Crawling, then toddling and eventually skipping toward a booming Philco radio, gracing the southwest corner of our modest living room, I spent hours listening religiously to heaven on earth. Fibber McGee and Molly bantered with Throckmorton Philharmonic Gildersleeve, while the contents of their own infamous, stuffed closet crashed about their heads via convincing sound effects. That soothing yet authoritative voice of Edward R. Murrow delivered news-worthy commentaries. The Shadow cackled maniacally. A spooky Whistler shrilly, ominously warning listeners in synchronized rhythm to the cadence of his footsteps, as well as Baby Snooks arguing with her daddy, filled many, many yesterdays.
Serving obligatory time as one of Olive Sheehan’s “morning” kindergarteners, afternoons passed mellowly on the homefront with this kid eagerly listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford fiddle and sing, a menacing creaking door introduce “Inner Sanctum”, or Walter Denton whine at Miss Brooks while Mother starched and ironed my dad’s short-sleeved dress-shirts.
Don McNeill’s “Breakfast Club” energized my mom each morning; my folks even attended one of his Windy City shows, in person.
Arthur Godfrey earned classification as a smart aleck at our house, although his ukulele performances rated pretty highly.
Those memories rushed through my retro-thoughts one recent Friday as I awaited a prompting phone call, issuing from South Carolina, which would pipe a colorful, larger-than-life New Yorker through to my cell-phone. The interviewer, a kindred soul, wished to discuss animal activism with me for one half hour, interrupted only by commercials. Having engaged in a pre-interview, Colin, born in West Virginia, and I had rejoiced at our bond as a couple of baby boomers from small towns – who also shared Southern roots and preferred going barefoot through all seasons. “To Kill a Mockingbird” vibes threw us into simpatico revelry from our mutual greetings of “Hello” and “Hey there”! Our hour-long discussion, to achieve “clicking”, ricocheted all over the map.
Doggies hushed and already fed their lunch, a visit to the “powder-room”, Don at his office desk, dishes washed, I sat staring nervously at the phone, imagining/rehearsing my first ever radio interview.
My only qualifying broadcasting experiences heretofore consisted of appearances in commercials as well as guesting on WANE-TV’s Ann Colone Show re my stint as Evie, wife of politico Littlechap, in Ft. Wayne’s First Presbyterian’s musical STOP THE WORLD: I WANT TO GET OFF with Ann listening off-camera as I sang ”Malinki Meilchick” (Russian dialect-ish) to my co-star — LIVE. Also, as a speech major at Ball State University, I had shared studio space with and produced mock programs alongside David Letterman as we two passed back and forth attending our required “Radio and Television” courses taught by recycled “Big Apple” execs whose fervent familiarity with and adherence to FCC regulations now seem hilariously time-warped.
Apprehensive that my battery would run out of steam long before the informative flow I wished to share with Mr. Lively might, I focused instead upon modulating my intonations to that alluring depth of a Lauren Bacall type since human voices under stress always soar octaves higher. I practiced talking to myself AND with my cat until Harry Belafonte’s jaunty version of “Hava Nagila” signaIed that I should activate my Verizon wireless gadget and answer evocative questions emanating from the East Coast. Our discussion ensued –colored by my anticipation of properly extolling the animal kingdom and worthily representing countless, wonderfully compassionate souls who all care profoundly enough to advocate for the welfare of “innocents” around the clock and around the globe.
“Before one could say Jack Robinson”, our impromptu 30 minute dialogue neared its conclusion, and I chose to “wrap up” by quoting eminent, controversial authors Albert Camus and Franz Kafka — in one fell swoop. Among all of the “necessaries” daily cluttering my kitchen table — including paper clips, a vast array of pens, jumbo-sized calendars, crumbs, milk-bones, rubber bands, tweezers, receipts, postage stamps, bills, tri-dent chewing gum packages, and golf tees — a paperback copy of Charles Patterson’s Eternal Treblinka shouted out: “Read me!”
Thus, I closed our fantastically satisfying conversation with these words, from an important book which outlines common tragic links between our country’s exploitation of animals and the “Final Solution”, read aloud across the miles from the Hoosier State to the Empire State and everywhere in between.
(From the author’s Preface) “The conviction of Albert Camus that ‘it is a writer’s responsibility to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves’ helped me persevere through the writing of this book. And when it looked as if I might never find a publisher brave enough to publish it…, I took comfort from Franz Kafka’s view: ‘I think we ought only to read books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So it can make us happy? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all…A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.’ “
Uncertain whether a fleeting vocal exchange between Colin and Susie might alter, enlighten, inform or convert the thought processes of listeners, nevertheless that unique window of opportunity nearly caused this old housewife to feel, for “one brief shining moment”, as consequential as Walter Winchell. Thanks, Colin, Harry, Lauren, Charles, Albert, Franz, and “Jack Robinson”! I raise my coffee cup in honor of Living in Peace (LIP being the acronym), honoring “all creatures great and small” from now until the end of time.
POSTSCRIPT: What an immeasurable thrill to be invited for a second interview with Colin, the host of HERE WOMEN TALK, where I answered queries addressing the logistics of a Democrat co-existing in the same household with a Republican during these contentiously politicized, polarizing times. After 42 years of a relatively successful marriage/meeting of the minds, perhaps the Sextons might serve as role models for pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin. Wonder if that couple happened to be listening for Midwestern advice that fateful day? Both interviews can be accessed via FACEBOOK where I persist in living out “my so-called life”! Be forewarned, upon playback, you’ll discover that I sound much more akin to Patty Duke than to Ms. Bacall…darn!