Radio Index Magazine (1932)

This delightful little magazine offers a vivid picture of radio entertainment during the "golden years" of the 1930s.

About half of the magazine is devoted to comprehensive listings of radio broadcasts, indexed every imaginable way. Shows and stations are indexed by day of the week and network, by call numbers, by geographical location using a special map key, and by frequency numbers worldwide. Although the program listings are chiefly for the United States, the frequency listings include international stations from Buenos Aires to Vladivostok.

The other half of the magazine contains a variety of feature articles, ranging from gee-whiz fan coverage ("Ann Leaf at the Organ") to technical subjects ("Hum and its Remedy"). Ann Leaf, in case you're wondering, was a popular organ player of the day, and the coverage of her was an agent's dream. Here's a snippet from the beginning:

"Ann Leaf is just about as big as three and one-half healthy octaves or one athletic arpeggio. She could curl up for a nap in the center of the Wurlizter keyboard without touching any of the red keys. Danseuse, champion skater, tennis star-—you visualize all of these when Ann, dainty, vital and dynamic, flashes across your horizon for the first time. Instead, she is the girl of a thousand melodies from Bach to Berlin, under whose windblown bob cantatas crowd concertos, rhapsodies jostle the waltzes of Chopin and Strauss, and the melodies of Gershwin, Harry Warner, Donaldson and others, dozens of talented new composers, tumble over each other in a rush to the tips of her sensitive, facile hands. Ann averages several hundred tunes for each of her ten fingers—sometimes she thinks it is twice that many—and her mind is a giant mental keyboard for she must orchestrate each of these tunes and build them into a harmonious whole each time she is on the air."

Sprinkled amongst the other feature articles are photos and brief paragraphs about other personalities: The Sinclair Weiner Minstrels, Mildred Hunt ("one of Radio's pioneer artists—a CBS star"), the Pickens Sisters from Georgia, Jack Denny and his Orchestra ("recently broadcast from a B & O train while speeding at seventy miles an hour"), Elizabeth Barthell, June Pursell, Irene Taylor ("NBC bluesette"), and many more.

The magazine also has a puzzle section, with a monthly "cross-call," a crossword puzzle whose answers consist entirely of station call letters, and other word-and-number puzzles revolving around call letters. Stilted by today's standards, these puzzles probably held a lot more interest to 1930s audiences, who might have felt lucky to bring in even a few of the stations listed.

In addition to entertainment and schedules, Radio Index included a surprising amount of technical content, with articles on topics such as antennas, eliminating hum, and even a schematic for a complete receiver. Nowadays, entertainment devices are mysterious "black boxes" to most users. Sixty-five years ago, many radio listeners were builders, repairers, and experimenters, as well.

©1995-2017 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved