Little boys want to be firefighters or athletes or rock stars. I wanted to be on the radio. The radio in our house was a handsome mahogany Zenith purchased by my parents when they married in 1939. Now decorating my living room, the Zenith Long Distance Radio remains a marvel to me. It’s more than three-and-a-half feet high, more than two feet wide, and a foot and a half deep. It doubles as a piece of furniture, the perfect pedestal for flowers in a vase next to a framed portrait of Grandma. As a toddler, I ran my fingernails across the fabric covering the huge speaker at the base. Reaching high and to the left, I could touch the knobs and buttons (voice, normal, treble, alto, bass). To the right were the push buttons labeled with the call letters of stations that don’t exist today. Frequencies were listed in clock-face fashion, shortwave stations forming the upper arc, the AM band on the lower arc. At “noon” on the clock face and out of my reach was the mysterious green light that peered at all in the room.
With a tall outside antenna, our radio could pick up foreign broadcasts, ships at sea, police calls, and ham operators, but we didn’t bother with that. We listened to the network programs that had yet to make the switch to television. Soap operas were still on the radio; Our Gal Sunday and The Romance of Helen Trent were my grandmother’s favorites. I remember hearing President Truman talk about the war in