with Marion Peterson

David and Linda Breninger

David and Linda Breninger's picture

The Breninger's have kept the golden age of broadcasting alive across the Sierra foothills and the expansive Sacramento valley for 22 years and over 860 individual broadcasts of Old Radio Theater. Since its inception in October, 1985, their show has been an all volunteer effort with countless thousands of hours in time donated to assure a quality broadcast for their listeners' pleasure.

Every show draws directly from the couple's vast personal audio archives of old radio programs that span from the late 1920s to early 1960s. Each show features vintage radio programs with commentary by the couple mixed with music from the big band era. Their collection of radio recordings range from drama, comedy, western, suspense, soap opera to news of the day.

The Breninger's take pride in producing and airing on Old Radio Theater special tributes to the stars and performers of more than half-century ago. They regularly recount important historic events from their radio archives that serve as an oral history of our nation's past.

This is particularly true with the couple's annual playing of the 1946 NBC radio network's Christmas Day broadcast of the Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir that aired live to the nation from the stage of the Del Oro Theater from downtown Grass Valley. President Franklin Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats," Herb Morrison's description of the 1937 "Hindenburg Disaster", and Edward R. Murrow's 'This is London' broadcasts of World War II are but just a few examples of historic documentaries that listeners have heard over the years on Old Radio Theater.

"We enjoy airing these vintage broadcasts for senior citizens because they grew up listening to these shows and remember them fondly," said Linda. "All we have to do is play the creaking door from "Inner Sanctum" and they recognize it immediately."

Linda adds, "listeners of all ages seem to enjoy our show. I attribute this to the fact that radio had spectacular sound effects artists who livened up every performance and who were also the unsung heroes of that era." She cites an example, "whenever you hear Fibber McGee open his hall closet door you know instantly from the sound effects that clutter is tumbling out even though it is really your imagination that creates the visual impression of the event because of the sound heard over the airwaves."

"Over the years", David said, "we have developed a strong and loyal following of listeners who are blind or have low vision. They have a special appreciation for quality audio entertainment. We especially appreciate hearing from these listeners and in filling their personal program requests."

The couple produces their weekly show from a recording studio they built in their Roseville home. The shows are transcribed on cassette tape and hand-delivered to KVMR for prime time airing. "The beauty of recording at home," said David, "is that it gives us great flexibility to research, edit and produce a high caliber program which KVMR listeners have long come to expect these past three decades every time they tune-in Old Radio Theater".

David has a great appreciation for quality radio programming. He grew up listening to radio in Phoenix in the 1950s (which is at the end of radio's 'golden days'). He has been collecting vintage radio shows since 1959. Through the decades he has bought hundreds of original radio show transcriptions, 78-rpm and vinyl radio recordings, as well as many on audio tape. He has compiled an extensive book collection that the couple depends upon when researching the vintage shows.

In 1969, David began airing the old shows on KQED San Francisco and in the 1970s on KFMR Fremont. The shows were heard on KTOB Petaluma and KSRO Santa Rosa in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Old Radio Theater, as listeners have known it these past three decades, began its continuous series in the fall of 1985.

David recalls while serving as Grass Valley's first city administrator, which he held for 8 years starting in early 1984, he was asked quite frequently to speak about city and public affairs on KNCO. The station manager became aware of David's avocation with old time radio shows. In mid-October, 1985, the station found itself with a need to fill a few late night hours with programming. So, David was asked to "fill in." He did.

The result: Old Radio Theater went on the air October 26, 1985, as a two-hour Halloween style chiller with programs from the 1940s. He aired: "Escape," "The Whistler," "Suspense," and "Inner Sanctum." The show was a success and has endured ever since. In April, 1988, Linda joined to co-host the show.

On August 7, 1989 Old Radio Theater moved to KVMR. In the year 2000, the format changed from two to one hour of air time.

Linda's fondness for radio centers on the fact that while she was growing up her family lived where there was only radio reception. For her, in the tiny farming and oil community of San Ardo, California (20 miles south of Kings City in southern Monterey County), radio was the only source of news and entertainment for the family. "I grew up on radio," she said. "A lot of the old shows have wonderful and pleasant childhood memories for me. I liked "Tarzan" for its adventure and "One Man's Family" because it was so caring."

The Breningers are a very busy couple. They frequently speak to civic and community organizations on the history of the golden days of radio.

In the early-1990s they were asked by Sierra Community College to lecture on the history of radio for the national Elderhostel Program. Now, ten times a year they host their seminar called "Old Radio Programs Never Die" that is held at the historic National Hotel, Nevada City.

David has 40 years in local government administration. Since 1992, he has served as general manager of the Placer County Water Agency. He is on the board of directors of both the Association of California Water Agencies and the National Water Resources Association. He is on the Board of Directors of Recreational Boaters of California. He is a two term past president of the Arts Council of Placer County and previously served on the board of directors of Music In the Mountains in the mid-1980s. David is a 34 year active Rotarian and a member of the Auburn Rotary Club.

Linda served 34 years in school administration prior to her retirement. She served for 7 years as Principal of Glen Edwards Middle School in Lincoln, California. Previous to that she was Principal for 12 years of Lyman Gilmore Middle School in Grass Valley. Linda now volunteers with the Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy program as a volunteer Community Chaplain. She is a 27 year active member of Soroptimist International with current membership with Soroptimist International of Roseville.

The couple is active in their church, St. John's Lutheran Church in downtown Sacramento. Both enjoy traveling and recreational boating in the California Delta.

The Breningers are always pleased to hear from their listeners and to fill their requests. Drop them a line, care of KVMR... and tune in to

OLD RADIO THEATER on alternating Sunday evenings, 9:00 - 10:00 PM