#192 Public radio, the great connector

Antique Radio

Antique radio photo by mconnors, via morgueFile

When I was living in the States, I was a fan of National Public Radio. In Rochester, New York, radio woke me with a half hour of bird song from around the world. It was so much gentler than a raucous alarm. Later, during my years in Seattle, Washington, radio kept me informed and entertained as I prepared meals or cleaned cupboards. It was like having a friend whose flow of conversation was always interesting.

Love took me to Canada in 1990. That was before the days of audio streaming. Vancouver Island might as well have been across the globe. I could no longer listen to Prairie Home Companion or my favourite news shows.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation saved the day. Bill Richardson was hosting Richardson’s Roundup, but I always thought of it as “Sad Goat” because the show’s call-in number was 1-888-SAD GOAT. People from all over British Columbia would call in with stories that were touching, funny, and sometimes even downright weird. The show is not on the air any more, but the tales and letters were gathered into a book, Dear Sad Goat: A Roundup of Truly Canadian Tales & Letters. Richardson and topnotch news coverage gradually connected me to the strange new place where I had landed.

In 2008 my partner (a different love from the one who brought me to Canada) took me to Australia to meet his family. For the months we were away, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation became my radio companion. They had the same mix I’m always drawn to: news and stories. One of my favourite shows was Australia All Over, a call-in show much like “Sad Goat”. From every corner of that great land came stories that made me feel connected.

Thanks to the Web, I can have all three, plus the BBC and anything else with streaming audio or podcasts. Such a feast!

Public radio, I love you, and I am happy to pay taxes to keep you on the air.

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3 comments
sterling haynes - November 20, 2011

Thanks Cathryn, I agree. We used to have a radio like the one above when we lived in Edmonton in the 1930’s. We heard :”Fibber Magee and Molly, Amos and Andy and Al Jolsen” — times were really tough.

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    admin - November 20, 2011

    You bring back memories, Sterling. I can remember gathering around the radio to listen to those shows. We didn’t have a fireplace, but we did have the radio.

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j - November 25, 2011

When I lived in Canada and moved into an old, drafty farmhouse during the winter (from a tipi in the shadow of the Canadian rockies), the CBC became a good friend. When the temperatures hit -45 (the temp. at which Celsius and Far. meet) and 40 mph winds whipped through the farmhouse, my brain was warmed and stimulated by the CBC, especially the chatty evenings of “As It Happens.” Often that program was followed by bundling up, then going outside to watch the Aurora Borealis while listening to the coyotes yip and howl. When I came back to the U.S., I had to catch the scratchy signals from NPR snaking 135 miles through the Montana mountains. Listening to “Prairie Home Companion” every Saturday afternoon, totally focused through the audio fuzz, sprawled next to the blazing wood stove, was an experience I looked forward to weekly. When I lived in Latin America for 5 years, I most missed my friends, Garrison Keillor and his warm voice telling stories from Lake Wobegon. In the last 20 years, I’ve raised my son with no television (poor child, teenager and young man!), but we are faithful listeners to NPR and Mr. Keillor… I will miss him SO much when he “retires” in 2013. And I have discovered that at 11 at night, my local NPR station runs “As It Happens,” from the CBC. I only like one of the hosts, but enjoy many of the sometimes quirky stories… and it helps me still feel connected to my “former life” wintering in Canada.

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