By Larry Patrick
Most all of us have seen the movie, “The Christmas Story.” Ralphie is a young boy back in the 1940’s who wants to have a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas and everyone keeps telling him he’d put his eye out with it.
When I was a young kid, I was a rootin’-tootin’ cowboy like Ralphie. It wasn’t Christmas if a boy didn’t have a new set of guns and holsters. But as I entered my teen years, the thing I wanted for Christmas more than anything else was a 6-transistor radio. A what? Most of you under 40 might not even be familiar with such a thing. Transistor radios were like laptop computers are today. You could be mobile and transistor radios allowed you to have music wherever you’d go.
When I was in the 8th grade in Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland, I would walk to school everyday. I would walk by this hardware store that had a green and silver 6-transistor radio in the window. I would stop by that window everyday and gaze at that marvelous piece of gadgetry. It was priced at $14, which was a lot of money in those days when most dads were bringing home under $100 bucks a week and trying to support a family.
One day I walked into the store and asked to see the radio. The clerk actually let me hold it in the plastic wrapper and box. Oh how I wanted that 6-transistor radio. The stations I would be able to pull in and be able to listen to music anywhere. Naturally, I had this transistor radio on my Christmas list with very little hope of actually getting it. It had an earpiece that you could listen to the music without anyone else hearing it. That was a big thing back then too. I could imagine all the girls I might attract if I had that radio and the music to share.
Some of you might say, why didn’t I get a job and save up the money to buy it? Back in those days, I was under 16 and living in a big city and not knowing many people, having lived there for less than a year. I didn’t own a lawn mower to cut lawns or know how to get a job with a paper route. My allowance was 25 cents a week. (Yes, young people, you read it right, 25 cents a week). There was no such thing as minimum wage so many young people 16 and older worked for 50 cents an hour. At that rate, it would have taken me a long time to earn $14 under my circumstances.
Well, this is the Christmas season and we all love happy endings. Ralphie did get his Red Rider BB gun in the movie, although he nearly did put his eye out with it. For me, there was no happy ending. I never did get that 6-transistor radio. I never got all those cute girls either that I imagined would flock around me if I had that radio. But all was not lost. I did get a 2-transistor radio (not a girl magnet) that could pull in some stations if the planets were aligned just right. Considering my family’s income, I was happy to have a portable radio even if it wasn’t the more powerful 6-transistor radio of my dreams and desires.
It’s funny how you remember such things that rarely come across your mind on most days. Believe it or not, I can recall the very first song I ever heard on that 2-transistor radio as I was bopping down the sidewalk of Lakewood, Ohio. It was a fantastic song with all the doo-wop sounds of the early 60’s. It was the Tokens singing, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Needless to say, that song is still one of my all time favorites.
I haven’t suffered drastically by not getting that 6-transistor radio. I was delighted to get a 2-transistor radio for Christmas. We all make do even today as some families can afford more than others. But I had the love of my parents, grandparents and other relatives that helped raise me to be a good kid. Never the less, one ponders how life could have been different with that 6-transistor radio and maybe having all of those beautiful girls swarming around me when I was just 14 years old. firstname.lastname@example.org.