There was no television on the Scheckel farm out on Oak Grove Ridge in the middle of Crawford County in the 1940s and 1950s. Our Silvertone radio had an aerial, a wire that ran from the house to the windmill, insulators on both ends.
Westerns were our favorites. Other radio programs were Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Edgar Bergen was the ventriloquist and Charlie McCarthy was his wooden dummy. He would interview famous guests such as Jimmy Steward and Mae West. Edgar Bergen had another wooden dummy named Mortimer Snerd. Whereas, Charlie McCarty was intelligent and sophisticated, Moritmer Snerd was a rube, a country bumpkin. Phillip, Bob, and I could identify with Snerd, let me tell you. We awaited to the end of every program for “Snerd’s Words for the Birds”, some pithy witticism such as “Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it” or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”
We listened to Gangbusters and Dragnet. Many of the radio programs were aimed at adults, but we kids listened along with Dad and Mom to: Amos ‘n’ Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and the Green Hornet.
I loved Jack Benny. I remember one of his skits. Jack was confronted by two street thugs. “Your money, or your life?” they threatened. There was a long, silent radio pause. “Well, what’s it going to be, Mister?”, they asked. Benny, the consummate miser, yelled back, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!”
Jack Benny’s program featured an Irish tenor, Dennis Day, who had a beautiful voice. Mom loved to hear Day sing, and would hush us kids up when he came on. Dennis Day served in the Navy in WWII and stayed married to the same women his entire life. They had 10 children.
Rochester was Jack’s black valet. He had a deep gravelly voice. “Oh, Mr. Benny, Mr. Benny,” he’d call. “Yes, what is it Rochester?” Benny would ask. I later learned that Rochester made good wages, saved his money and became one of the wealthiest men in America. He was the first black person to receive a regular radio job.
“The Shadow” sent tingling up and down my spine. An ominous sounding voice opened the radio drama with “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” The words were followed by an ominous laugh and hair-raising music.
The Shadow was never seen, only heard. But he possessed incredible powers of strength and could speak any language, defy gravity and read men’s minds. Each program ended with “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay….The Shadow knows!”
We loved the Green Hornet. He was a newspaperman during the day, but went out fighting crime at night as a vigilante. His partner, Kato, drove a car named Black Beauty that was 20 years ahead of its time. The Green Hornet, that sly fox, infiltrated the underworld, and left incriminating evidence that the police would find later.
Our family radio was turned on in the evening but Dad would listen to the Farm Report from WMT out of Cedar Rapids at noon. While ironing clothes my older sister Rosemary, and later Teresa, would listen to Our Miss Brooks, Arthur Godfrey, Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club and Father Knows Best.