FEBRUARY 2021 Magazine | Page 20

My parents, Verne and Helen Jay, were freelance writers of mysteries and dramas that aired nationally over WNBC in New York City during the 1940s – the so-called “Golden Age of Radio.” Their beige Royal typewriter with the high keys got a real workout as Mom and Dad cranked out script after script – two shows for “The Shadow” in 1944, one show each for other radio classics, such as “Mr. and Mrs. North,” “Famous Jury Trials,” and “Grand Central Station.”

My parents enthusiastically rehearsed the sound effects for “The Shadow” in the thin-walled kitchen of our apartment in Washington Heights, above Manhattan. Needless to say, that experience made life interesting for me, their only child. I vividly recall asking my playmates in kindergarten if their parents were also creating strange, weird sound effects in the kitchens of their apartments. I discovered that nobody else’s parents were doing this.

I vividly recall one weekday afternoon around 2 when Mom and Dad were racing around the Kitchen screaming, shooting off toy guns, running the sirens on small ambulance toys, making sounds resembling imaginary vaults going in and out. Ho-hum, just another typical Tuesday at the Jay apartment.

But then I heard a different noise: it seemed that four or five neighbors had gathered in front of our apartment and were pounding on the door, wondering what on earth was going on inside. My mother, who fancied herself as an actress, pulled herself up to her full 4 feet, 11 ¾-inch height, adopted a haughty attitude, and an imperious voice. As she slowly opened the door and faced the puzzled neighbors, she said, nonchalantly, “Yes? Is something the matter?”

The neighbors said, nearly in unison, “What are the loud noises coming from your

apartment? It sounds like someone’s being killed in there!”

My mother calmly explained, “Oh, that! Think nothing of it. We’re just rehearsing…FOR “THE SHADOW”! And she shut the door, very slowly.

Tales from the Golden Age of Radio

1944, WNBC, New York City

by Linda Jay