One year for Christmas, Santa Claus brought me a handheld AM transistor radio from Sears as I recall. As a kid I was always amazed at how many of Santa’s gifts came from Sears but then again we always marked the beginning of the holiday season based on the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wishbook in the mail.
This simple little contraption was a modern marvel in its time, a radio small enough to fit in your hand powered by a battery. You could take it on a picnic, to the beach or to a baseball game. Truly something special. Oh how time, and our expectations have changed.
My radio had a long antenna that rotated. At that time, there were radio stations that could only broadcast during the day, sun-up to sun-down stations. Others that were low power with coverage that didn’t expand beyond the communities they served. Then there were the powerhouses called clear-channel stations that operated at 50,000 watts.
At night, with the single earplug in so I wouldn’t get in trouble for not going to sleep, I scanned the dial to far away places like New York, Chicago, Nashville and Detroit. On a clear night I might pick-up a station in New Orleans, Pittsburgh or even Dallas. I heard spanish spoken for the first time on that little transistor radio. Some stations in Mexico, much to dismay of the FCC, openly operated at 100,000 to 150,000 watts often stepping on the toes of the frequencies they shared with stations in the United States. Each night was an adventure, a journey that I could take without having to leave the comforts of my warm bed in North Carolina.
Rock ‘n’ Roll was changing during this time. There was a post Beatles revolution in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Each night I heard new groups, new styles and new sounds, sounds that I wasn’t hearing at home on the local stations. I developed my love of music under the covers of my bed as an eight year old, a love I carry with me today. I still enjoy finding that obscure group or song but now I do it by scanning the dials of sirius satellite radio, quite the technological advancement from that humble Sears AM transistor radio.