If you listen to local radio stations in most rural parts of America, you might hear a host joking with a caller looking for help installing an oil pump on a Chevy engine. Another caller might try to exchange a few bales of hay for a wheelchair lift. Maybe even a cat burial plot.
These are ‘traditional’ programs (a combo of ‘commerce’ and ‘radio’), where people buy, sell and exchange goods or services – and through these shows and transactions, they give small glimpses into their lives.
In the age of sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, tradio—also called “barter shops,” “auction barns,” and “supertrading posts”—add an incredibly personal touch to offerings of goods and services way back in the days of bartering and solidifying community ties.
“In tradio, it’s one step closer to building a trusting relationship,” said Ethan Moore, 39, a traditional host of WSKV in Stanton, Kentucky, who remembers listening to a traditional program when his family moved to eastern Kentucky in 1992. “It gives you an extra layer of comfort to be able to buy into individuals.”
The mechanics of the Tradio software are simple: people connect to a good or service to sell, exchange, or find; Tradio DJ lets them perform; And in voices often tinged with regional accents, they describe their items and provide a phone number or pickup address to discuss in more detail with any listeners who might be interested.
Birthday announcements, prayer requests, yard sale notices, and the date and time of upcoming Kiwanis Club pancake breakfasts are also being dialed in, adding to the communities profile.
“It’s a little dated when you stop and think about it,” said Mark Leffler, WYXI’s general manager in Athens, Tennessee, and host of its mall. “But this is how communities are built, and this is how you help each other.”
Many of the traditions have been around for decades, with some dating back to the 1930s. The success of these programs is linked to several factors, including the attractive hosts people can meet, who live and work at the local grocery store, and the eternal pull of hearing (and being heard) by your neighbors on the radio.
In Athens, for example, Mr. Lefler, 72, or “Cousin Mark” as he is known locally, has for decades treated his listeners like family, referring to them as cousins, aunts or uncles, depending on their age. “I have thousands and thousands of radio cousins!” He said.
And tradio provides an extra layer of confidence and comfort than posting in the ether on the Internet, where scams, dead ends, and ghosting can be all too common.
“We’re an agrarian society, and these kids, as they start to grow up, know that’s how grandpa got rid of things, or that’s how grandpa found what he needed when he was in trouble and couldn’t get his hands,” said Deb Jackson, host of the website. commercial in Effingham, Illinois, “It’s Elsewhere”.
“It’s a great way to meet new friends, and there’s always a deal to be had,” said Ralph Rockwell, 71, a longtime traditional listener from Wolcott, Vt. “It bothers me to pay the list price for anything. I’m always looking for a bargain, what I call a diamond in the rough.” “.
The family-friendly nature of these broadcasts also means they are places where people can come, with perhaps few other resources, in a time of crisis.
“Maybe their house caught fire and they lost everything, and we’re stopping there,” said Mr. Lefler, who says heartbreaking calls for catastrophic loss come several times a year. “We give them as much airtime as possible. We say, ‘Okay, courier family. It’s time to get a little cash out of your wallet or dig into your closet. How about some pots and pans for these guys? “
Many of the items sought and sold on Tradio are related to the seasons. Mr. Moore said that if you don’t know when a post-trading episode aired, it would be easy to find out by the items.
Early fall in eastern Tennessee brings glass jars and a large supply of produce for the “canning” (canning) season; Spring is full of requests for help cleaning up the rows of grass fences and advertisements for mowing Kentucky lawns; And in Indiana, campers show up more frequently during the middle of summer. Microwave ovens and other small appliances, along with auto parts, furniture, firewood, and clothing, are frequent flyers throughout the year at the shows.
Each program has its own rules about what can and cannot be sold. Some allow the sale of firearms, but not alcohol and water. Others keep a close eye on what kind of creatures they can be summoned. In Illinois, when the cats’ heads fall in the winter, kittens frequently match with local pens to become farm cats, while the puppies see the biggest action at the start of summer.
“Whether you’re from here and you want to listen to it to see the actual trade value, or whether you’re intrigued, ‘Wow, people, they really want to trade two rabbits for a gun,’ the whole barter system is still a thing,” Mr. Moore said.
Occasionally, callers make contact with things off the wall. Burial plots were up for grabs at KOFO in Ottawa, Kan. In Monticello, Indiana, Jamie Vale and Brandi Paige, sisters and hosts of Super Trading Post, remember their father buying a parrot, which turned out to be more hassle than it was worth.
“I hated men,” said Ms. Vale. “My dad would let it out and might bite his ears. Terrible mascot for the radio station.”
Tradio also seems to appeal to young people. Some stations are using new tools to capture a listening audience, and millennials are increasingly looking for affordable (and plentiful) living quarters in Central America. Mr. Moore says roughly 110 to 130 people participate daily via tradio, using calls and texts as a way to field requests with each episode being put on Apple’s podcast. He credits the region’s thriving rock climbing community as fueling the next generation of traditional callers and listeners.
“We see people using imitations who don’t necessarily speak like the area, so you know right away they’re not from here, which was bad, because they were getting ready to prank you,” Moore said, noting that his show was pranked by “The Howard Stern Show.” on SiriusXM.
However, the primary listener population tends to be older, and the hosts are sensitive to how important their programming is to individuals who may feel lonely and isolated as they age.
“For some of these people, this is more than just buying and selling something,” said Mr. Moore. “This is the community they get into, this is how they talk to someone, and this is how people connect and talk to them.”
Mike Henderson, 69, is a frequent trader’s swap in Newta, Tennessee, who has listened to WYXI for 30 years. He said it all comes down to the connections he builds.
“There are a lot of characters that go into the show. You get a mental picture of what they look like, and you form opinions about aspects of people,” he said. “It’s a human interest show, really.”
Sound produced Sarah Diamond.