Living in the Past with Old Time Radio

Living in the Past with Old Time Radio

Jason Loper
Nov 29, 2010

Around this time of year you may find yourself with a bit of downtime. Maybe you'll have hours to kill while traveling for a family get together or you'll have some spare mental capacity while baking holiday cookies. One of my favorite ways to use downtime – especially while cooking or crafting – is listening to old time radio programs.

Before television changed the entertainment landscape of this country, radio was the main source of all the drama, comedy, and news programs we use to distract ourselves from daily life. From the 1920's to the late 1950's most households would tune their radios in to hear some of their favorite shows. These shows covered everything from early situation comedies to suspenseful dramas. Also, in a time when movies were shown only in theaters, radio also brought condensed movies (often starring the voices of the same cast) to an audience who may not be able to make it to a theater.

One of the great aspects of listening to old time radio is that it's like a history lesson (without all the boring delivery of an actual history lesson). The 1930's and 40's were a tumultuous time in this country and that is certainly reflected in many of the old time radio shows.

My initial introduction to OTR came through Sirius Satellite Radio's Radio Classics channel. When my husband and I first purchased our car with a satellite radio in it, Radio Classics became one of our instant favorites. There's no better way to pass the long hours of a road trip than listening to old episodes of Burns and Allen.

There are numerous resources for old radio shows online. If you use iTunes, there's a radio station called alltime oldies radio channel under the talk radio tab. Wisconsin Public Radio hosts a few old time radio shows on their website. has a vast selection of radio shows available for free download. You can also purchase discs of MP3's of old time radio programs from There's also a fascinating history of old time radio, along with a few more resources for listening to the shows, at


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