Theater of the Mind

Philadelphia, PA – 1974

I hated school and I hated everything about Fel’s Junior High School. But, I was always a good reader and loved books and comic books. I had a class at the end of each day called Reading. It was my favorite class. The teacher, Miss Ruscoff (Later Mrs. Dembitzer when she got married) was a nice lady who was actually a good teacher and patient with us kids. I was surprised at how many of the students were poor readers. That must have been stressful for them having to read aloud in class but I never minded doing so. I would not only read aloud, but I would also add feelings and inflections into the story to make it more interesting. I did this naturally because I knew it just sounded better and more interesting that way.

On Fridays, Miss Ruscoff would haul out an old reel to reel tape recorder and play old radio shows for the class. I think most kids put their heads down and napped during the recordings but I loved them.

Radio was king before the advent of television and I thought the shows and stories were really cool. The ones she played were from the 40s and 50s. I sort of wondered why this form of entertainment had gone away. The stories were from series like X Minus 1, Suspense, Inner Sanctum, and several others.

What I liked most about them is that the stories were usually scary and I had a vivid imagination. I loved that they would have the actors doing their roles and they would add sound effects to make it more real. Often the roles on the shows were performed by hollywood stars because many of them got their start on the stage and then on the radio.

When you watch a movie or television the whole thing is spelled out for you. You can see the actors and what they look like, the sets, and all of the action appears before your eyes. It’s all someone else’s vision as to what this story should look like. I’m not knocking TV, but radio shows are brilliant.

They could be darker in content and scarier than anything on TV. Because you couldn’t see anything you had to use your imagination to picture what the characters looked like and what was happening in the story. I just felt it was a far more riveting form of entertainment and the networks could get away with more.

I always remembered listening to all of those great stories and in the 80s I bought a box set of X-Minus 1 old radio shows on cassette. I loved listening to all of those cool stories and it was a bit nostalgic for me even back then.

Philadelphia, PA – 2020-present

During the pandemic, I discover a whole channel of old radio shows on Sirius/XM radio. A whole channel! 24/7 of old radio shows. I discovered so many more shows I had never heard of, like Dark Fantasy, The Whistler, Escape, and Johnny Dollar.

Now I can flop on my bed and listen to all of my favorite stories and use my imagination to create the scenes in the shows. I really find this a great exercise for my creative mind and it’s so restful because it’s a passive activity. I sometimes fall asleep during them and have to listen to them again.

My mother always told me she loved listening to the radio as a kid and would practice her penmanship while she absorbed all of the great stories adapted from good American literature.

It’s a lost art form that still exists today in the form of podcasts. People like podcasts and it’s basically the same thing. You don’t have to watch anything. Just use your imagination and feel the story the way you want to.

Spotify also has all these shows available too. It’s a great way to tap into a lost art form.

Former Fels HS building to be demolished

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You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Author: phicklephilly

Copyright © 2016 by Phicklephilly All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. All stories and characters are based on real people and events. The names and images have been changed to protect their privacy. Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation!”

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