Mar 11, 2014

Baby Boomers Tuned In with Transistor Radios

A recent family reunion found me sitting at my sister’s dining table with siblings and their families, sharing stories and looking through old photos. The older adults were actively conversing, and the younger adults were in their own world, each texting away on their smartphones. As the photos made their way around the table, a niece stopped texting long enough to exclaim “Uncle Wayne! Is that a pack of cigarettes in your shirt pocket?”

I recognized the tell-tale pocket bulge instantly: it was my pocket transistor radio. Mine was a Realistic model (Radio Shack) that I had received for my 12th birthday in 1961. Further photographic evidence proved that today’s generation is not alone in their addiction to technology: the family photo box also produced a pic of me and my friends sitting in the grandstand at Calvin Griffith Stadium, watching our beloved Washington Senators lose to the New York Yankees. The photo captured the four of us, eyes fixed on the field, wearing ear buds, transistor radios in our laps, listening to the play-by-play on the radio.

When pocket transistor radios became affordable in the early 1960s, they were as common to teens and ’tweens as smartphones are today. They gave a kid a new independence: no longer were we restricted to what Mom and Dad wanted to listen to in the car or at home. We could plug-in anywhere, and we often did. A trip to the park could turn into an ad-hoc dance party, playing music that was discouraged at home: Elvis, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and a host of Motown girl-groups. Bus rides and school trips were made more tolerable because of these electronic wonders, and we were willing to take risks to have access to them. Proof thereof: my school principle had a desk drawer full of confiscated transistor radios (we weren’t allowed to use them in school). Read More...

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