Saturday, May 7, 2011

Radio Daze

Kids, I have been having so much fun getting to know Salem Lorot, Poet of Kenya, better. I interviewed him for Poets United last week, and plan to blog more about that when I get a minute.

But yesterday he emailed me the cutest story about radios and the Pokot people in his village, and it made me remember what the radio meant to me - and to everyone - Back In the Day, before TV, before any of the technology we have now. Back then, gas was THIRTY CENTS a quart. Back then, the milkman delivered nice fresh cold glass bottles of milk and cream TO OUR DOOR. Back then, a stamp was maybe four cents, and the letter got from Vancouver to Kelowna overnight. Seriously. (My mom used to write me when she was in the city working and I was spending summer holidays with my grandma.) Now, to send something ANYWHERE by mail,  you are looking at the business end of twenty dollars, and you could get it there faster by attaching it to a pigeon.

Anyway, to get back to Salem, this is the enchanting story that made me feel so happy:

"Oh, this technology," writes Salem.........."Times change. My mother once told me that some Pokots had bought a new radio. So they listened to it and when the radio's battery were getting weak and "the small people in the radio" were tired, the voices were fading off ( according to them). So, out of pity ( this actually happened), for those people who had been talking for three days in a row, our good Pokot people took a gourd of sour milk and fed them. (Actually, they poured the milk on the speakers).

"And when the sound from the radio came out a little less clearly and throaty, they said to themselves, "Oh, Tororot help those people...talking and talking and that they have drank a lot of milk, they can talk more...". Needless to say, that was the end of that radio. Nowadays, they changed. They have watches. So sometimes they approach me so that I can set the time " to be exactly as that of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's 1 O'clock news". Oh, technology."

His story made me smile, and  think back to when I was four years old , standing beside my father, looking down into the radio cabinet at the little round plastic bubble with the red light. I remember Dad smiling down at me, telling me that when that light was on, the little people who lived inside the radio were awake. I believed every word of course. I remained very gullible until well into my 40's, I am embarrassed to report.

I remember when my cousin, Charlie, put on a puppet show, hiding behind a big armchair. Two puppets popped up above the chair and they talked. I was transfixed, couldnt figure it out.  My aunt told me "That's Charlie", and I couldnt begin to imagine how he had managed to shapeshift into those two small puppets. It was magic! And how would he get back to his normal size again?

When I was four, I spent days with my Grandma while my folks were working. A big treat after lunch was to pull the wooden rocking chair into the middle of the small living room (most folks lived very modestly back then), and listen to the  children's  afternoon programs on the radio. My favourite was Maggie Muggins. At the end of each small adventure, the reader would say, "And we don't know what will happen tomorrow."

I never knew what would happen tomorrow either or, for that matter, that same night. My folks drank, and one just never knew.

I remember those radio programs and how much I enjoyed them. And the security, peacefulness and safety of Grandma's house, with her familiar, steady routine, and the loud ticking and  tocking of her wind-up clock on the kitchen windowsill. Some late afternoons, she'd put on the gas fireplace and we'd watch "fairies dancing in the flames"  and she'd tell me stories.

Grandmas totally rock!


  1. Radio memories. (The only time I listen to a radio now is in the car.) What fun. I remember, as a child, listening with my parents to a program called "The Shadow." It was a kind of drama show. It alwahys ended with the words: "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.... The Shadow knows!" I can still HEAR those words today.

    I don't remember any specific children's programs, except Billy the Brownie I listened to around Christmas.

  2. i'm sure life back then was a lot less complicated. people didn't even have to worry or think about what was happening on the other side of the globe. along with technology came higher, more preposterous wants/needs.

    sherry, happy mothers day to you!

  3. Fun to read; I bet you are a grandmother that rocks! I once met Peter Pan in the grocery store; she was(yes, she was selling Peter Pan peanut butter). She said, she would fly over my house. I looked all day for that damn fairy...I never forgot it.
    I was 4-5 yrs old. Funny, what makes an impression on us~
    Happy Mother's Day to you! @>----

  4. I like this piece about radios. Even my mother has told me about times when she used to wait for the week's broadcast to listen to celebrities talk. She used to imagine what the room looked like- the mike, the broadcasting instruments, etc. Your posts reminds me of what my mother used to say.

  5. I always enjoy your family recollections, and Salem's story is just a riot! It reminds me of a favourite yarn from our own family history.

    When we first came to Canada in the 1950s, we sent home huge Christmas parcels filled with the many goodies we'd discovered in this new country. We had a good laugh when a letter came back from my Gran, politely thanking us for the gifts and chocolates, but admitting that she wasn't altogether sure about the tea because, "It was a quare nuisance tearing open all those wee bags to get at the tea leaves"!!

  6. I love the teabag story so much! I also remember when I was little, before a long bridge was built, that a ferry used to take cars back and forth across Okanagan Lake. My dad had told me a ferry would take us across, and I was so excited. A fairy! Not only was I going to see one, we would finally be able to FLY! When the white boat turned up, and I was so disappoinmted, it made my dad smile to think I had expected a magical little being with wings:)

  7. Just saw this up here and what a wonderful recollections from all of you. It is like all of us had pushed back the clock of time. I feel like I have a glimpse of life back then in Canada. AMAZING!


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