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Everywhere I go I find a pal

Everywhere I go  I find a pal Everywhere I go  I find a pal

Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review

The winds of change are blowing. The nation is cleaning its house of racism.

Following the death of George Floyd, we’ve seen the National Football League rescind its rule on taking a knee, no less than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, agree with taking down Confederate soldier monuments littered about the South and an announcement by the Quaker Oats Co. that it will no longer sell Aunt Jemima syrup.

The change that will affect me the most, however, is the decision by Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) to no longer air its Sunday night broadcasts of “Old Time Radio Drama” which featured comedies, westerns, mysteries, detective dramas and variety radio shows.

The reason to end the long-running program hosted by Norman Gilliland is to stop putting racist and sexist material on the air.

“Despite significant effort over the years, it has been nearly impossible to find historic programs without offensive and outdated content,” said Mike Crane, WPR director. “And, ultimately, these programs don’t represent the values of WPR and The Ideas Network’s focus on public service through news and information.”

I don’t knock WPR’s decision, and, given the current national discussion, I think the public radio network did, on balance, the right thing.

But I will miss Sunday nights in my woodshop listening to “The Great Gildersleeve,” “The Lone Ranger” and “Fibber McGee and Molly” in the background.

It’s true that the old radio shows were saturated with racism. Whatever black characters did show up in the shows were maids, porters and other domestic help. They were portrayed as ol’ blackface minstrel type characters. It wasn’t pretty and, I’d say, 60 years later, indefensible.

But I will defend a lot of those old time shows as having, perhaps, a better moral compass than a lot of current entertainment media.

What impressed me about the shows was their patriotism. It wasn’t today’s in-yourface, flag-waving patriotism, but a more somber reverence for country. This was not patriotism that divided, but patriotism that help unite the nation, especially as the country struggled against international fascism during World War II.

And I appreciated the gentle humor. Today’s comedy is often raw and vulgar. The radio humor was more silly, more friendly. This doesn’t mean that the jokes were frivolous. Jimmy Durante, in a radio mock bid for the presidency, for example, could very ably skewer the political elite of his day.

The radio shows had a basic reverence of family. I appreciated that. The shows, both in the scripts and in the commercials, recognized the struggle of people in the Great Depression to keep the family unit housed, churched and fed. Today’s media worships wealth, billionaires, excess and luxury. Those old radio shows ridiculed all of that and, instead, put the Average Joe and his family on top of the social hierarchy.

So, yes, I can see reasons to shelve old time radio, but I think in doing so we will lose some good perspectives, too.

My shop just won’t be the same without hearing that clarion call of “Hi-Yo Silver, Away!” reverberate within its walls each Sunday night.

Contact Peter Weinschenk at