I first read Paulette Jiles’ novel, STORMY WEATHER, a couple of years ago, before I had any idea that HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club would be considering this novel as a discussion group pick for a topic called “Radio Waves.”
Hmmm…. Radio, I thought when I heard the news that my book byte would focus on that topic. I remembered quite a bit about the book itself: oil fields in East Texas, horse races on dirt tracks, dust storms, strong characters trying to make a living during the Great Depression. But radio???
So I went back for a browse. Yes, radio. Radio playing songs the characters loved, radio in the evenings at bedtime, radio giving news of World War II.
I did a Google search and discovered that Paulette Jiles has had some experience with radio. In the ‘70s, she worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company and helped set up FM radio stations for Native tribes. I wasn’t surprised, since people who read her books are immediately impressed with details of her settings and characters. Whether she writes about a man who reads “news of the world” for a living or about “a warm September rain straight off the Gulf of Mexico,” you know she’s done her research.
Then I started remembering the role of radio in the lives of my grandparents. Like the characters in STORMY WEATHER, my grandparents turned on the radio after long days of working on the farm, after supper, when they had time to pay attention. Whether it was a news report or a ball game or “The Shadow Knows” or big band music, they paid attention. They listened and imagined that they could see.
I don’t remember that my grandfather’s car had a radio. For me, as a teenager, growing up in Oklahoma, I knew how important it was to be tuned in to KOMA, an Oklahoma City station which played all the songs I wanted to hear. All the songs in the background, of course, while I talked with friends or navigated my folks’ Rambler station wagon up to the Dairy Queen’s drive-by window.
However, for my grandparents, radio was a more serious concentration. Radio was the connection between their little Oklahoma farm and the outside world. For local news, they went to church on Sunday. For national or even global news, there was radio.
In STORMY WEATHER, when Milton, bemoaning his stutter, talked about “giving air time to hog callers,” I knew what he was talking about. When Bea was listening to Edward R. Murrow, I remembered that announcer’s voice. When Jeanine heard the sounds of “Fibber Magee and Mollie” from inside her kitchen, I heard it too.
All that radio, so important to my grandparents’ lives, always in the background of my own life.
Yes. There are radio waves in STORMY WEATHER.
This is Lynne Hewes, remembering radio, on radio.