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Old Time Radio Memories

Don Hutchison

Old Time Radio HealthPrevention Magazine recently sited a study in which participants spent ten minutes twice a day recalling positive memories.  After only one week, they reported having a greater sense of well-being and happiness and even improvements in their blood work tests.  There are also a number of studies reporting the beneficial effects of music therapy for Alzheimer's patients.  Although there are no direct studies relating old time radio and memory, many customers testify that old time radio has a similar effect.

Customers often write to me about the positive effects of old time radio on a family member or friend with memory impairment.  From anecdotal evidence it seems that old time radio helps those with Alzheimer's disease or memory issues. Many Alzheimer's patients are able to recall long-term memories and listening to old time radio helps them to access positive memories.

One customer reported that his mom with memory impairment was able to recall exact details from a Jack Benny episode—right down to the punch lines!  Another customer testified that his aunt enjoyed the old time radio shows so much that the nursing staff asked if they could share the programs with the rest of the ward.  The shows were enjoyed by many of the patients and even prompted a lively discussion. My great aunt also passed away from complications of Alzheimer's disease, but she enjoyed listening to music and it was something she and her children could do together. 

There are many friends and family members that would enjoy some old time radio or musical happy time with you.  Most of all people with memory impairment still need companionship and love. 

Whether the shows bring back fond memories or you're creating new ones by sharing old time radio with younger folk, we appreciate you visiting OTRCAT.com today and hope you'll enjoy an episode or two from the thousands of recordings available online for free.  I would recommend positive music programs and comedy shows like Jack Benny, Bergen and McCarthy, Fibber McGee and Molly, Phil Harris and Alice Faye.



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But mainly, I'm writing to share an unforgettable story about OTR. I grew up in the 50's, when the "Golden Age of Radio" was declining and turning to rust. And I was too young to appreciate network radio. But as a teen, oh how I wished there would be some decent shows on the four major networks of the time.

Anyway, when we lived in Alexandria, Virginia and I was five, we always heard "Break the Bank." I think it was the summer of 1951 that we took a trip to New York to spend a few days with friends and see the old neighborhood where I was first brought up.

One day, my mom and I went to the NBC studios where the program was aired live. The only thing that scared me was that the applause sounded so different from how I first heard it on the table model in our basement kitchen back home. It was louder and very live! I held my ears when people clapped. Other than that, the program was very real, just like on the air!

After the show, my mom piggy-backed me, and we went over to meet Bud Collyer and his announcer, Wynn Elliott. Lou White was the organist, and Mom may have met him, but I didn't. All I remember was that both Bud and Wynn shook my hand, and both were pleasant-very pleasant, in fact!

Of course, Wynn went on to broadcast sports for CBS Radio, and we all know what happened with Bud. Game show host extraordinaire! But I remember him for his reading onto talking book records the Today's English Version of the New Testament for blind listeners. He seemed to me a very humble and Godly man-kind and gentle. I'll not forget that experience of having met him and Mr. Elliott.

Keep up the good work


They had a secret ingredient. I was born before TV. During my younger years we only had radio for entertainment. But, there were lots of enjoyable programs and, since we never had had anything else, we were completely happy with it. And, like today, many companies advertised their products on radio. In those days tobacco companies had complete freedom to advertise. Although I have heard thousands of ads for cigarettes, I never did start smoking. But, I still remember many of the products (Lucky Strike, Camels, Old Gold, Philip Morris and so on). I have a large collection of “Old Time Radio” programs. A lot of them still mention their sponsors. Many of those old companies no longer exist. So, it is interesting to hear them mentioned. A while back I was listening to a recording of a Red Skelton program which was made before WW2. At the time, his sponsor was Avalon Cigarettes. Well, I had never heard of that company. But, being as this is the age of the Internet, it is possible to research just about anything. So, I looked up this company. It seems that Avalon was a very popular brand during the 1930s and before. They were made with tobacco that was imported from Turkey. The Turks had a secret ingredient that they used to flavor their tobacco. And, a lot Americans liked that taste. When the Turks harvested their tobacco, they would cure it in certain buildings that were specially made for just this purpose. They would hang it from the ceilings. Then they would bring in cart loads of the secret ingredient and pile it on the floor. When they had the proper amount of the ingredient, they would light it on fire, close the doors and allow the smoke from the burning “ingredient" to saturate the tobacco. It gave the tobacco a different flavor that millions of American smokers enjoyed. Avalon was one of the top sellers during that era. But, in 1939 Europe went to war. The Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean became war zones. It was no longer possible for Avalon to get their tobacco shipped from Turkey. When their supply of tobacco was exhausted, that was the end of their product. So, cigarette smokers had no choice but to switch to other brands. By the time the War ended, every smoker was used to regular American tobacco. Also, tobacco companies did not want to depend on getting their tobacco from a country five thousand miles away when it grows so well right here in America. So, no effort was made to revive Avalon’s products. Although it was popular in its day, today Avalon Cigarettes is a forgotten brand. And, by the way, is it now OK to mention what the secret ingredient was? It was CAMEL POOP!


NOT A "PLACE"... But a HIGHLY EFFECTIVE "MOOD-ENHANCER"! Many "OTTERS" ("OTR-ers") I have spoken with (to both my surprise and delight) are in agreement on "THIS"... A "FORMULA" for using OTR to IMPROVE MOOD while working, yet NOT "distracting from productivity" (following OTR 'plot-lines' OR 'punchlines'): "LAUGHTER" is a powerful "FORCE" in life. Usually, for "GOOD"! The "TRICK" is: 1) DETERMINING the OTR "SHOW(S)" that work BEST for YOU; 2) "FINDING" the optimum VOLUME LEVEL on YOUR audio system that "allows" the "DIALOGUE" to be "inteligible." BUT... "Enhances" "LAUGHTER," which will be "louder" than speech (Just ASK any OTR "Comedy-Show" SPONSOR!!!) And, 3) "getting used" to this... NO dubious "organics"! NO chemicals!! NO prescriptions!!! SOUND CRAZY? JUST TRY IT!! "The OLD-Cat" P.S. Many folks I spoke with about this "Phenomenom" were already aware of it! Even an OTR show mentioned most often!! WHICH ONE? "MINUS" the "band number" AND "tenor solo"... PLUS "A Laugh" that was (Almost...) a "Cast Member" in its' own right... The OTR show named most often for this "FORMULA"? "THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE" But ONLY those (65% of these programs) with ("T.P.G." - #1) HAROLD PEARY! "#2" = WILLARD WATERMAN (35% of the shows) "did" the "G.G." character's "Voice" to a point of "eerie perfection"! But couldn't do "The LAUGH"! And, whether from wisdom or respect, "W.W." never even tried to "use" IT!


I’ve been collecting OTR for some time and before the blessed advent of MP3 I was limited to tape which was expensive for the number of episodes one could get at a time. However, I like OTR so much I was willing to pay the price and had a considerable collection of cassettes. I purchased several Thomas reproductions of old radio sets all of which had a cassette slot discretely positioned on the side so I could experience listening to the programs on a radio that looked like a radio on which I could have heard the original programs when they were broadcast. My wife gave me a console model for my birthday and when it was delivered and I unpacked it in the living room I spent a few moments trying to figure out where to put it and realized I was trying to rearrange things so that the radio would occupy the where the TV was since that was the entertainment focal point of the room and, when I was little, that was where our radio sat.

Some time later I had one of the “cathedral” model table radios in my office, perched on the top of a bookcase across from my desk. One day I had a tape of the Burns and Allen program plugged in and playing when the building concierge came in to deliver a memo from building management. Since we were friends, she sat down in one of the visitor’s chairs, with her back to the radio, to visit.

After a few minutes she realized what she was hearing, glanced over her shoulder and, with wonder in her voice, asked, “Is that Burns and Allen?”

Seizing on my chance I answered, “Yes. It’s an old radio. It gets old radio programs.”

The next few seconds were worth the price of admission. A look of stupification flashed across her face as she considered that outrageous statement and processed whether or not it was true and, if so, how could it be true. She spun around in her chair to stare at the radio which was when she saw the cassette protruding from the side and knew that she’d been had. It was a beautiful moment.


A long time ago I became interested in OTR. A couple of paths led me: ~When I was probably 7 or 8 years old—50+ years ago on this very night—my father told me to listen to WGN to listen to a radio program. It was a rebroadcast of War of the Worlds. Blew me away. At about the same time, my father told me to watch this “silent” movie starring Buster Keaton airing on TV. It was “The General." ~I remember my grandmother asking other family members at a Thanksgiving dinner if they knew that some of her favourite radio programs were now off the air. I was puzzled. As an adult, I believe this was the autumn or October or November when the networks pulled off the few remaining radio shows. ~ When I was 9 years old, we went to NYC to visit the fair. As part of the trip, we went through Rockefeller Center. One of the stops on the tour—one of two stops I remember—was taking the tour participants into and through one of the actual radio studios. I remember the walls were very dark wood and smelled of heavy, stale cigarette smoke. I remember the tour guide showing us some of the sound effect tools. The one I clearly recall was the tool to simulate the sounds of a person falling down. You know the sound—it is a three or four part sound. The tool was a stuffed dummy on a rope—like a noose—that was pushed down these 4 or 5 steps. Scared the hell out of me and was also fascinated. ~In the early 1970’s, my family and I lived within hearing distance of a little radio station in Evanston, Illinois—in a very small building behind the Orange Crush sign. That program was Chuck Schaden’s first radio program and the beginning of his lifetime of airing and sharing OTR programs.


My dad is almost 92 and, if he ever listened to radio shows, he doesn't share his memories about them. As for my late mother, the only two she remembered listening to were a children's show, the title of which she couldn't remember but had the theme song "In an English Country Garden", and "Easy Aces."


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