Wednesday, November 12, 2014


    This week's THROW-BACK THURSDAY topic arises from a remembered conversation of years ago, on the subject of "The Golden Days of Radio." 
    That conversation had begun in an area coffee shop, where an elderly woman at a table nearby noticed the orthopedic collar I was wearing for a sprained neck. Leaning over amiably toward me, she asked, "Honey, is that thing going to do you any good?" 
    I laughingly replied, "Well, it keeps my head from falling off," and she responded with a story. 
"You may not be old enough to remember the years before television," she said. "In those days families gathered around the radio and actually seemed to WATCH it while they listened to it... 
    "Anyway, one night we kids were home alone, and there was a scary story on the radio about a girl who always wore a ribbon around her neck; she never took it off. I still remember how the story ended. When that girl got married, her handsome husband insisted she take the ribbon off. And when she did... her HEAD fell off!" 
    That drew a hearty laugh from both of us, but she reminded me that was an eerie program for the children of those more genteel times. "Our parents surely would have disapproved if they'd known we were listening to such a story," she admitted. "But they were away from home for a bit, and so we listened to it anyway. After the show was over, we were so scared, we could hardly wait for them to get back home." 
    I enjoyed this woman's detailed description of the fancy carved-wood floor model radio she "watched." It was as big as the floor-model TV consoles that would come along in later years, she said. 
    I CONFESSED TO HER that I was more than old enough to recall the days before TV. I and my own siblings would sit in a circle like cowboys around a campfire, "watching" a small radio Dad and Mom had placed high up on a shelf in the kitchen, so only they could reach the dials---thereby giving them control of any subject matter that might reach our tender ears. 
    Still, we raised our faces high and gazed into that story machine as raptly as we'd later look into the television screen. And like this woman, my siblings and I also had our round at foiling parental programming efforts. 
    One program we kids all wanted to hear was Gangbusters, strictly forbidden for us because of its violent gangster story lines. When Mom and Dad stayed late one evening during a visit across town to our grandmother, we commandeered a ladder from the garage and climbed to the shelf to turn the radio to---you guessed it---Gangbusters! 
    We were immediately drawn in by the dark tones leading to the story, but by the time it was over, we were terrified and our house seemed to have acquired some suspicious sounds we hadn't noticed before. I don't think any of us kids slept easily that night, but we had learned a lesson. We couldn't go to Mom and Dad for comfort in our fears, for they surely would have learned what we had done behind their backs. 
    ON SCHOOL-DAY MORNINGS, we kids would wake up to the songs of Happy Hank; that program's motive was to get us moving and in good spirits before we went to school. Then we'd hurried home from school to catch our favorite radio adventures with Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet and others. We memorized the lead-ins and could sing all the advertising jingles. 
    Mom, like many housewives, often tuned in on the 15-minute afternoon soap operas (Ma Perkins, Portia Faces Life and Stella Dallas) so-called because they were always sponsored by soap companies. 
    And our entire family laughed together with the comedies---Amos 'n' Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Baby Snooks, Life of Riley, Jack Benny, Red Skelton.... We also sang and tapped our feet with radio's big-band, pop and country music concerts... 
    There were dramas for all ages, and one of my favorites was an evening program for the entire family---"Dr. Christian, where the audience writes the script." I actually sent that show a script when I was 8 or 9 years old. The manuscript---in childish scrawl filled with marks from my eraser---was rejected, but the rejection letter was kind and filled with encouragement and good advice. 
    Without the images that television would later paint so graphically for us, we radio-watchers were limited only by our own imaginations. The characters formed in our minds were always handsome, beautiful, larger than life, and we were often disappointed when we saw a photograph of any of the actors; they seemed so ordinary! 
    THESE WERE THE days of no TV, no 24-hour news, no weather channels or cell phones and no internet; when the commercials were fewer and shorter and usually singable; when you heard the news succinctly and periodically; when bulletins broke in only when necessary; when the big news stories weren't beat to death over and over through the following hours, days, weeks, months... 
    Many of today's growing cult of old-time radio buffs don't seem old enough to have such interest in what they refer to as the Golden Age of Radio---an era many of them could not possibly have witnessed. Their own nostalgic movement encompasses an era from 1929 to, perhaps, the early 1960s. I came along in 1940 and remember that "Golden Age" as vividly as I recall the exciting days of early television. 
    When TV did arrive, it was generally accepted that it would spell the end of radio, but radio changed gears and the world kept room for both. Radio switched from story machine to music machine. That made it a favored accessory for our automobiles, though for some time it was a luxury too expensive. 
    Radio is still evolving. It still soothes or energizes us with music of every genre. It gives us drive-time talk which we can respond to with our cell phones... It talks sports... Through satellite radio, it also spews out smut... 
    But these days, at least for me, it's mostly a music machine that wakes us every morning with a bit of news and weather, laced with genial conversation while we linger over coffee. 
    It provides good company for our dog when he's in the house alone; he likes the sound of music and the human voice. 
     I hope radio will also be around forever. And I think my dog does too.
The days when families WATCHED the radio together!

Monday, November 10, 2014


By Rose Moore, columnist, 
Excerpt from Gazette Newspapers Ohio
Veterans Day 2014

I extend my Veterans Day salute this year to a civilian, Tom Swope of Mentor, OH who has given a voice to the aging veterans of World War II. These veterans are passing away in great numbers, and Swope has not stopped his unique and earnest efforts on their behalf.

Swope seemed to realize that, for whatever reasons, veterans of that era had difficulty sharing their war experiences with family and succeeding generations. It was important to Swope that their stories not be lost. And so, when the Library of Congress World War II Veterans History Project was initiated, Swope began to dedicate himself to seeking out and recording the veterans' memories for the Library of Congress project. In recording and submitting nearly 500 veterans stories, Swope has devoted so much time and energy that he was invited as a special interviewer and honored guest of the Smithsonian when the Veterans World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

A radio man who felt the veterans' stories should be shared with the public, he also began producing and narrating a weekly series---LEGACIES: Stories from the Second World War, which has marked its 10th anniversary on WINT-AM 1330 (formerly WELW, Willoughby). The program airs on radio at 9:30 Sunday mornings, and on Internet at on Sunday nights at 6:30. The series has earned two Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards and was named Best Weekly Radio Show in Northeast Ohio at the March of Dimes A.I.R. Awards.

Requests from veterans and their families also prompted Swope to compile and edit some of the veterans' stories into a book which bears the same name as the radio series. (The Legacies book is available at or from Swope direct at 440-255-7410).

U.S. Army WW II Veteran,
Clarence "Mike" Swope
SWOPE'S WORK ON behalf of veterans was inspired by his father, World War II veteran Clarence "Mike" Swope. "My dad kept a diary during the war," Swope recalls. "Soldiers were ordered not to keep diaries. The concern was that sensitive information might fall into hands of the enemy, but many ignored the order. My father had his diary with him, a little red memo book, when he was captured. He hid it during his time as a prisoner of war and dared not write in it. On his way home, he began writing again; as much as he could remember about his time as a POW. More than 30 years later, he added more details and then finished it."

After encouraging his father to record and submit his memories to the WWII Veterans History Project, Swope learned that many veterans needed help in preparing and submitting their memories for the project. He began travelling throughout the area providing that help on a volunteer basis, and his wife Noreen and son Mike were supportive in these efforts.

The book and program that coincidentally resulted do not comprise a history or documentary. "Instead, they capture the unique moments remembered by individual soldiers," Swope explains. "War is more than facts and figures. Ask the veterans about their experiences and they will tell stories of friendship, fear, sadness, hope ... Maybe they remember a brush with death or a moment of faith ... Or maybe the day the latrine blew up and all they could do was laugh! Such stories are rarely found in official accounts."

THE VETERANS HAVE shared such memories as: The humanity of civilians during the Bataan Death March when Filipinos risked and sometimes lost their lives trying to help American prisoners ... A laid-back teenager's instant maturity at Pearl Harbor ... Bodies stacked at Iwo Jima beach to make way for military vehicles ... An Army bride enduring terror in Luftwaft bombings, then walking the next day with her children among spring flowers ...

They have spoken of the pain of such things as: Military buddies looking out for each other and then losing each other ... Pilots on D-Day looking down at the destruction of "those kids on the beach; the same age as we were"... Medics recalling with equal clarity that they could save some people, yet do nothing for others ... A young Army nurse noticing the awful but "actually beautiful" tracer patterns of enemy aircraft at night ... An officer and PFC in a foxhole, missing death by inches and realizing rank had disappeared between them for that moment when "we were just two men with the fear of death between us" ...
Swope has shared the words of a variety of veterans, including: The college freshman who was first refused by the military because he was almost blind without his glasses, and later quickly accepted when the need was great ... The battle-hardened marine coming home after war and gratefully finding the aging dog of his pre-war boyhood was incredibly happy to see him again ... Tom Swope's own father, so physically destroyed after escaping captivity and finding his way back to American troops that it was only the unexpected and respectful salute from a high officer that could bring him back to feeling human (That officer was General Dwight D. Eisenhower) ...
The stories remind us that war is fought by human beings. In helping them to share their words with future generations, for inspiration and reflection, Swope underscores our debt to these people who served us well in such a bitter time. And he has solidly set their efforts into history.

AND SO, on behalf of U.S. veterans of every war, I salute Tom Swope and people like him, on this Veterans Day 2014.