I grew up during the days when we still listened to the radio on the radio (I know that may sound a bit peculiar).
I considered myself to be extremely lucky, because I had inherited a very old and clunky but surprisingly functional radio, which not only had MW and FM, but SHORT WAVE reception too!
Many nights were spent lying on my stomach in the bedroom or the lounge, tilting the antenna this way and that, and twiddling the various knobs to fine-tune the reception, which tended to be a bit crackly at the best of times, but was often just a rush of static interpersed with a whine, a whistle, or a series of blips and burps. So when I was lucky enough to catch a program of the BBC, the Voice of America, Radio Espana, Radio Moscow (shhhh), or Radio Netherlands, I was over the moon!
In those days before television arrived in South Africa, though, many evenings were spent listening to the radio. I have particularly fond memories of the English-and-Afrikaans-language station Springbok Radio, with its daily and weekly serials, which always (frustratingly) ended on a cliffhanger and had copious amounts of sound-effects thrown in.
I loved listening to “Inspector Carr Investigates” (detective stories), “The Men from the Ministry” (comedy with funny accents), “Consider your Verdict” (crime stories), “A Twist in the Tale” (nailbiting stories), and “Test the Team” (quizz). It was devastating when they shut down on 31 December 1985. I confess I cried when I listened to their final broadcast that evening, and I still get a lump in my throat when I listen to that final soundclip.
So my heart sang again when I came across two websites (Pumamouse and Springbok Radio) that are actually devoted to the old days of Radio in South Africa (and Southern Africa more generally). They have a lot of sound-clips, though sadly only of the signature tunes that started or ended the shows. Apparently, many of the tapes that were originally used to record the shows were re-used, and many were damaged or lost. And many reel-to-reel tapes are gathering dust in the SABC archives. (I wonder whether us mere mortals can have a look at these?)
And you can find quite a pile of those (advertising jingles), that sound terribly quaint and old-fashioned now, but at least you could sing along with them! Remember these?
- the Dairy Belle ad – “Have a ding-dong day, Dairy Belle” ?
- the I&J’s Tasty Fish Fingers ad?
- and our favourite (yurgh) instant coffee Koffiehuis?
In the last decade or so, more and more radio stations have begun streaming over the internet. Despite the seriously limited and expensive connection speeds and bandwidth we get down here in deepest Africa, it actually works quite well. (Video streaming sucks, though…) And I could swear that the ADSL line in my area has slowed down, probably because everyone in the neighbourhood now has to share a handful of ADSL cables!
So now I can listen to all my favourite radio stations over the internet, at the click of a button (well, a couple of clicks through the menus).
But I kinda miss my old, crackly shortwave radio.