Monday, August 07, 2017

How I Stopped Time Getting Donuts

     It was 1977.  I was young, foolish and nearly broke.

     ...So, I'm working at a lousy part-time medium-market radio job after having dropped out of college and spending a summer working for The Worst Consulting Engineer In The U.S. (he's out of the biz by request now, so no worry), and my part-time hours include the Sunday Morning shift. It's wintertime, cold and dark. There's a place a half-mile down the road that starts turning out hot, fresh, deep-fried donuts -- and super-cheap donut holes by the bag! -- at 0630 or earlier.  They're best eaten fresh; let them cool down and they're kinda greasy lumps. Alas, the AM was a daytimer and not due on the air for another hour or more. There's no one to make a donut run! So I lace up a taped half-hour *paid* religious show on the deck in the production room where we played every other taped show on Sunday, lock the place up, speed down the road to the donut place with the radio blaring my station, get my treat, hop back in the car and halfway back to the station, the radio says, "...and in thoossse daaayyyssszzzzz bloooooooop........" and falls silent. I floor the accelerator.

      Hit the door running and see that the takeup reel had fallen off, there's tape all over the floor, the Maggie 1022 deck had (for some reason) kept running, and it all probably would have been okay, except the tape had started looping, tied a knot, built up and dragged the capstan motor to a stop. Hastily I hit Stop, pull it all clear, rip the tape (stretches into a nasty thread, of course), grab an empty takeup reel and set it to playing again -- all on the air.

      The conversation with the Operations Director on Monday was...epic. It did *not* include the word "donuts." There was no way I was going to admit to having left the building, a total no-no in 1977. Instead, I claimed to have been in the washroom, which (conveniently!), did not have an air monitor speaker for the FM. Somehow, I didn't get fired, and hung on long enough for my wisdom teeth to come in (do NOT do Beautiful Music hopped up on Anacin and Dr. Pepper, kids!) and a full-time job to open up at a "coffeepot" AMer closer to where I was living.

      But the levels were right all through that. Except when they weren't there at all.  Because that's just what you do.

12 comments:

rickn8or said...

Glad to see you waited for the Statute of Limitations to run out before making your public confession. :)

Merle Morrison said...

yep, never confess while you can still be prosecuted...... :)

Merle

Anonymous said...

Hi. Long time lurker, first time commenter. If I may ask, what is a Coffepot AMer?
Stay safe.

RandyGC said...

Heh, memories.

I was working a Midwest AM (sunrise-sunset)/FM (simulcast until the sun went down) station during the same time period.

We had some extra long playing pieces qued up in case of an extended nature call after the office staff had left for the day. (which, being in high school at the time was my usual shift along with Sunday morning sign on shift).

Fortunately, my biggest on air issue (that anyone heard or called the station about) was when I reached for a 45 out of the ready bin and pulled an extra one out that dropped right on the power switch for the active turntable. Crystal ended up singing "don't it make my brown eyes bluuuuuuuu....."

Roberta X said...

Anon 6:15, that's some real old-time radio slang: a "coffeepot" AM is a 250 Watt daytime-only station (of which there are few left), where the station coffeepot is likely to be using more power than their transmitter. The typical county seat AM, that ran 1000 W day and 250 W night was also sometimes referred to as a "coffeepot." Most of those stations are now a thousand Watts or more 24/7 -- or gone.

In a small town with the once-usual array of businesses -- a grocer or two, a Farm Bureau Co-Op, an office supply store servbing (mostly) a couple-three small factories, a bank, a savings & loan (remember them?) and a couple of car dealerships, drugstore, movie theatre, and so on -- a little locally-owned AM like that might have as many as ten or twelve fulltime employees and a handful of part-timers. It could make decent money for the owner/GM, put the GM in a new Cadillac or Lincoln every year, and provide an adequate living to their staff, who would be largely entry-level folks working their way up. The programming was strongly local and included a lot of high school sports coverage. That kind of radio is all but gone now. So are most of the factories, all of the savings and loans, and so on....

rickn8or said...

Roberta, you've just described the hometown radio station of my youth. (KDRS, 1490)

Rick T said...

In 1971 Concord HS started WIQH 88.3 as a 10W non-commercial station, and because the transmitter sat in the studio to be a DJ you had to get a 3rd Class Radiotelephone license (with Broadcast endorsement). We had 2 turntables, a cart machine and our pride and joy, a 2 channel Revox tape deck. I was on a bathroom run playing someone on the Revox when the tape got wound on the capstan and locked up. I ran back, threw Iron Butterfly on table #1 and started in with the single-edge razor clear the deck.

Now, the tape that got shortened was one of our main music sources in those days because a new FM station in Boston was running 100% automated at the time. Station IDs at 0 and 30, Public Service at 10 minutes past and the rest was current rock allowed to play as full tracks with a clean break before the next selection. All with no announcers.

Good times. WIQH is still on the air too.

Zendo Deb said...

Behold the power of donuts

CGHill said...

If I remember correctly, there were six frequencies reserved for those 1000-watt day/250-watt night nonblowtorches: 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, 1490. Most of them do seem to have grown to 1000 watts at night.

Anonymous said...

Heh- This brought back a great memory...

Back in the late 70's, I worked a part time job at the college I was attending. My girlfriend was a DJ at the college radio station that was directly above my office and accessed by a little used 2 story elevator. I would take the elevator up to the radio station, she would put on Derek and the Domino's "Layla", and we would then lock the elevator between floors and make out for the whole glorious 7 minutes!

Antibubba said...

Here is one of them:

http://www.kvgcradio.com/

440 watts in the daytime, 250 at night. I've never heard the FM, and the AM disappears within 2 miles of town limits (mountains get in the way), but you can stream it anytime.

Jim said...

Bobbi --

Thanks for the memories. My next blunder in a coffee-pot studio won't be my first. Let us all celebrate the eight-pot Gates.

Jim (proprietor of the almost moribund Travis McGee Reader.")