A discussion on Facebook this morning prompted me to reach way down into the memory hole to recall all those fun times I spent in the mid to late 1970’s talking on my family’s old Citizen’s Band radio. I don’t think that any hobby before or since brought me as much enjoyment.
And there was the added diversion of the shortwave radio, made possible by a set that my folks purchased for me one Christmas in the late 1960’s from Sears and Roebuck Catalogue. The set came with different coils that had to be switched out depending on what section of the shortwave band one wanted to monitor.
When I moved to Auburn, Alabama, after acquiring my first job in the mid-1980’s, I took that old shortwave set with me and for the first time in years spent hours listening to foreign broadcasts.
I can remember tuning in one night to a faint broadcast from Radio Tirana, the official Communist Albanian radio service, featuring a woman with an unusually sexy voice droning on about the merits of scientific socialism. I conjured up an image of the woman behind this disembodied voice: someone who had trained for years to master English, sitting behind an over-sized, obsolescent radio mike in a drab studio in the poorest, most implacably Stalinist nation in Europe as she lectured the beleaguered masses of the West about the material and cultural benefits of bureaucratic socialism.
For me, that is what made these sorts of hobbies so engaging – how they so often sparked one’s curiosity and imagination. Shortwave radio listening instilled me with lifelong curiosity about how the rest of the world worked. I feel grateful to have grown up in a home with two educators for parents who indulged those interests.