Radioshowtime is honored to be covered by the local press.
Oldies, But Goodies
Radio’s “Golden Age” has lost none of its luster
by Larry Hughes
November 15, 1994
Bill Eberle is a time traveller.
Each Sunday night, from 6 to 9 p.m. on Vassar College’s WVKR-FM, the 56-year-old Wappingers Falls man, a retired IBM systems analyst, whisks his listening audience away on a three-hour trip back to when reading books and listening to the radio were the main forms of home entertainment.
In other words, Eberle and his listeners return to those “Thrilling days of yesteryear,” as the announcer on the “Lone Ranger” used to say.
“Tuning in yesterday,” as Joe Franklin says.
Franklin has long kept the good old days of broadcasting fresh in peoples’ minds through his New York City-based radio and television shows.
“Nostalgia is going through the roof, it’s the only way to fly,” says the ever-exuberant Franklin. “Any radio station today that’s in the red, within six months of going to all nostalgia, they’re in the black. There are at least six 50,000-watt stations doing it now.”
A loyal Following
Franklin says he hears from fans of old-time radio all the time. As does Eberle.
“I had a woman call me at the station from a cellular phone on the Thruway,” Eberle says. “She said the shows were great; she’d never heard them before. And then there was a woman out dining with her husband. No sooner did she bite into her food than she ran out to her car saying she had to tape the show. Some people say they plan their Sunday around it.
Eberle recently celebrated his fifth anniversary broadcasting on WVKR(91.3FM), which is staffed by students, and volunteers like himself.
I do it for the love of it,” he says. “I enjoy sharing my hobby with other people. I know people are listening… There’s not too many of us doing this.”
His listeners range from those who fondly remember the golden days of radio to first-time listeners who wouldn’t know “The Shadow” if it jumped out at them. From the shadows.
“The Lone Ranger,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Jack Benny Show,” “Fibber McGee and Molly,” “The Fred Allen Show,” and music programs featuring the Glenn Miller and Fred Warring orchestras were just a few of the shows that brought families together in what were known as “living rooms” in the days before TV and VCRs.
Eberle, a native of Albany who’s been an area resident for 32 years, first heard shows on radio when he was a boy.
Some of us neighborhood kids would get together,” he says. “It would get to be 7:30 at night and someone would say, ‘Let’s go over to so-and-so’s house and listen to The Lone Ranger.’ I’d also listen with my family.”
He started collecting in 1986, buying tapes of old shows from a firm in the state of Washington
“I worked with a guy and he started looking around and collecting old shows and I got interested,” says Eberle. “I started out concentrating on the shows I knew and then started branching out, getting shows I’d never heard of before.”
He now owns 2,300 old radio shows on tape cassettes. And Joe Franklin’s collection?
“I have maybe 7,500 old radio shows — including every Eddie Cantor show, he was my particular idol, from 1931 to 1949 and when he started television,” says Franklin, whose “Joe Franklin’s Nostalgia Report” is heard four times daily, seven days a week on WBBR(1130AM). On weekends, he’s hosted “Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane” on WOR(710AM) for 22 years.
Eberle had never worked in radio until WVKR approached him five years ago. They had to ask twice, but he’s into it now.
“My favorite old show is ‘The Lone Ranger’ and I get more requests for that and ‘Sergeant Preston of the Yukon’ than anything else,” he says. “I have a (computerized) list of every show I have and a column indicating how many times I’ve played it so I don’t repeat too often.”
“The old shows bring back memories; people remember the commercials more than the shows,” says Eberle. “The commercials were an important part of the shows and I leave them. Those old shows might be a little dated and the language a little different from the way kids talk today, especially kids.
“But the stories were interesting and the big thing was — you got to use your imagination.”
WVKR — Old Time Radio
Hudson Valley News, 1995
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…”
“…and with a hearty, “Hi-ho, Silver…”
“…Mr Keene, tracer of lost persons.”
If the above sounds familiar, you’re probably a grand parent and you yearn for those “thrilling days of yesteryear” when radio was the chief entertainment in most homes. If the above quotes don’t sound familiar at all, they are the opening lines of famous, old, radio shows that your parents and grandparents spent many hours listening to as they did their homework sprawled out on the floor, eyes closed as they visualized helping their heroes save the world week after week after week.
Today, you can still hear the Lone Ranger shooting guns out of villainous hands; listen to the Shadow punching out an evil doer and audibly walk with kindly, old Mr. Keene as he traces some lost soul. Today, in 1995, old-time radio still exists on WVKR (91.3 FM) in the Hudson Valley. For three hours on Sunday evenings, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., old-timers can revisit the past and youngsters can get a taste of what turned on their parents and grandparents.
WVKR originates from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie and is staffed by students and volunteers like Bill Eberle who hosts Radio Showtime. “I do it for the love,” the 57-year-old tape-cassette jockey admitted. “I enjoy sharing my hobby and love of old-time radio with other people.”
Actually, Eberle’s hobby started when he was just a youngster. “Like all the kids in my neighborhood, we used to listen to radio all the time. there wasn’t any television and the radio was the center of our home entertainment. I remember how we would be playing when such shows as The Lone Ranger would come on an we’d either go home or gather at somebody’s house to listen. Then go back out to play.” Eberle added that television eventually pushed radio out of the picture, and radio was erased as a form of dramatic and comedic entertainment. “Then I started listening to radio stations that used to broadcast old radio shows. I found myself listening on a regular basis and when a friend of mine began collecting old radio shows, I also started buying cassettes of old-time radio.” That was in 1986 and now, nine years later, Eberle has more than 2,400 radio shows stored in special cabinets. “I started collecting the radio shows I was familiar with and then branched out and bought shows I had never heard of before.”
In 1989, WVKR management learned of Eberle’s passion and asked him to host a two-hour weekly show where he would play his collection for the Hudson Valley. “I had never worked in radio before,” Eberle recalled, “but I went ahead and the show was well received.” It became so popular that shortly after beginning, WVKR asked Eberle to expand his show for another hour. “I thought I’d run out of material,” he noted, “but I haven’t. In fact, I have made a computer list with which I can tell when a show was played and how many times. Although I will rerun a show if there’s a good reason for it, but I try not to repeat.” That “good reason” he mentioned can be illustrated by a recent show in which he celebrated VE (Victory in Europe) Day by playing programs from 1945.
However, Eberle isn’t surprised by the popularity of his old-time radio show. “For a lot of people, it’s nostalgia and brings back pleasant memories. for others, it’s form of entertainment they were never exposed to. I’ve had young people, as young as 12 years old, call me and even though they don’t know the name of the show, they describe what they want and I try to match it. So the audience isn’t all old people.” As an example of that, Eberle recalled the time when a young girl called and asked him to play a “real, scary show.” “I researched it and the next week played an old Shadow show in which an evil woman kidnapped kids who would wander onto her property.” There were other calls from young people that Eberle has spent hours researching to find the right show.
In fact, another part of the allure of his Radio Showtime is that Eberle takes requests. The callers from one week usually hear their favorites played the next week. “The most requested show has been the Lone Ranger,” Eberle said, “followed by Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” Eberle added that his personal favorites are The Lone Ranger, of which he has 110 cassettes, The Fat Man, The Green Hornet, and Sergeant Preston. The oldest show he has is a Jack Benny Show made in 1932. “You wouldn’t recognize that one,” Eberle laughed. “There are no familiar Jack Benny characters. No Mary Livingston, no Rochester, no Dennis Day, no Phil Harris. There’s a singer and a band and no live audience.” The newest show he has is a science-fiction/fantasy series called Bradbury 13. “This program was produced in 1984 and in stereo. I have 13 of these.”
Finally, he pointed out that people often tend to remember the commercials, especially the jingles, more than the actual shows. “A perfect example,” he said, “was the time when I remembered the jingle from the old Tom Mix serial that goes back to the 1940’s. I recalled the jingle and could sing it. But I don’t really remember any of the stories on that show. And I hadn’t heard that particular jingle for some 45 years. Many, many people have asked for commercials.”