Friday, April 24, 2015

Adelburt From Auntie

by Pa Rock

On Christmas Day, 1924, young Adelburt (whose last name has been lost to history) received a special gift from his "Auntie" (whose entire name has been lost to history).  The present, a hardbound copy of the first in a series of new books for adventurous boys titled The Radio Boys on the Mexican Border had set Adelburt's aunt back sixty-five cents.  The gift was a first edition.

Adelburt may or may not still be around today, but if he is he is in the neighborhood of one hundred-years-old and he no longer has the book that was given to him by his beloved "Auntie" all those years ago - because I do.  It's pages have yellowed and brittled, but the inside cover still proudly bears Auntie's beautiful penmanship where she inscribed it "Adelburt from Auntie Dec. 25, 1924."

During the 1920's when book series, especially for young boys, were so popular, three different publishing companies were promoting their own versions of a series of books called "Radio Boys," each featuring adventurous lads, somewhat like the Hardy Boys, who got involved in mysteries and adventures that revolved around the new medium of radio.  Two of the series were written by a variety of individuals using a common pseudonym, but one was authored by a journalist, Gerald Breckenridge, who published under his own name.  The book that Auntie chose to give Adelburt for Christmas was the first in the series authored by Mr. Breckenridge.

I first became acquainted with this series last year when I came across the fifth volume, The Radio Boys Rescue the Lost Alaska Expedition, in a flea market.  I read the book and commented on it in this space.  The "boys" in the book were college students with quite a bit of technical knowledge and operational skills with radios.  While their adventure in Alaska was Hardy-boyish in many respects, it departed company with the boys from Bayport when the Radio Boys got into a shootout with some desperadoes in Alaska and actually killed a couple of men.  (If Frank and Joe Hardy had ever killed anyone, accidentally or even out of necessity, they would have surely had to answer to Aunt Gertrude!)

I was so impressed with that book that I started collecting the entire series - and have just recently finished reading the first in the series, Adelburt's prized copy of The Radio Boys on the Mexican Border.  In that volume the boys, who are still in high school, live on Long Island where between them they have a radio station and an airplane - two assets that come in mighty handy for adventure-prone youth.  One of their group has gone to New Mexico with his father to work on organizing some independent oil drillers, and the father is kidnapped by forces in Mexico who want to stir up conflict with the United States in an attempt to overthrow the sitting Mexican president.  The two remaining Radio Boys and one of their fathers head to New Mexico to set things aright - which they eventually do.

This volume, being the first in the series, contains a preface explaining "radio telephony" and giving instructions for installing an "amateur radio receiving telephone."  It is a good, and very simple guide, as to how radio transmissions actually work and what young readers would have to do to get connected to the fast-growing new medium.   Being able to transmit and receive messages using radio waves was the 1920's version of being "on-line."

The characters in this book are overly polite and quite respectful of their elders - and corny and standoffish where the opposite sex is concerned - and they are also brave and good-hearted.  One suspects that they are they type of young men that Auntie hoped Adelburt would adopt as role models.

Perhaps he did.  I hope that Adelburt grew into a fine man and had a few grand adventures of his own - and that he made Auntie very proud!

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