Sunday, April 04, 2010

Radio Memories: Easter Renewal

We talked of many things, of the changes that living with cancer brings, of the changes seen by eyes living through eight decades of love and loss, growth and decay, grief and joy.

Many of her oldest friends have passed on, and she bears their loss on shoulders frail with age, in a body failing her in ever increasing measure. Yet just as the cane supports her fragile frame, her faith supports her spirit, allowing her to persevere through the decline with grace, gratitude, and a smile beaming with hope.

As our lunch went on, our talk moved from insights about the present to memories of the far past, eventually to her previous life as a high school teacher. "Are the teenagers of today any different than the teenagers of your time?", I asked her. "Despite all the changes in the world around us, have young people themselves really changed all that much, since you used to teach them?"

Her eyes looked into space, as if turning the pages of a large book, and after a pause she related an anecdote that instantly hit home with me. About how when they think nobody is looking they will come to you after class and ask to talk, and the young person sitting there, crushed by their insurmountable problems, hoping there is someone to go to for answers, that this young person is the same person in every age, looking for confirmation of the same eternal truths.

Our time was almost up, and I ventured a last question on a subject untouched so far: the future. "Are you hopeful?", I asked.

"Yes and no", the former teacher answered, hesitating, clearly favoring the "no" but not willing to go against her hard-won positive attitude. She did permit herself a quick glance in my direction, as she gathered her things to leave our table, adding a final caveat through a whimsical smile:

"Well, maybe a little more hopeful than I used to be..."

That humbling Good Friday experience was the perfect prelude to Easter Sunday, and the spirit of renewal in general.

It's Sunday, and when time allows it I take advantage of Sundays to slip in another in our series of Radio Memories, a weekly pause spent listening to, and learning from, echoes from the past.

There's much to enjoy from television's predecessor, the dead-but-not-forgotten medium of dramatic radio, the theater of the mind.
One of the most entertaining programs from that bygone time was the comedy series "The Great Gildersleeve", following the adventures of Uncle Gildy's challenges in raising his orphaned niece and nephew. Sponsored throughout the majority of its run by Kraft Foods, to help sell the (relatively) new wonders of Kraft Processed Cheese and fast-cooking Kraft Macaroni, the show matured in style year after year, abandoning its initial cartoon-like trappings (although not losing the voice talent of supporting actor Arthur Q Bryan, more recognizable to modern audiences from his lifetime job as cartoon star Elmer Fudd, than from his busy radio work of the time), evolving closer to soap opera, with plotlines stretching through the length of entire seasons.

One of those later serialized stories proved to be profoundly bittersweet, centered as it was on Gildersleeve's stumbling attempts to kindle a romance with his nephew's piano teacher. The listening audience cringes in sympathy as week after week Gildy never seems to catch the break he needs, never seems to find the right word for the right occasion, and we begin to sense that this is a romance that is not meant to be. We tune in, episode after episode, not so much to learn how he will win, but instead to discover how he'll handle the eventual, inevitable heartbreak.

This particular story overlapped with the series' Easter tradition, where the last few minutes of the show would be turned over to the Seventy Two year-old patriarch of the Kraft Foods company, Mr James L Kraft himself. Last Easter we introduced you his poignant, 1943 wartime Easter broadcast; this Easter we bring to you the message he delivered Wednesday, April 2nd, 1947.

At the 26-minute mark of the show, star Harold Peary assumes an uncharacteristically solemn tone to introduce what, by that year, a cherished moment for the audience listening at home, the annual visit from the elderly gentleman considered as much a part of the Gildersleeve family as Gildy himself.

Mr Kraft's 1947 Easter message:
Again this year it gives me the greatest pleasure to send Easter Greetings to Kraft men around the globe, and to friends both known and unknown everywhere.

The Easter season is a time for rejoicing all over the Earth. A time for renewing faith, and re-examining the true values of life. Even nature, at this time of the year, seems to join in this affirmation of eternal hope and everlasting life.

A long time ago it was said, “know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” To find eternal and unchanging values amidst so much that passes away, had always been a goal of men. And much of modern science, invention and education, holds this knowledge of the Truth as their objective.

Yet, in the field of the human spirit and moral conduct, it is of even greater importance that we seek out the unchanging Truth, that it may make us free.

Our Truth may be regarded as an abstract quality, a far-away goal to be desired by the seeking mind. But it is also, and more vitally, a living quality, revealed in a way of dwelling in harmony with one’s fellow men.

This Living Truth was expressed perfectly in the life of Him who’s death and resurrection from the dead the whole Christian world observes this week.

I’ve been reading once again the story of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. It is a profoundly moving story. You will remember that after Pilate’s interrogation of Christ, Jesus said, in substance, “I came into the world, that I should bear witness of the Truth.”

Then Pilate asked a question, which many before him and many since have asked: “What is Truth?”

By His death and resurrection as by His life among men, Christ gave the answer to that question. For only as men are able to live humbly and unselfishly together, expressing by all that we do the Truth that is in us, will we be able to solve the great problems of the world today. Only by casting aside all pettiness and selfishness, and by following a straight and simple path of doing unto others as we would have others do unto us, can nations and people learn to live in peace and harmony together.

At this Easter season, let us all witness by our daily living, the Faith and Hope and Truth that in us lie, let us walk daily in our great faith, and hold the flame high for all to see.

Only thus can the eternal promise of this sacred day come to flower on the Earth.

Previous 2010 Radio Memories posts:

Lux Radio Theater: Hitler's Children
Biography In Sound: The Story Of Science Fiction
Mr President: Romance In The White House
Frontier Fighters: George Pickett
Destination Freedom: Citizen Toussaint [Toussaint L'Ouverture]
Ports Of Call: Haiti

For a list of our 2009 Radio Memories listings, go here.

1 comment:

truepeers said...

Thanks Charles,

Listening to Mr. Kraft's voice, you gain a whole new appreciation of KD.

We all have to lose our lives, bits at a time. I think your friend has found the way to do this with faith.