Radio always broadcast drama,
“Superman,” “Captain Midnight,”
Truman announcing the end of WWII.
I reveal my age: an age of radio.
In 10th grade I got the measles, and
at home I listened to afternoon soaps,
“Helen Trent,” Mary Noble, “Backstage Wife.”
At night, with the volume turned low,
“Lux Radio Theater,” “Inner Sanctum”-
the latter introduced with a squeaking door.
I was alone listening to those programs, alone
with my imagination. With family, it was
“Burns and Allen,” “Jack Benny,”
“The Great Gildersleeve”, also with imagination--
hearing the closet door open in “Fibber McGee
and Mollie.” Golly, it was great to have the radio.
And “golly” was about as strong as language got.
The characters were friends, the music
my own, the ads humorous-
and so repetitious I couldn't get them
out of my head, which was their intent.
I will always remember “Manhattan Coffee,”
which long since no longer exists-but
the jingle and its music does!
Wheaties, Ovaltine, Hot Ralston,
Lux Soap. Oh, to be beautiful.
Radio made one beautiful, or sexy,
or adventurous, good or evil,
the brilliant pianist, the galloping hero.
Radio was moral. Radio was pure.
Radio was a boy's delight.
It still is.
I listen to Will Duchon's measured voice,
his droll commentary. The words fall
like fingers on the keys. It's his music.
And mine in the transmission.
I can see him with a cast of thousands
in the solitary room where, by my imagination,
he is having fun, and seriously teasing
us with impossible quizzes (well, for me;
not to those who grab the weekly prize-
again imagined: their rooms filled with
make believe). But we believe, because
we believe Will. We trust his judgment,
his playfulness, his sardonic outlook
on life inferred: we're going to hell in that handbag,
but accompanied by Rachmaninoff all the way.
Garrett Stack, too, and Susan Kennedy:
Saturday late afternoon and evening.
I am in the theater, I am on the dance floor.
Only radio can do that. Television is too literal.
It's a love affair with music.
Radio is a love affair.
Those who broadcast tease, entertain, challenge,
produce, create-words, music, drama
imagined or real. But real
because it is imagined. We who listen
respond by the same phantasmagorias:
in the mind, of the heart.
Today there is “talk radio.” I'm not talking
about talk radio, which is mostly hateful
and manipulative, rapacious in the exploitation
of base desire and fears. Revenge:
grab 'em by the balls and squeeze, hard.
Would Jack Benny have said that?
Well, maybe, but not on the radio!
I'm talking about WMNR radio, or
radio remembered when “Terry and the Pirates”
Came to the rescue. To rescue what or whom?
I don't know. Use your imagination.
A bell signaled “Captain Midnight,” and
believe me, that bell sounded the depths
of my soul before I knew the word, soul.
Listen again to Benny Goodman
slide down that clarinet, or Glenn Miller
on “The Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
That's a train I can ride,
“Some Enchanted Evening,”
or as fantasy seeing myself
playing Chopin “Impromptu.”
Listen to the radio:
it's where your heart beats true.
Listen to the radio saying,
“It Had To Be You.”
Rob Stuart is a poet, pianist, and retired clergyperson who lives on the "East End" of Long Island, NY.
Reply to RStuart11@aol.com