Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Radio signoff

It's the habit around here at the Lazy 'C' Ranch for Peggy to watch her "Once Upon A Time" (which I always call "One Day At A Time") on Sunday evenings, and then a couple of shows she follows on PBS - those English dramas - and maybe something on the Oprah Network.

For all I know, she could be running a printing press and running off bogus twenty-dollar bills all that time, because I am up here in my den listening to "The Big Broadcast" on WAMU-FM, the American University radio station from DC.  The show consists of tapes of old radio shows, such as "Dragnet" and "Gunsmoke" and "The Great Gildersleeve."   

The host since 1990 has been a fellow named Ed Walker, who has been around WAMU since they signed on in 1951 as a campus AM station.  Things have changed for sure! Now they carry NPR programming during the day, and are usually the top rated station in DC.

Without fail, the top rated show on Sunday nights is "Big Broadcast," and Ed, as I say, has been there for 25 years.  He took over from John Hickman, who realized in 1964 that people would like to hear old radio shows again.

Before hosting this Sunday show, Ed teamed with Willard Scott, whom you'll remember from the Today Show with his weather forecasts, jam and jelly commercials, and birthday greetings for people who turn 100 or so.  They were a radio comedy team called "The Joy Boys," until 1974, when they were replaced by Dick Cheney and George Bush.

At 83, Ed Walker, born blind, is battling cancer and has retired to enter a skilled nursing facility. As a young man, he listened to the radio and found a future in it. “Radio was everything to me, not being able to see,” he told an interviewer on WAMU.

Ed Walker
“The sound on radio was important. Radio took the place of comic books and newspapers and the funnies and all that stuff. So I grew up with it.”

Radio is often described as the theater of the mind, and has no visuals to put its message across.  That puts both sighted and visually impaired people on the same footing as listeners, and Ed always found people he worked with at radio stations helpful in getting his commercial copy put into Braille. Listening to him, one could never tell he could not see...and still, he could hear like you and I and everyone else could as well, and that's all radio is.

The last time we'll get to hear Ed, for now, will be on his final recorded broadcast, this Sunday the 25th, 8 til midnight, on 88.5 FM, or online at WWW.WAMU.org.

Listening to the old radio shows will be something interesting if it's your first time hearing them, or if you remember hearing the radio version of "Ozzie and Harriet" during the late 40s and early 50s. Trust me, it was a whole different world then. I'm just glad someone saved the tapes from when radio was everything.

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