The Old Radio
Copyright 2014 Harvey A. Saltz, All rights reserved
Aloysius opened the door to the attic of his three story Victorian style home. It had been so long since he had done so, that it stuck at first, and then slowly and stiffly swung open as it complained with an ear piercing screech. “I’ll have to get some oil on that,” he thought.
As he entered the attic area, cobwebs lit upon his face and bald head. He flailed his arms in an attempt to clear them away. He cringed and shivered and thought, “How disgusting!”
Aloysius was on a quest that early foggy morning, the day when he turned 77. He had promised himself that today was the day he would stop procrastinating and get the attic cleaned. Of course, he had made that promise to himself many times before, but this time he really meant it; if he felt well enough, that is.
He looked about the attic space and was overcome with nostalgia. “This is where Franklin and I played as children,” he thought as he looked at a small open area the size of a bedroom. His memories carried him back to the sights and sounds of his playtime there so many years ago. After lingering in reverie, he fought hard to come back to the present. “That was creepy,” he said out loud to himself. “It almost felt as though brother Franklin was here with me right now.”
Aloysius continued to look around and took stock of the situation. He saw that everything was covered with a heavy layer of dust and grime. “I should change into some old work clothes,” he thought. “This looks like it’s going to get messy. Very messy indeed.”
He went to his bedroom and searched through the chest of drawers. He found a clean pair of old Levis and a long sleeved, cotton T-shirt. He removed his clothing and donned the older garments. He then returned to the attic carrying a small hand vacuum cleaner to help remove the heavy layer of dust.
He found it tiring to shuffle all the old pieces of furniture that had to be moved to be properly cleaned. He stopped and rested for awhile more times than he would have imagined. The old furniture seemed heavier than it did thirty years ago when he stored it all in the attic while his house had undergone renovation.
After an ice cold drink of water and about 15 minutes of rest, he went back at it. In the corner of the attic he saw an old Philco radio that he remembered listening to as a child. Memories of good times flashed into his head and he felt warm all over; times when he traveled the world while he sat in the parlor listening to all the wonderful stories that snuck into his house via the mysterious airwaves that he has never fully understood.
“I wonder if this old radio still works?,” he asked himself as he tenderly stroked the solid wood cabinet on its top leaving a streak in the dust. “I remember when I couldn’t even reach this top,” he said out loud. “What is it? Something around four feet tall at most?”
Aloysius left the attic and went to his one car, detached garage. After only a minute or two of searching, he found an electrical extension cord. “This should do the trick,” he thought. He became impatient with curiosity and rushed back up to the attic taking the stairway two steps at a time when he was able. Breathlessly, he reentered the attic. The door opened much easier since he had oiled the hinges. He rushed to the radio and found the old two pronged electrical cord with its frayed fabric covering coming out of the back of the radio. He felt confident it would work with the newer three pronged extension cord. “Where was that outlet?,” he asked himself as he searched the walls of the attic space. “There it is!” He quickly ran to the outlet even though it was only about 12 feet away. The extension cord was too short. It was only a standard 8 foot cord sold on sale at the local hardware store; one of those cheap Made in China imports.
He went back to the radio and grabbed it at the top and at the bottom. He would have lifted and carried it if he could, but he wasn’t the man he used to be. In fact, it was so heavy because of its large internal components made of lead, metal, and steel, it was difficult for him to even drag it for the few feet that was necessary. But he managed.
He thought that it would be wise to first get the small fire extinguisher that hung on the wall of the kitchen. “After all,” he reasoned. “Who knows what could happen when I plug it in. It’s better to be safe than sorry, mom always said. Bless her heart in Heaven.”
So, he plugged it in and stood back holding the fire extinguisher at the ready, just in case. The radio dial illuminated and a squeal was heard coming from the radio’s speaker located at the front of the cabinet behind dried and brittle cloth. He adjusted the dial and the squeal varied from a lower frequency to a higher frequency as he passed various stations. He looked at the back of the radio cabinet to see what he could see. “There’s the problem,” he said out loud to himself. He remembered that there had to be a wire antennae hanging from the screw in back of the radio. He couldn’t find a wire so he tried something else hoping that it would work. He opened the screwdriver attachment of his Swiss Army knife and loosened the antennae screw. He took a wire clothes hanger that was lying around and hung it on the loosened screw.
The radio began to play an old time radio program. It was The Baby Snooks Show and the episode was titled Report Card Blues.
He heard the announcer say, “It’s The Baby Snooks Show!” Then the band played an introduction of Rockaby Baby. Then the announcer said, “Starring Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks and Hanley Stafford as Daddy, and brought to you by TUMS!” Baby Snooks then said in her cute, childish voice, “My daddy loves them.” Then there was more music and audience applause. The announcer presented a commercial about acid indigestion and heartburn advising that a couple of TUMS for the tummy after lunch and after dinner would keep acid indigestion and heartburn away. He claimed that it was still ten cents a roll and a three roll package was only a quarter. Then there was more introductory music leading into the announcer saying, “And now to Sycamore Terrace and the Higgins family. Well, to adults, the first of the month usually means bills, but to children it’s even worse. It means report cards. Let’s go to the fourth grade of the Sycamore Grammar School where the teacher, Miss Teasdale, is passing out the bad news.”
The teacher said, “Yes, Harvey. You did very well this month. And now I come to Snooks Higgins. Snooks . . “
Snooks replied, “Yes Miss Teasdale.”
“Do you see this card I’m holding in my hand?”
“Do you know what it is?,” asked Miss Teasdale.
“The ace of spades?,” was Snooks’ guess.
The audience laughed as Miss Teasdale said, “No.”
“The seven of clubs?,” Snooks tried again.
“No,” was once again the teacher’s reply. “It’s your report card. And just listen to these marks: Spelling 40, Arithmetic 40. And how do you account for this one, History 10?”
Snooks answered, “I guess I’ve been spending too much time on Spelling and Arithmetic.” The audience laughed.
“I remember that show,” Aloysius said to himself out loud, astonished that he had that kind of recall. “I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a chair and Franklin was sitting on the floor.” Aloysius listened to more of the program enjoying it the same as he did as a young boy. Regardless of all the laughs demanded by the comedic program, tears came to his eyes when he realized the blessing he was experiencing to relive those precious moments. Then came the shock of his life. His heart appeared to stop, and he couldn’t believe his ears. Out of the radio’s speaker came his mother’s voice, “Boys, I want you to come down for dinner. It’s late and you shouldn’t go to bed with a full tummy.”
He then heard his own voice coming from the radio’s speaker, “Aww, mom. It just started. Please let us listen a little more.”
“No. I said it’s getting late. Come down now.”
It even became spookier when out of the radio speaker he heard Franklin say, “We better go, Aloysius. She’ll get really angry with us if we don’t do as she says.”
Aloysius’ mind was going a mile a minute as he tried to understand what was happening. “Alright,” he thought. “I’m here. Maybe mom’s spirit is here. I’ll accept that premise. But Franklin is alive and is hundreds of miles away. This can’t be happening.”
When the Baby Snooks program was over, the old radio turned itself off. It was just as if those moments in time were recorded and now played back just as it had happened all those many years ago. Chills ran up and down his spine as he sat there dumbstruck.
He turned the radio back on. He heard a familiar program of Amos and Andy followed by The Lone Ranger. He changed stations and heard The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Then The Jack Benny Show came on. He changed stations once again and heard a newscast about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima with a new kind of bomb called an atomic bomb. He listened with fascination.
It finally dawned on him that he must be listening to a station that had old time radio programming, but then he remembered that he had changed stations. “And what about my hearing Franklin’s and mom’s voices?,” he thought. He then became concerned that he was listening to an old vacuum tube radio set. If any of the tubes or other parts burned out, it may be impossible to repair. He thought it wise to shut the old radio off and preserve its function so that he could show Franklin his discovery. Of course, his cleaning or rearranging the attic had to stop. Who knows why the events from so long ago were able to travel through the space-time continuum and be played on the old radio. Nothing must be moved or changed from what it was for fear that it may affect the miraculous operation of the radio. Aloysius shut the light and closed the door to the attic. It was now off limits.
Franklin arrived at the old Victorian. He took off his coat after entering the front door. “It’s so good to see you,” he said as he embraced his older brother. “Time and distance has kept us apart for much too long. So, what’s the important surprise that made you call me and insist that I drop everything and come immediately?”
“Yes, brother, it’s been much too long. But don’t get comfortable yet. I’ve been anxiously waiting for you to get here so I can show you something very mysterious and very exciting. Come with me to the attic.”
Franklin looked around after entering the attic. “It’s a bit untidy in here, isn’t it?,” he asked.
“I’m not sure about this,” answered Aloysius, “but I think it may have to be this way. Sit on that old chair and listen.”
Aloysius turned on the radio and it squealed. He adjusted the dial and the very same radio transmission emitted from the speaker taking them both back to the very same moment in time. It was the Report Card Blues episode of The Baby Snooks Show. Franklin listened and laughed just as he did when he was a young boy. Then he lurched forward in shock when he heard his mother’s voice calling him to dinner. Then, with even more amazement and puzzlement, he heard his brother’s voice, and then his own coming from the radio, exactly as it happened so many years ago.
“What sort of sorcery is this?,” asked Franklin.
“No sorcery, my brother. Time appears to have broken like in that Christopher Reeve movie, Somewhere in Time. I have no explanation for it.”
Aloysius then changed stations to other old time radio shows. The two brothers continued to sit there in the attic. Franklin began to swing his legs and rock in his seat with joy and laughter. They listened and laughed and giggled and reminisced.
“Okay,” said Aloysius. “We should preserve the tubes for later. We can always come back up here and listen at another time. Please turn off the radio and we’ll go get you set up. You’ll stay the night.”
“Okay,” said Franklin in a more soprano voice than he had before. He jumped off his chair and walked to the radio. He reached up for the ON-OFF knob. As he stood on his tip toes, he said, “You do it Aloysius. It’s too high for me. I can’t reach it.”
Aloysius jumped off his chair and walked to the radio cabinet. He stretched his body as he reached up for the ON-OFF knob. “There. That got it,” he said with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Reaching up for the door knob, Aloysius opened the attic door. He took his little brother’s hand, and they both descended the steps together, exactly as they had so many years ago.
“Hurry boys and wash up. Dinner is on the table.”