Mass Media History report

19 Oct

Adam Baker

Mass Media Communication

Oral history project



The Difference in Mass Media 50 years ago to Now

            In this report I had the chance to interview my grandfather, Donald Baker, on his life points in the world of mass media. What sort of things did he listen to back in the day or what was like when television came out for the first time. Talking about the mass media that he grew up with from then all the way until to the present day in 2012. I want to know what was different back then than is now and are we in a way the same position for us in 2012 than they were back the in 1940s. This is my report of my grandfather’s history with mass media.

            My grandfather, Donald Baker, was born in 1943 and at a time where World War II was going in around the world. One mass media that was part of the way they use was radio. Radio was like television to us, it was something that almost everyone in America had in their living rooms. Baker said that he remembers sitting in front of the radio in the 40s and 50s and listen to programs like Melton Berle, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly. McGee and Molly was a radio program that ran on NBC from the 1935 to close to the late 1950’s. Also there were suspense programs as well such as The Shadow, Sky King and The Lone Ranger.

            “Imagination was what we used,” Baker said. “And family was together.”

            Baker says there were a lot of commercials that had someone sing and admit that it was a catchy tune after hearing it. Back then, the only thing that education was good for on radio was when you were listening to the news. The programs for Baker as a child were the news and when there was breaking news it would come in during a program for a special bulletin. But when it came to those special moments like holidays, he goes on and talks about how good it was when the holidays were around and the programing was religious and comedies that would be on. And as soon as radio had the FM program, Baker said that he personally didn’t listen too much. He mainly had AM and their favorite broadcasters.

            Another point in his life that my grandfather recalls was the use of records. Still to this day, he has records of old 45s and old to new style of turntables. He recalls that as a child he grew up listening to music such as blue grass, country and rock and roll. It started at the age of 12 years old back in 1955 and found Elvis Presley and Little Richard but when he turned a year older he found out more stars like Buddy Holly and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

            “My favorite recording stars at the time was Patsy Cline for Country,” Baker said. “For rock and roll it was Roy Orbison and for slow dancing I liked Johnny Mathis.”

            He recalls that everyone would be at the clubs dancing to one of those stars on the jukebox.

            Growing up with records, his family had two sets of record players when he was just a teenager. He said before stereo they had a General Electric Mono turntable with tubes and that around 1959 his parents bought an RCA stereo. They would have one turntable in the bedroom and the other in the living room. Talking about his parents they brought him up on records and turntables. There were the early 78s and then came the 45s and soon it was the 33 RPM, which means revolutions per minute.

            In those days, there was some music that no one wants their kid to listen to. The X rated party records would be forbidden for the younger teens to listen to. The part records would mostly be stand-up comics. For one example it would be Redd Foxx. Baker said that Foxx’s stand-up was considered at the time raunchy and that no matter what they would have gotten to hear it during the middle of the party or so.

            The days of buying a record in the days Baker remembers that records when from 50 cents to 99 cents at the Ben Franklin department store and that his favorite place to buy was at Jay’s record shop that was on Main Street in Peoria.

            When it came to his first time listen to Elvis Presley was when he heard Hound Dog.

            “My neighbor Richard had the Elvis record Hound Dog,” Baker said. “And the radio stations WPEO and WIRL with the announcer Robin Weaver on WPEO introducing Elvis’s song.”

            From where the time he grew up with vinyl records to the present day of CDs, Baker said he like the convenience of the CDs but that he never gave up on his records and turntable. He listens to each different set of music but it’s the one thing that will never leave him.

            Then soon later television came upon across the living rooms. Baker said that television back in the day was magic and that they couldn’t afford it until 1959. But they then got to watch their first television at his uncle’s house on a 10 inch Round Picture Tube and recalls what his family’s fist television was as a Motorola and at the time cost $400.

            For his family as a typical family viewing they would have a snack or two and then everyone would be quiet so no one wouldn’t miss out on what was happening on the show and with their home life the TV kept them home and they would talk about the news or the programs that they just watched. And when commercials came on he was amazed at a teen for the cars that were being advertised on television.

            The moment that surprised him on television was when he saw the moon walk. He said that he was very surprised and he was very proud for the USA for being the first to do it. And he recalls The Beatles when they were on the Ed Sullivan show but he wondered what the fuss was about with them as he didn’t care for them much. Baker says that compare to what the 50’s had in television to 2012; there are more channels than ever before. He goes on by saying that there is a channel for everyone where back in the day, there were only one or two stations. Television has changed in the past 50 years from going to two stations to with more than 100 channels.

            What I’ve learned from listening to what my grandfather went through in the difference of mass media is something that is that changes or it improves its media to get something to us in a way that we want it or not. Radio, it was a big deal at the time and if you look at now there are still people that listen to the radio, mostly satellite radio. To when television came in to their living rooms, everyone would think that radio would have died but no. I can see that what we are at right now to what they went through is almost the same. They had television, radio and records and more but as the years past so comes the internet and digit television, DVDs and cell phones.

We have so much more now than 50 years ago with how we get news and keeping in contact with everyone. We are like what they’ve gone through and soon more things will change for the future of mass media.