In a recent article I outlined the late George Wellor’s theory about the 1970’s birth of the Media Class and how the catalyst for that birth was 24 hour a day / 7 days a week television. More recently I have written about the relentless ‘dumbing down’ of the masses by the Media Class and how Rush Limbaugh’s infantile musical tastes (as proven by his $1m hiring of Reggie Dwight aka Elton John) was conclusive evidence. My website partner, Mr. Radical has drawn my attention to a missing link in the story. Wellor and I missed this one!
The radio was at the heart of my family’s leisure time and it was also the source of its cultural intake. I was born in 1939 and did not see my father (who was a regular soldier before war began and sent abroad before 1940 was out) until 1946. Like many other families of that era, no children were born between 1939 and 1946, the exceptions being to those women who discovered the ‘Yanks’ in the build-up to the invasion of Normandy. During the war, Britain’s people listened to BBC radio for news and entertainment, and there was nothing else except an occasional cinema visit when German air-raids allowed. After 1946, when fathers returned to their families, the entertainment remained the same for ordinary working people until around 1956/57, except that the cinema became much more available. I am sure my own radio experience was typical of that of most working class children.
In the early morning, my mother would listen to Housewife’s choice on the BBC’s Light Program. This weekday one-hour program of popular (and occasional Classical) records was followed by various live-music programs of dance bands, seaside organists and novelty music of banjo bands, harmonica groups and mandolin bands. Mid-day was a live broadcast of music and comedy from a factory canteen and around 2pm was ‘Woman’s Hour’ for housewives, followed by a drama and then ‘Mrs Dale’s Diary’, a daily 15 minute ‘soap’ about a suburban doctor’s wife and her family. At 5pm was ‘Children’s Hour’, 6pm brought the news and at 6.45pm there was a 15 minute adventure ‘soap’ called ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’. At some time around the late 1940’s the BBC introduced a space adventure called ‘Journey Into Space’ and it began at 7.30pm. This program was hugely popular with adults as well as children, and after it, at 8pm, I was packed off to bed.
Almost all of the above programming was for adults though there was nothing offensive that children had to be banned from. There was little specifically ‘adult’ programming until some melodramas late in the evening and I think broadcasting ceased around 11pm. Weekend broadcasting was little different except there was sport on Saturdays and Religion on Sundays. The children’s stuff was, like the rest of it, listened to by the whole family. After the evening meal, I sat down with my mother and father and played with my toys whilst they listened to the radio, all of us sat together by the fire in winter. We listened to everything as a family and I had no control over the tuning. As far as I know, none of my peers did any different. Children accepted that their parents chose the radio entertainment and I cannot remember a family that had more than one radio. Richer families may have had extra space for a children’s room and an extra radio, but I didn’t know any rich families, for they were few and far between. In the 1950’s things were not much different from the Depression 1930’s.
The result of this family radio era was that children shared their leisure and cultural development with their parents, absorbing adult standards and tastes. Parents assumed that they knew better than their children and indeed, they did. My mother’s musical tastes (and my grandmothers’ too, for she lived with us) were shaped by the radio and so new musical fashions (and there were fashions) were seamlessly added on to the whole musical treasure chest. I grew up knowing tunes and entertainers from the early 1900’s right up to the 1950’s. I heard Harry Lauder, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, Glen Miller, Caruso, Kathleen Sutherland, Brass Bands and a teenage Frank Sinatra. As a teenager I heard – with some enthusiasm – Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and many other American singers, as well as orchestra music that included Tangos, Mambos and Waltzes.
As Mr. Radical has pointed out to me, pretty much all entertainment was family entertainment, which meant that families enjoyed it all together and children and teenagers ‘grew into’ adult standards. The destruction of this ‘apprenticeship of culture and music’ began in the mid 1950’s and no doubt there was more than one contributing factor, but the single most brutal factor was the development of the transistor radio. I remember the first time I saw and heard a young man walking down the High Street with what became known later as a ‘Ghetto Blaster’. Just prior to this development, commercial radio began to break the BBC monopoly by having a radio station sited in Luxemburg. A good radio could pick up Radio Luxemburg (with some interference) and avoid Lord Reith’s severe rationing of American music. This was liberating and I can remember when an older friend first introduced me to Voice of America and Bebop. The liberation had its downside however and some terrible unintended consequences.
The transistor radio ended the family gathering around the radio, and it ended the musical apprenticeship for kids. Parents lost control over their children’s culture. One thing was especially noticeable about the transistor – it was taken up most of all by those who were alienated from their families. Before long the Ghetto Blaster was carried along streets and beaches by the aggressive, ignorant and disaffected young. Some music now became aimed at kids and especially disaffected kids. Although TV in the 1960’s briefly brought families back together (for few families could afford more than one), the genie was out of the bottle. Music aimed at kids soon became music played by kids and then music composed by kids. Since kids began to have more spare cash for leisure, it was inevitable that the commercial forces of the emerging Media Class soon began to abandon music for adults and all music became ‘promoted’. The old system whereby musicians and singers spent years perfecting skills and ‘character’ in clubs and concert halls gave way to the ‘discovery’ process that selected and launched pimply overnight sensations like the Beatles. The great cultural generational link of apprenticeship was broken and young people were set adrift and made vulnerable. The next step was that music became politicized as the Media Class set about employing entertainment to brainwash the masses. Before long, the new rich of the Media Class was composed of the generations that had been infantilized, including Rush Limbaugh. There is probably no going back!
Today, I saw that the Media was noting the death in China of Joan Hinton (1921- 2010) and that she was once a nuclear physicist employed at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. I have always taken a great interest in the unfolding revelations of the Communist traitors who infested British and US Government in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Our Leftist Academia has always sought to whitewash these people and those who uncovered their activities usually experienced much persecution, none more so than Senator Joe McCarthy. I cannot remember the name of Joan Hinton in any of the books that are required reading for those who wish to learn from history, so I looked her up on Wikipedia. Her background was typical of the Leftist intellectuals of the 1930’s. Hinton’s father was a lawyer and her mother was an ‘educator’ who founded the Independent Progressive School in Vermont. Her sister was a ‘civil rights’ and ‘Peace’ activist in the US and her brother was a sociologist who went to China in 1948 to work for the new Communist Government of Mao Tse Tung. Joan Hinton worked on the development of the atomic bomb but was opposed to using it on the Japanese. A lifelong Communist, she believed that the West should share its nuclear knowledge with the world’s Socialists Governments. Since it would not, she moved to China in 1949 where she met her husband, Ervin Engst, another lifelong Communist. Together, we are informed by Wikipedia, they devoted their lives to developing China’s Socialist economy and ended their days living on a farm. At the end, in a China that allowed a little dissidence and began to encourage wealth-making, Hinton and her husband protested at the retreat from full-blown Socialism. Clearly they remained hard-core Stalinists to the bitter end.
I smell a rat or two here! First, Hinton was never disillusioned by the knowledge of Stalin’s purges and the irrefutable evidence that emerged in the 1940’s and 1950’s that the USSR had been one giant factory of death. Secondly she was not shaken by the massive cruelties of China’s Cultural Revolution, which she must have witnessed at first hand. Thirdly, did she never have links to the many Leftist traitors who infested the Manhattan project? Fourthly, did the Chinese Government really allow a Physicist with inside knowledge of the US nuclear secrets to settle in China and devote herself to farming? Fifthly, the Hinton’s sailed through the Chinese purges, when many old Communists paid the price for being ‘foreign’ and for having ties to disgraced and denounced comrades. Hinton’s children returned to the US and she always maintained her US citizenship, so what has been going on? I think we should know more about Joan Hinton and her connections. If she had been an old Nazi, she and her family would have been hounded for ever by America’s Media and Leftist Academics.