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Flex Your Mental Muscles on Old-Time Radio

Editor's Note: Devon Wilkins is an AEBC board member and an advocate in the assistance dog field. She is also President of the Canadian Old-Time Radio Alliance (COTRA).

Before the dawn of television in the early 1950's, children and adults alike were just as captivated by shows as they are today, but those shows were on radio. Heroes such as Superman and Batman appeared on radio long before TV came along. Fans of situation comedies received their weekly chuckles from the likes of Our Miss Brooks, Father Knows Best, Amos and Andy, The Aldridge Family, Baby Snooks, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Seekers of adventure immersed themselves in programs such as The Shadow and The Whistler. Armchair crime fighters thrilled to The Green Hornet, Calling All Cars, and Sherlock Holmes.

Canadian soap fans were addicted to shows like Aunt Lucy, Laura Limited, and Brave Voyage, and joined their American counterparts in following the lives of Ma Perkins, Pepper Young's Family, and One Man's Family. In fact, it was on radio where The Guiding Light began its seven-decade reign. Canadians planned their lunch hours so that they could listen to an extremely popular variety show called The Happy Gang, and in the evening it was the Wayne and Shuster Show. Children of that generation enjoyed Just Mary, Maggie Muggins, and Kindergarten of the Air every bit as much as they enjoy Sponge Bob today. Those who liked westerns thrilled to the adventures of Sergeant Preston, Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, and Wild Bill Hickock. Sci-fi buffs got their jollies from such shows as Planet Man, Journey into Space, and Dimension X. Treasure Trail, which originated out of Vancouver, was one of the most popular game shows in all of North America. And then, of course, there was NHL hockey, which provided Saturday night entertainment in millions of households.

The major advantage of radio was that monsters and aliens could be as scary-looking as you wanted them to be. Heroes could be ten feet tall. Storms and wild animals could be ferocious beyond belief, and the front porch could look mighty fine during visits with Ma Perkins and Just Plain Bill, all thanks in large part to your very own imagination.

Recent studies have shown that when people engage in such activities as crossword puzzles, video and board games, and reading, they are less likely to fall prey as early or as quickly to such illnesses as Alzheimer's disease. There's no reason why turning off the TV, and losing yourself in an old-time radio show, couldn't produce the very same results.

Many of the American-made shows are available simply by downloading them free of charge from such sites as www.radiolovers.com or they can be purchased either in audio or MP3 format from several outlets throughout North America. Shows from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are also readily available.

The same, unfortunately, can't be said of shows produced here in Canada. One might be tempted to deduce that Canadian entertainment didn't compare with material from elsewhere, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Happy Gang, Don Messer and His Islanders, the Tommy Hunter show, Wayne and Shuster, Treasure Trail, Share the Wealth, Jake and the Kid, John and Judy, and the long-running dramatic series called Stage were every bit as good as programs produced outside our borders. But for some unfathomable reason, the CBC has seen fit to conceal them in archives and deny succeeding generations a big part of their heritage. Information on those shows, and much more in the way of Canadian programming, is available on the Canadian Old-Time Radio Alliance's website at: www.cotra.ca

So when there's nothing else to watch but those annoying summer reruns or when you're looking for something to keep yourself and your family occupied while travelling from here to there, why not give your imagination free rein, and flex your mental muscles on some old-time radio?

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