When radio was hot , and political correctness was not

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During the early 1940s, while growing up in Evergreen, deep in the heart of the Piney Woods section, due south from the Black Belt and west from the Wire Grass section, our hot media included newspapers, radio and the movies.

We listened to the radio while getting ready for school, and at night from about 5:30 to 10.

Radio comedians included Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy and Bob & Ray.

Jack Benny always told jokes about being tight with money. Evergreen’s downtown crowd, just coming out of the depression, loved Benny.

His signature joke had to do with being confronted by a mugger who demanded: “Your money or your life.” Long pause, then an impatient “well?” from the mugger. Then Benny: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

I remember vividly how the comedians got stuck on the subject of women  drivers, and the reason I remember this so well is that Mom did most of the driving for our family.

She was an excellent driver, and eventually taught me how to drive.

The reason I want to expand on this is that when Mom was about five years old, she developed an infection in her left eye. She lost her left eye, and wore an artificial eye for the rest of her life.

It was not obvious when you first met her. Her “eye appearance” was akin to Peter Falk’s (Inspector Columbo).

While the jokes about women drivers gained in popularity, I didn’t pay too much attention to them because Mom was a  good driver, and she did not pay too much attention to them either.

The jokes were not politically correct, but no one knew about political correctness back then. That’s not exactly true, but I don’t remember women complaining about the jokes about their driving.

I never thought about Mom driving with just one eye until years later, and I asked her how she could drive so well with just one eye. She said she had talked to doctors about it, and the conclusion was that one-eyed drivers compensated to the point of losing only about 20 percent of their vision.

She never had an accident.

Radio  sit-coms included Lum & Abner (at the jot-em down store), Amos & Andy, Fibber McGhee & Molly and Henry Aldridge.

If I remember correctly, our early morning radio was chiefly the Louisiana Hayride, a “sort of” Good Morning, America for that day that included a mixture of songs and jokes.

My most vivid memory for that program had to do with Hadacol, an over-the- counter “drug” that made you feel good. And the jokes, oh yes I remember.

“Why do they call it Hadacol? They had to call it something.”

Other old shows that come to mind include Jack Armstrong (the all-American boy}, Dragnet, Dick Tracy, Steve Wilson of the Illustrated Press. The Inner Sanctum, Flash Gordon and the Lone Ranger.

Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at morgarg7@aol.com

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