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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Mexico City: A taste of the world

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By Nora Vasconcelos

It doesn’t matter how many times you visit the Main Square in Mexico City, there is always something new to discover. In this case an international fair which, for 11 days, has displayed the traditions, culture and food of 94 countries from all around the world.

When I visited the place, la Feria de las Culturas Amigas had already attracted a lot of people, even when it was early in the morning. Everyone, full of curiosity, walked around the aisles of the fair, anxious to know what was exhibited in each stand.

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From souvenirs to local products, it was the food which became the biggest hit of the event. So, it was easy to see people carrying two or three plates with different dishes. At the same time, the delicious smells coming from the stands, made it hard to resist all those unique flavors, from Thai and Japanese to Latin American, European, and the Middle East.

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Then, the souvenirs, clothes, and illustrations completed the illusion of being on a trip around the world in which no plane was required, just a good pair of shoes and some patience to move around the crowd.

In the end, despite the heat and the lines, the time spent at the fair brought out that nice feeling that only comes when you’ve just come back from a fantastic holiday!

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‘Your Best Bet’ – Short story

By Nora Vasconcelos

From his window on the plane, Marco saw the first hints of the Rivera Maya. It had been a long journey, visiting different countries in which he had intended to bring some international investors to collaborate with him in his business.

With more good wishes than concrete results, Marco had finished his trip and now it was only a matter of minutes for him to finally be home. He was really anxious to go out of the plane.

He couldn’t help it, any time he was on an aircraft the words of his father came to his mind, over and over: “Die young and die rich.”

What his dad wasn’t aware of was that one day, quite soon, his wish would come true when his jet crashed on a road close to Las Vegas, where he had hoped to repeat his last winning streak which had doubled his fortune with only one very lucky hand.

As a young adult, Marco had never been really interested in his family’s fortune, but it was perhaps because all his life he had been rich, thanks to the ravings of his father at the poker tables, the roulette, and even the slot machines. Gambling all the year-long around the world, money had flowed around his mansion in Rivera Maya, the same as if it were a river full of gold.

Marco often wondered what it’d be like if things were different. “How it’d be to have less money and a full-time dad?”

One day, the same as it’d happened with his father, life fulfilled Marco’s desire …sort of, because with his father’s death, money had stopped flowing and then it was time for him to take matters into his own hands. He and his mum sold their beach house, then they got an apartment in Cancun, and started an ecotourism business in Rivera Maya.

As the business grew, several trips a year were required. People seemed to like Marco’s style and hired him frequently to lead special tours in other countries when they wanted their foreign partners to be impressed so, they would open their wallets and invest in new business ventures. And for that, he had to overcome his aversion to flying.

The first time he got inside a plane -six months after his father’s death-, Marco was victim of an unusual dizziness. It was so strong that he thought he’d pass out in the middle of the flight.

However, continuous breathing exercises and a glass of Bordeaux helped him survived the rest of the trip. Anyway, memories of his dad’s death accompanied him the rest of the way.

Marco though he could remain in control until the plane landed, but it was just when the captain announced that they were about to touch land, when the nightmare began. He started to imagine the last moments in his father’s life. “Was he terribly frightened? Did he have enough time to say a final prayer?”

“For sure he was thinking about his family?” Marco thought, shaking his head. “Did he ever get time..?” He shivered.

Then he felt he couldn’t breathe and a flight attendant had to come close to him to calm him down and help him breathe normally. The plane finally landed, and Marco went on with his trip, knowing that the same terrible thoughts would torment him not only during his flight back, but also during the following flights for a long while.

In general, Marco was the spitting image his father. He had shared his taste for music, so he always enjoyed spending time at the club, listening to any new band that came to town. French wines were always present on the table and Sundays at the ballpark were a must.

Marco’s dad had also encouraged him to acquire all his wisdom regarding the cards and he had done it, but he didn’t enjoy it. However, Marco had always acknowledged his dad’s passion and dedication towards this activity, which he had considered a “real job full of entertainment and excitement.”

Gambling was out of the question for Marco, but he kept from his dad’s passion the complete dedication to his work. He also remembered frequently his father’s advice: “Look son, whenever you go to work be well prepared, measure your opponents in advance, find out what’s happening in the world, be a good conversationalist, dressed well because presence is important, but never look down on anyone just because you’re wearing a fancy suit.”

Marco had remained truthful to his dad’s advice ever since.

Now, several years later, although he ran a successful operation guiding tourists across the natural areas in the Yucatan Peninsula, Central America, and the Caribbean, keeping the business afloat had become more complicated since the problems with the global economy had caused that many people had to stay home for the holidays.

More money was needed, there was no doubt about that, but Marco refused to dismiss any of his employees, and even when he had inherited his dad’s ability at the gambling tables, he had refused to cash on it. So, he decided that finding some international investors would be his only option. “May be the foreign tourists he was taking on a trip tomorrow would be interested in a business deal?” He thought.

It was almost 6pm and the sunset was taking over the ocean view with its brilliant colors. For a few seconds, he fixed his eyes on the horizon. Several buildings were under construction along the bay. This bothered him a little, because all these new towers would block the sea view. But new hotels meant more tourists, and that was just what his business needed.

The following morning, Marco left his apartment very early to guide a group of 8 people who wanted to have a good sailing day on their way to the Caribbean islands where they had planned to spend some time doing business.

They had come from different countries and were interested in developing cruise-trip options for bays, marinas and small beaches not as popular or advertised as other places, but with lots of potential. Their plan was to use small boats that would allow them to offer luxury trips to people who wanted to explore new lands in style.

The first part of the trip was relaxing as the passengers mainly rested or had some snacks, leaving Marco alone. Then, as the vessel reached deeper waters, they seemed to have some interest in the way their guide dealt with the boat’s controls.

Finally, one of them said to him: “Hey, son. We’ve heard you run a good business here.”

Without taking his eyes apart from the horizon, Marco nodded, as the white boat continue getting the splash from the sea.

“We also know that you’re looking for some cash to sustain it,” the man, in shorts and a polo shirt, continued while trying to find a steady position. “What about coming to work with us. You would get some good money, and you can leave someone in charge of everything here,” he said with a hoarse voice.

Out of surprise, Marco seemed tempted for a second to turn his head, as if he wished to be sure that what he had heard was true. But he continued driving his boat steadily.

“What do you want me to do? What I mean is, what kind of job would pay me that much for me to have someone taking care of my business here while I work with you guys?” Marco asked, hoping this was the break he was waiting for.

One of the passengers, wearing a beach shirt and sunglasses, came close to Marco and told him almost in a whisper: “don’t play the fool with us, boy. We all know that you’re a much better player than your dad, he used to brag about it all the time, while we played cards together in Vegas. Finding you here running a legit business was surprising, but we’re sure this is just a front…”

It took a few minutes for Marco to bring the boat to a complete stop. Then he studied briefly all of his passengers, the same as if they were at the poker table, and with a firm voice he told them: “I don’t know what you’ve heard. Whatever my dad said about me being good at gambling, it’s just not true. I will take you to the next port and once there you’re on your own.”

“Come on boy!” The man wearing the polo shirt told him. “Don’t be like that. What’s the point on hiding your talents? You can be rich, the same as your dad was, and we need a talented man to run our casino business on our luxury mini cruises. It’s a win-win situation.”

“On the other hand,” the guy with the sunglasses intervened – getting very close to Marco -, “we’ve heard this is a deep dangerous sea for people who fall off their boats… why to risk it? Why don’t you come closer and tell us that you’ve decided to come to work with us boy…”

(To be continued next Wednesday on: http://www.obinnaudenwe.blogspot.mx/ )

* * *

croosover artwork OK
* This story is part of The Crossover Mexico-Nigeria Project

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Weekly Photo: Symmetry

By Nora Vasconcelos

Symmetry by NVS

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The Crossover Mexico – Nigeria Project

By Nora Vasconcelos and Obinna Udenwe

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Two writers, Nora Vasconcelos, from Mexico, and Obinna Udenwe, from Nigeria, have teamed up in a potentially huge and courageous short story project titled ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’. The Project will have the two writers daring to bridge the gap between lives in two continents.

For a short period of time, they will produce a total of ten short stories chronicling lives in both Nigeria and Mexico. Each short story of 3,000 words will have each of them contributing 1,500 words each. One of them will start a story and write it up to 1500 words long, then the other picks it up and adds another 1500 words.

In total ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ will have each writer (Obinna and Nora) starting five stories each, and the other completing it, to bring the total number of stories in the project to ten.

Nigeria and Mexico share a lot in common – both face several problems and challenges, at the same time, these two countries have people who fall in love, who are patriots, who want to see their country grow and shine.

The two writers were connected in 2014 in an international blog tour, invited by Trish Nicholson (@trishanicholson), from New Zeland. The blog tour fostered a friendship that has defied distance, and made them believe that the world has been ensconced in a shell by the internet, making everything possible.

‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ will talk about current issues such as migration, politics, the way we live, family, difficult decisions, love, and much more.

Each story will be uploaded in their blogs (www.obinnaudenwe.blogspot.com, & https://thetravelingbookclub.wordpress.com/). Then the links will be shared on social media.

When they have completed and published online the ten stories, they will try looking for a suitable home for it, getting ‘Crossover Mexico-Nigeria’ published in a print book form. (Interested publishers are welcomed for negotiations right away.)

Obinna Udenwe’s Comment:
Nora Vasconcelos and I became friends in 2014 after a blog tour that brought us together with Trish Nicholson (@trishanicholson) and Andrew Hill (@jazprose)  from the US. Then in 2015, we decided that having experienced what the internet could do in bridging hundreds of miles, we could embark on a daring, adventurous, fun and witty short story project. Each story will be started by either Nora or myself and completed by the other. So imagine completing a story started by another writer, without knowing firsthand how the other had wanted the story to end, wouldn’t that be hilarious?

Nora Vasconcelos’ Comment:
I’ve always been amazed by the closeness that internet creates, no matter how far away people are, a simple click can bring them together. It’s technology as well which makes this project a reality, allowing two writers, living in two continents, to complete each other’s stories with no more than a great deal of imagination. The same as Obinna, I want to akwnowledge the constant support of our friends, Trish and Andrew.

Our Bios

Obinna Udenwe is the author of a debut political, conspiracy, crime thriller, ‘Satans & Shaitans’ set in Nigeria against the backdrop of the ongoing tensions. His short stories have appeared in the Kalahari Review, African Roar, Brittle Paper, Tribe, Alariwo, ANA Review, Fiction365 and many more.

Nora Vasconcelos is the author of the children’s book ‘Pequeñas Fantasias’, published in Spanish, along with several news stories and exclusive feature pieces about finances and architecture written for different nationwide Mexican media. She has been a blogger since 2011, interviewing international authors and writing stories in English about books and travel.

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Weekly Photo: Depth

By Nora Vasconcelos

Depth by NVS

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The Hidden Talent of Fictional Writers

By Nora Vasconcelos

Anthony_TrollopeFor many years I’ve been fascinated by the enormous ability shown by different authors who are able to create not only believable characters but also very skillful imaginary narrators who come to life on the pages of books, telling readers the story the author has plotted.

These fictional writers narrate the story from their personal point of view, both as a witness and main characters of the story they’re telling, bringing the readers inside the story and making them confidents of their troubles, thoughts, fears and accomplishments.

Of those imaginary authors who have captivated my imagination, here are my three favorites:

The noble efforts of Dr. Watson

"Strand paget" by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) - Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Strand paget” by Sidney Paget (1860-1908) – Strand Magazine. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It was around 1880 when John H. Watson met Sherlock Holmes for the first time.

Dr. Watson was looking for “less pretentious and less expensive domicile”. At the same time, Sherlock Holmes had found a nice place and was trying to find “someone to go halves with him”. A mutual friend introduced them, and the next day Watson and Holmes went to inspect the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street.

“They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows. So desirable in every way were the apartments, and so moderate did the terms seem when divided between us, that the bargain was concluded upon the spot, and we at once entered into possession. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel, and on the following morning Sherlock Holmes followed me with several boxes.” (*)

Holmes, a consultant detective, solved problems and puzzles when others had failed. Watson, curious about his flat mate abilities, observed him closely, and as confidence grew between the new friends, he became Sherlock’s partner.

Just a few days later they became flatmates, Watson came up with the following list related to Sherlock Holmes limits:

1. Knowledge of Literature.—Nil.
2. Philosophy.—Nil.
3. Astronomy.—Nil.
4. Politics.—Feeble.
5. Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna,
opium, and poisons generally.
Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Geology.—Practical, but limited.
Tells at a glance different soils
from each other. After walks has
shown me splashes upon his trousers,
and told me by their colour and
consistence in what part of London
he had received them.
7. Chemistry.—Profound.
8. Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic.
9. Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears
to know every detail of every horror
perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law. (*)

As the time passed by, the knowledge and care that Dr. Watson developed by watching his friend in action led him to write down his adventures and later on, to become his biographer.

Using the first person, Dr. Watson describes with great detail the cases Holmes solved, presenting him as a skillful and quick thinker. The chronicles written by Watson started with A Study in Scarlet and then they were divided into a series of stories with different headings put together under the title of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

With a big heart and an instinct to find precision, Watson put up with his friend’s insolence, as more than once Holmes fiercely criticized the doctor’s efforts to present him as an extraordinary detective with humane sparks and an avid hunger for the truth.

The endless enthusiasm of Snoopy

Snoopy, the beloved cartoon dog created by Charles M. Schulz, has captivated kids and adults for over 60 years with his charm, contagious happiness and extraordinary imagination, which makes him the same become a war pilot or an elegant gentleman.

In his daily life, Snoopy does what most dogs do, claims his food, sleeps over the roof of his house, enjoys the company of his bird friend Woodstock, and spends time with his owner Charlie Brown and his friends.

It’s often that Snoopy also gets inspired and takes his typewriter out in hopes of being published one day. Throughout his life, this doggy writer has received many letters of rejection with devastating answers such as “Dear contributor, we have received your latest manuscript. Why did you send it to us?..” or “To save time we’re enclosing two rejection slips, one for this story, and one for the next story you send us…”

However, Snoopy has the enthusiasm of all those authors who keep on sending their manuscripts to publishing houses despite continuous rejections. He never loses hope and keeps on trying, even when inspiration is not always on his side.

The funny thing is that, even when Snoopy has never been published, he has a faithful readership which has increased lately thanks to social media where his attempts appear frequently, getting the support of people who are convinced that, at some point, he’ll got it right and we’ll be able to make his dream come true.

In my case, I have to say that I would really love to read Snoopy’s manuscripts, which I think, they should be fun and entertaining.

Mrs. Fletcher’s curiosity

Cabot cove house

Originally created as a character for a TV program, Jessica Fletcher, an English teacher living in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, wrote her first crime novel as a way to overcome the death of her husband. As her book becomes an immediate success, she starts a career as a writer, at the same time that her skills as a keen observer become helpful when solving “real” crimes along with the police force.

“Murder She Wrote” was broadcasted between 1984 and 1996, composed by 12 seasons and 264 episodes in which, Jessica shares with her closest friends, her concerns about deadlines, book tours and writers block.

Throughout the years, she also faces the challenges that come with the evolution of technology, since the moment her old typewriter loses some keys up to the moment when she decides to attend a computing school to adjust her writing routine to the modern times.

As times passes by and she becames worldwide famous, Jessica Fletcher starts teaching at a University in New York, where she shares her experience as a writer with future authors and police officers.

In 1989, Donald Bain and the fictional Jessica Fletcher started publishing a number of books based on the TV program. The book series, which continues until now, has over 40 titles, all of them depicting Mrs. Fletcher the same as her character on TV, with all her friends, her home town, the trips, troubles and endless curiosity that often places her at the wrong place at the wrong time, only to save her seconds later thanks to her quick thinking.

(*) A study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle.

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