Saturday, October 02, 2010

Remembering the Sky Buddy

At my writing group today, our presenter asked us to write on the theme of remembrance. Here is what I came up with.

Our family owned a black metal Sky Buddy radio ever since I can recall. My father bought it in New Orleans during World War II during one of his breaks from duty in the Merchant Marines. It was a short wave radio made by Hallicrafters, and it could pick up signals from everywhere. As
a child, I would turn the steel dial and hear strange languages, Morse Code from ships at sea, exotic and popular music. My mom said that during the war a neighbor reported her to the FBI because the radio seemed like a spy's tool. Over the years I listened to Curt Gowdy announcing hundreds of Red Sox games, to the weekly band concert on local WESX in Salem, Massachusetts, to Queen for a Day with my mom, to Guy Kibbee's show on fishing, and to a show called The Answer Man. I marveled that the Answer Man always seemed to know everything. My brother Larry, the family fisherman, sent in a post card to Guy Kibbee, and the show kept mailing him prizes seemingly for years.

We were of course a family of Communist haters back in the early 50s--who wasn't? I remember hearing Walter Winchell's staccato voice delivering the news every night, and perhaps he was the one who announced Stalin's death in '53. Whoever the announcer was, I cheered the news. My Dad and I enjoyed stopping in briefly to listen to Radio Moscow and laugh when the announcer told his American audience how badly we were suffering under capitalism, and how the Soviets had invented everything from radio to toothbrushes.

But of course for a young boy, baseball was more important than politics. I remember hearing Curt Gowdy's play by play when a Red Sox relief pitcher came in late in a game with the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam home run with his first pitch. In the first game of one season at Fenway Park, the first batter up hit a home run on the first pitch of the year. Harry Agganis from Lynn, Massachusetts played for the Red Sox for a couple of years, then died suddenly from a relapse of pneumonia. He'd been my hero, and I was crushed at hearing the news.

Eventually I grew up and moved away from home. My father died in '67, my mother in '04, and the radio was still in her house, its vacuum tubes dusty and dead. I took custody of it for a while but could no longer get it to operate--and had no room to keep it anyway. In a way I miss the old relic, because for so long it had been a central feature in our family kitchen.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wasn't born until the 60's, so I missed out on devices like this.

Ruth D~ said...

Really interesting, bob. Did you dump it? Sell it? I suppose its time had come and gone. Still. could you have made it into a planter or something? ;>)

cph said...

We had a similar radio tucked away in the back of my high school's library (this was in the 80's). It was owned by the school's (long-defunct) amateur radio club.

I don't recall it being all that sensitive, but I could get it to (barely) receive "big" stations such as Voice of America and Radio Moscow...