Nostalgia for the Old Time Radio Shows

By Nora Vasconcelos

It was the just the second decade of the past century when the radio stations found the way to keep an ample audience captive with programs that broadcasted live theater plays specially adapted for the radio format.

The lack of other forms of entertainments, such as television and the turbulent economic situation that came after the Great Depression, make these shows grow as the listeners found a way to escape from reality, even if just for a short while.

Radio stations in the U.S. such as National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and Mutual Broadcasting System, offered all sort of programs that ran from about half an hour up to one hour.

Mystery, Drama, Suspense, Fantasy and Romance dominated the plots of original stories that were performed live by professional actors whose voices match perfectly with effect sounds that have managed to impress people up to these days.

As the documentary Back of the Mike (presented by Old Time World) shows: “rain was created by pouring sand over a spinning potters wheel which sent it down a metal funnel onto a microphone which was covered by a paper bag. Fire was created by wadding up plastic wrap close to the microphone”.

It was so that from the 30’s up to the late 50’s, detectives like Sam Spade and Boston Blackie came to live, as well as crime drama series such as The FBI in War and Peace and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, the same as superheroes such as Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman and Planet Man.

The broadcasts also included romantic stories, like the series Theater of Romance, produced by the CBS; Westerns, like Tales of Texas Rangers and The American Trail, and Comedy shows, including Abbot and Castello, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and the Bob Hope show.

Mystery play a special role in the success of radio shows as it attracted for many years famous actors such as Orson Wells, who was part of the Campbell Playhouse, and E.G. Marshall, host of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Other famous starts that joined the casts of some radio plays were Marlene Dietrich, Vincent Price and Mike Wallace.

When the radio stations didn’t play original scripts, they share with the audience adaptations of the works of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. In the same way, books like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Hamlet by Shakespeare, Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte and Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne, were adapted into radio theaters that were able to present in a short time the essence of these works.

The magic produced by these broadcasts was increased with the rhythmic tunes coming from the live performance of the Big Bands, very popular at that time, swinging the audiences away with performers like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Artie Show.

Music and radio theaters helped many people get through the difficult years of the Second World War, as the audience used to keep their radios on hoping to catch the latest news from the troops abroad. Once again, radio shows gave them some solace.

Reknown brands took also advantage of the popularity of the shows, becoming sponsors of different series, such as Sears, Colgate, Palmolive, the same as hotels like the Lincoln and the Pennsylvania, in New York, joined their names to the Big Bands that performed their shows in there.

Unfortunately, as contracts and legal recording and broadcasting issues affected live performances of the musical groups, and with the recent popularity or commercial Television in color, the popularity of the radio shows gradually decreased until they weren’t popular anymore and their broadcasts ended.

Fortunately, the Golden Age of Radio has remained alive in the minds of many people who have shared their love for old time radio shows to new generations. At the same time, international organisms such as The International Archive have compiled and preserved many of this radio shows for all people to listen to them.

And now it’s time to say: Lights out!

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Weekly Photo: Textures

By Nora Vasconcelos

Textures by NVS

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Weekly Photo: ZigZag

By Nora Vasconcelos

Zigzag by NVS

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The dream of Crusing the Panama Canal… and writing about it!

By Nora Vasconcelos

panama canal photo

As it often happens we save things to do them “someday”, but for Sunny and Al Lockwood a car accident made them decide that “someday was today” and then they agreed that it was time for them to go on that long dreamed cruise that would take them from San Francisco, California to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, traveling for 17 days aboard The Zuiderdam, a cruise ship which also would sail from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.

But the dream didn’t end there, from their experiences, Al and Sunny wrote a book: Cruising Panama’s Canal, savoring 5,000 nautical miles and 500,000 decadent calories, published by Front Porch Publishing.

panama cover book

“We came up with the idea before we left on the cruise. We were reading books and articles about the history of the Canal in preparation for our cruise, and the history was so dramatic, so fascinating that we thought describing our trip through the canal would be interesting to others,” tells me Sunny, while talking about their book.

“Since I’ve made my living as a writer (for newspapers and magazines), I go through life with a notebook and pen in my hand. And Al almost always has a camera. So the idea of writing about our trip seemed pretty ‘normal’ to us.”

So, after 17 days cruising, and one year working about 5 days a week on their book, “writing and re-writing, cutting and throwing out stories, adding stories, trying to shape and polish”, Sunny and Al completed a book that invites the readers to be part of this literary trip, like good all friends who get together to share their traveling stories, from the moment they booked the trip, to the time they boarded the ship, the amazement that came from finding such an ample art collection aboard, as well as the cooking classes, the fun and relaxing times and the unexpected and surprising experiences.

Page by page, they take the readers along with them through the different areas of the ship, share their advice on how to keep fit and healthy, and their thoughts on how to transform the desserts time into magical and savory moments whenever Al has the chance to indulge his sweet tooth and write about it.

“I know a fair bit about desserts because I just love eating them. I also love cooking—baking especially, but I’m purely self-taught. And every time I find something really unusual—the Sacher Torte, for example, I’ll research its history (that one’s fascinating),” says Al when I ask him about his deep knowledge on the subject.

Al and Sunny also share their experiences on how to make the most of the shore excursions that, in their case, took them (and the readers along) to visit places like Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in Mexico; Costa Rica and its beautiful natural wonders and its unique Doka Estate and Coffee Plantation (a real paradise for coffee lovers); Cartagena, Colombia, and Half Moon Cay, Bahama.

And when the long awaited time comes to cross the Panama Canal, they share in great detail, step by step, all what it takes for a ship as big as The Zuiderdam (operated by Holland American Line), to fit into the different sections of the Canal.

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Funny, entertaining and informative, Cruising Panama’s Canal invites everyone to go along on this journey “of thousands of miles and tens of thousands of calories”. Because this book is much more than a travel guide, this is a book that “has been a labor of love and sharing”, as the authors state on the acknowledgments section.

* All the images and photos courtesy of Al and Sunny Lockwood

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Weekly Photo: Containers

By Nora Vasconcelos

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A literary portrait of Hong Kong city life

By Nora Vasconcelos

HarbourViews (1)

There’s something magical when an author manages to transport our minds to another place in the world, transforming the readers into active spectators. This is the case of Philip Chatting, a well-travelled British author, who in his first novel Harbour Views presents with great detail what it is like to live in Hong Kong when a powerful businessman impacts the behavior of every person around him.

Recently released by Book Guild Publishing, this novel, sprinkled with some touches of dark comedy, presents in all their humane aspects the moods, thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions of the main characters, whose lives spin around Jakob Odergaard, a Norwegian expatriate who built thorughout the years a business empire in Hong Kong.

As powerful as he is, he cares little for anybody else but himself, and this might have turned him into a despicable character, but the precise knowledge with which the author developed his main character, made of Odergaard a unique persona whom people get inevitably drawn to, wandering, from the first to the last page, what is going to happen next?, and in how many ways his volatile reactions will impact, one more time, those living under his shadow.

At the same time, it’s hard not to feel some sort of compassion towards the magnate whose existence, full of money and power, somehow never seems to be a happy one.

On the other hand, most people under his tough hand, have lived painful lives, full of disappointment and dreams of a better life, but in the end, they manage to get some sort of comfort within their own ordinary realities.

And while all this drama untangles, the magnificent essence of the city with its sounds and smells, as well as its always changing harbour views, testifies the ups and downs that constantly accompany all the characters created for this book.

* Photo courtesy of Book Guild Publishing

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Weekly Photo: Relic

By Nora Vasconcelos

I always find something magical and nostalgic in all kind of streetcars, either if they’re still traveling around the city or if they’re part of a historical collection. They’re like a little piece of the past that hasve made it up to these days, giving people the chance to travel back in time, even if only for a few minutes.

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