OTR: Who listens?

Is she having a heart attack? Naw, that's Mercedes McCambridge experiencing the ecstasy of OTR, a habit that can actually prevent health problems (see below).

Some people think Old Time Radio is only fun for old timers who remember hearing it when they were kids. Not true! I was born in the 1960s and never heard any old time radio until I was in college. Lucky for me, however, I did get a taste of modern radio drama in the 6th grade. That was in the 1970s when the CBS Mystery Theatre was on the air. I stumbled across it late one night by accident and I became addicted! That creaking door gave me the creeps. The show came on way past my bedtime and I was supposed to be asleep. The only way I could manage to stay awake without alerting my mom was to hold a book over my head as I waited in bed. If it fell-- I awoke! But once the show started, I didn't need any help staying awake. If anything, I needed help going to sleep!

Years passed and the show disappeared. Then in college, someone gave me a tape of my first old time radio show, The Shadow (the "Nursery Crime" episode) and it was love at first-- well, sound. I went on to collect and play many other OTR horror and science fiction shows on college radio stations, and always found them to be popular with other teenagers, once they heard them. Unlike books, which require a lot of imagination but few people have the time to read, or movies, that leave nothing to the imagination, OTR strikes a wonderful balance. It allows the listener to actively contribute to the story by imagining the settings, scenes and action in their minds. Yet it also allows great actors, directors, and musicians to contribute their magic to the moment as well. Just think how much more effective a book could be if it played eerie music during the scary parts, or uplifting music during the happy endings. With radio, that's just one of the many advantages that it adds to the experience.

As far as the time is concerned, radio shows are the same length as most TV programs. So if you have the time for television, you have the time for OTR. Even so, I don't have the time for TV, yet I still have the time for OTR, because I can listen to it while I take walks and get my exercise in. $5 bucks buys a disk with dozens of shows in MP-3 format, and portable players make listening to OTR while exercising or driving both fun and convenient (something not possible with TV). It's sad that so many Americas have become too fat and lazy to get off their sofas and exercise their bodies or their minds. Let's face it, if you don't use your imagination, you're bound to loose most of it. Physical laziness is unhealthy enough without adding mental degeneration to it.

If you're not already an OTR listener, consider investing a few bucks in a portable MP3 player and listening to some episodes while you exercise. You'll find it makes the "work" more like play. (I like to walk at night, so you can imagine how much fun listening to something like The Whistler can be under those circumstances!) You'll be amazed at all the great programs you'll hear over the course of a few months. You'll experience powers of imagination you probably didn't know you had, and you'll be simultaneously exercising both your mind and your body. So you'll be doing more than just keeping old time radio alive-- you'll probably be adding years to your own life as well!

That being said, OTR is also an excellent way to relax. Many folks love to listen while they commute, but another favorite way to enjoy it is when watching a fire in the fireplace. It's nearly impossible to beat the ambiance of a dark room while a scary story is playing. Little wonder so many of the horror shows urged listeners to turn out their lights!


Go to main Index