The death of a storyteller

After my parents split up, we moved to my grandmother’s house for about a month. It was winter, so Grandma and Grandad were in Texas; they had a condo on South Padre Island at the time and went down there every winter.

Living there, the rules were different from when we visited. The room I shared with my sister had a beautiful ivory-colored antique phone with little flowers painted on it — very Victorian in appearance. I never would have touched it before, but since we lived there, I picked up the receiver and was pleasantly surprised that it worked. (I wanted to answer calls to the house on that phone, but it was clear across the room on the other side of the bed and there was always a more convenient phone.)

There also was a large stereo in the livingroom. The stereo was part of a beautiful wood cabinet — you had to raise the top to play records or eight-track tapes or tune the radio, and speakers were built in. It was never used. But when we lived there, Mom turned it on. It was fantastic. I remember hearing country staples of the early ’80s on that stereo, local newscasts and Paul Harvey.

About five years later, when we had moved farther from Grandma’s house and the TV had stopped working (not to be replaced), Mom brought home a stereo that she’d gotten on sale at work. It had a record player, too, and two tape decks, and lots of buttons to adjust sound. The stereo or another radio in the house were almost always on. The local station played country music. Mom’s favorite station out of Kansas City played “oldies” — mostly from the ’50s. Both stations, and nearly every other one that could be picked up, played Paul Harvey.

Through middle school, moves and high school, Paul Harvey was a staple. It was not uncommon for us to stop to listen to his “Rest of the Story” during homework or on weekends as a way to get out of, or at last pause, housework. In college, I would sometimes catch one of his broadcasts on trips home or to Grandma’s. I don’t remember picking up on his conservatism, perhaps because in rural Missouri I was already surrounded by it. His broadcasts were story-time. His voice was distinct and comforting. His intriguing tales gave us something to talk about or further examine later.

Paul Harvey, 90, died Sunday Saturday. I haven’t listened to his broadcast in some time — the last time, I think Paul Harvey Jr. was filling in for him. I’ve found other storytellers and resources. But this week, Harvey’s website is featuring a tribute to the original storyteller.