I am surrounded by old radios of various vintages. I have a reproduction of an old radio that lacks one key detail, and a reproduction of a classic transistor that doesn't have a certain life-saving aspect. Made me check the closet where I keep my childhood transistor, to see if it's appropriately outfitted. After all, it was 1968.
Does this mean anything to you?
How about this?
I’ll explain. It has to do with the peculiar paths your research takes. And by “research” I mean, of course, typing things into Google and following barely-related links. It started with Tupperware, for reasons that will be apparent later this year. YouTube said “you’re watching something from 1964. Would you like some 1950s Nuclear War dramas?”
Sure! Whaddya got?
Why did it make the connection? People who googled for Cold-War domestic plastic-parties were also interested in the specter of annihilation that hung over everything, making the simplest and most anodyne social event a futile exercise in sublimating existential panic? Well, there was “Atomic Attack on The Motorola Television Hour”, which reminds you of the importance of a comma. It was not an atomic attack on that particular show. I should be more careful. At least this one got right to the disaster, spending a mere four minutes on the characters we would be following around as their hair fell out. It’s interesting as a sign of the times, and also for an appearance of Walter Matthau as a kindly man who waves a Geiger counter over the kids.
The radio, a fine product of the Plotte-Pointe Radio Company of Muncie, Indiana, turns itself on to say something:
And that’s something I forgot. Where you were supposed to turn to hear the worst possible news. I looked at other radios I have:
Anyway. The YouTube sidebar was stuffed with dread, dozens of videos intended to demonstrate the regrettable nature of atomic warfare. In case anyone thought it was fun. One of them brought back something I had forgotten, somehow - a childhood memory that was the worst day of my life. It was years later before the internet arose to confirm what I remembered.
At 7:33 a.m. local time on that fateful Saturday, Mr. Eberhardt, a fifteen-year veteran of his job, fed the wrong tape into the transmitter and set off a panic that is remembered to this day. He was later quoted by the New York Times as saying “I can’t imagine how the hell I did it.” But he did.
I was up on a Saturday morning, and of course the radio was on. I was twelve. In those days we started getting the serious nuclear jitters around nine or ten, so when the EBS kicked in and the usual script about “this is only a test” didn’t follow, well, given that this happened during cartoon time there were probably a lot of pajama bottoms that went into the washing machine ahead of Mom’s usual schedule.
There’s a recording of WOWO’s announcer trying to handle the event, and you have to admire his professionalism.
It reminds me how cable changed news. Previously news was scheduled. There was the big Network News at 5:30, which told you everything you needed to know and ended with kittens or a story about someone who was Brave for having Overcome something. Then there wasn’t any news until 10, when the local boys told you about the bond issue. The radio’s on-the-hour accounts were the closest thing you got to news as it happens, with the sense of immediacy blunted somewhat by the lack of visuals. I mean, if this was really important, it would be on TV now, and if it was important, it had already been on TV or would be tomorrow.
In college expected the worst to happen at any time, and so I would listen to the top-of-the-hour news after Larry King went off the air, just to make sure nothing had happened. Odd to think of it now, but I laid in bed listening to the radio. Just laid in bed, in the dark, listening to the radio. The silence and isolation that followed when you turned it off were bearable only because the dream parade was about to start.
It’s probably the one common element among people who’ve worked in the medium, and the first question I’d ask if I was interviewing someone for a radio job: did you ever listen to radio in bed in the dark, staying up too late, unwilling to turn it off? If they said no, then you smile politely and say NEXT.
This is why radio will never die. TV is many things - an entertainer, collaborator, distractor, hired magician. But radio is a companion.
And so we have this to end the day. The view from Jasperwood.
It's the bleak midwinter. But it could be bleaker.
We return to the exciting adverntures of Brick Bradford, Adventure Guy.
When last we saw Brick and Sandy, they were cringing from sparky beams traveling slowly at waist level. Escape seemed impossible! Unless:
When you can get out of a cliffhanger by crouching, you may have been in less peril than we suspected.
Meanwhile, back on the Moon - something I haven’t said in a serial recap for a while - Professor Baldy is marched off to a meeting with Queen Bitch. You can tell it’s the Moon because the hallways are obviously from another planet:
Always with the tilted doorways. I can see where there'd be a logical reason for this, really - if you narrow the aperture it's difficult for mobs to get through and storm the throne room. But designing your entire control center around the idea seems rather paranoid.
Then again, I'm not a Moon Ruler worried about the threat of the Exiles. Prof. Smoovhead stands accused of being an Exile, and asks a sensible question.
“Amusement” is not a word that comes to mind when she speaks. Carol Forman. IMDB:
Raven-haired Carol Forman's main claim to fame is the fact that she was one of the first villainesses in serials. There were a few during the silent era, but they were mainly of the regal, imperious type; Carol Forman was not afraid to use her considerable attractiveness to bamboozle the poor saps who tried to stop her nefarious plans for world domination, to steal atomic secrets, or whatever she had up her sleeve.
In case the image above doesn’t give you a good idea how she looked, well, hubba.
So Professor Bakdy is go be executed, and the sentence includes “showing him” how the execution chamber will work. Turns out it freezes him using “absolute zero” and puts him in suspended animation. Looks scary:
Triangle-shaped windows: so very practical. See? One guy can look through the window and another guy can look over his shoulder. Those people in Lunaland are on to something.
Well, they figure out he’s really from Earth, and decide to stop the execution. Seems odd for a serial. You could get two eps out of that. Frozen in one, thawed in the other. That’s how these things work. But: it’s Brick Bradford’s serial, not Professor Chromedome, so it’s back to the lightly-guarded lab where the world-changing death-beam is being developed, and Brick thinks the guy in the lab coat is the good doctor. Because A) no one showed him a picture, and B) the guy’s wearing really thick glasses, which says Egghead.
But they get suspicious, because otherwise there would be no plot, and this leads to conflict with the hoodlums. Sandy is kidnapped. Brick, looking for his Chum, uses his astonishing forensic powers to determine that there’s been something hinky here:
Sandy has been loaded into an ore car and pushed down a rail line, in order to kill him. Because that’ll do it. Never occurs to these guys to pop a cap in the interloper’s noggin and kick him down the hill. No. But Brick sees what’s going on, and takes action, Brick Bradford Style!
Annnnnd previews for the next exciting episode.
Enjoy your sci-fi covers; Work Blog and Tumblr, of course. See you around.
And I corrected the typos on the Classics Illustrated site. It's always something.