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What do you remember about your experiences with radio?
When Elizabeth was a small girl she believed that all the voices that she heard through the radio were of tiny people who lived inside of it… It was the funniest story I have ever heard in my life.
What kinds of programs did you listen to?
For the family of Elizabeth radio was a whole world for a long period of time. They got all the necessary information through it. There were various soap operas, quiz shows, and horror shows, many different programs for children, including educational ones, sports and political news. Elizabeth says that there was a lot of governmental propaganda on the radio then.

What were your favorite radio programs?
There was a popular radio show “Fibber McGee and Molly”, which Elizabeth liked the best. Fibber was a kind of braggart. He used to stretch his stories to the limit and did it often to dismay of his spouse Molly. It was a light amusing comedy, as Elizabeth recollects which always boosted her mood. Also there was a show called “Quiz Kids”. Although Elizabeth was too old for it she was looking forward for it all the time. Besides, the radio of those days had even police shows! “Calling All Cars” was one of them. Although Elizabeth didn’t like such shows, she remembers her father’s interested and thrilled face.
Do you remember anything about the early radio commercials?
Actually Elizabeth was frankly laughing on hearing this question. She remembered a lot of commercials of that time. Although I tried to write down everything she mentioned I missed a lot of them and there was not a single opportunity to ask her to repeat. There are some of the commercials she mentioned: “Brylcream”, “Crest Toothpaste”, and “Ivory Soap”. There are some titles widely spread and popular now: “Chevrolet’, Marlboro Cigarettes”, “Old spice” and “Nestle”. She even managed to sing a song “Mr. Clean, oh Mr. Clean”. It was amazing.
What technical problems did you experience with your radio set?
The radio that Elizabeth’s family had was obviously large comparing with modern ones. It had though a tuning dial calibrated in wavelengths, a push button and large speakers. On the whole Elizabeth remembers that then hey didn’t care about the perfect sound or other advanced facilities. Of course there happened some hindrances, but generally radio sets of the 1940s-50s were much stronger: they rarely failed.
Where there any special advantages of radio you can mention?
One of the most special advantages of radio Elizabeth named the possibility to dream. Really, when watching TV you are provided with everything already prepared for you: when listening to sitcoms or dramas via radio you have the unique chance to imagine what you like.
How much time a day could you spend listening to the radio?
To my surprise Elizabeth told me that it happened that the radio was on all day long.
Was there any catalog of shows available?
Elizabeth told me that there were some, but her family didn’t use them. They were listening to it very often, so they remembered the time schedule of their favorite shows, or news reports had to be on.
As a result of our talk on the topic of the development of radio I concluded that although I had already known a lot about it, there are some aspects which can be explained and described only by the person who was there and experienced it. For me now radio is just a means of entertainment, for the people of 1940s radio was the whole world, which was new and magic for them. Moreover due to their recollections radio will always be a special topic for those people. I knew it was possible to listen to soap operas, various quiz shows and news reports and Elizabeth’s answers proved that information. I have never thought before of such advantage of the radio as the chance to dream for people, so that made one more discovery for me.
What was it like when TV became available?
Elizabeth remembered how she saw a TV set for the first time. It was quite a funny story as for me. Her parents didn’t earn much money, so every purchase in their family had to be thoroughly discussed within their family beforehand. She was already 14 or so and mostly she was present at the discussions of such a kind. That time parents didn’t let her brother and her listen to what they were talking about. The children felt a mystery and that intrigued them a lot. At that time several neighbors of them already had TV sets. Although they were black and white and the sound could hardly be called perfect such neighbors were considered rich and very lucky. Frequently Elizabeth’s family visited people with TVs. They gathered around the TV set, ate pop corn and wondered whether there could be more anything more wonderful than television. Cinema tickets’ price was approximately 30 cents, so television was a real miracle to people – go to the movies when you wish to.
Where did you watch your first TV programs, and what was the viewing experience like?
Before the TV set appeared in Elizabeth’s house, several neighbors of theirs had already purchased ones. Although they were black and white and the sound could hardly be called perfect such neighbors were considered rich and very lucky. Frequently Elizabeth’s family visited people with TVs. At her aunt Laura Elizabeth had a chance to watch the first TV show in her life. Her family gathered around the TV set, ate pop corn and wondered whether there could be more anything more wonderful than television. The first TV shows were very short: just about 15 minutes each, but then that was fairly enough for them. Cinema tickets’ price was approximately 30 cents, so television was a real miracle to people – go to the movies when you wish to.
How much did your family’s first TV set cost and what factors figured into its purchase?
As far as Elizabeth remembered the first TV set of their family costed 200$. This sum of money was very significant for their budget, so her parents needed much time to think over that purchase. The main factors that figured into the purchase of a TV set was of course curiosity, entertaining factor, wish to be as like as the others and follow the modern tendencies.
What was reception like?
The problem of TVs was that their screens were often blurring. Sometimes she could come up and hit the TV set and it began working properly. Moreover the first TV shows were so primitively recorded that additional blurring could make the things the worst. Despite all these people were enchanted by the blue screens and nothing could upset them.
What was a typical family viewing session like?
There were two children in Elizabeth’s family: her younger brother and herself. The children always wanted to watch Kids Shows. They were few then, but so precious. Parents let them do so eagerly. Elizabeth recollects with warmth and love those cozy family evenings before the TV set.
What TV shows were your favorite?
Elizabeth’s favorite TV show was “The $64,000 Question” She put all of her efforts to answer as many answers as possible, moreover each member of the family chose the participant he liked best and “helped” him to win either money or a special prize. Also she liked the show “I Love Lucy” mostly because her mother did.
Was there any TV catalog of programs?
Elizabeth stated that there was a kind of a TV guide. It was just a small catalog of programs listed according to time they are on. However it hadn’t been widely distributed until early 1960s
How can you compare the ethical aspect of TV in the 1940s and nowadays?
That question appeared to be very topical for Elizabeth. She reacted very enthusiastically to it. I found out that formerly neither overt sexuality, nor other vulgar scenes. Moreover it was impossible to hear a profane word. It is evident that parents hadn’t to limit their children in choosing the programs they like, because they knew that TV shows were safe for them. The whole family could sit together and laugh at the funny jokes which were absolutely clean.
How do people treated television in comparison to how they treat it now?
There was a necessity to repeat the question to Elizabeth once more, so, I realized that for a lady who is already 85 talking for a long time was a tiresome activity. Finally she answered this last question.
Elizabeth said that the main difference as for her was that now people are more cynical to television. They realize that this entire staff is all fake; and treat it like it is. During those times people believed in every situation there was in soap operas, they could live and grow together with the main characters. Nowadays people are not so sincere and naïve.
Television was another miracle in the lives of people. They were enchanted by its facilities and by opportunities it could offer. I knew that the era of television replaced the radio boom with its TV shows, quizzes and other multiple sorts of entertainment. I also knew that television during the time period of 1940s was could be free of parental guide, because there were neither violent, nor sexual episodes. The comedies then are pure, so it was possible for family to gather before a TV set without any risk of watching an inappropriate scene by children.

The interview with Elizabeth Cross Branson was incredibly interesting and informative. Thanks to it I found out a lot of additional information on the topic of history of mass media.

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