Although there was television in the 50s and the growing phenomenon it was, radio was still significant. The advent of rock ’n roll and the transistor radio made this communication instrument ubiquitous. However, radio had once been the staple of my father’s professional life. In my infancy he had been president of the Radio Writer’s Guild and through my adolescence he wrote both radio and television shows about higher education.
At William J. O’Shea Junior High School the absolutely funniest joke during my tenure was the one about the elephant and the monkey in the bathtub, the elephant says “please pass the soap” and the monkey responds “no soap radio”. We thought that this was extremely humorous. Adults didn’t get it, which made it funnier. You see, there was nothing funny except that it wasn’t.
I suppose the monkey could have responded with no soap, toilet paper but he didn’t. It would not have made a difference but my point here is that in the early 60’s radio was still important.
We West Side kids grew up with radio which was joined by TV to be our entertainment along with our street games and board games.
To my life, radio was much more.
In our west side apartment one could always hear the fire department radio. The receiver was in dad’s study and the extra speaker hung in the corner of the dining room. Dad and I were always alert to hear our corner’s fire alarm box, one-one-three-eight and any radio calls for multiple alarm fires that would inevitably send him running off to the Red Cross building to get the canteen out to go to Bickford’s and then the fire scene to serve soup and sandwiches with other members of the Third Alarm Association. The radio stayed on until dad’s death in 1970.
The other radio in my life was of course rock & roll stations that brought dancing into our lives at PS9 and JHS44. There were other stations and disc jockeys but ABC was dad’s employer, and therefore a favorite, even if he didn’t appreciate our music.
Later there was the Citizens Band radio I used as a commuter. My handle was “gingerale”. I was driving a green rabbit. I joined the “six-nine convoy” and always had friends on the road. When I began to commute with a colleague she got the handle “rider”. The convoy met Thursday mornings at a fast food place on Astoria Blvd., it was already the 1980’s.
The comings and goings of radio in apartment 9E went beyond the constant squawking of the fire department dispatchers to shows dad had a part in. He was known to have programmed much of the network’s music for the weekend immediately following the murder of President Kennedy. He tried to market “Your Fire Reporter”. He produced and wrote “Disaster” for the American Red Cross and a public service program called “Meet the Small College”. Before my birth there had only been radio and filmmaking in his career.
As a teen walking home from “44” across 77th Street to get to Broadway and then uptown to 83rd Street you would find me with my pocket size transistor radio, like most of my friends.
At home we played records but on the street it was radio. Sometimes strolling and sometimes while playing stoop ball or handball, the radio would provide background noise. It was a tool of presidents and mayors and a source of support for my family.
Photo By Joe Haupt