When I was a boy growing up there was no television. There was radio and the movies period. It was a time when you could find prizes in the breakfast food box or a coupon on the box to mail in for a special prize. Radio was the source of home entertainment. But, the radio was very special and a wonderful opening to a world of excitment and drama unlike anything television could provide because it involved the listener on a very personal level. You had only the voice of actors, music and sound effects. So you had to create the images in your mind. You learned to create entire scenes in your mind and it became a very real visual experience because it involved you creating the visual images in your own mind.
There was a large variety of shows for all ages. Comedy shows included Abbot and Costello,The Life of Riley, The Bob Hope Show, Lum and Abner, The Great Gildersleeve, George Burns and Gracie Allen. There were shows like Information Please, The Big Crosby Show, The Jack Benny Show and the Lux Radio Theater to name only a few of the radio programs we listened to on the radio.
My tastes were westerns and adventures. After school and in the evenings I would lay on the floor next to our large (and by today's standards very old fashioned) combination radio and combination record player where I would listen to the radio serials. There were a lot of them. They usually came on after school several times a week. There were radio programs like Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy and The Green Hornet. Western programs included Gunsmoke and Hopalong Cassidy. Mysteries were popular too, like The Inner Sanctum. The detective series that I listened to included The Adventures of Sam Spade, Boston Blackie, Richard Diamond Private Detective, The Saint, The Whistler, yours Truly Johnny Dollar and The Shadow.
Some of the radio shows offered things like a special decoder ring for a small amount of money and the top of a box of product of their sponsor you wrote in to get. A secret message would be given at the end of the show you could decode with your ring.
Each of these shows had a set introduction to the program, an announcer with a very distinctive voice and a musice theme. For example, the theme music for the Green Hornet was from the very beautiful Rimsky Korsakov's Flight of Bumblebee. When I listen to that music I cannot get the Green Hornet out of my mind. The Green Hornet was accompanied by his companion and helper Kato who drove the car, "The Black Beauty" which was armed with a gun that sprayed knock out gas.
One the programs I never missed was The Shadow who had the ability to hypnotize people so he was invisible to them and to read their minds. He was really Lamont Cranston and with the help of the beautiful Margo Lane, stopped criminals in their tracks. Even today I remember the introduction with the announcer saying in a sinister voice: "Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows." followed by laughing.
The Lone Ranger was one of favorite radio programs. He was a masked Texas Ranger on his white horse, Silver and accompanied by his faithful companion Tonto on his horse Scout. He used only silver bullets and would leave one behind to show he had been there. Tonto referred to him as "quimo sabe" which was supposed to mean "trusty scout." The Lone Ranger was played by Clayton Moore and Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels. When Tonto and the Lone Ranger had solved or prevented a crime, they would gallop off with the Lone Ranger shouting "Hi-yo Silver, away." Followed by someone saying, "Who was that masked man anyway?" and someone else saying "Why, he's the Lone Ranger." The theme music was from the William Tell Overture and when I hear it I think of this program.
The Lone Ranger was on the air three times a week and I rarely missed it. The announcer had a very distinctive voice. Fred Foy would say "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver." His voice was an essential part of the program and he was the announcer for years until the program went off the air in 1957. Fred Foy died this week on December 22nd at 89 years of age. He certainly brought a lot of pleasure to me as a youngster listening to him and the Lone Ranger.