Radio had its golden years during the decades between 1920 and 1960. Its social importance can be equated to television: It offered information, news and entertainment for the whole family. There was a radio show to please everyone in the family: daytime soaps for the housewife, thrilling kid shows for the kids after school and evening entertainment suited for the whole family. It was not unusual for whole families to gather around the radio, just as many do today around the TV, to listen to a popular show.
Thankfully, someone had the foresight to save these shows, and valuable historical records, from being lost forever. Listening to these shows can give you an idea of what life was like during that time. Radio hit its greatest heights during and right after World War II. Some of the shows of that time still have the urgent news bulletins about the war. Many of the more popular family and comedy shows were used as a way to get the “Everyday Joe” interested in the war effort.
Over time, these recordings were passed on, through tapes and records, from one OTR lover to another. Before the time of home computers and the Internet, the more popular shows were put on tape and sold in stores. With the computer and mp3 file format, many of the old time radio collectors have transferred their old recordings and tapes to the computer, helping to distribute this important history to others.
There are many websites that allow you to download old time radio shows for free and others for a fee (to help cover costs). My favorites are archive.org (free) and nonagsplus.com (cost), though there are many others out there. If you are interested in finding other free sights, google for “Old time radio free”.
Many times, you will run across sites and online marketplaces that sell the shows in mp3 format on CD. This is perfect if you do not have the room on your computer or the time to download all of the shows you want. Make sure to compare prices and collections. Some are charging as high as $10 a disc, and it is not even a complete collection! Also, check on shipping charges. Many sites will make their money by charging exorbitant shipping and handling fees.
Remember: to listen to MP3 files, you will need a computer with speakers and audio program (e.g. Media Player, WinAmp) or an MP3 player.
What follows are suggestions for your listening pleasure:
If you like…. try….
Comedy …………… Our Miss Brook, Fibber Magee and Molly or the Great Gildersleeve
Family Favorites …………… The Aldrich Family, Phil Harris Show or Father Knows Best
Thriller/Mystery …………… The Shadow,
Detective Shows …………… Dragnet, Calling All Cars, and Yours Truly Johnny Dollar
Sci-Fi …………… X Minus One, 2000plus
Let me tell you, from personal experience, there isn’t a better way to pass long car rides, plane trips or exercise than listening to a bit of our country’s history!