How "the big fight" affected the rest of my life...
It was Wednesday, June 22nd, 1938 and was about the longest day
of the year. I was 8 years old and was excited because of our
party planned for that hot summer evening. The occasion was the
second Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling fight, probably the most
talked about fight ever. I didn't know anything about boxing,
but I knew it was an important contest because everyone was
talking about it. In anticipation of the big fight, my father
had purchased a second hand 6 volt battery radio and a fully
charged car battery a few days earlier. I remember that the
label on the back of the radio said the radio was manufactured
by the Crosley Radio Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio. We didn't
have electric power, so the we had to take the battery to town
to get it charged. As you can imagine, battery conservation was
a high priority. My father had built a crude but rugged table
for the radio with a shelf for the battery. Not too many people
had radios and even if they did the radios were either broken or
the batteries were dead... with no surplus money to spend for
June was a very busy month on the farm, especially in the middle
of the week. So everyone attending the party had worked all day
in the June heat. They didn't seem to let that bother them.
Air-conditioned homes were not even considered a possibility.
Only the movie theater, drug store and a few other stores in
town had such at that point in time.
My dad set up the radio so that when the bedroom window was
opened, everyone outside could hear. A long aerial was installed
and attached to the pole that supported the purple martin
birdhouse. Keep in mind that television didn't exist at that
time; even the concept was just being developed.
Ordinary folks had no idea that transmitting pictures was
possible. The crowd gathered well before dark and since the
fight was on all the radio networks we were getting good
reception from a number of stations along with an occasional
static crash. The 20 or so folks that had gathered listened to
the pre-match talk on the radio. They had all brought blankets,
quilts and such so they could sit on the grass under the
chinaberry tree because we didn't have very many chairs. We had
a big hand cranked ice cream freezer and we borrowed another
from a neighbor. A big 100 pound block of ice had been purchased
and we had plenty rock salt for the occasion.
The appointed hour came and the fight started.
The fight was
being held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City in
front of what the radio announcer said was over 70,000 people.
The black folks attending the party were cheering for Joe Louis
and everyone was hoping that the U.S. would beat Germany. This
was the second match for the two; the German had won the first
match in 1936. Before we could really got warmed up to the
fight, with the radio blasting away, the fight was over. I
understand it only lasted a bit over two minutes. Everyone felt
a little shortchanged over such a brief fight, but we were all
happy that Joe had won.
The ice cream cranking had been finished and was ready to serve.
One freezer contained vanilla flavored ice cream and the other
was peach flavored with little pieces of fresh peaches in it. We
had plenty of ripe peaches right off the trees. My mother used
all sorts of containers for serving the ice cream because we
didn't have enough dishes to go around, some folks brought their
own. Everyone had plenty of ice cream and some of the folks
borrowed a bucket and took the used salty ice home with them. I
don't know what they used it for. Ice was not readily available
to most folks unless they bought it from the once a week iceman,
Sam Harris. Who could afford that! However, I remember that he
would take eggs for payment at the going rate of one cent per
egg. The party was a success and everyone departed. The radio
was promptly turned off and my mother and father made some
comments about the radio battery running down. I was concerned.
The next morning I decided to do a bit of troubleshooting. I
unscrewed the battery caps and pulled them off. I looked in but
it was dark inside and I couldn't see. I stuck my finger down in
the liquid to see if the battery had run down. My fingers
started burning and I ran into the kitchen with my problem. My
mother had paid attention in her chemistry class and got out the
baking soda and got it neutralized. Things were different back
then� no ambulances, emergency room or doctors for mishaps like
this. Even so it didn't cause permanent damage. I assured my
mother that the battery was not run down because it had plenty
of stuff in it. She explained to me that they did not mean the
liquid in the battery had run down but rather the charge in the
battery was run down. I was still concerned about the problem,
so I took another look at the radio and I was certain that I had
found the problem. It was the big round tuning dial on the front
with the pointing needle. It was all the way over to the left
and I knew that must mean the battery had run down. My dad had
to explain that the dial was to show the station it was tuned
to. Well as I remember we got many more hours of operation out
of the battery before it went dead. I really liked this radio
To make a very long story short, I have spent the following 70
years involved with radios and that type equipment. Though,
along the way I have improved my troubleshooting technique a
bit. I suppose it was "The Big Fight" that launched me in my
lifetime career and hobby. Also I still love ice cream�
especially the fresh peach kind.
� COPYRIGHT 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Sam F. Kennedy