One Sunday night I was channel surfing and happened upon a documentary on NH Public Television about the National Barn Dance radio program. What great shows, both the original National Barn Dance and the new documentary. I was fascinated to learn of the talent that was discovered through the National Barn Dance: Gene Autry, Bill Monroe, LuluBelle and Scotty, among many, many others. It was also interesting to learn how the National Barn Dance helped Americans cope with catastrophic events such as the Great Depression and World War II. For 36 years the National Barn Dance provided fun and free Saturday night entertainment for Americans throughout the country. The radio program was cutting edge when it launched in 1924, and it stayed on that leading edge as it transformed into movies and spin offs, the most noteworthy being the Grand Ole Opry.
As I watched the program I was reminded of other radio programs in the era before mainstream television that entertained, informed and helped launch Hollywood careers: The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, The Shadow, Our Miss Brooks, My Favorite Husband, The Great Gildersleeves, Fibber McGee and Molly, and so many others. These are some of my favorites that I listen to today on the RadioClassics channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio.
As with all good documentaries, the National Barn Dance program continued to intrigue me long after the last commercial. I started considering what medium people used today to educate, inform and entertain. What constitutes today’s version of the National Barn Dance program and others like it? The answer was obvious: the Internet, specifically social media. This is where people flock to chat, “Like,” “Share,” and record. YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest are where it’s at, and where many people tune in for fun, free Saturday night entertainment (not to mention all the other nights of the week).
Want to hear your favorite artist? Listen to a new recording artist? Learn how to do something? Watch a funny video? Laugh over silly pet tricks? Simply head on over to YouTube and you can find just about any type of entertainment in short video format. You can browse channels, search by subject or subscribe to a favorite channel.
Want to chat with friends, catch up with the family or find out what’s happening in your local community? I thought my family wasn’t speaking with each other anymore until I found out they were all on Facebook. Now I can see up-to-date photos of my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and all my friends at any time. I’ve even connected with my friends from each of my Navy commands, some of whom I haven’t seen or talked to for 30 years!
Do you enjoy looking at beautiful photography, fine art paintings, or the latest fashion? Perhaps you enjoy crafting, scrapbooking or cooking. Pinterest is a potpourri of sites that people have found throughout the Internet and “pin” to their boards. You can browse the site by topic or special interest. My personal favorites are pictures of dogs, horses, impressionist paintings and black and white photography. I have spent countless hours browsing through gorgeous pictures that others have found and posted.
Yes, I believe that social media today is most certainly equivalent to the national radio programming during The Golden Age of Radio, so if you want to help your loved one find something fun to do on Saturday night, why not help them tune in to a YouTube music channel of choice, log in to Facebook to look at recent family pictures, or check out Pinterest for beautiful photography or nostalgia? Social media can certainly provide hours of fun and free entertainment for you and your elderly loved one. Happy Surfing!