March 9th…“WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE RADIO PROGRAMS?”
STOP!!!! I’d like you to theoretically set aside your myriad of digital gadgets and megalwhitzlwookies and travel with me to a time that my grandparents knew. There was a miracle about to happen in my grandparent’s generation that we enjoy to this very day. Theirs was a time without something called a RADIO in the home; and in the farms of American rural life……a time without even electricity to power up a radio even if they HAD one!! I marvel to contemplate how quiet life must’ve been back then….it truly is a peaceful thought to conjure. My maternal grandfather, Clarence Martin Sletten, entered this world in 1895, and upon his first days of life, it was also to be the same year that an Italian inventor brought radio to life for the first time. Even the very word “radio” is interesting to muse upon. Its genesis comes from the Latin word, “radius” (similar to the spokes of a wheel, or beams of light emanating in all directions). Early pioneers of this medium added the word “phone” to radius, calling it a “radiophone” so that it colored the definition to mean “radiated sound”.
Of course, even though radio came to life in the same year of my grandfather’s generation, many country folk could not enjoy it until the late 1930’s when “The Rural Electrification Administration” finally ran power lines to farms across our great land. To our generation of today, radio is taken for granted, yet, in its infancy, I’m sure early generations were spellbound with amazement! Ponder this, a person in New York City is standing in front of a box-like piece of metal (large microphone) and when he speaks, his words are magically flown across the country to San Francisco, California where they are heard and enjoyed as those spoken words come out of a receiving radio speaker in that State. That’s a journey of almost 3,000 miles in a blink of time. I’m sure our elder generation were agog with questions about how this almost magical machine could perform such a feat.
Stepping back into our time machine, we fly forward to the year of 1967 as the first 13 years of life whizzed by on our farm there in southern Minnesota. Back in our farm days, I mainly enjoyed the radio that Dad always had playing in our barn while milking our herd of Holstein cows. Our father found that, not only did the radio entertain him, but it tended to make the cows relax and “let down” more milk for us to sell to the creamery nearby in Kiester. Oh sure, I enjoyed the “top tunes” of the day, but did not have a regular favorite radio program to listen to.
Once life had settled in our new surroundings of Battle Ground, Washington, I came across the radio ministry of Dr. John G. Mitchell. Mitchell was a co-founder of Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was captivated by the deep sincerity of this dear man who often implored his listeners with, “If you’ll only fall in love with the Savior!” On top of his sincerity was the wonderful lilt of his Welsh/English accent as he spoke. His program was one that I looked forward to daily and, if I had the opportunity to see him speak in a nearby church, you could bet that I was in that pew to not only hear my hero, but see him in person. Seeing Dr. Mitchell’s personal study Bible once, I saw that he was living proof a saying that goes, “If a man’s Bible is falling apart, it’s a sure sign that that man is VERY WELL put together!” If I could emulate that dear man of God at even a fraction of how he lived his life, I would be one happy man.
Every Saturday afternoon, at 3pm, I’d tune in my “smile medicine” in the form of a wonderful variety radio show called, “Prairie Home Companion” based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a two hour journey into laughter via many happy parodies and even phony commercials for silly companies that didn’t exist; such as “Bertha’s Kitty Boutique” or “Powder Milk Biscuits” or “The Fearmonger’s Shop”. There were hilarious skits, monologues about a mythical town called, “Lake Wobegon” and, of course, lots and lots of great music from all over the world.
With all the sadness that permeates the world around us, this weekly radio injection of joy each Saturday was “just what the doctor ordered” for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!! 😉