Having Fun – Radio
Radio was the nation’s first mass medium, linking the country and ending the isolation of rural residents. Radio was so important that the 1930 Census asked if the household had a radio. Radio provided free entertainment (after you bought the radio) and connected country people to world events. Walter Winchell and Lowell Thomas were popular news commentators on the radio.
- Families laughed at comedians Jack Benny, Fred Allen, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Amos and Andy, and Fibber McGee and Molly.
- Radio featured daytime soap operas.
- In the evening, people listened to the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, The Shadow, and Jack Armstrong.
- Singers Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers, as well as Guy Lombardo’s orchestra and the Grand Ole Opry were popular.
- Families listened to baseball, cheering for stars like Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. Nearly 40 million people listened to the horserace between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in Maryland.
- In news coverage, the German airship Hindenburg caught fire in 1937 as it landed in New Jersey. Thousands of people across the country heard Herb Morrison describe the terrifying scene on live radio, saying “Oh the humanity!”
- Orson Welles broadcasted “War of the Worlds,” a radio play about Martians landing on Earth. Millions of people didn’t understand that the story was fiction. They panicked and tried to leave town.
When Carla Due emigrated to Nebraska from Denmark, she missed music and going dancing. She was extremely homesick – until she discovered the music of Guy Lombardo and convinced her father to buy a battery-powered radio.
Will Rogers was a cowboy humorist from the Great Plains of Oklahoma who almost ran, and might have been elected president of the United States. He entertained people from all walks of life. He helped people see humor in life and made them laugh at his down-home wit and sharp political satire. He performed on the radio, in films, and was a popular writer as well. Yet at the height of his popularity, he was killed in a 1935 airplane crash in Alaska.
Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.