FORWARD TO THE PAST

There was a recent article that appeared in Ad Age that spoke on implying nostalgia, the emotion for a longing of a past time that one may recall or not as a hot topic when it comes to marking products or services.

The article went on to state that the said products or services, especially if they hold a legacy to them (i.e. they have been around for quite a while), have been dipping into their vast archives to create a “new” look upon them while recalling a time when life was supposedly a lot simpler to what it is at the present state of time.

Currently, much of this nostalgia falls within the last fifty or so years, covering the decades of the 1970’s through the 1990‘s–the last third of the 20th century. Much of this nostalgic sense of being varies, from the re-releasing of a design scheme of a packaged good from “back in the day”, to the classic reboot of an item that is geared to those that actually recall the item when it was at its peak.

The more unique the time frame is, the more appeal it holds to whatever the cause of the marking is geared for. (Gen-Xers, etc.) However, there are limitations to such, because bringing back a product, a service, or an idea for the said product/service must contain some actual remembrance to it! It would not make much sense to go back to the 1920’s since a few people alive today holds a recollection of that decade!

Perhaps that is why the cutoff seems to be within the last fifty years. The reason? Depending on what the product is, many of those it caters to would only be a few years older in physical age versus what the product is and what demographic is set to. For instance, American muscle cars built in the 1960’s and 70’s have an appeal to (mostly male) Baby Boomers-those born between 1946 through 1964. That is the period where one would have been of age to legally drive, and perhaps were able to own such a vehicle that was affordable to get for what the car was.

In addition, the 1980’s, rightly an era that spans between thirty and forty years ago, caters to those that are in their late 40’s through their early 60’s. In the 80’s when one was of a youthful age i.e. A “young adult”, one would have had to have been born in the latter decade of the 1960’s through being born in the middle-late 70’s. If one was a kid under the age of, let’s say, twelve in 1981, one would have been born in 1969. That was the youngest demographic targeted by Warner Amex Communications when that cable TV service launched MTV, a channel whose demographic peak age was at 24 years. Of course, MTV back in the day may have also catered to those that were a bit older or even younger. However, for many years, their sweet spot was 12 through 24. When VH1 first made its mark in 1985, it was for those aged 25 through their 30’s. So doing the math, if one was 25 in ’85, that person is 61 years old in 2021–give or take a year!

Selling nostalgia is far from being new or unique. In fact, this writer was first exposed with the realms of nostalgia in the early 1970’s with a local radio program I stumbled upon called Those Were The Days that aired on a 5000 watt daytime only station, WLTD-AM, located in Evanston, Illinois. Its host, Chuck Schaden, was a collector of vintage broadcasts of old time radio programs that were part of the domestic media landscape from radio’s beginnings in the 1920’s to about the 1950’s before television made its mark in the USA and later the world. Each Saturday afternoon for three hours each week, later expanding to four hours, he would program these radio shows that featured such titles as The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Fibber McGee and Molly, Amos and Andy, among other titles. Some of these shows featured well known stars as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Dinah Shore, as well as other personalities. Many such as Hope, Crosby et. al., were still active. Others that were featured fell out of the spotlight, barely being remembered. It was Chuck and its rebroadcasts that saved these personalities from total obscurity. People such as Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, and Fred Allen were brought back again for those to enjoy. (All three were since deceased by the time TWTD first made its over the air mark!)

I was twelve years old when I first stumbled on to this program. Although I first heard about it when it was already on the air for about a year when Chuck was a guest on a local morning TV program that aired on station WGN, the notion of the show didn’t phase me much since I did not remember radio outside of listening to my top-40 favorites on WCFL and WLS. Besides, when watching his appearance on TV that morning, my mom was yelling at me to get dressed or I would be late for school.

But one Saturday afternoon in July, I was taken down on some kind of illness. I didn’t know what I caught, but it felt like a hangover! (What that illness had since been long forgotten!)  Anyway, while lying in my bed feeling sick as a dog, I had my Ross portable AM and FM radio at my bedside. Thinking I could tune in to a ball game or perhaps to “my” music on WLS or WCFL, I scanned the radio dial attempting to find something to listen to. I twisted the dial going from 550 AM through 1600 AM. When I reached the far right of the dial around 1590 AM where WLTD was located, I picked up some interesting sounds. The sounds consisted of dramatic dialogue as if I might have picked up the audio portion of a TV broadcast.

So I listened for a bit. It wound up to be a 1940’s isolated episode of The Adventures of Superman. The scene featured the man of steel as played by Bud Collier, who was speaking to some character that was explaining a diabolical plot. That character, played by another radio actor, was the bad guy in the story. It had something to do with the plot to blow up a railroad bridge. Meanwhile, cub reporter Jimmy Olson of The Daily Planet was on a train that was heading toward the bridge that was about to be blown up. Then the voice of the narrator of this story, Jackson Beck, informed the listeners, “Will Superman arrive on time to save Jimmy Olson from this possible fate? Tune in tomorrow for The Adventures of Superman, brought to you by Kellogg’s Pep cereal”.

Now I didn’t know that this show was from nearly thirty years before, since Jackson Beck was a voice I did recognize since he was still active in providing voice overs for radio and TV commercials and related programming. (Beck would be active in radio spots well into the 1990’s with a series or radio commercials for Little Caesars Pizza!) I also knew of Kellogg’s cereals, but never heard of Pep. Perhaps that was a new brand of cereal.

To make a longer story shorter, Chuck then went on the air telling the radio audience that that Superman show just programmed was indeed from the 1940’s, and that it was a good thing that Kellogg’s didn’t make Pep anymore because it was a bland tasting cereal!

TWTD’s theme that day was Railroads, where Chuck played other radio programs consisting of episodes of Grand Central Station, The Railroad Hour, and even The Jack Benny Program featuring the gang at the railroad station with Mel Blanc’s announcement for trains leaving for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga.

And at the end of the show, Chuck stated that Those Were The Days would return the next Saturday afternoon from 1:00 through 5:00 PM. So as a hunch and since recovering from my illness, I tuned in again the next Saturday. And I returned the next Saturday, And the next Saturday! And the next Saturday! And the next Saturday!

The weeks turned into months, The months turned into years. The years turned into decades. Before long, I was getting a load of nostalgic sounds from this program that recalled the same sounds of radio from that not-so-long-ago period.

The was something unique about this nostalgia I was exposed to. Out of those sounds and voices from that not too distant past, I didn’t remember about 99% of it. Most of the radio shows Chuck would program aired between c.1935 through c.1955. Some were older and a few were newer. However, it was a time long before I was born, or a time that I could even conceive my landscape. However, I was hooked from a nostalgia that I didn’t even remember!

And whatever became of TWTD? I’m happy to report that that program is still on the air! Its creator and original host, Chuck Schaden, retired from his on-air host duties in 2009, giving the reins to Steve Darnell, who took over. The show can now be heard through WDCB-FM in Chicago either over the air (in Chicago anyway) or via live streaming on http://www.WDCB.org on Saturday afternoons from 1:00-5:00 PM (CST). And archived episodes of TWTD can be streamed online through Chuck Schaden’s website called Speaking of Radio found at http://www.SpeakingOfRadio.com.

PS..for those that desire to hear that long forgotten episode of TWTD when I was lying in bed sick to the gills, tune in to the episode that aired on July 29th, 1972. I tuned into that same episode about 45 minutes in progress.

What this writer is emphasizing is the fact that nostalgia is far from being a new idea. In fact, it’s so old, it’s new again! In fact, there is even some nostalgia regarding the early days of the internet. The Internet Archive based in San Francisco and found at https://archive.org, can reproduce old websites through its Wayback Machine portals that still preserve inactive websites from the middle 1990’s through recent times. You can visit http://www.Pets.com, http://www.Blockbuster.com, and even http://www.Amazon.com as it was a spot on the ‘net to purchase textbooks! You can even visit http://www.TheFacebook.com, an online directory connecting people through social networks at colleges. If one wants to connect through TheFacebook, make sure you register with an email address that ends with “edu”. For those that don’t have access to such an email address, you can always try http://www.MySpace.com, and see what happens

So as the old saying goes, don’t forget to remember before you forget to remember what you are remembering. Otherwise, you’ll forget to remember. So don’t forget!! Got it??

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