Old-Time Radio

The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio

by Alice Alford, Reference Librarian

Lane Memorial Library, April 2000

Does listening to "The William Tell Overture" fill you with nostalgia and cast you back to a bygone time when radio was the American family's chief medium of entertainment? "The William Tell Overture" served as the theme music for one of radio's most popular and enduring juvenile shows, "The Lone Ranger." Whenever I hear that famous piece of music, in my mind I also hear the voice of the program's announcer inviting us children to "Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!"

As youngsters, my three siblings and I were avid radio listeners. Tuning in to hear "The Lone Ranger," "Challenge of the Yukon" with Sgt. Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police and his faithful husky, King, or "Wild Bill Hickok" each evening was a highlight of our day.

Of course, radio, the golden era of which extended from 1930 through the 1960's, did not broadcast only westerns. There were children's shows, music and variety shows, comedies, dramas, soap operas, mysteries, and adventure programs.

Several months ago I ordered ON THE AIR: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OLD-TIME RADIO by John Dunning for the reference collection. I must confess that when it arrived, I could not wait to look up my favorite programs from the past.

The book presents the broadcast history of 1500 radio programs listed in alphabetical order. Included are the programs' time slots; the casts of characters and the actors who portrayed them; sponsors; announcers; theme music; writers; producers; and sound effects personnel. There are program synopses as well as biographical sketches of the programs leading actors. Most of these consist of several paragraphs. However, for the most popular or groundbreaking shows, such as "The Lone Ranger," :Gunsmoke," "Suspense," "Fibber McGee and Molly" and "The Mercury Theater on the Air," synopses and biographical sketches are more in dept, consisting of three to five pages.

This book is a vast storehouse of information about the medium of radio and its programs from 1920 to the mid 1960's. Old time radio fans, perusal of ON THE AIR: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OLD-TIME RADIO, is a wonderful trip down memory lane. I invite you to come to the library and revisit your favorite radio shows from the past.