CBS Radio – The Hidden Revolution – “20th Century Nomads” – January 4, 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Continuing our month-long excursion into the world of radio documentaries. This one, 20th Century Nomads, was part of a series produced by the Documentary wing of CBS Radio, The Hidden Revolution. The gist of the series was to look at the changing climate of American life and the overt as well as subtle changes our society was going through.
This episode deals with the Great Escape West, or Escape from the City. Even in the late 1950s the writing was on the wall for many cities throughout the East and Mid-west. Those urban areas which were thriving during the War and the massive labor needs for the Military were losing population at an alarming rate. Coupled with periodic strikes, layoffs and labor unrest in the Auto industry and the associated industries feeding into Detroit, the workforce was leaving for greener pastures. The promise of better pay, better working conditions and better climate offered in the West and the burgeoning Aerospace Industry had many picking up families and settling in California, New Mexico and Colorado. And new technology, which was on the horizon in the form of IBM and a growing cluster of other companies was grabbing up skilled labor and presenting a new set of opportunities in the dawning field of electronics.
But not everybody was happy with the promise of a different life. While some were looking for better quality of housing and jobs, there were those looking for a better quality of life. And some of the problems they faced in the sprawling urban centers of the country were duplicated to a certain degree in the otherwise bucolic settings of rural and suburban America. It was the old “no matter where you go, there you are”, and many of these nomads were settling only long enough to pick up stakes and head to the next promised land, sometimes only months after arriving.
So this documentary outlines some of those issues, and does them with probing questions and honest answers. Documentaries like these did much to keep America informed of what was going on in cities and towns. In a way, it brought people together by way of understand just how similar all of us are; that the human condition is a universal one. Something that’s missed.
Here is that episode of The Hidden Revolution – “20th Century Nomads” narrated by Howard K. Smith as it was broadcast by CBS Radio on January 4, 1959.
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