When people discover that I have a weblog…and after they’ve been revived with a glass of water and a quick fanning with the nearest newspaper or magazine…they usually ask me what Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is all about. I describe TDOY as “a blog that revels in the good old days—when black-and-white movies weren’t necessarily bad things, when people listened to a RADIO for entertainment…and when unreality shows (talking horses, witches, genies, monsters and martians) ruled the television airwaves.”
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is a labor of love for me…and it keeps me out of the pool halls. Originally, I developed TDOY as a weblog dedicated to my hobby of collecting old-time radio, which I wrote about in my first post (when the blog was located at Salon Blogs) on November 4, 2003:
Let us begin…
I’ve always been convinced that I grew up in the wrong decade.
I was born in 1963, but throughout my lifetime, my tastes in entertainment have always been drawn to product made ten, twenty and even thirty years before that date.
I love old, classic movies. My all-time favorite film is Casablanca. There is nothing I enjoy more than popping in a DVD and watching an old Bogart movie, or some classic film noir, or one of the great Universal Studios horror films. I’m embarrassed sometimes when a friend asks me if I’ve seen any good movies lately and it turns out that most of the ones I’ve recently watched were produced before 1970. I don’t consider myself an old fogey (though I turned 40 this year) but I remain steadfastly convinced that (all together now) “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.” The greatest disappointment in my life at this time is that my cable company refuses to carry TCM–if they did, it would be on my TV set 24-7-365.
I was very fortunate to be a child during the 70s nostalgia boom; a period where “everything old is new again” was the dominating theme in pop culture. While listening to a Charleston, WV radio station rebroadcast the comedy serial Lum and Abner it was there that I first discovered my passion for old-time radio (or, as it is known to the hobbyists and enthusiasts, OTR).
I’ve heard many an anecdote about how people, when they were children, were mystified by radio–some were convinced that there were actually “little people” inside. I was never that naive, but I will reluctantly concede that I pictured radio as a giant stage where people would get up and perform live. (My visit to my hometown’s radio station soon dispelled that notion when I saw stacks and stacks of vinyl records, the bulk of which supplied the entertainment coming out of my little radio set.) When I first heard Lum and Abner, I marveled at the concept of two guys just talking on radio–with no music being played in between.
This was my first exposure to OTR, but it would not be my last. Later on in the mid 70s, I stumbled onto rebroadcasts of the classic BBC radio series The Goon Show, which were being showcased on a local public radio station (WOUB-FM in Athens, Ohio). (At that point in my adolescence, I was a big fan of TV’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the Goons seemed to me to be their aural equivalent–not knowing, at that time, that it was the Goons who influenced Python.) It was also on WOUB that I heard shows dedicated to radio comedians of the past, two of which I remember were Will Rogers and Stan Freberg. Later still, WOUB introduced an interesting Monday-night offering called “Monday Night at the Radio.” The first half-hour, broadcast at 10pm, featured an interesting BBC comedy/game show called My Word (followed by an equally interesting variation called My Music), and then at 10:30pm…The Shadow!
It was here that I first learned that Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town, had learned a strange and mysterious secret while in the Orient: the hypnotic power to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see him. Now, a prepubescent type like myself would probably have used that to infiltrate the girls’ locker room; Cranston, on the other hand, had decided to fight crime with it. I suppose he didn’t need to go into the locker room, since he already had a girlfriend–although she was generally introduced as “friend and companion.”
Margo Lane–she was “the only person to know to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs.” (Talk about a heavy responsibility.) I should also point out here that, as a rule, my parents frowned on my staying up until 11pm to listen to The Shadow, so oftentimes I would have to “sneak” listening to it, trying to turn the radio volume to such a level where I would be able to hear it but at the same time not alert my father to what was going on. (I would later discover that many young folk like myself would do the very same thing during the original Golden Age of Radio.)
After The Shadow continued its run, WOUB replaced it with programs like The Lone Ranger and Night Beat–a short-lived but excellent series starring Frank Lovejoy as a newspaper reporter/columnist for a Chicago newspaper. By this time, there was no question that I had become hooked on old radio. Fortunately, there were a lot of stations still showcasing the old broadcasts at that time (particularly around the holidays, like Christmas) and I would supplement those off-the-air tapings with purchased product from companies like the since-departed-from-the-scene Radiola and Mark 56. To date, I have close to 4,500 broadcasts on vinyl, cassette and CD–ranging from comedy to horror to suspense and much more.
So, that, in a nutshell, is the purpose of this blog. I’ve been seeking an outlet to write about my passion for old-time radio and this looks like as good a place to start as any. (On occasion, I might veer a little off-topic and allow my thoughts to spill forth on related topics, like classic movies or classic TV–so I hope you’ll indulge my occasional flights of fancy.) The nature of my job allows me to listen to a lot of OTR programs, and I will try on a fairly regular basis to share my thoughts on shows that I’ve listened to. Comments are both welcomed and encouraged. So return with me now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear.”
Things have changed quite a bit since that post in 2003; I wanted TDOY to be more of a nostalgia-oriented blog, so I started writing more about classic movies and television…and I still “keep my hand in” writing about old-time radio, though I’ll freely admit I don’t write about it as much as I once did. (To keep up with when I do write about OTR, check out my posts at the Radio Spirits blog.) Of course, I continue to take the off-topic exit ramp on occasion and comment on politics or just something that’s put a burr under my saddle. But I hope that the movie/TV material will make you a regular reader as I continue to jump into my WABAC machine and return to “those thrilling days of yesteryear.”