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The Slice

Radio days

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Monday's Slice column about being under the covers on a school night and searching for distant stations on a transistor radio seemed to connect with readers.

But my assumption that this was pretty much a boy thing was politely challenged by several of my correspondents.

“This girl from a small town in Indiana found (dial scanning) very entertaining,” wrote Amy Houser. “It instilled in me a wanderlust to explore our country.”

Lisa Lasswell is another who remembers. “I was one of those 10-year-old kids who was amazed to discover I could hear, from Spokane, what was going on in some far-away place called Grand Junction (which I then had to look up in our family atlas…does anyone still have or use one of those?). There was something thrilling in the realization that my little radio had a reach of over 1,000 miles, at least late at night when all conditions were perfect. Now with the click of a mouse my 10-year-old son can see around the world. Sigh.”

Melissa Shireman remembers, in the late '70s and early '80s, pulling in stations from Las Vegas, San Francisco and Denver on her clock radio. “I thought it was the coolest thing.”

Barbara Cunningham, who grew in Southern Idaho, was one of the first in her circle of friends to get a transistor radio. She remembers listening to a station in Oklahoma City.

North Idaho's Robin Draut spent childhood years in coastal Fort Bragg, California. “I loved dialing in San Francisco, Los Angeles and MEXICO,” she wrote. “Sometimes I could get stations from somewhere in the East (but then everything was East for us). Since we lived isolated from most of the world, we really loved knowing that we were somehow connected.”

Mary Ann McKnight, who grew up in Blythe, Calif., remembers listening to stations in Oklahoma City and Yuma, Ariz. “You had to turn it on at just the right time of day and when my dad wasn't around.”

“We moved here from Sacramento 10 years ago,” wrote Erica Hallock. “Although we love Spokane, I still miss Sacratomato. When I am driving though our state during the evening/night hours, I love that I can find my favorite talk radio from Sacramento (KFBK).”

Kath'ren Bay shared this. “I am a girl who grew up in Boise and want you to know the late-night under-the-covers transistor radio thing was not just for boys. I'll give you that my radio was a pretty turquoise number, but I 'traveled' all over the country, just like you; chasing wild dee-jays and discovering new music. My favorite city was San Francisco.

“To this day there is something wonderful about night driving and listening to the crisp clear sound of music via the radio dial.”

Liz Cox grew up here and still remembers one station that “blasted the wattage into my cottage” from somewhere in Utah or Nevada.

Sara Lindgren didn't get into this as a little kid. But when she was a student at Whitworth, she regularly tuned in a radio signal from Salt Lake City.

Jo Hartley lived in Idaho and tried to pick up a certain station in Sacramento.

Another reader, a woman who grew up in the South, recalled marking her radio dial with a pen so she could find certain stations again.

My colleague Pia Hallenberg reminded me that this isn't just a North American pastime. As a girl growing up in Denmark, her favorite station was Radio Luxembourg.

Another SR friend, Jeff Jordan, recalled living here and listening to KFI from Los Angeles during a time when many L.A. Dodgers were fresh from stints with the AAA Spokane Indians.

“In the summer you usually had to wait until 8:30 or 9 before you could start picking up the signal. It got stronger through the night and it always came in better in my dad's 1959 Ford. Many nights I would fall asleep in the car listening to Vin Scully's Hall of Fame descriptions of Dodgers baseball. Dad or Mom would have to bring me in.

“In my junior high years, Dad would let me start the car for a couple of minutes every hour so the battery didn't die. One of my memorable broadcasts was listening to Vin Scully call a Sandy Koufax no-hitter. Scully just allowed the crowd's deafening roar to tell the story on the final out.”

Ken Oaks, who grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, remembers listening to WLS in Chicago and, on good nights, WBZ in Boston. “Lots of good memories,” he wrote.

Chris DeForest, who grew up in Seattle, remembers doing extra chores as a kid to subsidize the purchase of replacment batteries. They tended not to last long if you routinely fell asleep with the radio still on beneath your pillow.

Kevin Albaugh, who lived in New York state, recalls picking up stations in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and New York City. “It was great fun,” he wrote.

Emmett Arndt was another member of this unofficial club. “It was magical to me,” he wrote.

Some transistor radios had illuminated tuning dials. But Ken Stout took a flash light under the covers with him.

Lan Hellie, who grew up north of Spokane, made an effort to tune in a Vancouver, B. C., station with a progressive rock playlist.

Bob Brown shared this. “I can't remember where it came from, but the 'Lucky Lager Dance Time' was my favorite program, my first introduction to rock and roll.”

Tara Leininger wrote, “When I was a tween (like the term existed back then!) I loved late night radio. I grew up in Kalispell, Montana, and on a really good night I could get Calgary! I couldn't get Missoula but could get Spokane more often than not. I think the mountains really bounced signals in an interesting way.”

“My husband's family in Deer Park listened to the Grand Ole Opry from Nashville,” wrote Julie Roberts.

From his childhood basement bedroom on the South Hill, Joe Jovanovich picked up stations from places such as Denver and St. Louis.

Vince Roland grew up in Kentucky and listened to stations in, among other places, Chicago and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Harry Hart shared this. “In 1974, I was driving from Denver to Boise. In the early hours of the morning (around 2 or so) for the last 100 miles south of Boise, I was listening to WWL out of New Orleans. It was as loud and clear as if it was a local station.”

Another Slice reader recalled having to sleep in the top bunk in her brother's room when the family had company staying over. On those occasions, she would listen to her brother down below expertly tuning his radio to one far-away station after another. And she would nod off with visions of a big, exciting country dancing in her head.

I could go on.

Thanks to those who shared radio-listening memories. 

      


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Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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