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CCFB News» June 2024

Downwind"AM Radio"

06/03/2024 @ 8:00 am | By Bob Rohrer, CCFB Manager

AM radio helped shape the person I now call “Me”.


As a kid, I had this AM/FM radio in a brown, leather-ish carrying case, powered by a 9-volt battery. Truthfully, it was the Farmer’s radio but we, the kids, borrowed it from Dad 100% of the time. As the oldest kid (and a selfish bully), I had the self-appointed responsibility of selecting the proper radio station for quality sibling listening.


On the farm in rural Western Illinois, also known as Forgottonia, that radio somehow pulled in invisible radio signals all the way from a mystical place called Chicago. The mystical place allegedly had throngs of people, a ruler identified as “the mayor”, and huge buildings that blocked out the sun.


We discovered these facts and much more from two radio stations, WLS and WGN, smack dab in the middle of that mystical place.


WLS provided us entertainment and fun mixed with wonder through rock ‘n’ roll and animal stories courtesy of Uncle Lar’ & L’il Tommy. WGN provided us entertainment and fun mixed with sorrow through the Cubs courtesy of Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau and the farm report through Orion Samuelson’s amazing baritone voice.


That transistor radio, tuned to WLS or WGN, traveled everywhere with us… riding our bikes, doing chores, walking beans, weeding the vegetable garden (or 4 acres of strawberries), and hiding out to avoid work behind the barn.

Dad and Mom frequently grew tired of the radio noise. I know this from shouts of “turn that down” or “shut that thing off”. The exception was when Orion Samuelson’s voice was on the radio. Then we heard shouts of, “Would you kids be quiet?”


From this AM radio, my young mind was soaking up (and becoming corrupted by) popular culture, crude humor, urban news, low farm commodity prices, and sub-par Cubs baseball.


My AM transistor radio days “took an 8-year break” during the headbanging high school and college years as I transitioned to FM radio for higher fidelity and hearing loss. However, as I moved into the working world, news and political information suddenly grew in importance. I found myself searching the AM radio frequencies for news and talk.

I still love AM radio today, rarely tuning in to something else on the radio. Truthfully, I thought my AM radio obsession might be rare. I discovered I am WRONG!


Currently, there is a bill in Congress called the AM for Every Vehicle Act which would require an AM radio as an option for new vehicles. Some automakers are cutting AM radios from electric vehicles due to interference issues. Something I hadn’t thought of, but it does make sense. Another reason to not want an electric car.


Do AM car radios really matter? According to a recent FarmWeek article, 82 million Americans tune into AM radio each month for news, entertainment, sports, and emergency information from 4500 AM stations across the United States. AM radio is effective at delivery of weather, farm markets, issues, information, traffic problems, trusted sources for local information, and delivery of the emergency alert network for disasters. And, with enough watts, AM radio covers great distances in rural areas…even Forgottonia!


The Illinois Farm Bureau has joined agriculture and rural organizations in signing a letter to Capitol Hill expressing support of the proposed bill to maintain AM radio options in autos. And there is some serious bipartisan support for the bill…you don’t get any further apart “politically” from cosponsors in the House Speaker Mike Johnson and Rep. Jan Schakowsky and in the Senate Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Elizabeth Warren! That’s bipartisanship.


AM radio may not be for everyone, but it is an important tool in the toolbox for farmers, rural America, and for people like me.


Now, I’m wondering how a transistor AM radio sounds on an electric bike or in an electric tractor?

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