Thursday, September 16, 2010

Transistor Radio

I was driving along in my car yesterday, with my iPod plugged into my stereo, when the old Skeeter Davis song "The End of the World" came on. I got to thinking about how music from that era was made to be heard on a transistor radio. Whenever I hear old '50s or early '60s songs on an old radio, they sound so authentic. They seem to gain something from the static and the scratchy reception.

In fact, one of the things I love about antique stores is that they often have an old radio playing somewhere, usually tuned to an oldies station. Sometimes it's an old '40s playlist, with favorites like Adelaide Hall singing "As Time Goes By." Sometimes it's the '50s, with Johnny Mathis crooning "Misty." Regardless, there's something really charming about the simplicity of a transistor radio.

This is my transistor radio. It's a Panasonic "Panapet 70" radio, also known simply as a ball radio, from the early 1970s. I got it for Christmas in 1974 after begging my parents, all because Denise Long (who lived down the street) had a yellow one that I coveted. It used to have a chain with a ring on the end that you could theoretically use to carry the radio -- but mine broke off, so ultimately maybe that was a bad design idea.

I turned on my old ball radio this afternoon, and it's playing now, tuned to WCTC, an oldies station in nearby Somerset, N.J. They just finished playing "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys and "Undun" by the Guess Who, and they're advertising a Tommy James & the Shondells concert coming up in Morristown. (Who knew he was still performing?)

Actually, this was the one music station I could find, and I was thankful for it. Most of AM radio is a wasteland these days, littered with talk stations and sports. I don't know about you, but I don't want to listen to either one.

I wonder if Denise Long still has her Panapet?


  1. You have the last Panapet on the planet!

    I was afraid this post was going to end with you telling us that you'd donated the poor thing to Goodwill.

    AM sports radio IS talk radio. It is at least as irritating and biased as AM talk. Total waste of time. People who listen to AM are just looking for the lowest budget nest of fools possible to validate their own twisted theories.

    I doubt AM would have value even in the event of a Hurricane. All the stories and talk would just be about how the Clintons and Osama got together and created the low pressure system that became the storm. Blame THEM! Be ANGRY! If you don't board up your windows, the terrorists win! HA!

  2. A transistor radio definitely seems like a relic of the past. I actually had one that mounted on my bike handle. I'm afraid I recently gave it away. What a shame...

  3. What a cute radio! We listen to Reds games on AM if we're out & about & one is on. In NC we listen to Braves games. Otherwise it's an mp3 player for us!