Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Blast from the Past (edited 11/02/09)

There's something about shopping malls that seems to suck the life right out of me.

Yesterday was no exception. After buying my brother a belated birthday lunch at Boston Pizza, we headed on over to Garden City Shopping Center so he could hit the EB Games outlet.

The bloody mall was packed (mostly parents dragging their costumed children from store to store looking for candy) and as such, it was a bit difficult to navigate through the mall...

...especially considering that most (if not all) children lack spatial awareness and are, in general, ignorant of the laws of physics. On a number of occasions, we had to stop suddenly to avoid kids who had also stopped suddenly, the kids crouching down at random intervals to look in their goodie bags...

I can't blame the kids for being excited about Hallowe'en though. Hell, I'm sure my brother and I did the same thing when we were little kids, too.

At any rate, the entire experience left me sapped of energy, so I opted to go home and relax. As there were no interesting soccer matches on TV, and with my chosen internet forums being rather dead, I fired up my most recently acquired shortwave radio to see what I could see (hear what I could hear?).

My most recent acquisition is a Hallicrafters Model S-38A broadcast receiver, a 1946-vintage tube radio. I was in the market for a desktop radio so I could hook up a decent antenna, and given my interest in all things retro, decided upon an older tube-based model.

Hallicrafters Model S-38a, 1946 vintage. The Band Spread knob broke off in shipping.



I love the dual "half-moon" dials. The left one is the main "tuning" dial, the right one is the Band Spread dial, or "fine-tuning" dial... which corresponds to the knob that's been broken off...

I sat at my temporary radio desk in my home office, tuning the upper bands back and forth to see what I could pick up. Heard Radio Canada International on a few different frequencies and in a few different languages, even picked up Radio Nacional Amazonia in Brazil, which I'd never heard previously (not even on my more contemporary radios). After a couple of hours, I started becoming bored, so I tuned the radio to a band which is normally deadsville: the 22 to 25-meter band...

When the dial reached 12160 KHz, I could barely make out a couple of male voices. I tried to tune my active antenna and... who should I hear, but Bud Abbott and Lou Costello!

12160KHz is a frequency used by religious/paranoid nutjob broadcaster WWCR, who broadcast a show called "The Golden Age of Radio" every Saturday at 2200UTC. Now, I love old-time radio, so of course I listened to the remainder of the show (a good 45 minutes). Abbott and Costello's routine (originally broadcast in 1951) lasted until 4:30, after which came "The Archie Andrews Show", based on the Archie comics series but sounding more like "Leave It To Beaver meets The Great Gildersleeves"...

I couldn't help feeling a tad disappointed when the show ended... it was fun listening to radio programs originally broadcast when my radio was still relatively new. As though this was how these shows were meant to be heard... played at low fidelity on an old tube radio.

One thing's for sure... I'll be there next week - same time, same channel.

Yesterday being Hallowe'en, I think it would have been cool for them to have played Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast... but I guess we can't have everything.

** If you're a fan of old-time radio, you'd do well to check out Radio 1710 Antioch, who play a wide variety of old-time radio favourites.