Radio Want-Ad Shows Plug Listeners Into Bygone Era

by Jeannie Nuss, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 7:24 am  

RUSSELLVILLE - A man wants to sell a truck, and a woman wants to buy some tomatoes.

In much of the world, they might turn to a computer to post ads online or flick through search results. But in some parts of rural America, they're just as likely to pick up the phone and call a local radio station.

Three times every weekday (and twice on Saturdays) people in western Arkansas call in to KARV's "Dial-A-Trade," an audio adaptation of the classified ads. For an hour or so, callers explain what they're looking to buy, sell or trade. Then they leave their phone numbers. On live air. For free.

Some people who live here see the program as a public service, but to outsiders, it seems more like a time capsule, a relic from an era before commerce began migrating to the Internet.

Radio want-ad programs are neither new nor unique to Arkansas. For decades, scores of similar shows across the country have filled the airwaves with callers looking to buy and sell everything from apples to ammunition.

These shows - with names like "Tradio" and "Swap Shop" - broadcast more than free bartering. They showcase a way of life that people in rural America have preserved like canned peaches. KARV's "Dial-A-Trade" first went on the air in the 1970s and hasn't changed much since then.

"We still have for sale quite a few of our laying hens," Dolly Sinor said when she called the program. She ticked off the names of a few breeds before giving listeners directions to her home, where she and her husband sell birds and eggs.

"We're the first driveway on the right," she explained.

The notion that someone would give out directions and a phone number over the air seems preposterous in other parts of the country where people lock their doors and invest in home security systems.

But in Russellville, population 28,000, it works, and for now it seems likely to stay that way.

"If they tried to take that off the air in Russellville, there would be an uprising," said Doug Krile, executive director of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association.

People like bargains, Krile says, and they like the interaction that comes with radio.



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