Rick Houser:
A time when it was mostly silent

The other evening I was driving home from work which is a forty-five minute drive one way. As I’m logging in the miles I am also listening to the radio. Not only the radio but to a satellite channel. On the satellite I can choose from literally thousands of channels. Then a major thought came to me.

Not only didn’t I always have satellite channels but I didn’t always have FM radio. I then remembered that why heck there was a time when we didn’t have radio in the car. Period! We traveled along in silence or the passengers in the car would carry on conversations. (Imagine that!) Please don’t misunderstand me as I like my electronic devices. I think what came to my mind was just how much the world has changed since this baby boomer entered the world.

Rick Houser

At our home we didn’t have a television just yet. We had an AM radio and that was before transistors had been invented. It ran off of tubes and they would take over a half minute or longer before the tubes had warmed up enough to broadcast the five or maybe six channels that came in clearly. Those channels did deliver the news as it was reported so nobody felt slighted just because it arrived a little slower. We had a telephone. It had to be cranked for some reason and we had to share it with five other families as it was a party line. Today that is encouraged but is now referred to as group texting.

But I have digressed from the car radio. In 1956 my dad went to AP Motors in New Richmond and there he began working on a deal to trade in his 1949 ford which he had bought used for a brand new Ford Fairlane 500. This was to be the very first new car he ever owned. But the amount for the car was right on the very edge of his and moms budget. So it took a couple of trips to the car dealer to work on this deal. The car was a two door two tone green and white car and in 1956 was a real dandy of a car. The deal called for no other extras besides an automatic transmission. (This was so mom could stop slipping the clutch and grinding the gears.)

Before dad went to finalize the deal my brother Ben being sixteen at the time ask dad if he would please have a radio installed. Dad said it was an extra and cost over 75. Ben pleaded his case. He tried his hardest to convince dad just how much he would enjoy having it. Since Ben wanted it I sided with him in hopes we were out voting dad. Finally with Bens’ last plea he told dad he would pay for the radio out of his tobacco money so dad wouldn’t have to. I don’t know if dad figured if Ben was willing to part with that much cash it must be worth it. The one thing I know is that when he returned home he pulled up in front of the house and called Ben out to the car. Feeling defeated he came to the car slowly. That was when dad opened the driver’s door and told him to sit behind the wheel. When he sat down and looked around he was stunned to see there was a radio. In a second the radio was on and tuned into WSAI the rock and roll channel with Ben grinning from ear to ear and dad smiling.

That was the day and exact time that silence in a car ended at our home. The next year Ben and then Peg each bought a car and each of course included a radio. They were always on and almost always tuned to WSAI to hear the hippest tunes of the day. When I rode with dad he would turn it on a Reds ballgame or we would listen to radio programs such as “Burns and Allen’ or “Duffy’s Tavern’” or” Amos and Andy: My dad loved the comedy shows and I can vouch he never turned it onto rock and roll. No I had to wait until I got my car and of course with a radio included. It stayed on WSAI also. I mean if Peg and Ben did it I had to.

It was several years after I was married and maybe into the early eighties before we got a radio with FM channeling. This is when I felt I had really advanced in the technology big time. Eventually we got cars with tape deck players in them and we loaded up on cassette tapes to listen to. The same with the advance into the CD players. I remember very well that on Christmas of 1994 my wife gave me a car phone or as they were called then a bag phone. With this instrument I could talk and drive all at once! (Against the law now.)

Somewhere during this time technology changed in leaps and bounds. All the years I farmed our truck never had a radio nor any of our tractors. I would feel safe in betting anyone that today who has trucks, tractors and combines all come with state of the art radios as standard equipment. I look and see all these advancements and must admit I am somewhat sad that I was before their arrivals. Our country has advanced so far so fast that many of us struggle to keep up with the new changes. It isn’t that we don’t like the changes it is just so much to absorb.

But just for one more moment look back and think about this. We all did our jobs and did them efficiently. No we missed out on Facebook and texting. Also e mails. As a way to be social they are great but even though they have a place in the work place try to say they aren’t wasteful. I see people walking never without their device in hand and working their way into carpel tunnel from all the typing. Why some are so attached that if the device were to be removed from the hand the imbalance would cause them to fall over. Is that an over statement? Probably so. But since the early 50’s onward our progress has done anything but put silence back into the world. The bottom line is I don’t think I could take too much silence. So as the old song goes ‘Turn the Radio on!”

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.