Imagine that there was a time in America when a child sat next to a radio and simply listened. But didn’t just listen, was enthralled and knew that this time was his alone, that he was part of the vortex of drama unfolding inside the radio’s innards. . . . I never saw a punch thrown, or a glass shatter, or a blood-smeared shirt as I listened to the radio. Nor did I know Barbara Stanwyck’s hairstyle as she overacted in Sorry, Wrong Number on the Lux Radio Theatre. And I had no idea how corpulent Happy Felton was as he dropped ten silver dollars that jangled into a Sheffield’s Milk bottle on Guess Who. (Yes, ten bucks was what you won on that show.) Instead, I imagined it all.
I Hid It under the Sheets captures a bygone era—the late 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s—through the reminiscences of award-winning New York Times reporter Gerald Eskenazi. This first-person recollection shows radio’s broad impact on his generation and explains how and why it became such a major factor in shaping America and Americans.
For Eskenazi and his peers, radio had virtually no competition from other forms of media, aside from newspapers. Because of this, radio was able to create a common American culture, something that is not found in today’s multifaceted world. Eskenazi shows how the popular programs of the times—from The Lone Ranger to The Fat Man to The Answer Man—helped create a culture of values (telling the truth, being courteous, being courageous, and being a moral person).
Eskenazi’s personal anecdotes about each program are interspersed with interviews of personalities ranging from Tom Brokaw to Colin Powell about their own experiences with radio. Brokaw, who grew up in South Dakota, found radio brought him closer to the world beyond him. Would he have become the newsman he is today without the radio to pique his imagination?
Eskenazi also shows how important radio was to immigrants seeking to become a part of the American experience. Through radio, even he, a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, could grow up feeling connected to the dominant culture of the times. For those who yearn to remember a time gone by, to laugh at childhood memories, or merely to learn about life during a simpler time, this book is for you.