Radio Readers Bookbyte: 40 Years of Public Radio Waves

Jan 13, 2020

Radio Waves explores radio throughout the past century and the influences that carry over to airwaves today

Hello, Radio Readers and Radio Reader wannabees! I’m Jane Holwerda from Dodge City KS. We’re celebrating public radio on our High Plains. Did you know? This year marks the 40th year of High Plains Public Radio broadcasts!  

2020 also marks HPPR Radio Readers’ fourth year of successful book club series.  So. Welcome to HPPR Radio Readers 2020 Spring Read: Radio Waves!

Too daunting to imagine, or recall, life on the high plains before HPPR? Rest assured that Texan author Paulette Giles’ novel is sure to ignite your imagination and recollections. Especially because Leslie Von Holton, one of our most popular book leaders, will start us on our series with her insights.

In Giles’ novel, Stormy Weather, set during the Great Depression, radio provides a steady stream of patter throughout the tumultuous daily life of a hardscrabble farm family in Texas during the Dustbowl era. That constant stream of radio patter delivering news and market reports, music and soap operas ends up creating community among otherwise isolated individuals. We can relate to that, right?

Next in the line up is a biography of an iconic WW2 correspondent, radio personality, and journalist. This biography, Edward R Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, is authored by Bob Edwards, himself a Peabody Award winning member of the National Radio Hall of Fame and first host of NPR’s flagship news program Morning Edition.  Generously imbued with transcriptions of Murrows’ work – from first-hand reportage from the London Blitz, Berlin, and Buchenwald, through McCarthyism to exposes of mistreatment of migrant workers- the biography highlights the integrity and distinctive voice of the journalist who said, “A nation of sheep soon begets an government of wolves.” Radio Readers welcomes PJ Pronger, of Amarillo, who leads our discussion on Murrow’s biography.

The third in our series is a quirky social history, Border Radio, a testament to the idea that innovators and eccentrics are rarely far removed.  Taking us to the early days of American radio, authors Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford focus on both sides of the US-Mexican border where the radio careers of many were established, including a few who called Kansas home. One of the most notorious of these first earned national recognition as an early 20th century physician who claimed that his implanting of goat glands restored the virility of his male patients. Through his border radio station in Del Rio, he later was instrumental in the formation of the FCC and in launching the career of the Carter Family and others. Besides launching musicians’ careers, border radio stations are also credited with generating a unique style of advertising, like that of the Crazy Hotel in Mineral Wells Texas, renown for curative spring water, which provided, we read, “foot-stomping hillbilly music and laxative relief.”  Returning book leaders Mike Strong and Nicole English, both from Hays, and with backgrounds in journalism and social media, lead us through Border Radio.                                                                                     

So, there you have it – our Spring 2020 Book Read. Join Radio Readers by listening to our Book Bytes on weekday mornings on HPPR, on HPPR’s website—where you can also find information about sharing your own book bytes- by following (and posting!) Radio Readers Facebook page, and tuning in on May 3 for our live on-air book discussion!

From Dodge City Kansas, where I am channeling my inner Murrow, I am Jane Holwerda, and THIS is HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club. Thank you, volunteers, contributors, staff members and listeners for 4 years of Radio Readers and 40 years of HPPR!