Thursday, December 12, 2019

Maybe it's time we let the old ways shine.

14 Kislev 5780.

One can criticize old time radio for a lot of things: racism; sexism; excessive smoking and drinking; stereotyping of nearly all groups. In many ways, we've come a long way, baby, to paraphrase an old TV commercial (ironically targeting women to buy cigarettes). But there are other features of old time radio that call me back to the golden oldie airwaves rather than to Netflix, even though those airwaves are synthetically reproduced via the internet: the short, easy to digest stories; the moral messages in nearly every type of story; the beauty of the English; the lack of foul language; the discreet shade of innuendo or intimation covering overt sexuality and violence; the clearer line between Good and Evil.

Advertising and public service announcements (PSAs) surrounding old time radio stories were charming in both their language ("unpleasing breath,") and in their understanding of the country's need to pull together during war time. Every man, woman and child was enjoined during these announcements to support the war effort, not just through purchasing War Bonds, but by a general belt-tightening. The public seemed proud to comply. I can't even imagine how difficult it would be today to persuade people to give up their luxuries for a common cause, much less to conserve their use of necessities. Small wonder our elders were considered the Greatest Generation.

Here's an example of a PSA that was quite common during World War II. A mystery program ended with a reminder to purchase Kolynos Toothpaste for "teeth that make a good impression," relieved of "dingy surface stains... to reveal the natural brilliance of your teeth to add so much to the charm and personality of your smile." And then --

"And this is Mr. Keen with one last word. I've been asked to bring to your attention the important fact that our country is still faced by a critical shortage of tires for civilian use. The tires you have now must last you indefinitely. Do not be misled by announcements that huge quantities of synthetic rubber are being made. They are, but they are required for military use. So do everything you can to make your tires last as long as possible. Drive only when necessary at under 35 miles an hour. Keep your tires properly inflated and inspected. Recap your tires as soon as they need it, and share your car with others. Good night, and thank you all." -- Bennet Kilpack, playing the role of Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons, 3 February 1944

We have learned so much, added so much to the world of technology, medicine, philosophy, and in some countries only, the rights of human beings... but we have lost a lot, too.

Sometimes it's worth taking the time to retrace our steps, to listen a little to the old ways, to see what we can, perhaps, recapture of what was good.

Happy 71st birthday, Coach, aka the Major, aka the Dearly Beloved. Thanks for putting up with all those hours of OTR over the years.

The title is a rephrasing of a lovely modern song my sons sing and play well. They are right, and I am also right. Stay tuned for an upcoming recording.


  1. Good, sad, Post. We're in a disposable world. Appliances aren't repaired; they're replaced. Clothes don't last.
    At least some young people are trying to preserve. I have a daughter-in-law who's very involved in Jerusalem's "swapping" community.

    1. We can hope that people like your daughter will bring back some of the old ways. I'm seeing my young people doing more recycling, re-purposing... and their diets are getting some old-fashioned tweaking, too!