What radio meant to our farm family in the early
by Nadine Elwers
My mother, Alice (Buckner) Boldra, who was born in
1906, told me that when they were children on a farm
west of what is now Waubonsie State Park, her brother
spotted an ad in a magazine. For just a few of his
saved dollars, he could order a kit of wires, gadgetry
and instructions and assemble a radio using a cigar
box. They sent off the order and excitement filled
the house as they awaited the kits arrival in the
After a few weeks, the package arrived
and its contents became a working radio.
It got good reception from several midwestern
stations, but only one person could listen at a time.
The group sat together and took turns passing the
hearing device around which enabled a listener to
enjoy this marvelous new means of communication. At
the end of a program, everyone compared the portion
they had heard.
I was born in 1931 and my family also
lived in the Waubonsie State Park area. My older sister
Alice Betty, could remember that our big console-style
radio, which sat in a large wooden cabinet in our
dining room, could only be operated when our father
was home because we could only afford one battery
and it had to be removed from the car and shifted
to the radio.
A very special piece of the radio equipment
installed in the yard of our farm house was a tall
aerial. Two tall towers made of wood like a big inverted
Y stood about forty feet apart, and the aerial wire
was strung between these poles at a height of about
20 feet. More wire connected to the house and our
radio. This provided an excellent means of capturing
the radio waves for our listening pleasure. We enjoyed
not just local programming but broadcasts coming all
the way from New York City! Our favorite family show
was "Major Bowes Amateur Hour." My father
especially enjoyed "Amos and Andy." We all
liked "Fibber Magee and Molly."
When winter blizzards approached we
rushed to my grandparent's adjacent farm and gathered
in its root cellar for safety. When we emerged, the
trip back home was apprehensive in mood. Would our
farm buildings be damaged by the severe winds? Would
the farm yard trees be standing? And most important,
would the aerial still be up so we could learn how
widespread and destructive the storm had been.
Several times the poles were no longer
upright, and there would be a delay listening to the
radio until we restored the tangled wires and damaged
The two radio stations in Shenandoah
were favorite destinations for our infrequent trips
by car. We'd shop at KMA and KFNF (early malls they
were) and we could sit in the huge KMA auditorium
and watch shows in progress.
Weather and good road conditions controlled
the possibility for these outings. Some trips were
made in winter, because I can remember we had to sit
on our feet in the heatless car and in spite of that
and blankets we still had cold feet on arrival and
it was good to enter the warm buildings. My parents
especially enjoyed seeing the people whose voices
enriched our lives on radio
When I had a career in broadcasting
in Texas it was wonderful that the "old timers"
I worked with knew all about KMA and Earl May, and
KFNF and Henry Field in Shenandoah, Iowa. I was from
a famous town!