||The Little People in the Silvertone
|There was magic in that wooden box that sat in the living room near the front door. I don't recall when my fascination for the box began or when I took notice of it being there. But when I was old enough to comprehend a few words of the English language, my mother told me it had stood in the same spot long before I was born, a radio, she had called it. A Sears Roebuck Silvertone.
The Little People in the Silvertone
JB Hamilton Queen
There was magic in that wooden box that sat in the living room near the front door. I don't recall when my fascination for the box began or when I took notice of it being there. But when I was old enough to comprehend a few words of the English language, my mother told me it had stood in the same spot long before I was born, a radio, she had called it. A Sears Roebuck Silvertone.
So many sounds came from inside, beautiful music and singing, people telling stories, some acting them out, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the Shadow. And Uncle Remus. I spent hours, my body hugged up against the box, wondering where all those tiny people and animals came from and where they went at night when the box was turned off. I continually searched for an opening so I could see inside, watch them perform on the stage I pictured.
One day, when I had grown older and taller, I discovered a tiny gap between the side and back, but I couldn't get a good view, as fat glass and metal tubes stood in the way. I shifted from one eye to the other and stretched on tiptoes in hopes that sooner or later one of the little people would move between the tubes into my line of sight.
From the kitchen doorway, my mother called, "Dinnertime."
"I have to watch for the little people," I said. From the way her face pinched up, I didn't think she knew about them.
"There are no little people inside the radio," she said. Then she went on to say that the voices and music were invisible radio signals sent through the air, and that the glass and metal tubes caught them and turned them into sound.
I couldn't understand how what she had described could possibly happen and wondered why she would say such things. Now more than ever I had to see the people in the radio, to prove to her that they were there. I kept up my watch, now and then taking a bite of the peanut butter sandwich she brought me and wishing Stella Dallas, that poor woman from a mining town in the West, would appear. She was Mom's favorite, even though she sometimes made Mom cry.
That night when my father came home from work, he laughed when Mom told him about "my" little people. Even my brother, two years older than me, laughed. I cried; they were making fun of me. I ate a few bites of my supper and went to bed, still hungry and angry with them all.
I lay under the blanket listening to Lowell Thomas talk on the radio about the fighting going on in Palestine, and some army general named Ike saying he would not be a candidate for president of the United States, once and for all.
With a sudden realization, I sat upright. I had made a terrible mistake by stomping off to bed. Today was Tuesday; The Lone Ranger would come on soon.
I eased to the doorway and peeked into the living room. My brother jumped to his feet and raced into the kitchen, most likely for a snack. Mom sat mending a pair of Dad's work pants, while he cleaned his shotgun. I slipped out the door, heading for the kitchen when he looked up and saw me. He grinned then went back to cleaning the gun.
In the kitchen, I crawled into a chair at the table, where my brother sat with a bowl of Cherrios, the box in his hand and him looking at the cutout piece for Frontier Town on the back panel. It was The Lone Ranger's secret hideout. Both of us had crossed our hearts that we would eat nine boxes of Cheerios so we could collect the first twenty-eight buildings and to save our dimes to send away for the other pieces instead of going to the Saturday westerns at the movie house in town.
I scooted my bowl toward my brother and watched tiny Os tumble from the box into the bowl. I wasn't particularly fond of them, but I had to do my part. I had almost finished eating when my father appeared in the doorway, a screwdriver in his hand, a curious grin on his face.
"Come on, Janny-Panny," he said, his pet name for me, "I want to show you something."
The Lone Ranger music had just sounded over the radio and I didn't want to miss any of the show. "But-"
"In here," he said, "to the radio." He turned back to the living room.
I hurried to him, and stood there wide-eyed, watching him take off the radio's back, my breath held in eager anticipation, knowing with all my heart that I was about to see the masked man and Tonto astride their tiny horses, Silver and White Feller.
Off came the back. My heart beat faster as my eyes searched the heated interior of glass and metal tubes, zig-zagging from one corner to the other and back. Back and forth, searching, me unwilling to let go of my belief. But truth was truth; there was no Frontier Town inside the radio. No Lone Ranger secret hideout. No Lone Ranger. No Tonto.
I backed away and closed my eyes, my imagination producing familiar images of my heros as the radio's tubes caught the signals sent from some unseen place and turned them into the announcer's words, "A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-yo, Silver! The Lone Ranger!"
It was still magic.