1940s Radio Hour
by Phil Houseal
It was cold outside... colder than a snitch’s wit.
Spinning the knob up and down the dial wasn’t enough exercise to keep me warm. There was more static than when my ex-wife caught me sneaking in at midnight.
Saw the station ahead, so I pulled in to listen. And ended up watching.
The 1940s Radio Hour.
Found a seat near the broom closet. The action on stage looked like a fire drill, with the only smoke coming from Pop’s cigar. Handsome dandies running everywhere; leggy dames cracking wise.
Phones ringing. Eyes rolling.
Yeah. This was radio. Sure... like chateaubriand is a piece of meat.
It was like listening to the radio in my old Buick, only I was inside the Philco.
I kinda liked that.
I really liked it when she walked in. Legs longer than the stem on the star’s martini glass. Hair: blonde. Eyes: green. Lips: Ready to push out a ballad I hoped would never end. Enough electricity to light up the Applause sign all by herself.
There was so much action I didn’t know where to look. I liked the dame. I liked the other dames. The old guy playing bookie on the dial phone. The youngsters spooning and mooning. Mr. Slick with his glass of bourbon.
Even the gum-chomping Brooklyn broad in the booth kept the tubes glowing.
A pay phone rang. This was back when a nickel bought you a ring.
“Who’s there: the 1940s?”
The band filed in. Dressed in dress uniform. Carrying brass. Blowing gold.
“A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H... I... got a gal... from Kalamazoo.”
Yep. It is the 1940s. December 21, 1942, to be exact. Seventy years ago to the day. How did I know? 70 proof.
The red light blinks.
“Live! It’s 8 o’clock. Time for the WOV Variety Cavalcade!”
Is she singing Pig Latin?
“Addy-Day! Oh, Aby-Bay!”
Ads for Cashmere Bouquet. Chiquita Bananas. Bourbon and cigarettes.
“Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you!”
It’s that Old Black Magic. Boy, do I need a laxative.
The guys sang. The gals sizzled.
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy will give you Blues in the Night. And all we got is a cure for gingivitis.
The slick-haired master of ceremonies kept the cats herded. Act after act. Singers. Hoofers. Hucksters. Sound effects.
Pants on the ground.
Like all Christmas parties, it came time to put the players back on the shelf. Back out into the cold. Echoes of carols hearkening angels that never seem to show up.
Not sure what just happened. I’d spent the last two hours like I spent my last sawbuck in Vegas: no change in my pocket, but definitely change from the ordinary.
A slice of life.
They got it bad. And that ain’t good.
Except, it is.