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Albright On the Airwaves

1950s photoHigh-definition flat screen TVs… portable MP3 players…DVD burners…virtual reality video games… the future of entertainment.

I remember when I was young asking my grandmother, "You mean TV wasn’t around when you were a kid? What did you do for fun?"

In the 1940s and 50s, Americans spent their leisure time listening to radio. Present in almost every home, radios became the focal point of entertainment and a family bonding experience for many. Families and friends would gather around their radios to listen to music, daily news programs and evening plays which were enormously popular.

In 1947 Walter Hayum ’50 decided that it was time Albright had a radio program of its own. "I had taken a radio course at NYU and wanted to start something like it at Albright," he says. With the help of Albright’s Office of Public Relations and WEEU and WHUM radio studios, Albright’s "Radio Workshop" was up and running. "Lester Stabler, the director of public relations, helped to get us started," says Hayum.

The Radio Workshop ran 13 weekly broadcasts, usually about a half hour in length, each semester. "We put on radio plays, which were very big in the 40s," says Nan Heckman ’51. The series featured original scripts from students as well as adaptations of works by contemporary writers. The scripts included modern dramas, varying from slapstick to the supernatural. A favorite among students was the Workshop’s presentation of Macbeth, which was adapted for radio by Hayum.

Sometimes broadcasts were taped but most of the time they were performed live over the air. "You had to be quick on your feet, especially when the show was live," says Heckman. A last minute run-through, says Hayum, was always needed.

1950s photoIn addition to the weekly broadcasts, a series of acting labs were offered by the Workshop to help students become better actors, writers and production specialists. These labs included voice training, radio interpretation and coordination with sound effects. "Any student could join and learn about radio," says Hayum.

The Radio Workshop’s popularity grew and grew. "It attracted a lot of people interested in theater and became a type of offshoot of the Domino Club," says Heckman. Workshop participants would practice scripts together on campus and then make the trek into downtown Reading to the WEEU studios each week to perform.

These weekly trips to the radio studio did not end for some Workshop members when their time at Albright was up. Several of them found careers in the radio field after graduation. "I worked at WEEU after graduation and got into voice work for radio from there," says Heckman. Her experience with radio naturally led her to television as well.

Hayum continued to write scripts for radio and even sold some after graduation.

While the influence of technology on entertainment is considerable, radio set the groundwork for the future of entertainment. Fifty years from now my grandchildren might be saying, "You didn’t always have Direct TV? What did you do for fun?" The golden age of radio may be over but its influence will never be forgotten.

-- Amy M. Buzinski ’03

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