One memory stands out, though. I don’t know where I got the gift from but it was a build-it-yourself, crystal (I think) radio, complete with the one-sided headphones. I was so happy to have it built and working I wanted to try it out right away. So, that night, my brother and I huddled in our bunk bed, the streetlights illuminating our room in a pale blue glow, and we tuned the radio to the hockey game.
It was long after we were supposed to be asleep and my great-grandmother was babysitting. Well, her Scottish shenanigan sense must have alerted her to our schemes. In no time flat, the radio was gone and we were left to count the cars passing on Victoria Park Avenue.
Later in life I discovered Dr. Demento and the Sunday Night Funnies on Chum FM with Rick Hodges. What caught my ear, and kept me laying still as a tombstone in my bed, was the show that followed the funnies, the Theatre of the Mind.
If you are not familiar, or not from the broadcast range of 104.5 Chum FM, it played old radio serials like The Black Museum with Orson Welles; “The Black Museum… a repository of death. Here in the grim stone structure on the Thames which houses Scotland Yard is a warehouse of homicide, where everyday objects… a woman’s shoe, a tiny white box, a quilted robe… all are touched by murder.”, The Shadow, narrated by the creepy Frank Readick Jr., and voiced by Orson Welles; “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?“, and The Inner Sanctum hosted by Raymond Edward Johnson; “Pleasant dreeeams, hmmmm?“. Every Halloween they would play War of the Worlds, again, narrated by Orson Welles. I think I’m seeing a pattern here… They also played A Christmas Carol at Christmas.
There were other shows, sometimes Superman, Flash Gordon, Boston Blacky, The Thin man etc. but the ones I loved the best were the scary stories.
Sadly, as with real music on 1050 Chum (curse you CP24 snoozfest), Rick Hodges, the Sunday Night Funnies and Theatre of the mind, are gone. Replaced by what? Nothing of note. The end of an era… again.
The beauty of radio shows is that, like reading, you were the creator of the pictures. The actor/actresses were how you pictured them, the scenes played out behind closed eyes. Radio has that ability to carry you away. Transport you back in time or forward. The announcer was your guide. No flashy explosions every 10 seconds like the movies rely on to keep todays shortening attention spans in the seats. No, there were streets filled with fog, strange noises, suspense.
It was a pleasant way to wind down the weekend in preparation for the dreaded Monday.
I often get asked “where do your ideas come from” or “how do you come up with this stuff” I think I now know the answer. My brain and subconscious has been carefully marinated in quality storytelling since I could pick up a Hardy Boys novel and read it on my own. Music and radio seasoned the mix with Theatre of the Mind being the prominent influence.
Thank-you Rick Hodge, for furthering my feet down the macabre path less taken.
I’d like to close with clip from one of my favourite actors, from a show I watched as a kid, the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Vicent Price.
As Orson Welles would say, I remain, as always, obediently yours.
Pleasant dreams, hmmm?