Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Teenage Time Machine

Times were hard for my family in the summer of 1962, but somehow Mom found the ten dollars or so to get me a Channel Master transistor radio! I don’t know if it was the exact model in the picture, but it was close.

Ah, but that Channel Master was a sexy beast in its light brown leather carrying case! And the thing I liked immediately was the way it came on as soon as I clicked the thumbwheel switch. No waiting for tubes to warm up. It was THERE!

So I was off up and down the AM dial, searching for music that I wanted to hear—ANYTHING besides that whiny old Country stuff that seemed to be everywhere. (I’ve since learned that that music is a national treasure, but try telling that to an eleven-year old kid.)

Daytime listening was sort of interesting. I pulled in The Grandpa Show from KZNG in Hot Springs and was amused when the DJ spoke of getting his beard caught in the turntable. Trouble was, he was playing that whiny old Country stuff! I had no trouble getting the station my Grandmother listened to her “stories” on, KTHS at 1090 in Little Rock. But what music there was seemed utterly square to my restless ears.

At night, I picked up everything from the Mexican border blasters to KDKA in Pittsburgh. Every time I moved the dial even a millimeter, I got yet another station from an impossibly faraway place. I went through AA batteries like they were on sale!

Then came September and Grandma’s station changed COMPLETELY. KTHS became KAAY and started playing that Rock And Roll Music! I missed the changeover, didn’t hear the DJs reading names out of the phone book while they played “Baby Elephant Walk” over and over until it made the old people scream, but I was there by the second week of the new format for sure.

Now I had MY station and my Channel Master stayed locked in to The Mighty 1090, The Big K, The Friendly Giant. Doc Holiday and Mike McCormick and Buddy Karr and Rob Robbins and Ken Knight were talking to ME—playing what I wanted to hear! Didn’t take long until I knew every song on the Silver Dollar Survey. (I also knew that I was somehow, someday, going to be a DJ on that big station in Little Rock, but that’s another story for another time.)

Just when I was sure I was going to suffocate in the small town of Friendship, Arkansas, my Channel Master found KAAY and the music that beamed me into a marvelous new world. It was literally Solid State Salvation!

I found my Channel Master a couple of years back among some of the things Mom left behind. I opened the case only to find the ruin and corrosion caused when the last set of batteries spilled their acid into the chassis decades ago. I gave it a decent burial out under the pear tree and paused a moment to thank it for being my teenage time machine.

(Thanks to David B. Treadway for this great story!)

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