A New Podcast...With a Twist!
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM
Since I was a small boy I have been listening to old time radio shows. My parents, who had me later in their lives, grew up during the Great Depression. They would run home from school in the afternoon and after their chores were done would gather around the family radio and listen to the radio shows that magically came through the air into that small speaker on a radio that was then more like furniture than the radios we know of today.
Mom and Dad would mention listening to radio shows like “Inner Sanctum” with the creaking door sound effect at the beginning or comedies like “Lum and Abner” and “Fibber McGee and Molly”. They would often laugh recalling their favorite moments of these old shows. Each of them even told of their memories going back to that faithful Sunday morning in December in 1941 when the world first heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. They told about the grim looks on their parents faces as they gathered around that radio.
One day my parents came upon several cassettes of these old shows for sale in the gift shop of the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Museum they took us to in a town near where I grew up. I recall their excitement and bought several of them. On the way home Dad popped one into the cassette deck of our new Ford Pinto. Having a cassette deck in a car with stereo speakers was a big deal in those days. On the way home we listened to several episodes of these great shows. I was hooked.
For most of us that grew up in the age of television the idea of listening to a story instead of watching it unfold before us on a screen is a bit strange but radio, in my opinion, expands your mind. Instead of passively watching a show you must concentrate on the story being told by the actors. You also create the pictures you are listening to in your mind. It's like a play being performed inside your head and your mind provides the stage.
Over the years I have enjoyed listening to many of these old shows. They take me back to a time I have always loved but wasn't privileged enough to live through. I have owned many cassettes of these shows over the years. Over time the cassettes were upgraded to CDs and now to digital files. I have even discovered several apps for my iPhone in which I can listen to the shows. The delivery might be different but the ageless writing of those shows and the performances by great actors assisted by sound effects still sound as classic and timeless as they were when they were produced.
Several months ago Brother Robert Johnson played an episode of one of these old shows entitled “Quiet Please” recorded in 1948 on his Masonic podcast “Whence came you?” the show was filled with lots of Masonic symbolism and this episode of Quiet Please even shared the name of Robert's podcast. Like many of Robert's listeners I listened to the segments of the show over the next couple of weeks. It was great fun listening while I sat at the dog park watching my dog Happy run and play.
About a month ago I got a call from Robert one afternoon. I could tell by the sound of his voice he was excited. Robert explained that several Brothers loved that episode of Quiet Please so much they wanted more. He wanted to produce a Masonic Radio podcast that sounded like an old time radio show from the 1930's. It would have sound effects and be recorded in such a way that it would sound authentic to the era. The show would even have real commercials for real Masonic products recorded like it was part of the original show.
Robert told me “I think with your ability to write Masonic fiction you would be perfect to write the script.” I told him I would write it but in my head I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. How could I write something that even came close to the quality of one of those old programs?
I thought the first step would be come up with a name for the show. I thought “Masonic Radio Theatre” sounded like it would have come from that era. Although it was a bit generic it would make a great working title.
Luckily a thought for the story came into my head and I produced a rough draft, about halfway completed, and emailed to Robert. He loved it so much he started casting the parts and it was announced on several Masonic news outlets. I knew I had better finish it. I also created a Facebook page for the project.
During the golden age of radio a script would be written and performed by actors, usually in front of a live audience either broadcast live or “transcribed” onto a 16 rpm long play record and played later at a local radio station. Many of the surviving radio shows we still enjoy today come from these records.
The production of the episodes of the Masonic Radio Theatre would boggle the minds of the makers of the golden age radio programs. Our first episode, The Craftsman, was written by me here in Texas. The finished script was sent via email to Robert in Chicago who distributed it to the various players.
Each player recorded their various parts on their personal computers, without hearing the dialogue of the others and emailed the voice files back to Robert from Illinois, the files came from; Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia and various other places. Robert mixes them all together, along with the music and sound effects.
After what seemed like an eternity I woke up one morning and over night Robert had emailed the finished product to me. I quickly downloaded it to my phone and I listened to the episode while I was in the car. I must have had a smile on my face while I was driving down the road.
I don't want people to think I'm bragging but I was blown away with what we had created. I couldn't believe how well the show turned out! Later that day we posted the show on iTunes for the general public.
I was honestly taken aback by the reception the project has received by the public. The Facebook started receiving hundreds of “likes”. Brother John Paul Gomez of Fraternal ties created a beautiful logo for the project. The response to the project has taken on a life of it's own.
Originally we planned to offer episodes during the "Whence Came You?" podcast but the response has been so positive it has been decided this will become its very own podcast. Given the enormity of the production process I envision that there will be several longer episodes on occasion but many shorter episodes in between them. We have also added several more ways to listen to the show. Masonic Radio Theatre can now also be listened to on Sticher radio and the Tunein radio app as well as on it's own website www.masonicradiotheatre.com
Since the release of “The Craftsman” production has been started on several more episodes. Including our next episode “A new lodge is born” a radio adaptation of one of the “Old Tyler Talks” by Brother Claude Claudy. I think it should be a great success. I want to personally thank all of our fans and supporters and all the actors who helped make this happen!