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Old Time Radio Memory: Alex Stoffel : Decoder Ring and Sunday Radio

Alex Stoffel Alex’s Family [Alex far right] at Christmas in 1938 by the radio. He still has the working radio today.

Until recently, I never realized how powerful a social force the radio was in my early years. I heard just one early program recently and the memories flooded back. I remembered how our neighborhood gang used to discuss the programs we listened to. We talked about them to each other in school the next day. I believe that it held us together as a group. Strong vivid memories remain about the special offers those programs had--I got them all. I remember the Captain Midnight decoder ring, the Bomb Sight in the early war years, even the white plastic belt that would glow in the dark if you held it up to the light before going outside. Those dimes and quarters along with the box tops sent to Battle Creek , Michigan were a major event on my gang’s lives as we all began the three-week wait. Every day we’d check with each other. When on finally got it, the rest of us would be in torment into the prize finally arrived.

In my day and in our neighborhood gang, nothing was as important as a particular half-hour in the late afternoon. That was the moment when the greatest of them all came riding into our hearts--The Masked Man with Tonto at his side. I’d take one waxed carton out of a box of Kix cereal and eat it in front of the console. I still have the urge to eat Kix.

Alex Stoffel
Alex today

To my family, the most important of night of radio was the Sunday night when the whole family laughed with Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Bob Hope. It was a naïve age and a gentler time when we all truly believed that crime does not pay and criminals were always caught in the end. People valued being honest, keeping your work, and being an honorable person. When, I listen to those programs now, even the values seem to come back.

At present, I will be 73, and what have a learned? To keep occupied, I write westerns in which the good guys win in the end, the bad guys bite the dust, the good guy gets the girl, and justice and truth prevail. Of course, in my books, the hero kisses the girl, not the horse (some things have to change). One way or another, Old Time Radio is still alive and the values that it conveys in my heart.

.-Alex Stoffel, born April 11, 1932

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way to go! i had my grandmother tell me about those times and i feel like we are needing those kind of kind humorous shows again in our times now, what a blessing to have old time radio shows to collect and listen to. i've gotten maybe as many as 20 or 30 discs now of comedy and suspence and dramas with the old 40s movie stars in my own collection. i heard radio mystery theature in high school every night growing up...so i got hooked early on.


It was love at first sight, and sound. There she stood, a beautiful sight from top to bottom. A single green “eye” glowed near her top denoting she was “turned on”.

From that instant, many years ago, I was hers. I ate, slept, and thought of her practically 24 hours a day, everyday. I was addicted to her. She nourished my imagination fully with the most exciting “pictures” and thoughts. She totally satisfied my creative hunger. She became my most treasured discovery and later, my most precious possession.

I’m referring to the grand old Stromberg Carlson radio that stood in my grandparent’s living room on the south side of Adelaide Street just west of Spadina Avenue, the year 1936, I was 4 years old. My life-long love affair with the radio began then.

The family got together every Sunday evening in the living room. It was “Sundays at Seven”, and that meant Jack Benny time. All the seating was taken, the sofas, the chairs, and the cushions. I sat on the carpet. Present were my parents, my grandparents, my aunt, two uncles and the dog, Teddy. All you heard was “SHHH” and lots of laughter. It was a super family event with smiles and happiness all over the place. It is a fabulous memory that I cherish to this day.

That was the beginning of my love affair with the radio and radio is still a very important piece of my life.

Today, after about 65 years of collecting Old Time Radio shows, I possess one of the world’s largest vintage radio show collections. If I live another five hundred years I won’t have the time to hear them all!

However, I still nourish myself with those wonderful radio programs by sharing them with other old time radio fans during my participation with my partner, David Himelfarb, as we present our unique and entertaining road show called “The Golden Age of Radio”.

Our target group generally is fifty-five plus, and we really flip them out! We sometimes have them get involved with actual radio scripts and they absolutely love it!

Just before we play our old time radio introduction we see serious and interested faces of anticipation all over the room. Soon as they hear the very first sounds, the smiles start popping up, all over the room. Nothing excites us more. They’re smiling, they’re talking, they’re remembering a great time in their lives, and it’s amazing what they remember. They surprise even themselves!

After our presenmtation we have a question & answer period that could go on for hours. They are THAT interested and excited.

Generally, our best audiences are in the retirement institutions and senior care facilities, our target market. They are the ones that grew up with the Golden Age of Radio. They appreciate it the most of any group.

Dave and I are always creating new programs to present because they generally want more, and there is still tons available for us to present.

The Golden Age of Radio is a presentation of nostalgia and pleasant memories from happier years long ago. The whole show runs about an hour or so plus the question & answer portion at the conclusion.

David and I love those “sitting” ovations!


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