Image source: Wikipedia, A 1930s Philco Cathedral Radio

Your First Radio

The purchase of the first radio was an event in Canadian homes and frequently recalled in detail. Many Canadians waited until almost the end of the 1930s to make their first radio purchase. A number of factors may have come into play firstly the economic depression of the 1930s. Even though there was a wide range of prices for radios extending from the simple, owner-assembled crystal set to the larger radio sets housed in large pieces of furniture, the table-top models introduced in the 1930s did a great deal to bring the price down. Radio set sales across Canada outpaced other new consumer durables such as the automobile, refrigerator and the electric vacuum cleaner. Even so the price of a radio set represented a substantial portion of the average worker’s wages. Radio reception and the national coverage provided by stations remained a concern even after the creation of the CBC.

Two interview subjects remarked that their families purchased their first radio in the last few years of the 1930s, both lived on Cape Breton Island and just beyond the guaranteed broadcast range of the CBC’s newly constructed regional station in 1939. Thus their listening choices would have been limited in the same way as those of the rural Quebeckers.

The first radio was special event for many people and a purchase recalled with ease.

One listener, a Montreal newlywed in 1931, explained that she had a large radio housed in an elaborate piece of furniture that was a wedding gift that year from her brother. Another listener from the 1930s remembered that their family’s first radio was a surprise and a Christmas present to the whole family from her brother, who had recently started working and had saved up for the purchase. Yet another recalled that her parents went out to buy the radio. A Toronto listener remembered her uncle assembling their radio from a cereal box.

Image source: Wikipedia, A 1930s Philco Cathedral Radio