I’ve been looking for a photo of that little radio for a long time. I finally found it–via The Google–on Pinterest. That little radio has real significance in my life. I grew up as the third of four siblings in a noisy household. I was probably the biggest source of the noise, as I was either playing the drums down in the basement or listening to my sister’s record player. I’m sure I used that thing far more than she ever did. Anyway, this is about that little radio pictured here. It’s a Ross Micro Ten Transistor Radio, made in Hong Kong.
So, I bought that little radio for myself in 1969. I know it was ’69 because I heard the debut of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on it, but I’ll get to that in a second. It was a pretty big deal that I was able to buy it because money was tight in those days and I was just a 12-year-old kid. I didn’t get an allowance like some kids got, so somehow I earned the money to buy that little radio. I believe I bought it at a Radio Shack store, but I could be mistaken. But I can clearly recall unboxing the thing when I got home. I was so proud of it. And just as you see in the photo, it was tiny and had the key ring thing. It was a beauty. And it sounded great to my ears.
That little radio was my personal window to the world beyond my family and school. I didn’t get around a whole lot beyond my own neighborhood. My only means of escape were the family television in the living room, and my radio. And since someone usually was already watching something I wasn’t interested in, I was left to that little radio.
That little radio made me understand how important radio was in the decades before mine. Until television became so dominant in the 60s and 70s, radio was…well, radio was it. It was still hanging on to its past glories in many markets, by the early 70s.
You know how you remember certain events by where you are and who you are with? For me the “who” in many cases was that little radio.
It came with an earphone–one of those cheap cream colored things–but as it was mono, you had to decide which ear the earphone sounded better in. If you wore it too long, your ear would hurt like hell. It had almost zero fidelity, but it made the music more personal for me, so I sacrificed ear comfort for that little radio.
I carried it with me everywhere, even risking taking it to school one day (but I probably chickened out of trying to use it in the open), so I have a lot of memories tied to it.
As I said earlier, I remember hearing Space Oddity for the first time. I was lying in bed, just zoning out and listening to that little radio. When I listened in bed, I often put it under my pillow, which somehow improved the sound, and I would fall asleep to the sounds of that little radio. More than once I woke up to a dead battery.
I remember using it while I was working a summer job doing yard work. This was through a program called YES, the Youth Employment Service. I probably signed up because a friend was doing it, but I promptly forgot about it. So I was a little annoyed when I was eventually called for a job. I mean, it was summer vacation, you know? You want me to work? Of course, I did, because I’m not an asshat. My mother would drop me off at whatever house was requiring my services, the homeowner would point out what needed to be done, and I did it. And accompanying me on those jobs was that little radio, tucked in a shirt pocket with the ear plug in my left ear.
The deejays on WABC (station of choice back then) were like friends who I looked forward to hearing from each day. They had cool patter between songs that you just don’t hear anymore. That may not be a bad thing now that I think about it. Back then, though, that’s what the groovy jocks like Harry Harrison, Dan Ingram, and Cousin Bruce Morrow did. It was very rhythmic and slightly sing-songy.
And they played. The. Best. Music. Evah.
If you take a look a the pop charts of the day, you realize what a golden era it was. I had a ringside seat with that little radio playing throughout my job and later back at home. That little radio was the soundtrack to my teen years.
I don’t remember any specific event–like losing it or breaking it–but at some point I didn’t have that little radio any longer. I have a hazy memory, which may or may not be real, of seeing it in a box of junk from one of the few times I cleaned my room.
I had moved on to another radio which I’m sure sounded better (remember, this is before Walkmans and such), but the interesting thing is I don’t remember it. Nor do I remember any of the many other radios that followed.
But I remember that little radio.