Jackie Hope: Tune in and go back in time
There’s a time machine in downtown Dickinson! Who knew? I bet you’ve walked past it a gazillion times and didn’t even notice it.
It has a narrow little door, and it’s an odd little place. It’s sorta like the King’s Cross 9¾ platform for the Hogwarts Express, except you don’t have to take a mad run at a brick wall to break through to it. All you have to do is open the door and walk into Dickinson’s past.
You want to know where it is, don’t you?
For a few nights every year, the Dickinson Odd Fellows Lodge travels back in time, to a mid-20th century radio station.
Just walk into the meeting hall, and you will see broadcasters, engineers and voice actors going about the business of producing radio shows and commercials, and reading public service announcements — all in a slice of frozen time.
And this is not Pandora, Sirius or even a pocket transistor radio transmission. This is the good stuff, people. This is what your Grammy used to listen to on a big-honker, furniture-sized radio — one of those floor-sitter jobbies with speakers as big as a 2-year-old, enough vacuum tubes to rival Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory and twisty dials that actually lit up. No, there were no remote controls or Wi-Fi for those behemoths. If they weren’t connected by a cord to an over-filled electric receptacle, they weren’t working.
Know what is wicked cool? The radio shows from the Odd Fellows Lodge are real radio shows broadcast by our own KDIX 1230 AM in Dickinson.
Know how the shows get from the Odd Fellows Lodge to the KDIX studio? By telephone lines. The techie plugs into a telephone jack at the Odd Fellows and calls up KDIX to complete the connection. Even the radio technology is caught in a time warp. Take that and stuff it into your Bluetooth.
Hot dog! We are in luck because Sneak Pique Productions is rehearsing for tomorrow’s radio performance.
The “Odd” front door opens onto a dark stairway, which looks like it goes straight up for miles — or at least for more steps than most of us care to run up in one sprint.
Squint your eyes a bit as you climb and try to imagine what this stairway looked like 50 years ago. The handrail is as fat as a telephone pole, and I’ll bet it has been here since Truman was president.
By the time you reach the top, you really start to feel like you’ve entered another time. Of course, the lack of oxygen to your brain from climbing those nosebleed-inducing stairs is probably feeding your delusion of time travel. But, hey, whatever works.
Open the dark, wooden door at the top of the stairs. Holy cats, it looks like a sitting room from a 1960s sitcom. It’s the Shady Rest, right out of “Petticoat Junction!” Oh, you don’t remember watching “Petticoat Junction?” Not even on Nick at Nite? OK, it was sorta like “Jersey Shore,” only the girls lived with their mama, not with guys shouting, “Yo mama.”
The actors are rehearsing “Music in Space,” a sequel to last winter’s “Commies in Space,” written by Pat Barnhart.
It is 1958, several month after the Soviets launched Sputnik and propelled the world into the Space Age. The radio play they are reading involves a not-quite-mad scientist who has persuaded some aeronautical engineers, as well as an untested test pilot, to help him with his personal entry in the space race. Science? Science fiction? These are the same characters who blew up a garden shed with a photon ray gun during “Commies in Space.” Goodness knows what they might do if they get their hands on the throttle of a spaceship.
No way! The actors have stopped reading the play, but it is still 1958 in their radio studio. Look, the girl is wearing a poodle skirt with a can-can petticoat! One guy is wearing bow tie and I’d swear that skinny guy is a greaser.
Hey, look at those mechanical sound effects! Rube Goldberg apparatuses that look impossible and sound like … like … like real machines, and doors and footsteps and things blowing up. There is this box of rocks that sounds just like — no, wait, we can’t give away the plot. And you are not gonna believe how they create the sounds of a helicopter. They use … oh man, you have to see this to believe it!
Want to watch the radio broadcast as part of the live studio audience? The performance for air is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 30 1st Ave. West in Dickinson. You can call 701-590-3532 for tickets.
Call quick, because the seating is limited.
If you’d rather turn on your radio and go “old school,” listen on KDIX. Oh man, you say the only radio you own is the one that came with your vehicle? OK, go out to your white pickup and tune in. Or listen online at www.kdix.net.
Wednesday night, some of us will be dimming the lights, pulling up an overstuffed lounge chair — doilies on the armrests are optional — and sitting in the glow of a lighted radio dial.
It is 1958, the space race is on and we are going to listen to “Music in Space.”
We are living “The Life of Riley!”
Hope is a humor columnist for The Dickinson Press and The Drill. She writes about everyday life, living in the Oil Patch and Twinkies. If you like Jackie Hope’s articles and wish she would write about a certain topic, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.