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.
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