old time radio

Remembering Ed Walker

There are articles that detail the lifelong achievements of the legendary man of radio who died Monday morning. I didn't know much about his six decade-long radio career in Washington DC until I looked it up after hearing he had announced his retirement last week. 

What I knew was that The Big Broadcast, the show Walker hosted for the last 25 years, had become a tradition in our house. Every Sunday night, Walker would invite listeners to forget the cares of the week behind, set aside the worries about the week to come, and take a trip into the golden age of radio. He played familiar programs - Gunsmoke, Dragnet - and ones I'd never heard of, like the serialized tales of "America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator" Johnny Dollar, or the adventures of a likable blowhard (a proto-anti-hero if I've ever seen one) named Throckmorton T. Gildersleeve. 

These programs were obviously products of their times, and they can be at once frustrating and fascinating snapshots of the mores of mid-century America. They also contain some amazing storytelling. I'll write more about old radio shows and the lessons they offer modern writers some other time. 

The Big Broadcast was like an anchor of our week, an antidote to the Sunday evening blues. And in that strange way you feel illogically connected to the people who make the entertainment you love, we felt like we knew Ed Walker. We'll miss spending Sunday nights with him.

Ed recorded his last program from a hospital bed shortly after announcing his retirement. He listened to it on WAMU Sunday night, with his family around him, and died the following morning. 

Here's his final sign-off.