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Christmas past - dial it up in Bowie


You can barely turn on the television or radio without running into some kind of holiday programming.

This isn't new. From Bing Crosby's 1930s holiday radio broadcasts to the present day's A Clay Aiken Christmas TV special, radio and TV programming this time of the year is often all about the holidays.

On Saturday, visitors to the Radio and Television Museum in Bowie can celebrate the history of Christmas radio and TV programming at "Santa's Big Broadcast." Vintage radio and television shows from the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s will be featured, some geared to children, some to adults.

"The 'Santa Broadcast' will [include] a whole range of both radio and television programs, including old shows by Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, the Lone Ranger, [as well as the kids' radio show] 'Let's Pretend,' " says Stephen Patrick, museums director for the City of Bowie Museums.

Visitors can enjoy holiday TV episodes of The Hollywood Palace from the 1960s, The Timex Show from 1957 and The Promise from 1963, as well as the TV and radio Christmas episodes of The Jack Benny Show and a host of Bing Crosby Christmas specials.

"In addition to the different programs playing, there are interactive displays for visitors," says Patrick. "Everything from a sound-effects lab to sending a wireless telegram message or listening to a crystal radio set that uses no electricity at all, other than the faint power of the radio signal itself."

The museum, which opened in 1999 in the turn-of-the-century Harmel House in Bowie, displays a huge chronological collection of artifacts, broadcast memorabilia, rare radio magazines, radios and TVs, including wireless telegraphs, crystal sets from the '20s, early TV receivers, wooden cathedrals and floor models from the '30s and '40s, transistors and more. The collection dates from the 1890s to the present.

On Saturday, in addition to the vintage programming, touring and interactive activities, visitors can hear a broadcast of an interview with two museum volunteers on XM Channel 164. The XM program will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature an interview with the museum's volunteer director and curator in between the airing of classic Christmas radio shows from the '30s, '40s and '50s.

"Santa's Big Broadcast" runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Radio and Television Museum, in Harmel House, 2608 Mitchellville Road, Bowie. Free. Call 301-390-1020 or visit www.

For more family events, see Page 40.

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