When I was about eight or nine years old, my two older brothers, who were working their way through college at Western Kentucky State Teachers College (now WKU) in Bowling Green, gave our family, which consisted of my mother, my father and me, a window to the world in the shape of a battery-powered radio.
At that time, we were living on a tenant farm in Henderson County, Kentucky. My father was tending five acres of dark tobacco, raising corn and hay to feed the livestock, and raising almost everything we had to eat. I know that Mother and Daddy did not have any money to help support two college students.
My brother Neil was alternating teaching school (about $85 a month for seven months!) and attending college, while Carlos had as one of his jobs milking 12 cows, morning and night, for his board and room.
I have no idea what they had to do without to buy the five-tube Crosley battery radio. Wonderings about that only come when one is grown-up. When I went to college, eleven years later, my parents paid my tuition and furnished a checkbook for emergencies. I worked for my meals.
I can't remember anything else I got that Christmas. I suppose I got the usual candy, fruit and nuts. The radio was enough! We had the only radio in the neighborhood, and for a while we had company every Saturday night to listen to the Grand Ole Opry from WSM in Nashville or the National Barn Dance from WLS in Chicago. We always had a crowd when Joe Louis had a boxing match.
I loved the children's programs in the afternoons like Little Orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Shadow Knows. My mother liked the soap operas: Oxydol's own Ma Perkins and several others, including one called Our Gal Sunday. Daddy liked the news and the farm reports. We all liked Lum and Abner, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly (with an overflowing closet).
Daddy always turned on the radio when he built a fire in the fireplace each morning, and I awoke to the strains of "Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?" sung by the wife of Rev. Cadle of the Cadle Tabernacle in Cincinnati coming from the radio beside my bed. I would lie there half asleep as I listened to Cadle's fifteen-minute message. I have wondered in later life how much religious teaching I must have soaked up from his talks.
I happened to be listening and heard radio announcer Gabriel Heatter report the destruction of the German zeppelin, the Hindenburg, when it caught fire just as it got to port in New Jersey.
I didn't know I was poor - and indeed I wasn't. I had plenty of nourishing food to eat, clean, ironed clothes to wear to school, hair ribbons to hold my straight hair out of my eyes, a pair of new shoes when I outgrew my old ones, two loving parents, and two older brothers who must have sacrificed greatly to buy the family a radio that opened the outside world to me.
Printed with permission - copyright June Rice.