Radio Reminiscences . . . A Reader Participation Post

By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM

The other night, at 10 pm Eastern Time (0300 UTC), I was listening to Zoomer Radio from Toronto, Canada, on 740 kHz (medium wave) when a program called “Theatre of the Mind” came on. This wonderful program airs Monday through Friday and presents “Old Time Radio” programs from back in the day when radio dramas were a regular part of on-the-air fare.

As I listened, I got sucked through a hole in the space-time continuum. Instantly, I was no longer an official oldster with eight decades in his sights .  .  . now I was a grade-school kid on Saturday morning in the early 1950s looking forward to Big John and Sparky and Space Patrol coming up on the radio. Programs like that were a regular staple of my childhood.

It’s weird, but I can’t recall the content of any specific episode, but I can easily remember the joy I felt as the familiar strains of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” (Big John and Sparky’s theme) were broadcast.

Theatre of the Mind is a great moniker for radio dramas, because your mind is forced to fill in the details of the drama. The dialog, narrative description, and a few sound effects provide the clues, and, in the magic of your imagination, you provide the rest of the scenery and the setting, and it is great fun.

The power of the mind’s eye was brought home powerfully to me, in a funny way. Space Patrol was not just a radio program; it was also a television program. My family did not have a TV until I was in fourth grade. As a result, I never saw Space Patrol on TV until I saw it at a friend’s house. (Remember this was in the infancy of TV.) When I did, my overwhelming impression was: this is lame. The program that was wonderful in my mind on radio was considerably less so on live TV.

Later in grade school, I was given a germanium diode radio for Christmas. It became my tool for secretly monitoring “The Hawthorne Den” (jazz after midnight) under the covers. It was Big Time, Big Deal adventure for a boy my age . . . does it get better than that?!! It actually did, when my Dad brought home a Zenith Transoceanic.

So dear reader, check out Zoomer Radio on 740 if you can and enjoy Theatre of the Mind.

And now it’s your turn: what are your favorite radio reminiscences (modern or ancient like mine)? Please post them below.

Spread the radio love

34 thoughts on “Radio Reminiscences . . . A Reader Participation Post

  1. David Goldfield

    I’ve been a fan of audio theater since I was around ten years old when my dad bought me a recording of an early episode of “the Shadow” starring Orson Wells. The Shadow has become my favorite series of that time and Wells, while only playing the role for one season, is my favorite in the role.
    You mentioned Big John and Sparky. I first became aware of John Arthur’s talent in the mid-1970s when, as a kid, I discovered his No School Today program on Family Radio which aired those older fifteen-minute serials each week. Many collectors who sell audio theater in MP3 format often
    provide Big John and Sparky as one of their offerings and I was able to locate one and purchased a CD containing 97 episodes. As I enjoy science fiction
    I naturally became a fan of Dimension X and X Minus One which produced some great SF stories. As a kid I enjoyed many of the weekly sitcoms. I still enjoy some of them but drama has stuck with me over the years and that’s what I continue to listen to the most.
    Many people refer to audio drama as audio theater instead of old time radio since many companies and individuals continue to produce it directly to the
    Internet. Considering that new audio theater is rarely produced on U.S. terrestrial radio the Internet has provided a great service by reviving this type of entertainment.

  2. Barry Bogart

    CBC USED to sell records of the highlights of their news broadcasts, which were about the US and world too. Maybe they are online at CBC.CA somewhere……

    Lorne Green, before Bonanza and Galactica, had the best news reader voice:
    “Afterward, he was assigned as the principal newsreader on the CBC National News, with CBC gave him the nickname “The Voice of Canada”. However, following Canada’s entry into World War II in 1939, his role in delivering distressing war news in sonorous tones with his deep, resonant voice caused many listeners to call him “The Voice of Doom”, especially as he was delegated the dreaded list of soldiers killed in the war.

  3. Chime Hart

    At an age of 4 or 5 in Chicago, I was able to hear
    Tigers games, in the daytime, probably WJR
    After moving to Jersey in 57 I got hooked
    on WINS, 1 of 4 rock-and-roll stations.
    Especially for some1 blind, a most `exciting
    events were Boxing, especially with a great
    announcer like Les Keiter. Unfortunately
    I haven’t found Boxing since maybe 2015 on XM
    And lastly as a news-junky, I’ve always been
    intrigued with which stations-and-Networks were carrying
    events. Especially October 22, 1962 JFK
    Cuban Missile Crisis speech was even on WPAT,
    also Spanish 1480 WHOM took a CBS-Radio feed.

  4. jack dully

    GEEEZ Jock, I was guessing that you were a yute in your mid 30’s or maybe forty,you spilled th e beans ! Great write-up in style and humor,well done. I had a small portable “Channel Master”red and white that had shortwave,it was very sensitive for its time,I guess even on medium wave but you had to become skilled in turning the tuning knob,real slowly.There was a Canadian station that broadcast the Montreal Canadiens when the New York Rangers,my team was playing them up North.I missed the great old shows that you spoke of,so thanks for filling in the gap.I guess that I was about 12 years when Radio Moscow was booming out their spiel to N.America on that little portable,just on the whip ant. Great story,kid THANKS

  5. Ulis Fleming

    One of the things I noticed when I discovered the joys of listening to OTR was how many show’s set in the 1950’s future would be the 80s-2000 range. Especially with X-Minus One. I occured to me that these are dates with in a livable range on any kids listening to this show and this would be the future for them. Of course now we are living in that “future” and despite the many real horrors of today it doesn’t seem to be that bad. I still dont have a jet pack and radio operators are complaining about the morse code operators in Space.

  6. Price Kagey


    Thank you for congrats on building my first radio at 12. In all honesty, I must admit that I built the radio, but a very helpful, elderly ‘Ham’, W4QN (Harold Klaiss) who lived about 2 blocks away made it work properly. In the 7th and 8th grades I spent much more time with that little regenerative RCVR than I did with homework.

  7. Mike in Knoxville

    The “mind’s eye” is extremely imaginative, especially given a good story teller. I learned many years ago that the original book is almost always better than the movie that follows. I recall reading (again, many years ago) that Bruce Springsteen was reluctant to start making videos for his songs, as he felt it would be limiting the listener’s choices or ability to interpret & relate to a song.

    1. Jock Elliott


      Stan Freeberg once did a radio commercial for radio in which he asked the listeners to be a witness to a RCAF bomber dropping a 500-ton marshmallow into Lake Superior which had been drained and filled with hot chocolate. After the tremendous splash, he said, “Now, let’s see them do that on television!”

      Power of the mind’s eye.

      Cheers, Jock

  8. Mario

    Great yarn, Jock. Here in NJ, Zoomer Radio can be heard almost every night on 740 kc and it stands out from the other stations since it plays music, a rarity. Reminds me of WPAT from Patterson, NJ that played contemporary music all the time but the format changed.

    1. Jock Elliott

      Thanks, Mario, for the kind words.

      i’m glad you can hear Zoomer. Often it comes in pretty solid here in upstate NY.

      Cheers, Jock

  9. Bill Hemphill

    I’ve been a fan of Zoomer Radio for quite a while. I can receive it really good here in South Jersey.
    Plus it can be streamed on Google and Alexis devices. And I have found the stream URL, so I can stream it from the Custom Radio app on my android phone.

    Besides the Theatre of the Mind show I also enjoy the Midnight Blue show that comes on at Midnight EST. It’s a quirky music show. Here’s their description of the show:

    “The only X-rated show on radio – unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere on AM, FM, satellite, or on-line radio – this is unique, this is naughty, this is occasionally downright-dirty; it’s funny and fascinating; it’s a world of music you may have never heard before. Songs from the 1930s and 40s that were never played on radio, and more recent songs teetering ‘on the edge’. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you – join Ziggy for Midnight Blue.”

    Note: It’s not really X-rated – just very suggestive for the time frame. Some are quite humorous play on words. Lots of ballsy blues.

    Bill WD9EQD
    Smithville, NJ

  10. Price Kagey

    I was born in 1940 and remember programs such as “The lone Ranger”, “Jack Armstrong – All American Boy”, and “The Shadow”. Saturday mornings programs were sponsored by ‘Cream of Wheat’ and ‘Buster Brown shoes’ – advertising obviously worked as I remember the jingles and not the program content. Sunday evenings were Jack Benny and “Our Miss Brooks”. “Big John and Sparky” did not make it to central Florida where I grew up. Our closest TV stations were Jacksonville (Ch 4 ?) and Ch 38(?) in Tampa which was too low powered and definitely too LOS to make it to Orlando. In 1952 I built my first regenerative RCVR, using a 1H5-GT tube with a really sexy grid-cap. We had a large back yard with orange, grapefruit, and tangerine trees, and most importantly room for a 50+ foot end tapped long-wire antenna. Radio Moscow, Radio Peking, and HCJB boomed in.

      1. Price Kagey


        I don’t know if my first reply to you went out, but here it is again:


        Thank you for the kind words about my building a regenerative RCVR at age 12. I built it, BUT a wonderful neighbor, W4QN (Harold Klaiss), made it work! He was a great guy, really ancient (maybe 45 or 50) , and we stayed in touch by snail mail well into my late 20’s when I was in graduate school. I went by to visit him in Orlando, probably in the 1980’s and he had just died, and his niece had just cleaned out his “shack” and given away classic old tubes, receivers, transmitter and all the great things I remembered from 1952 – 1958. What an influence he had on me. By the way, the one radio show I forgot to mention was “The Shadow”, Lamont Cranston.

  11. Jeffrey I Sherwin; KB8PIH

    Chicago has a station that also has otr on, the station name and freq, elude at the moment. Also Sirius-xm has a dedicated station for otr

  12. Jay Haasjes

    Jock. can also catch 740AM ,, Toronto Canada online at For those whose radios can’t pick up the station. But found out that it is a 50,000 watt station. Should reach a good chunk of the US with the right atmospheric conditions.

  13. Larry Wild

    I was born in 1942, and like everyone else of that generation, I grew up listening to dramatic radio — The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Molly, Father Knows Best and of course, Gunsmoke with William Conrad as US Marshall Matt Dillon, “the first man they look for, and the last they want to meet.” I remember the Fall of 1954 when I was expecting to hear my favorite show begin the new season after there summer break. Instead what I heard was a DJ and “One o’clock, Two o’clock, Three o’clock ROCK.” There were a few dramatic shows which hung around for several years. When Gunsmoke came to TV it was a disappointment.
    Larry, KE0BTV

    1. Jock Elliott

      Wow, Larry, you just caused me to flash-back: “The shadow knows . . . ” Who could forget that once they’ve heard it?

      (Eerie whistling in background.)

      Cheers, Jock

  14. Bob Colegrove

    Zoomer Radio in Toronto is the way radio used to be – entertaining.
    How many of you old timers remember listening to the soap operas while your mother fixed your lunch?
    – Just Plain Bill
    – The Romance of Helen Trent
    – Ma Perkins (or, real life at the lumber yard)
    – The Second Mrs. Burton
    – Our Gal Sunday
    – Young Widder Brown
    Definitive list at
    These went on from 11:30 am until about 4:00 pm when the afternoon DJ’s took over.

  15. Richard

    I was born in 1939. I remember Saturday mornings with Big John and Sparky. Sparky who wanted to be a “real boy”. Also Gunsmoke radio version in the afternoon. Sunday evenings with Jack Benny, also Phil Harris and Alice Fay. I could go on. Those radio programs that went to television were dull, dull, dull.

  16. Drew Supko

    While visiting relatives in NJ, I also discovered this same station! A few years ago, the Canadian station on 900 also played old time radio shows but they seemed to have changed their programming. I’m brought back to my childhood since I’m in my old upstairs bedroom listening to distant stations while in bed late at night! I also remember listening to “Big John & Sparky”! Another memory I have is my parents listening to the “Red Skeleton Show”, of course I imagined a “red skeleton”! To get my “fix” of old time radio, I have an Internet radio that is programmed with many OTR stations!
    Thanks for the memories!

    1. Barry Bogart

      I was born in ’44 and grew up in NJ, but I never heard of this program. I was licensed in ’57 (WV2ECZ) and think I mainly listened to short wave broadcasts, plus Long John Nebel and Jean Shepard on WOR.

      Be sure to watch Christmas Story over the holidays and drink your OVALTINE!

  17. Robert Gulley

    Great story Jock, particularly the comparison between your favorite radio show and it’s TV counterpart!
    I am (only) slightly younger than you, but my earliest memories of radio involve listening to the Cincinnati Reds games with a radio tucked under my pillow, and a clock radio I had given to me for Christmas in 1969 that had a huge dial which allowed me to fine tune between AM stations and listen for DX.
    That clock radio saw a lot of use, even listening to Sunday morning preachers across the AM bands. We didn’t have TV then (or I wasn’t allowed to watch it, one or the other – I can’t quite remember).
    Quite simply, radio was King!
    Cheers! Robert

    1. Jock Elliott

      Awesome, Robert! Radio was indeed king . . . and fine-tuning those analog radios sometimes required a safecracker’s touch.

      Cheers, Jock


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