Exhibit: Ed Craney—the Voice of Montana
Today we keenly feel the impact of technology. Each new advance, device or digital service sends consumers, businesses and governments into a frenzy to keep up or be left behind. The full impact of having information constantly at our fingertips may not be fully known for decades. What we do know is that we are “connected” more than any generation before us, and that connectedness defines our sense of self, community and place in the civic order. In short information technology has a profound effect on 21st century citizens. That impact however is not without precedent.
Early 20th century Americans, especially rural Americans, were profoundly affected by the advent of radio. A letter to KGIR radio station in Butte, Montana, captures the important role early radio played in the daily lives of Depression era listeners:
“Suddenly, comes the shrill scream of a siren! The clang of bells! Ed Wynn is on the air! Dad lets the newspaper drop in his lap, Ma comes into the parlor and sits close to the radio; and Sis and I stop our schoolwork...Dad, Sis and I grin and chuckle after every joke, but Ma laughs till her sides ache. This is the one big reason why I like the Texaco Program. For fifteen minutes Dad forgets about his job, Ma quits worrying about how she is going to pay the bills, and I am happy to see them happy. Old Man Depression is forgotten and Happiness is King.” (Harry Lonner to KGIR, n.d., Edmund B. Craney Papers, Montana Historical Society Archives)
In bleak times radio provided cheap entertainment and a welcomed respite from daily worries. Radio also built a sense of community. For the first time, isolated families in rural America were “virtually” connected to their community, their state, and their nation. This intimate medium enabled them to share the same news, entertainment and shifting cultural mores of other Americans they would never meet but with whom they were more closely tied than ever before.