26 February 2009

Flashlight Worthy

February 26, 1957: Last episode of Dragnet radio series which had started in 1949 written by and starring Jack Webb. This overlapped the Dragnet TV Series which ran from 1951 to 1959 and then was brought back 1967 through 1970 and in rerun as Badge 714. The arresting theme music began to play ("Dum-de-dum-dum") to herald what became what was probably the most successful police drama in television history.

So why is this important to me? As a small child, my bedtime was theoretically 7:30 pm. Since I was almost always blessed with my own room, own bed and somewhat complacent adults, this meant me with radio, flashlight, and book under the covers until at least 10:00. It was the thrill of imagination fed by written and spoken words with the books and radio scripts creating movies of the mind. This was the world of Dragnet, Green Hornet, and Inner Sanctum as well as all the books from my shelves.
To this day, I tend to divide books into daylight and flashlight classes. Flashlight Worthy is a book with a voice so strong and filled with images that it is capable of painting a CinemaScope, 3D, stereophonic blockbuster on the underside of sheets even if I'm now reading it comfortably ensconced in an easy chair.

Today's children are force fed images almost from birth and I'm not sure it is good for them. Are they losing the ability to make their own pictures using only the spoken or written word? If you can't see the pictures when you read, how do you get transported to another place and time?

If you want to get a feel for these radio shows, you can listen or download many of them at Old Time Radio. There is also a direct link to the Dragnet shows at the top of this post. Are you around any young readers? Are they seeing the pictures? Maybe they need some practice with a radio and a flashlight.

For pure fun, here is the classic "Copper Clappers" routine between Jack Webb and Johnny Carson.


Peter said...

Funny you should use the phrase "flashlight worthy" -- check out the name of my book recommendation website:



Peter Steinberg
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

Jamie said...

I swear it is a term I've used for years about books that you just can't put down.

Linda said...

Ah, the "Copper Clappers", that one always makes me smile!

I think you're right, though, that kids don't really have the chance to exercise their imagination anymore as everything is already put into pictures for them. Video has most definitely replaced audio and that's really too bad as I most definitely liked some of the ways "my characters" looked as opposed to the way they would end up on the big screen. Actually, I still feel that way!

Travis said...

My mom has albums of many old radio programs. Or I should say that I have them, because they are currently in my custody.

I'm looking forward to converting them to digital so I can have them to listen to in the car. I've heard them before and they are simply fascinating.

I think kids today are developing a different kind of imagination. I don't understand it, but I've seen the way my niece plays. She imagines and she creates. It's just a different process than I recall from when I was a kid.

carol g said...

Hubby and I have been battling a stomach bug for a couple days and Johnny & Jack "the copper clapper caper" was just what we needed.

I am so grateful that I have the ability to become part of the books I read. I have a plan for this year to reread some of my childhood books... Black Beauty, Alice through the Looking Glass, etc. I wish my grandkids lived closer so that we could do it together.