The Seven Month Itchby
look back and wonder why it took me so long to realize perfect working conditions
at a radio station probably don’t, never have and never will exist. I kept up
the quest in search of one for the better part of 40 years. All those decades
I nurtured a dream of a nice, small town, “mom and pop” type operation where all
the announcers were treated like family. Mr. and Mrs. Station Owner would take
a personal interest in each announcer and try to make life as pleasant as possible
for them. A place where coming to work each day would be a pleasure, not a dreaded
chore. How nice it would be to complete my broadcast duties and bid good day to
the smiling faces all around and have no cares or fears about my work as I enjoyed
my leisure hours. Imagine, sleeping like a baby each night instead of tossing
and turning and worrying about tomorrow. Had I found such a place I would never
have left. Even after being away from the industry for over 16 years that fantasy
still flits through my mind now and then. Oh, had it only been the way I dreamed.|
Here I was in Monroe, Louisiana working at the town’s original
radio station. They were operating just as they had for over 25 years with no
interest in trying to modernize the station. I was so happy to be gainfully employed
after losing my television job in El Dorado, Arkansas that I didn’t complain.
Well, at least not for a while. What transpired in the next few months became
a familiar pattern that kept repeating itself over and over through most of my
radio career. I tried really hard to keep a positive attitude and enjoy my work.
As time wore on it became more and more difficult.
There was so much
that could have been done to breath life into the monotonous broadcast day but
part of the problem wasn’t their fault. They were encumbered by a contract with
a radio network and a format about as exciting as listening to a ticking clock.
The one redeeming quality there was job security. No one seemed to remember anyone
ever getting fired That is a rarity in a very insecure industry.
could have fit in better if I had been one of those who could just go with the
flow and not try to find ways of improving things. That had always been one of
my faults if, indeed, that is really a fault. Even before I entered the radio
business I would always survey the way things were done and try to improve on
the efficiency of the operation.
I recall when I worked in the office
of a big machine shop where people were checking out and returning tools. Each
day it took a clerk several hours to painfully hand write document numbers. I
found a hand stamp that automatically advanced to the next higher number each
time it was used. I took over the job and completed the task in about 20 minutes.
The supervisor was not impressed. He said if we all worked that fast there would
be nothing to do for the rest of the day and some of us might be out of a job.
He took the automatic stamp away and we went back to the old method. I knew then
I was not cut out for civil service bureaucracy.
A similar situation existed
at the Monroe radio station. Things had always been done a certain way and no
one cared to experiment with new and innovative ideas. My appreciation of just
having a job began to diminish each day as I realized I was mired in a dead-end,
no win situation. Still, I suppose I would have remained there for a long time
while earning just enough to pay my child support and eke out a living. Not to
forget the many times I had to go hungry for lack of funds. Asking for a raise
was out of the question because of the humiliation I endured when I tried it back
in Texarkana. I swore I would never subject myself to that degrading situation
again. Just as I was at my lowest ebb I received some news I thought might help
me find a way to climb out of this quagmire.
learned that Monroe was getting a third radio station. It was only in the embryonic
stage but I quickly found who was behind the venture. He already owned a radio
station near the Mississippi border and wanted to try his luck in Monroe. I felt
I had nothing to lose so I called him and sat up a meeting.
his directions and waited for him in front of an old vacant office building in
West Monroe. He unlocked the door and invited me in to see where his new radio
station would be. We walked up a flight of stairs to the second floor. When he
opened the second door the smell of history permeated the air. The empty rooms
had a New Orleans French Quarters mystique about them with their high ceilings,
ornate wrought iron windows and wooden floors that creaked with every step. “I’ve
gotta get that fixed”, he said with his laugh echoing throughout the cavernous
I noticed that he kept an unlit cigar clenched between his teeth.
I offered him a light. Then it dawned on me that he had never planned to light
the cigar. It was one of his peculiar habits I was embarrassed until he threw
back his head and laughed. Laughter came easily to him. Then he showed me where
all the broadcast equipment would be placed and what each room would be used for.
He had everything planned to the last detail. I had learned earlier that in addition
to being a keen businessman he was an accomplished electronics engineer and inventor.
His absolute confidence and ability greatly impressed me but he also had a casual
air about him that put me at ease instantly. I sensed that this would be a great
man to work for.
We then discussed programming ideas. I was delighted
to hear that he had planned to have a fast paced, country music format. There
was definitely a place for that kind of station in the market because neither
of the other ones were doing it. We had a top 40 playing rock-’n-roll and another
playing Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk between network programs. I told him about
the “live auditorium” show I had been doing and how I thought it would be perfect
for a country format. As luck would have it he had heard the show and agreed.
He suggested airing it during the noon hour to catch the largest audience The
more we talked I found that we seemed to be in sync on just about all programming
When we were just about to wind up our meeting he asked, “When
can you come join our team?” I told him what salary I would need and told him
to just let me know when he wanted me to come to work. “Great!” he said, ”Now,
let’s grab some lunch. My treat”. I had been hungry for so long the invitation
was like beautiful music to my ears. I thought of how wonderful the extra income
would be. Now, maybe I could afford to eat the way normal people do. Could this
be the “mom and pop” operation I had been searching for?
The roller coaster
seemed to be headed upward again.