Want to hear the past? Archive.org has thousands of old radio programs, news broadcasts and music. They span the time from the late 1920s to the early 1960s. A lot of the programs include the commercials making them a chronicle of the time. One of the things that helped preserve some of the old shows was that they were recorded on large records and sent overseas to soldiers during the WWII and the Korean Wars. The networks also found that if someone got ill they could rebroadcast an old show off the records.
There are many kinds of programs available on-line; comedies, sci-fi, music programs, children’s programs and even soap operas. Most are MP3 files so if you click on a link it will start playing. If you right click on the link, you can save it to your computer and then transfer to an iPod or other MP3 player to listen to later. Some pages have sets of radio programs that are compressed as ZIP files. That makes it easier to save many files at a time.
How about starting with the program with Abbott and Costello’s famous Who’s On First sketch. You hear the whole program, including songs, commercials and other sketches. The famous baseball sketch starts about 23 minutes into the program and they run through it very fast.
Judy Garland did a radio version of The Wizard of Oz on the Lux Radio Theater in 1950. She put on a little girl’s voice during the dramatic portions but when she sang, you could tell she was no longer a little girl.
In 1940 Gracie Allen ran for President or at least she did on the radio. Listen to the first 12 or 13 broadcasts of the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show of 1940.
Lucille Ball had a show called My Favorite Wife that ran from 1948 to 1951 before she moved to TV.
The Guiding Light was on radio for many years before it moved over to TV and we are lucky to have some broadcasts saved.
Westerns were considered programs for children until Gunsmoke came along. It was considered the first adult western.
Want to hear the most infamous radio broadcast? Listen to the War of the Worlds starring Orson Welles and see if it would make you panic like so many people did at the time.
Speaking of Wars… There are many News Broadcasts of World War II including Roosevelt’s speech before Congress after the Pearl Harbor attack.
There is also a page of subject links that like point you to more programs.