I awakened quite early in the wee hours of the morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got out of bed and started writing this post. The mind was active recalling the minutia of a typical shift at WJAG-AM radio many years ago. I’m certain the memories were triggered yesterday after I rediscovered some artifacts that I retained after retirement.
There were scripts for documentaries and special presentations that I wrote and produced. The storage tote also contained five carts (tape cartridges used for audio production and airplay) that contained audio elements of some of my work. I had picked one of them up to study it. It was then, the memories began to seep into my consciousness. The reminiscing was mostly about the countless people–coworkers and audience members–who surrounded me during my broadcasting career.
I’m one of those people who have worked their childhood dream occupation. I remember being fascinated by the Zenith portable radio in the kitchen. I was mesmerized by the voices that came out of it. As I remember it, while eating a bowl of “Jets” cereal, I announced to my parents that I wanted to be one of the voices inside radios. I don’t recall what their reactions were or how they responded. I only remember six-year-old, first grader me, voicing the original intent.
There were only subtle reminders during the rest of childhood about the promise, but there were periodic flashbacks sometimes while engaged in boyhood daydreaming. By the time I reached the age of ten, dad began to realize that I had remained serious about becoming a voice inside of radios. He nudged me along by giving me a rudimentary reel to reel tape recorder for Christmas. He also took note as to how much I idolized news anchor Walter Cronkite on CBS-TV. My other heroes were David Brinkley and Chet Huntley on the “Huntley-Brinkley Evening News” on NBC-TV. Of course, I couldn’t get enough radio listening into the day. Mom and dad gifted me a small Sears “Silvertone” battery-powered radio as a twelfth birthday present. That radio’s switches wore out after a few years.
In college, I majored in Communication Arts with an initial minor in political science. The instructors encouraged our creativity and skills to a degree I had previously never imagined. After a two semester stint on the college television station as news anchor, I realized that radio was the direction I really loved. The professor in charge of the campus radio station brought me on staff and assigned me the late night progressive rock show. It felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. The adminstrative staff and my fellow DJs further fueled and encouraged my ambition. My dreams had come full circle.
At every station that employed me, the staffers, with the exception of one narcissitic boss, worked in concert with one another. The comradery was palpable both on air and off duty.
While still holding the cart in my hands, I recalled the traffic managers who scheduled commercials, public service announcements, and station promos. They were real champions who had to balance the demands of the sales department with the real world of balancing commercial time with program time. I probably could never be so patient as traffic managers. There were many evenings during holiday seasons they had to stay late in order to update the next day’s program log (schedule).
Just remembering the faces of the staffers from various stations makes me smile. There are too many to mention in a short blog post, but a few were stand outs. My then best friend Mark was the program director (my immediate supervisor) at WJAG, Inc. At another station, my roommate and close friend, Doug was the technical engineer. We spent hours upon hours grousing and discussing our jobs. The aspect I remember most, is that we were all head over heels in love with our work.
The best part of associating with so many good radio people, is that I became a more balanced individual. The work requires plenty of focus and sometimes becomes hectic; but it demands teamwork. Good team members and comradery with them are life-altering. Everyone brings out the best of everyone else. I was extremely fortunate; for that I’m thankful.
Saturday, I discuss what kept me awake this morning.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Hindi Cinema film actor, Ranbir Kapoor. “I believe that working with good people matters because then the work environment is good. If there is a sense of respect and belief among the people you work with, that is when good work is done.”
I can’t think of many better jobs. My favorite part was working production making promos and PSAs. The station I was at still used carts when I came on board. Going from magnetic tape to minidisc (later computers) was a huge leap because of consistency in sound quality, cueing, and ability to edit.
We were magnetic tape for many years, the newsroom used minidisc briefly then went back to tape. The change to computer server automation was abrupt. It was a paradigm shift I finally grew to enjoy.
Such a heartfelt memoir down the memory lane. Also i thank you as you mentioned the word Hindi cinema than Bollywood, Ranbir is a brilliant actor but just not intently focused.
I enjoyed reading this. Please keep waking up in the wee hours 🙂
Yes, there is a difference between Bollywood and other areas of Indian film work.
It must be very satisfying to have spent your career in the line of work you envisioned as a child.
Satisfying, yes. Sometimes I ponder about how it all came to fit together.
It’s lovely to hear how happy and fulfilled you felt in your work. When I was a kid, radio stations were magical and absorbing. As a listener, we looked forward to our favourite shows and presenters. The only thing that comes close now for me is listening to Iggy Pop’s show on BBC radio 6. That man soothes my soul. Imagine how many people over your career you have affected and uplifted out there…❤️
Thank you for your kind comments.
I still have some old VHS copies of commercials I wrote and produced 20+ years ago as an advertising agency puppy. So many fond memories with what have become my core friend group all these years later. (The job didn’t last long; the relationships forged in a toxic work environment did!) I wonder about converting them but always seem to push it off to “someday…” Love your reflective posts about your career as it affords an interesting peek at how radio works! I’ve seen it recently (post-digital), but never back then and it must have been AMAZING.
WJAG has a long history and tradition. It was among the first dozen commercial radio stations in the nation. That fact affected company culture and the importance of archiving noteworthy events. There is a sizeable library of 16-inch record platters that were cut in studio pre-dating magnetic audio tape. To listen to them and digitize them required a jumbo-size turntable capable of playing 78 rpm. Many of the records played from label towards the outside edge. There are plenty of other early radio artifacts I used to marvel at. Oops, here I go reminiscing again. 🙂
Carts. I love the who process of making spots and dubbing them — from reels — to carts. Typing the labels, adding the color-coding dots. I loved the whole process. And I miss it. Standing in front of a computer screen — making mp3s — just isn’t the same.
Yes. The actual, physical product in analog was satisfying.