The internet of the 30s

As you read this, I am without cell signal and internet, deep in the remotest reaches of the world, otherwise known as East Texas. So, I’ve been thinking a bit about what folk’s in Rose’s time did to unwind after a hard day in the fields or doing laundry. And while there are many answers to that question, American Radio Works claims that the closest thing to our obsession with all things ether today is the advent of the radio.

Now, unlike television, or even the internet, radio does not require that you have both senses (hearing and sight) engaged in order to enjoy it. So while listening to a favorite show in the evening, folks could multitask, you know, do needlework or knit or clean tools or a rifle, and not miss out on the crucial clue to who done it, well, because all the clues were audible. So I set out trying to find some examples of shows that Rose might have been enjoying while she mended Harold’s overalls or embroidered a lace doily.

Wikipedia has a nice list of radio shows that were popular in the 1920s and the 1930s. Sadly, very few of them exist today, at least not until the mid-30s, at which time there are many archived examples available. But, in those early days, radio was all about entertainment and they left the news to the experts: the newspapers. As a result, most radio shows of the time fell into one of three categories: Variety Show, Comedy, or Drama. Not all that different from today’s television (although we have replaced Variety with Reality).

The two most popular radio shows of 1929-1930 were Amos & Andy and The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour, the former a comedy, the latter a variety show hosted by Rudy Vallee. In my search for examples, almost all of the Amos & Andy shows are available today. However, I find them so distasteful (white actors voicing ugly stereotypes of black characters) that I just could not bear to link to an example here.

After hours of searching, though, I was able to find the 07-07-1932 episode of The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour, this episode featuring Olsen & Johnson. I also learned that the relatively recent trend of naming sports’ venues after sponsorships isn’t a new idea at all, as almost every radio show of the 20s and 30s starts with the name of the sponsor: The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour, The Dodge Victory Hour, The Voice of Firestone, Mobil Mystery House.

Of course, none of this helps me while I’m in the deep woods of East Texas. But, You! You can wile away hours at the Old Time Radio Library and listen to as many old radio programs as you’d like… from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and even later.

2 thoughts on “The internet of the 30s

  1. Listening to this kind of thing now, I’m struck by how *slow* it sounds to modern ears. Slowness would have been good though, for when listeners were busy with other things. It’s easier to knit and count stitches while listening to something slow, rather than trying to listen to an interview or podcast nowadays, that requires full attention!


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