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May 10, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
If I had to pick 10 possessions to represent my childhood, one of them would be my Fisher Price radio. I still remember picking it out at the toy store when I was 4. The blue and white radio was small enough to hide under my pillow. When I was supposed to be sleeping, I would turn the volume low and keep my hand on the dial, ready to shut it off if my parents walked by.
Sometimes I fell asleep with it still on. That radio was my introduction to a world larger than my immediate surroundings. I listened to Chicago Bulls games, I heard new music, I learned from the news. I became so familiar with the analog dial that, from muscle memory, I could land perfectly on nearly any station with one careful turn while the radio remained hidden under my pillow.
Millions of people share a similar experience with radio. The Internet might be more people’s primary window now, but I don’t expect many people to hold on to their first computer like I held on to my first radio. The intimacy of radio is hard to reproduce. Hearing a human voice invites an emotional connection. If a hometown station, that voice is often a neighbor.
David Lile is your neighbor (Page 8). After 15 years on KFRU/1400 AM, Columbia radio (and mornings) would be different without him. The sun rises, the birds sing, and Lile comes on the air. He doesn’t stir up controversy. He doesn’t try to shock and awe you into staying tuned to his channel. Instead, he strives to be consistently conversational — in other words, a good neighbor.
Radio can be a window to the world. It also can be a window into a smaller community. In Lile’s case, that community is yours.