Depression Era America - 1933

Simpler times as imposed by drastic measures. Even celebrating a radio station was a distraction. (photo: Dorothea Lange)

Depression Era America - 1933
Simpler times as imposed by drastic measures. Even celebrating a radio station was a distraction. (photo: Dorothea Lange)

– WKBF-Indianapolis – Dedication ceremony – August 31, 1933 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

On its surface, this broadcast of a radio station dedication ceremony is quaint and strange and most likely hard to listen to for many people – not so much that the quality runs the risk of being crude, but the sentiment is something almost totally foreign to us these days. People don’t talk like that anymore – people don’t say those things anymore – the music is strange and foreign; the whole thing smacks of something requiring an infinitely longer attention span than most of us would be willing to give in 2022. This was 1933; 89 years ago – a different place, a different time and none of it bears any resemblance to life as it is now.

But here’s the deal – this was an example of the most prevalent and popular entertainment of the time in Depression era America. It was free – all you had to do was buy a radio, or know someone who had one – and have electricity to plug it in. But in 1933 this radio represented your escape. We were in the midst of a depression – and those vestiges of life that seemed normal only a couple years earlier were shades of the dim-distant past, and this was one of the remaining things we could latch on to for aid and comfort.

1933 was no walk in the part for most Americans. Jobs were scarce, money was even scarcer. This was the great national implosion that took place as the result of a financial and economic system that had run amok and which had crashed and burned – laying waste to lives and dreams – up-ending everything for most people. This was The Great Depression.

You can hear it in the midst of the celebration during this broadcast – plugs for the NRA – which, in 1933 meant National Recovery Act and had nothing even remotely to do with guns. It was about the concerted effort to put American back on its feet – and while that was happening, America needed some distraction – distraction from the day-to-day trauma of having no way to support yourself; of a bleak and questionable future. Radio was for the 1930s what Television was for Post World War 2. The sudden availability of free entertainment that anyone could listen to and find some solace in. Movies were still popular, in fact Movies were transitioning from Silent to Sound and the need for fantasy was imperative. Both these forms of entertainment thrived during the Depression years; they were seen as saving graces from a world overcome and destitute.

So, lest you think this is some nostalgic romp into what has been strangely labeled “the good old days” – it’s not. This was what America latched on to and found comfort in during harrowing times.

Welcome to an hour of August 31, 1933, as it was heard in Indianapolis.

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