Kids today don’t have a clue what we silver foxes had to come up with for entertainment. Notice, I said silver foxes, not senior citizens. Dang it. You are going to be in the same spot I’m in now — if you are lucky. The alternative sucks churchyard dirt.
When I was just a “Squirt Blossom,” my alias until I started school, I was enthralled and captivated with radio sequels. Two of my favorites were “The Shadow Knows,” and “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.”
I did not get a program guide like we now have for TV or a smart remote that will take you ‘round the world. I memorized the times and stations. If a program was knocked off for a news flash or any other reason, I went into meltdown mode and pitched a Southern-fried hissy fit.
My routine was to go to my bedroom, shut the door, flop across my bed and settle down for a rip-roaring show enhanced with amazing sound effects to wake up my imagination.
The Shadow was a character created by Walter B. Gibson, one of the most famous of the pulp heroes of that age. Born Kent Allard, he assumed various identities for his crime fighting work, most notably that of Lamont Cranston.
The very first thing you hear from this amazing radio drama will grab you by the gut and you gonna be hooked for the duration. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”
The Shadow originally started out by being named “Detective Story.” It was so captivating and popular that it was renamed “The Shadow.” It first aired in the late 1930s and ran until 1954. I have just dated myself. Oh, well.
A figure never seen, only heard, the Shadow was an invincible crime fighter. He possessed many gifts which enabled him to overcome any enemy. Besides his tremendous strength, he could defy gravity, speak any language, unravel any code and become invisible with his famous ability to “cloud men’s minds.” Our generation’s rendition of Super Hero. There may be movies out there today with lots of blood and gore for shock effect but I’m talking ’bout a super-duper dude with an attitude who’ll beat you down ’fore you know you’ve been hit.
The most beloved actor during the run of the show was Orson Welles with his compelling personality changes and distinctive voice. Don’t make ’em like that any more.
Along with his team of operatives, the Shadow battled adversaries with chilling names like The Black Master, Kings of Crime, The Five Chameleons, and, of course, The Red Menace.
Of course, the comic book publishers jumped on the bandwagon with The Shadow magazine, which followed the show’s huge success.
There were 325 issues of the Shadow graphic magazines, with each one a mini-novel. There were comic books, magazines, toys, games, cds, cassettes and books. Anything from Old-Time Radio rates high on the list of collectors and will bring top dollar.
Old-Time Radio is often called “OTR” and refers to radio shows who used professional actors to play in dramas, comedies, mystery shows, westerns and variety shows.
OTR fans used to be those people who grew up in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s but thanks to the internet, a whole new generation is falling in love with OTR. Yes, young and old alike love to download and listen to the radio shows of yesteryear. You are never too young to appreciate the talented actors and actresses from the golden age of radio. Old time radio cd’s and old time radio dvd’s as well as downloads have brought those classic programs into the high tech era.
And do you know what song you should cue up on your iPod when you do this? Link Wray’s 1964 guitar-based instrumental, “The Shadow Knows, from almost a hundred years ago.
Don’t even get me started on the sequel movie “The Shadow.” It didn’t come close to the nail-bitting drama that the OTR show gave us. It disappointed me. Even that altogether yummy Alex Baldwyn couldn’t pull it off.
DALE LILLY (AKA Gilded Lilly) is lifestyles Editor and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org