For Old Radio Theater’s 30th? The origins of the Lone Ranger
“From out of the past, return with us now to those golden days of radio … with your hosts David and Linda Breninger.”
Like an invisible beam, clothed in the darkness of the night, their alternating Sunday evening program, “Old Radio Theater,” on KVMR 89.5 FM can chill you a little and tear you a little in your own imaginary “theater of the mind.”
The former Grass Valley (now living in Roseville) couple has kept the golden age of broadcasting’s legacy alive across the Sierra foothills and Sacramento Valley since October, 1985.
And they’ll celebrate that 30th anniversary this coming Sunday 8 p.m. (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming) with the real story behind the origins of one of radio’s most enduring, legendary characters, The Lone Ranger.
“The first segment is how six Texas Rangers were ambushed with only one surviving to become the Lone Ranger with the help of his faithful companion Tonto,” explains David.
“The second part is how the masked man finds his great horse Silver and captures a notorious outlaw,” according to Breninger.
Intermixed through the evening’s program, the Breningers will narrate and trace the history of what they love to call “the golden days of radio,” he added.
And they ought to know.
“Our archives range from original recordings and reissues of drama, comedy, western, suspense and soap opera to the news of the day that spans radio’s past from the late 1920s to the 1960s,” notes David Breninger.
According to the couple, they take great pride in producing and airing special tributes to the stars, performers and dignitaries who were heard “on the air in the day.”
“And we try to recount important historic events that serve as an oral history or legacy of our nation’s past as originally ‘heard’ over radio — well over half a century ago,” adds Linda.
Yup, this now retired couple, always with broad smiles, has taken on quite the task — and delivered such yearly treasures as the 1946 NBC radio network Christmas Day broadcast of the Grass Valley Cornish Choir’s national radio performance from Grass Valley’s Del Oro Theater.
You don’t hear that every day, but you do every year, courtesy the Breningers.
“We enjoy airing these vintage programs for people of all ages, including senior citizens who grew up — as kids — listening to these shows and remembering them fondly,” recalls Linda. “All we have to do is play the creaking door from “Inner Sanctum” and they recognize it immediately.”
Adds Linda with a gleam, “Whenever you hear Fibber McGee open his hall closet door, you know instantly from the sound effects that clutter is tumbling out even though it is really your imagination that creates your impression of the event, all because of the sound heard over the airwaves.”
And that’s where the magic of radio takes over.
For David, it all began while he was a child in Phoenix, Ariz., where he grew up listening to radio, towards the end of the medium’s so-called Golden Age.
And Linda grew up in rural San Ardo, California, where all she knew was “only radio reception,” not that television thing.
Over the years, they’ve shared a seminar called “Old Radio Programs Never Die” with the Elderhostel Program and Sierra Community College, spreading the couple’s knowledge of radio’s vaunted “golden era.”
You talk about backgrounds, well, Dave Breninger was Grass Valley’s first senior city administrator back in 1984 before he moved to the Placer County Water Agency as executive director in 1992 and retiring earlier this year. Linda is best known locally as a former principal for 12 years at Lymon Gilmore Middle School in Grass Valley.
“Remember, old radio programs never die,” says a nostalgic male Breninger. “They’re just out there waiting to be tuned-in again.”
And then some. Heigh-ho, Silver … and away. (Sound of galloping hoofs.)
Oh, and the Breningers gladly treated everyone at KVMR’s general meeting this week to a piece of cake in honor of the 30th anniversary celebration.
Their “Old Time Radio” program may now be the only one of its kind in the Sacramento region.
And that’s saying something. Whew.
On The Air is a weekly feature of The Prospector and KVMR, featuring the oddities and personality of the non-commercial Nevada City radio station at 89.5 FM and streaming at kvmr.org. The station boasts over 150 citizen-broadcasters and features an annual training class.
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