Sunday, May 30, 2010

Radio Memories: Memorial Day

"Pa, I got somethin’ to say. Don’t know how to say it… Lotta things happened to me, since I been away. Can’t explain what they are exactly, but they happened."

So says the son struggling to put his thoughts into words, trying to understand who the war has made him become... life has the capacity to change us in ways that make us frequent strangers even to ourselves; thank God for the blessing of family, for how they help us renew and reconnect with that part of ourselves that never changes. As he becomes a man, after all, he remains a son.

While Memorial Day isn't a Canadian holiday, we pause nevertheless to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf, keeping those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and the families they left at home, in our prayers.

During the Second World War, in those close-but-still-so-far days before television, the families left behind would find comfort, information, and entertainment through their radios, primarily through the forgotten art form of radio drama: the theater for the mind.

There was not much effort made by the broadcast networks to preserve radio programming from the 1930s through to the 1950s, so we are quite lucky to have what little audio artifacts we do have, from that era. Some shows were fluff in their day, many haven't aged well beyond their time; yet, a treasured few survive as remarkable mirrors of fading memories, precious testaments to the shared experiences clinging to the periphery of our collective mind's eye. It's in the hope of clarifying, and preserving, the echoes of those cultural experiences that we resume our Sunday series of Radio Memories.

This week we listen to the echo of an episode first broadcast on February 2nd, 1946, entitled "Homecoming". It marked the post-war return to the air of an innovative anthology series, CBS' Columbia Workshop. The program came and went three times during its long unusual existence, before bowing out for good in the late 1950s. Throughout its run it served CBS as an audio laboratory, allowing them to try out story ideas, writing styles and production techniques considered too experimental for regular commercial radio. (We played an episode from the series' third and final 1957 incarnation last Easter)

This particular episode follows a small town family and the whirlwind of emotions that accompanes them as they welcome a son finally home from the war. Modest in scope, but rich in content, "Homecoming" is a wonderful portrait of what radio drama could accomplish, by holding up a mirror to memory.

Our Radio Memories offering from last year's Memorial Day can be heard here.

This year's previous Radio Memories:

You Are There: The Impeachment Trial Of President Andrew Johnson
Great Gildersleeve: 1947 Easter show
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.

No comments: