To develop insight of the evolution of media, I engaged Mr. Dean Bratt, a friend to my grandfather, in an interview. Mr. Bratt is 80 years old and lives in New York City together with his 71-year-old wife June Williams. Born in 1935, Mr. Bratt has experienced the growth of mass media from the newspaper age to the current era of the Internet and how media has played a role in the social, economic and political democratization. The interview focused on the Radio and television as the main media and their evolution into mainstream media during Mr. Bratt’s childhood.
According to Mr. Bratt, during his early childhood, as much as there were other forms of media such as newspapers, radio was the one that was widely used not only at their home but by almost all their neighbors and friends. He recalls days when he would sit at his father’s feet as they listened to the radio. As much as he did not make sense of the messages in those earlier years of his life, he developed a habit of listening to the radio. Bratt’s father left for the Second World War, and he recalls his mother gluing herself to the radio to listen to the news about the war. Bratt Claims that, during his teenage life, he became more involved in listening to the radio as his father had not come back as he hoped he would hear anything about him. His main station was the WOR AM-radio station that operated at 710 kHz. As much as he could not recall the brand, Mr. Bratt maintained that their radio was, “a simple wooden box with knobs and a meter band, which allowed for tuning of the radio to the appropriate station.” He insisted that unlike their neighbors, their radio only had the AM band, and thus they could not listen to FM stations.
The radio was not only a source of news for Mr. Bratt as a teenager but also a source of entertainment. Pop music had reached its realm in the 1940’s according to Mr. Bratt, and he was a great fan of Frank Sinatra’s music. He, however, mentions his change in the music genre, where he became a great lover of jazz, out of influence from his friends, and was fond of listening to the music from the then renowned artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday. According to Mr. Bratt, most of the times, they would listen to the music in groups and dance with the girls. The radio did not only influence his tastes in music but initiated him into the pop culture. He mentions that right from his dressing to his behavior, the impact of pop culture was evident. He remembers when he used to wear skinny pants and a t-shirt then he would add a coat on top. His communication was also influenced by the then pop slang, and at times, he would find himself in conflict with his mother for the use of such language.
Mr. Bratt also recalls the adults using what they had heard on the radio to frame their political and economic opinions since politicians used radio to pass on their messages and to campaign. He remembers his mother hushing him every time the president made a public address during the early 1940’s. “My mother would say, hush! The president is speaking”, he stated. They even heard about the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the radio. Mr. Bratt maintains that, with the radio being the only digital media that most of the population could get their hands on during his childhood and adolescent years, it defined the social, political, and economic perspectives of the community through news and entertainment.
On the other hand, Mr. Bratt reported that he started watching television in 1945 at a neighbor’s place when the burial of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was aired. Nevertheless, his mother bought their first television set in 1948, and it was a console model referred to as “Admiral”. Mr. Bratt mentions that the television showed black and white pictures and that the triple thrill was what prompted his mother to purchase it at $499.95. The set comprised of a television, a two-speed phonograph, and an FM-Radio. He claims that with the purchase of the television, they rarely listened to the radio and mostly interacted with the television programs. Their favorite television channel was NBC. He mentions that his favorite program was “Meet the Press”, in which different individuals were interviewed each week on various issues. He also mentions that the launch of the program ‘The Chichesterfield Supper Club’ in 1948 changed his preferences as he became fond of the program.
Mr. Bratt recalls watching the first airing of the program on the eve of Christmas in 1948, which began with Perry Como’s live performance. This channel became an important part of his cultural shift as it exposed him to music artists, who had a major influence on his dressing, language, and general attitude. However, since their television set showed black and white pictures, Mr. Bratt jokingly claims that he could not figure out the color aspect in the sense of fashion. He mentions that, most of the time, he would watch the TV with two of his friends, Michael and Penny. Apart from entertainment, Mr. Bratt mentioned that he had used to follow up political news after the war to determine what happened to his father until later when the news was brought to their doorstep by the Army officials that he had died in the war after succumbing to gunshot wounds. He also mentioned that the political and economic news influenced how his mother voted for leaders. Most of the commercials on TV during his young age, as Mr. Bratt recalls, were plain and as compared to the current day commercials, straight to the point.