Growing up the 1930’s we had the radio programs; Jack Armstrong, the Lone Ranger and Red Ryder, a windup Victrola, a pedal-operated player piano and most movies were black and white. I remember them fondly. The first color movie we saw was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” That was quite a thrill.
I remember the joys of childhood, while growing up in the 1930’s. We did not have all the modern toys which are technological marvels in themselves. No Ipods to download 1000’s of songs. We were lucky if we had one old radio for the whole house and quite often it was commandeered by another family member.
I tried to rush home from school to listen to these programs. At night we would listen to Jack Benny, Henry Aldrich, Fibber McGhee and Molly, Mr. District Attorney, Lux Radio Theater and of course, Amos and Andy. You can listen to a lot of the Amos and Andy original radio programs on this link. They are as funny as ever.
In those days, there was no air-conditioning in homes, so everyone left their windows open to achieve maximum cooling. It was said that when you walked down a city residential street, most people would be listening to Amos and Andy. Therefore, as you walked along, you could listen to the program through the open windows and miss very little of it
As you walked down the street in the evening, you could also visit with many of your neighbors, because they would be sitting in the front porch swing.. Air conditioning and television have practically destroyed the neighborhood spirit and a sense of community. Today, most people don’t even own a front porch swing.
The only record player we had was an antique, windup Victrola. We had a very limited collection of old 78 rpm records. My favorite was John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” There was one serious problem. The governor, which controlled the speed, was broken. When the Victrola spring was fully wound, the record would run very fast. A vocal would sound very much like the Christmas record of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” By the end of the record, it would sound like the deepest bass voice imaginable. Needless to say, the novelty of that situation wore off rather quickly, even for a child.
This reminds me of the situation I encountered when I visited my aunt and uncle in the country. They had an old fashioned player piano in the parlor. The song was on a roll of paper that contained thousands of perforations. Each hole in the paper corresponded to a key on the piano. It was an upright piano. The roll was installed in a compartment in the front of the piano case, which was about eye-level for a person sitting on the stool.
There was a horizontal pipe in the compartment, with a series of air holes along the front. Air pressure generated by an apparatus operated by two foot pedals, would blow from the holes. The perforated paper roll would pass over the air holes in the pipe. The perforations caused changes in air pressure that caused the correct piano key to play.
As a child, I was frustrated by the fact that one of the foot pedals was broken. I had to pump twice as hard with the other pedal to operate the piano, but It was still great fun.
This was the middle of the great depression and people tended to ignore non-essential items that needed repair. I could be wrong, but I believe today’s children do not have the appreciation we had for life’s simple pleasures. I am sure there is a law that states the fact that the enjoyment of something is inversely proportional to the quantity available. The 10th piece of chocolate doesn’t taste nearly as good as the first one. You reach the saturation point very quickly and become rather jaded.
But in all honesty that thought causes me to feel hypocritical as I would miss my computer extremely if I were deprived of it. This is another of life’s little quandaries.
Related Articles by Stewart Lodge:
Growing Up During the Great Depression in the 1930’s: Our Frugal Lifestyle
The 1930’s Great Depression: Childhood Toys Were Simple
While Growing Up During the 1930s Great Depression, Life was Quite Austere but Practical
Len Felbinger/Lone ranger fan club./lonerangerfanclub.com
Amos and Andy/radiolovers.com