in to win prizes. There were entertainment shows full of skits and trivia quizzes, and you could also call in and win a prize. There were Sunday lunchtime radio dramas in our local dialect – hilarious! And I especially loved the Saturday early night radio program on SDR1, presenting towns of our region with all their historical sights, orchestras, bands, and choirs, followed by the recoding of their church bells and a 10-minute bedtime drama for children. Not that we were in bed while listening. Often, we were on our way back from an all-Saturday outing, listening in the car.
With TV taking over and our listening, respectively watching habits changing, the radio programs changed, too. All my favorite radio shows vanished over the years. I stopped listening to the radio, only selectively watched TV, and mostly stuck my nose into books.
What a delightful surprise when I arrived over here in Washington State to find a lot of radio shows that strongly reminded me of my favorites from the 70s! The first time I was really aware of them was one Christmas Day out near Mowich Lake. It was snowing, and the roads were treacherous, to say the least. Basically, it was The Vinyl Café broadcasting a Dave and Morley Christmas story that saved my wits. Without it I might have been worrying my head off wondering what would happen if we found ourselves stranded in the wilderness. Instead, I was laughing loudly at the incredible twists of the tale, and I adored its Dickensian quality. Unfortunately, the last of this wonderful radio show of great stories was last aired in December 2017. I miss it greatly. If you have never listened into it, here’s another chance: www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/vinyl-cafe.
I do not remember how many times my husband and I have been driving home to the story-telling of The Moth Radio Hour, real life first person stories that make you laugh, shudder, or simply remain pensive. Or listening in on the amazing scientific presentations of the Radiolab. We make guesses and laugh along with the candidates of the news quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” or the equally challenging “Ask me another” with comedian Orphira Eisenberg. And until recently, we regularly also tuned into Car Talk where serious vehicle trouble usually got solved via remote diagnosis and turned into an incessant attack on the laugh muscles.
To be living near the Canadian border has definitely its assets concerning the availability of US and Canadian radio broadcasts. The musical side of the programs always provides listeners with interesting angles as well. You get the picture: When my husband and I are in the car, our radio is almost constantly on. And while he sees to the driving, my mind is allowed to drift to the incredible finesse of DNA or the secret of success, to struggle with answers to complex trivia questions, or to visualize the insanely funny stories about a couple called Dave and Morley. Ah, the old days back when! And the perfection they seemed to hold by just letting your mind picture things.