Memory Lane

Radio 2017-10-29T17:38:25-05:00


Growing Up In Bixby

By Don House

Gene, my older brother, recalled our family listening to their first radio program. It was a Jack Dempsey vs Gene Tunney boxing match for the heavyweight championship. Using other facts he mentioned of the occasion, I determined it was probably the Dempsey vs Tunney rematch in 1927, seven years before I was born. The “listening party” was at Adkins’ Store on the southeast corner of 151st and Harvard. This store predated, by several years, the store many people remember on the northwest corner of the same intersection.

Ten or eleven years later, our Dad purchased a radio for the House family. I remember when Bill Bradley, our rural mail carrier, delivered the radio in a mail order parcel from Sears and Roebuck.

Today, as I recall the features of the old Silvertone radio, I realize Dad really did his homework before choosing it. Unlike most battery radios, which required relatively expensive replacement dry cells, this beauty had an internal vibrator power supply which operated from a six volt rechargeable car battery. The charge was maintained by a “wind charger” which Dad purchased separately and installed on the roof. The wind turned a six-foot, two-blade propeller which engaged a generator. The generator could be disengaged by pulling a cable which ran down the outside of the house. I think this feature was to protect the generator in case the wind blew too hard. We usually had sufficient wind out on the prairie to keep the battery charged. But if the battery ran down from over use or lack of wind, Dad took it to Alby and Rooks on our weekly Saturday excursion to town.

The following Saturday he retrieved the fully recharged battery, and we could listen to our radio again. Other features of the radio were:
1) Band switching between AM and short-wave; FM didn’t exist yet.
2) Push button tuning for selecting one of six pre-settable frequencies, but only three local stations existed. They’re burned into my memory; KVOO 1170, KOME 1300, and KTUL 1430.
3) A tuning eye enabled the user to precisely adjust the manual tuning knob.
4) Tone control for treble or bass.
5) An internal speaker.
6) An internal 115 volt AC power supply which would be useful about six years later with the availability of electricity.
7) A beautiful walnut veneer table model cabinet, which housed the radio, speaker, battery and power supplies.

Radios of that day required an “aerial and ground” for good reception. Our aerial consisted of a wire about 100 feet long which ran from the ridge of the house to a vertical joint of pipe at the edge of our yard, supported by insulators at both ends. The ground was a rod in the ground outside the window nearest the radio. We received only the three local stations during daylight, but the entire world was ours at night!

Daytime use was normally limited to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys at noon. In the evening, Dad tuned in his favorite news commentator, Glenn Condon. Then we listened to one of the prime time programs, such as “Life of Riley”, “Amos and Andy”, “Lum and Abner”, “Fibber Magee and Molly”, “Red Skelton”, “Baby Snooks”, “Truth or Consequences”, or “Grand Ole Opry.” The latter two were Saturday night fare, but I don’t remember the schedule for the comedies. Years later I was allowed to listen to “The Lone Ranger”, “Jack Armstrong”, “Hop Harrigan” and “Dick Tracy”. My interest in radio was piqued when I discovered ham radio operators on the short-wave band! It was difficult to find anyone to share my new interest, but eventually I found a town kid, two years behind me at school, who also had an interest in ham radio. His name was Pat Daily. Our adventures during the next several years could fill a book! But first, I’ll need to check the statute of limitations!

© 2006-2008 · Don House · Bixby OK · All Rights Reserved. Published at Bixby Historical Society Online with permission.