The history of WRVO's flagship old time radio program 'Tuned to Yesterday'

Oct 14, 2016

Decades ago, WRVO began broadcasting old time radio with a small collection comprising twenty reel to reel tapes. Programs like The Whistler, The Jack Benny Show, Fibber McGee and Molly, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Gunsmoke.  Today the collection includes nearly 5,000 reels and well over 16,000 broadcasts.

In 1970, Ellen Robinson, an old time radio enthusiast, joined several clubs that circulated classic radio shows on reel to reel. At that time, she offered to allow WRVO to make copies, and our collection grew. By the 1990s WRVO possessed approximately 7,500 programs.

This bolstering of our audio archive reached an unprecedented level when WRVO listener Ted Nettleton donated his collection of over 1,000 tapes – everything from comedy and mystery classics to operas and old movie sound tracks (and we mean the entire tracks!). Within these two collections are thousands of well known programs and hundreds of rarities including broadcasts of Kate Smith, RCA’s Magic Key, and a detective show unearthed for the first time in 50 years, The Affairs of Peter Salem.  In 2008 Ron Zolweg donated another 900 tapes that helped to fill gaps in the WRVO library.  Old time radio fans Ed Clute and Art Pierce helped develop our collection as well.

The Zolweg collection, and those donated by Ellen Robinson and Ted Nettleton, are meticulously catalogued.  Those catalogs provide the comprehensive information heard during the on air introduction of each program.  The entire collection has been named in memory of Ellen Robinson.  Without her early assistance and the eventual donation to WRVO of her entire, extraordinary collection, Tuned to Yesterday would not be possible.

Tuned to Yesterday now airs at the same time, 10 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week.  WRVO also presents two hours of old time radio on WRVO-Remix, from 8 - 10 p.m.