Fremont County, Iowa

Radios, Dances, and Dad
by Sherry Perkins
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
April 6, 2015

My Dad loved music and dancing. One of my earliest and fondest memories is the year Dad bought a second-hand radio. It was a big floor model as tall as I was and made of beautiful, polished wood with a round, black dial full of numbers and push buttons to change stations. It was a piece of furniture in those days, which was by the way 1949 or 1950. This tube radio was Dad’s pride and joy. It resided in our farm house dining room on the south wall, near the windows. Here we gathered at night to listen to the world news, the Lone Ranger (I thought it was “Long” Ranger for years!), KMA and KFNF. In the early darkness of a cold winter morning or a warm summer sunrise, we heard Frank Field tell us of the weather we could expect that day. Hearing the old train whistle as it went by the studio told us the world was still okay. Ed May would tell us on his noon broadcast, when to plant a garden or would suggest that it would be a good evening to pop some Earl May “popperized” popcorn.

This one particular fall and Christmas time, Dad ordered a new, 45rpm record player from either the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs. It plugged in to the radio and sat on top of it like a crown jewel. What a wonderful thing this was--just like a miracle--to get music from a round disc. Dad ordered the 45rpm records of his favorite singer, Eddie Arnold and others. Many nights after supper dishes were finished (or sometimes not finished) and the dish water thrown out, the music would begin. Dad would grab Mom around her waist and two-step around the kitchen table and into the dining room and back into the kitchen. And then he would get me and do the same thing even though I did not know how. I’d put my feet on his and away we would go. Then, holding my three- year-old sister in his arms, he would travel the same path ‘round the tables while Eddie sang to us from the green vinyl records. Having linoleum on the floors made it a smooth trip. I don’t remember what my six-year-old brother was doing but I imagine Mom was teaching him dance steps too. I can still hear our giggles mingling with Eddie’s smooth voice.

Dad was always gathering you into his arms for a quick dance even up into my teen years. When a teenager, our family spent many Saturday nights at Thurman’s Community Hall where the well-known Forney Family Band played for dances. My Grandpa and Grandma even attended those dances and we had so much family fun there. This family band provided us with so much good music that I still think of them when I hear “Goodnight Irene, Goodnight.”

Radios and record players have seen many changes since those days. The newer C.D.’s, etc. are well and good, but they will never hold the nostalgia that a 45rpm or 78rpm record has for my generation. Today the above radio and record player sit silently on the landing of our stairway. I fondly remember a father’s love of dancing to the oldies, catch the faint refrain of soft music, and hear the cry of “Hi-Ho Silver” every time I pass by.”

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