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Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: You Could See It on the Radio

Old Radio
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The memory here is actually two memories. It is as much about my grandfather Clarence Wickliffe as it is about the radio. The two are inseparable, because I can not think of one without the other. My grandfather died when I was very young, but I know from the stories my mother has told me through the years, that he was a man who loved his children and grandchildren very much. The story below is one of the few clear memories I have of him, and I often think my life would surely have been enriched had he lived to watch me grow to manhood.

You Could See It On The Radio!

Today we watch television sets with bright clear picture and do not even have to think as the story flashes across the large screen.  The brain can almost be in neutral as the story unfolds in front of us in picture form, leaving nothing a mystery.  It was different in the radio days, and sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t better!

I remember there was a screen on my grandfather’s radio too. It was actually a little yellow dial with black letters on it, but I call it a screen because I can remember seeing the people who were talking on that radio as clearly as I do on the television screens of today.  The people were in my imagination of course, and later when I would see them in a magazine or movie and they looked nothing like I thought they should.  The heroes of my imagination were taller and stronger, the heroines more beautiful and the villains more evil looking than in real life. I usually preferred the made up ones from my imagination when I saw the real thing.

When I told my children our family never owned a television set while I was growing up, they could not believe it,  They wondered how I ever survived such deprivation.  The truth is we were probably better off in those days when we used our imaginations to put our own pictures with the words of a story.  I also think listening to the radio was a much more intimate family experience than watching television because everyone would gather in close to the radio, and each other, so they wouldn’t miss a word.

The radio I remember the best belonged to my grandfather Clarence Wickliffe, who died when I a boy. He used to set my sister and me on his lap and feed us peanuts while we listened to the radio together. It is the clearest memory I have of him as he hulled peanuts for us while we listened to Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy, which was one of his favorite shows.

Grandpa had retired from the railroad after working most of his life at the Missouri Pacific Shops, and he died while he was still young by today’s standards.  I don’t have many memories of him, but whenever I see one of those old radios like he owned, in a magazine, or antique store, I can see the three of us sitting in front of it, eating peanuts, as the characters of our imaginations run across that little yellow screen.

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri Memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’

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