January 15, 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
For someone like my grandfather Arthur Sr., the Information Age began in his 20s with a flood of great daily New York City newspapers like The World, the New York Times and the New York Daily News. He also had a crystal radio set, the popular way of bringing in stations from as far away as Chicago when the atmospherics were just right. You can just imagine how his own parents, raised in a slower age of communication, reacted to the more instant delivery from the wireless.
Arthur Sr. would continue his fascination with both newspapers and radio until he passed at the early age of almost 67. After his daily job as foreman of a smoking pipe factory in Spring Valley, N.Y., and supper, he would take to a very comfortable easy chair with ottoman, next to a standing lamp set with 100-watt bulb, and pore over the papers from cover to cover. Then, at about 8 p.m., he would listen to the radio, particularly the “Bing Crosby Show” on Thursday nights. He liked the popular crooner’s voice and also the fact that the singer smoked a pipe. Between the newspapers and the radio, he kept current with information and was entertained, too.
That evening time with the papers and the radio shows offered quiet. Unlike television, which brings constant movement in the flickering of the screen and action as well as the blaring of dialogue, the radio, even with its sound effects, caused the listener to stare into space, to close his/her eyes, almost to daydream in imagination. With newspapers, there was a similar quiet as you mulled what you had just read, or re-read something.
Those were moments that relaxed, unlike the visit with what can be an elephant in the room – the TV set, and now the computer and smart phones. Those windows on the world and society, the foreground and background screen for a fast-paced age of information, disinformation and entertainment, are also a look at the busy-business of humanity, including dysfunction and the outlandish. It can give you a headache.
My grandparents did buy a TV in the early 1950s, but the radio programs continued for a time, and so did my grandfather’s habit of listening to them. He would not look at TV during the day, even in retirement, instinctively understanding that to do so, to bring in constant sound and motion, would be to disturb the quiet rhythm required for his existence. His information age might have been busier than his parents’ but he understood their need for peace.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at email@example.com. This essay is adapted from an earlier one.