The Star-News


Recalling Majestic days gone by

Sat, Jan 05 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena

The first radio that my family had in my growing up years was acquired sometime in the late 1920s.  My parents, no doubt tired of the whining and complaining of the four off-springs relented and probably said, “Why not?” and made the move.

In retrospect I would have to say that the complaints were justified and this is not based on the fact that I was the lead complainer. Being the eldest of the clan the mantle of kid leadership fell on me and I exercised my duties. My arguments were, however, based on research I had amassed.

The lady next door had a large console radio that graced her living room. (They called them parlors in those days.) She would sometimes let me and my brother come over and listen to the ball game. The little girl across the street, younger than me, used to brag about the radio she had in her own room, this in addition to the set in the parlor.  Our family, I suspect, was the only one on the block without one.

That first radio was really not a state of the art specimen. It was an Atwater Kent, an instrument that looked more like a tool box. Instead of the parlor it should have been in the garage.  Its outer skin was a metal oblong box that hid the tubes and other components that gave out sound.  The only thing visible that one could recognize as a radio were two knobs in front, one for station selection and the other for volume and an off and on switch.  Sitting on top of the box was the speaker, something that seemed to be from another age.  The entire outfit was probably one generation above a crystal set.

I don’t recall how long we had the Atwater Kent. I do remember that it was the first in a parade of radios that we had over the years. All these culminated with the family favorite the one that was still part of the household when it was disbanded. This one was a Majestic a beautiful piece of furniture that would grace any parlor. Majestic was a top of the line brand in its day.  It was the Sony of its age.

Majestic, by the way, was a big name in the entertainment field and I am not referring to the radio alone. Almost every big city in the country had a Majestic Theater. This was one of those ornate movie houses, the one that had a grand lobby with artful statues, suffused lighting and carpet thick enough to cover one’s shoes.  Alas, as the radio those movie houses had their day.

When my family bought the Majestic, the radio industry had come into big time. The networks were born, dominating the airways, and evening entertainment was gathering around the set and hearing Jack Benny or Eddie Cantor or any of a number of comics or singers.

By that time I had already left home and the only occasions I had to join in this pastime was when I came home on leave. It was times like this that I realized how much I was missing.  A family gathered around the Majestic was the epitome of living in those days and I would suspect that each house on the block was being entertained in like manner.

Things have a tendency to come full circle.  At Christmas time this year my Sacramento daughter, Margaret, gave me a radio as a gift.  But it is not a simple, ordinary radio. It is called an iHome.  It is something on which one may dock his iPad, iPhone or iPod. Since I have none of those instruments I decided to use the iHome as a bedside radio. It is small, compact, taking up little room on my bed table and has a nice tone.  On top of that it has a remote control that means I do not have to get out of bed to change stations or turn it off or on.

I have only one problem. I don’t know how to use it. It has a pamphlet of instructions written in a font that is beyond my vision. One day I tried a few things with it, turned a few knobs, but finally gave up for the day. Big mistake.  At six the next morning I was awakened by an unidentified sound. Looking for the source I noticed a light blinking on my iHome. I obviously did the wrong thing in my experimentation the day before.  Oh, Atwater Kent!  Where are you when I need you?


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