Tuning across the dial on a road trip I landed on a 1940s radio show many never heard of.
Those about my age grew up before television dominated the house.
In the 1930 census, most forms — but not all — asked if there was a radio in the house.
Radio was new and not all families had a set. Rural families didn’t have electricity yet so a radio wouldn’t do them much good
Kids built crystal radios out of what was lying around. They merely received the power from radio stations but they worked.
Later, radios were powered by big batteries. The sound was weak but more than one could listen.
The show I found was “Fibber McGee and Molly,” a show that ran Tuesday nights on the NBC Radio Network.
Of the regulars you might recall, Gale Gordon, the master of the slow burn, found years of work with Lucille Ball as Mr. Mooney and later Mr. Carter.
The show developed catch-phrases that became popular.
You never heard “Myrt,” the telephone operator, only McGee’s side of the conversation. Like McGee, people often answered their phones with; “Is that you Myrt?”
There was an unseen hall closet but we heard the avalanche as Molly admonished: “Don’t open that closet, McGee.” We all had hall closets and could visualize the mess.
Another phrase was from Molly: “ T’aint funny McGee.”
You might think it odd for a phrase to catch on and spread across the country but you might recall the show “Good Times” and the Jimmy Walker character “J.J.” saying, “Dy-No-Mite.”
Some other phrases: “Just one more thing” (“Columbo”); “This tape will destruct in five seconds” (“Mission Impossible”); “Now, cut that out” (Jack Benny); “De plane, de plane” (“Fantasy Island”); “Book’em Danno” (“Hawaii 5-O”); “Is that your final answer? (“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”); “What a revolting development this is” (“Life of Riley”); “And that’s the way it is” (Walter Cronkite); “Nip, nip it in the bud” (Barney Fife).
Not all shows were comedies. There were cop shows, variety shows, kid’s shows, and some shows that would leave you in your bed staring at the ceiling such as “Suspense.”
Even the early theme song of “Suspense” caused tension as just as Puccini used musical dissonance to cause physical tension.
I have a copy of “The Lodger,” which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and I can’t listen to all of it. It creeps me out.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of old radio shows on the internet for free, including the whole run of “Suspense.”