24 March 2009

The Best of the Story

Living 12 hours ahead of my favorite US radio programs gives my life in Singapore a bit of a pause. I no longer listen to radio shows as they air; rather I listen to episodes after they are posted on the Internet. By the time I heard that Paul Harvey died, thanks to Le Show, weeks had passed.

Whenever I hear Paul Harvey’s name, his voice, or a parody of his signature lines, my early childhood vacations in the 70s instantly pop into mind. Our family car was a 1964 army green Chevrolet station wagon with 3-on-the-tree transmission. It did not have air-conditioning or power windows. The big rear window had to be cranked open and closed from the outside. For long trips, the back seat and the way-back seat folded flat to create one long flatbed where my brothers, sisters and I would stretch out in a row like a box of Ohio Blue Tip Matches. With suitcases stowed on top of the roof and a cooler stowed below my mom’s feet, off Dad would drive to our destination. Entertainment on the road consisted of singing songs, playing car bingo and listening to the radio. The Chevy wagon was the vehicle that drove my devotion to the radio.

In waking hours, Paul Harvey was the only time the car went silent. Once his broadcast began, we instantly shushed. At first, I did not know what I was listening to until I heard him say, “Page two.” Then I knew I missed something. So, I learned to pay attention the minute he began his broadcast. I would build an image in my head as I listened to a story unfold about everyone from George Washington to Amelia Earhart.

The radio always seemed to be on no matter where I was or what I was doing. A transistor was on as we played outside or worked in the yard. At night, my sisters and I would listen to our radios under our pillows before falling asleep. We would listen to Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians baseball games. On Christmas Eve, we would listen to Santa’s sleigh report. WCOL always seemed to be playing a song by the Steve Miller Band and all the stations aired the test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The radio provided the soundtrack to my childhood.

Paul Harvey’s style of storytelling is gone, but storytelling on the radio is alive and still sparks imagination. He was the best of the story. Now we have Garrison Keeler and his weekly program A Prairie Home Companion. However, other programs are telling stories even if not promoted as such. Brian Lehrer tells the story of NYC and Leonard Lopate tells the story of entertainers and historians. Even NPR gives a narrative of the day. My favorite in radio storytelling is baseball. I prefer to listen to the Yankees on the radio than watch them on TV - so much that I schedule my yard work around their game times. John Sterling knows everything about the Yankees and the history of the game. He can describe Jeter at the plate while telling a tale of another baseball great and then tie it all together with the action in the stadium. Listening to a play-by-play on the radio is exciting storytelling.

Today, the radio continues to air the story of my life. But what’s to become of me this baseball season? I have no radio, no yard and I’m nowhere near the Yankees time zone. April 16th will tell the rest of the story. Good Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment