Fascination With Radio
Copyright 2017 Mario V.
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Mario V. Farina
began having a huge influence on my life at an early age. I listened
to WGY, the General Electric Station in Schenectady. There were no
other stations serving the area at the time. The letters WGY stood
for “(W), Wireless,” “(G), General Electric,” and “(Y),
Schenectady’s last letter.” This station was a pioneer in radio
broadcasting having started on February 20, 1922. (I had been born
in Schenectady in 1923.) Kolin Hager was at the mike. The program
aired for about an hour. Music was provided by Gordie Randall and
would not be available for the home for, at least, fifteen years. It
may have been during 1934, at age 9 or 10 when I began to pay
attention to radio. Our set was on a small table in the dining room
of our home. I remember walking home from school to get lunch and
listen. The weather report was important. My mother would pay close
attention to this. Next was the stock market report. An announcer
would read stock quotes for perhaps as long as fifteen minutes. This
was probably being done in response to the crash that had
occurred in 1929. I waited for the world news. War clouds were
brewing in Europe. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were causing a
great deal of worry with their ambitions. In school we had learned
about the war of 1914. I feared a repetition.
years passed, I began to find more interests in radio. Around age
15, I began listening to radio shows made especially for young
listeners. Among these were “Jack Armstrong, The All-American
Boy, and The adventures of Tom Mix. Jack Armstrong was a high
school student who got involved in many dangerous adventures.
Because of his leadership, intelligence, and strength, he and his
buddies were able to come through unscathed. This show was sponsored
by Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions.”
program began with a theme song containing these words:
the flag for Hudson High boys,
them how we stand.
shall our team be champions,
throughout the land.
Mix show related many fictional tales that Tom Mix, a well-known real
cowboy, had become involved in. He was also a popular movie star.
In the show, Tom was always brave, reliable, and resourceful as he
solved many a problem or helped others escape dreadful hazards. The
program was sponsored by Ralston Purina.
be restated at this point that these shows were not TV programs. TV
would not be ready for the public until several years into the
future. The shows featured actors who could only be heard, not seen.
The speakers had distinctive voices so that listeners could
distinguish one person from another. The stories were developed by
actors speaking to each other. A moderator would sometimes add
details. There were sound affects to help dramatize the stories.
Somehow, listeners could follow the tales and be as entertained as TV
games were described on radio as the games were being played. Sports
announcers would tell who was at bat, what the results were of the
balls being pictured. If there was a hit the announcer would
excitedly tell what was happening as it happened. With good sports
announcers, it was easy to follow the progress of baseball games this
way. Football games were described in the same manner.
discovered a show I liked very much. This was called “The Shadow.”
The Shadow was a hero who fought for justice. He was difficult to
see while doing his work since he wore a black hat and cape. He was
also able to, somehow, cloud the mind of villains. He seemed to know
where and when a crime was being committed and would appear to help
the person or persons who were in trouble. In the Shadow's "real
life," the Shadow was really Lamont Cranston, “Man About
Town.” No one knew who the Shadow really was except Margo Lane,
who, apparently, was his sweetheart.
start of the show, the creepy voice of The Shadow could be heard
sombering uttering, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of
men? The Shadow knows! Then he would laugh in an eerie manner. The
announcer for this show was John Barclay. It was sponsored by Blue
Coal. For a period of time, Orson Wells, a well-known actor played
was popular. There was a magazine called The Shadow
which was published monthly and cost ten cents. I would purchase a
copy at the news stand as soon as it became available.
evening and on weekends, there would be many shows that featured
well-known performers in the fields of music and comedy. Some
well-known singers were Lanny Ross, Rudy Valee, Bing Crosby, Kate
Smith, Al Jolson, and others. Several comedians were Eddy Canter, Ed
Wynn, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Jonathan Winters, Victor Borge, Bob
Hope, Edgar Bergen, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Jimmy Durante, Phil
Silvers, Red Skelton, Mae West, W. C. Fields, and Bert Lahr. There
were many more.
of my favorite shows was “Lights Out Everybody.” This was
presented at midnight and aired for an hour. I didn’t have a radio
near my bed at the time, but I made a very simple crystal set and
used it in bed. I made the earphones from an old discarded telephone
receiver. The stories were very spooky, but they didn’t bother me
a great deal. I was able to sleep well after the shows.
early teens, I would often visit the WGY studios to watch radio
programs being broadcast. These featured the music of Gordie
Randall. In my later teens, I began making radios from radio parts I
purchased at Schwartz Radio Store located on Broadway in Schenectady.
I used very simple wiring diagrams found in radio magazines. I'd
wire, on a breadboard, the vacuum tubes, condensers, rheostats,
resistors, speakers, batteries, and tuners that made the radios work.
(There were no transistors in those days.) When I was satisfied
that a radio worked, I’d install it neatly in a metal case.
the Morse Code and made a telegraph key so that I could practice the
Signal Corps of the U. S. Army during World War II, I served as a
radio operator in Kwaiyang China. After the war, I became an amateur
radio operator (Ham) operating my own radio station, W2ZOV. At one
time I operated on two meters communicating with other radio
operators as we traveled to work. I made some of my equipment using
kits from Heathkit.
I became a computer pioneer for General Electric. My fascination with
radio ended, but a new one with computers began. It never ended.
Though I retired from full time employment in 2013, I now spend
almost all my waking hours at the computer writing stories for