Transistor Radios and Ear-plugs

It was the only time that Judge Hopper called me by name. It surprised me as I didn’t even know the stogie-chewing old man knew who I was at the time.

“Tommy,” he shouted.

Shocked or not, I knew to answer him right away with a quick, “Yes, sir,” as I didn’t want it to get back to Mom that I was being rude.

“Come here, son,” he growled, “I got something here for you.”

Up the driveway I ran to the entrance of his garage. It was one of the few times I recall seeing it open.

He came shuffling out with a small red and white rectangular object in his hand and held it out for me to take. He frightened me, so I hesitated.

“You want it or not?’ he asked.

“Yes, sir – I do,” I respond though I still had no idea what it was he was giving me.

Taking it from him, he turned and shuffled back inside his garage, disappearing into its darkness.

“Thank you,” I called out to him as the garage door started down and he disappeared into his house.

Looking down, I quickly realized it was a transistor radio that he had given me; one of those people got for smoking cigarettes. This one read, “Marlboro,” and I was as pleased as punch as I turned it on and it worked.

Mom had an ear-plug for jus’ such a radio, but I had to get it on the Q.T., as I was more than certain that if she saw what it read, I would have to give it back. (Odd, since Mom had been smoking unfiltered Pall-Mall’s in the red pack since she was 12.)

Back then an ear-plug was what is now known as a ‘monaural earpiece,’ that fit inside the ear and came with a plastic-shrouded piece of wire that fit over the backside of the ear. Today, it’s known as an ear-bud and they are a thousand-times more comfortable.

So being sneaky, I took it to my room and tucked it under my pillow. Next, I rummaged through what we called the ‘junk drawer,’ until I found the ear-plug – and returned with it to my room.

That night I began my life-long ‘love affair’ with radio as I listened to one of the only two AM radio stations I could get on the little transistor radio. From then on throughout the rest of winter, every chance I got, I had the radio on and my ear-plug in.

Summer was no different, only I would take the little radio outside and listen to it without the ear-plug. Life was grand and I knew it.

Then it happened, I left it sitting on the back bumper of Dad’s truck and it disappeared, never to be seen again. But by then, the broadcasting-bug had hit me and I knew that I wanted to give it a try.

It’s also the only time I’ve owned anything that advertises a tobacco product.

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Published by

Tom Darby

Former radio personality and newspaper reporter

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