Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TRANSISTOR RADIO

After the levity, we have time for a happier memory, perhaps. We still have a good deal of risky business, danger, pain and heartache to look forward to. But not all boyhood memories are traumatic. Some glow with sunshine, innocence, optimism and good cheer. Some bubble with hero worship. Some reflect the boy's natural curiosity and sense of fun. And some, as today's post, celebrate the fascination with everything mechanical, with workshop tools and cars and technological devices. My friend Brian Jones recalls the advent of the transistor radio, and the access it allowed to a boy growing up in Oklahoma to a whole wide world beyond the limits of his previously known horizons, and especially to distant sports events...


TRANSISTOR RADIO
By Brian Jones

The introduction of the transistor radio in 1958 opened a world up to me. The voice coming through that tinny aluminum speaker grill was both a teacher and a friend. Growing up in a small town in Oklahoma my world was riding bicycles with friends, leaving in the morning and not returning until sundown. It was a real live Andy Griffith show. My best friend, Marshall Mabry, had a large yard with a baseball backstop and a basketball court, so we would spend hours and hours playing and competing with other neighborhood kids.

Listening to baseball on my transistor radio was my connection to cities outside of our little town: the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those cities sounded amazing! Imagine going to Los Angeles, where movie stars lived and surfers like the Beach Boys caught waves!

This was a time when space travel was in its infancy. Sputnik had carried a live monkey into space and back again. But to me, the thought of traveling to a big city like Los Angeles was beyond the realm of possibility. I was happy to listen to games and hear about ball parks like Wrigley Field and Candlestick Park, about the Green Monster, and dream that I could somehow, someday play in one of those parks.

My hero was Mickey Mantle, also an Oklahoma boy, who played baseball for the mighty New York Yankees. I was a centerfielder on my little league team just like Mickey. I was a fast runner like Mickey. I wore the number 7, just like the Mick. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hit a curve ball, which diminished my future baseball prospects. And I suspect it would not have been as eminent as I thought it might be. One of my best memories was listening to the Yankees play in the World Series. I would sneak my radio into the classroom and turn the volume down as low as it could go. The beauty of listening to baseball on the radio is you can always tell when something exciting is happening. The usual quiet drone of voices is interrupted by a burst of excitement. The announcer goes wild; the crowd goes wild. Then, during recess, I would compare notes with other boys to see what the score was while we engaged in a game of kickball.

The transistor radio also introduced me to the world of music. Radio station WKY in Oklahoma City would broadcast the music of the times, exciting new releases that were changing popular music. Frank Sinatra was out, Elvis was in. At night I would listen to Top 40 announcer, Ronnie Kay, who would play Roy Orbison, the Supremes, the Four Tops and would later introduce me to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. So now not only did I learn about the big American cities; Liverpool and London also came into the picture.

To this day, when I work in the garden or in my shop, I still carry a transistor radio with me and listen to a game. I don’t really care what game it is. I just like the sound of the announcer’s voice and the sounds of the crowd and the feeling of being magically transported to another place in the world.


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