When I was growing up in the 1950s, radio was the Queen of Media. Especially in my family.
My parents didn’t even buy a television until the late 50s, so, I’m deeply in-tuned to the waves of radio frequency.
So much so, in fact, that I consider it religion within my secular upbringing.
Here’s a little memory of my mother’s kitchen cathedral belching out its radio religion:
Every Sunday night at dinnertime, my mother tuned the radio to WOR AM 710 on-the-dial. She blared the preaching of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, broadcast live from Grace Cathedral Church in New York City.
We chewed pot roast and potatoes in rhythm to Norman’s power of positive thinking. My father claimed indigestion and left the table early. My brother and I had to remain until our plates were clean. We were, after all, eating on behalf of all the starving children in India. Norman wasn’t interested in feeding the poor, however. He was focused upon increasing the wealth and well-being of the world’s wealthiest people. Something seemed askew to me in the theology. Religion and business were married. The electrical charges of thoughts were reversed. Could this be healthy? Ethical? Possible? I wondered.
I recall something dingy in the kitchen lighting on Sunday evenings that never existed on other nights. The light was amber – almost sulfurous. It bore a heavy, sickening weight. It lessened my appetite. I used to think that it was the dread of Monday morning and the return to work and school that I was feeling, but, now I wonder if the radio waves carried a power of acidity – a fog of pollutants – into our kitchen each week.
I much preferred the special Sundays when the immediate relatives would gather for supper at either Toot’s house (my maternal grandmother), or, our house. We would eat roast leg-of-lamb with pan-roasted potatoes and a dollop of mint jelly on the side. There would be salad and green beans almandine. Pillsbury bake-‘n-serve crescent rolls. And dessert. Usually a fruit pie or strawberry shortcake.
These suppers were served at 2:00 PM. Daylight was always present. And even if the kinfolk were feuding, the air was light.
I loved these occasions, especially at Toot’s, because my father couldn’t excuse himself for a football game. And my mother did not have command over the kitchen, so she was forced to relax. We four became equal. And the dining room was so elegant, with antique furniture and lace tablecloths and gleaming silver service sets. It was aglow with the history of love.
Somewhere in between church and daily life was the magic I craved. I vowed to search for it: the place that warded off the bogey men of Sunday nights and the bellowing of Norman. The place that balanced leather and lace.