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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Radio-on July 4th-1976-Did it Start Here for Me?

This is a short "chapter" I wrote a long time ago, included with nearly 20 others about how radio has been part of my life for so long. I move it to this blog so it can be shared on this July 4th, 2021, now 45 years later!  Some spacing and "appearance" didn't translate in the cut and paste, but I'm not going to try to correct it here.

CKJD Radio

1976 was an exciting year in the united states. It had been anticipated in our country with everything from peanut butter jars, to dog leashes, to the packaging of your favorite cereal decorated in red, white, and blue. Sometimes, that decoration was not in the best of taste (pun intended.). This drove my mother crazy. You have to understand, she was a former teacher, and very serious about history. She had written history for the State of Michigan, been consultant and researcher for many projects involving history and was not enthusiastic over the commercialization of our nation's 200th birthday. She despised the fact that everyone saw dollar signs in it, and the actual history of it was being overlooked in favor of the almighty dollar. Looking back on the July 4th, 1976 holiday, now, however... I can see how one weekend, one small event can change a life. And, it may have.

Being the patriotic American family we were, July 4th weekend meant vacation! This one would be different, however in one way, which none of our family of 4 knew when we left for our camping holiday. Well, especially for me, I should say.

We had a small tent-camper, not the “pop-up” style but something a little different, (we, after all were a little different) called the “Nimrod Safari.” it afforded sleeping for four people, an aisle down the middle of the tent, and gear storage under the upper (almost) double bed. That camper took us everywhere. We went to the Bay of Fundy 1400 miles up into Canada, we went through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and so many other places in my youth, and it had it's war-wounds including a hole in the canvas roof (seen as the dark spot in the picture below) burned from a hot light bulb... and on July 4th, 1976, the camper and the family together was parked at a campground in Sarnia, Ontario. Yes, we left the country for the country's 200th birthday. Mom was pleased, Im sure.

This was in my young radio geek years, so I was traveling with a couple of small, power-less radios, a crystal radio and a “pen” radio, the kind that make sound from just the signal in the air, and I grounded them to the corner stake of the tent. In Sarnia, it worked very well on at least a couple different stations' frequencies.

At some point in our stay, my father had gone to the local tourist literature stand, and found that CKJD had brochures, and offered tours. However, as the story is told to me, when he called, they claimed they no longer did tours. I'm told that Reg (my Father)  pushed politely, explained his boy was really into “radio” and, they gave in. I had no idea this was where we were going until we were in the car. We went to the studios, and their program director, Chuck Ingram greeted us and showed us the CKJD. He gave me a piece of the news wire of the day, and pointed out the announcer in the booth, showed us a wall of electronics and mechanical equipment, which I really didn't understand then, but now know it was their automation system. I was
so excited about that visit...and never forgot it.

I kept that newswire piece a very long time in a bottom drawer, now long-gone. The automation system they had was huge, and took up a whole wall in one room, and was filled with tape carts and open reels, but very impressive for the day. I'm not sure that my parents knew I'd ever get into radio as an announcer, let alone an owner, but something told them that they should get me inside a station on a tour. Sometimes parents must just know when something is right to do, and I'm sure they did. To this day, I'll never forget that experience, and it's a story I love to tell. If you're reading this and you're a parent, please don't hesitate to get your kids exposed to many different things in which they show interest as a youngster.

Whether that first visit into the world of radio (broadcasting) would be considered a blessing, or a life-sentence depends on how you view the world I guess...and for me, it could depend on what day you ask...but the biggest part of me will always be grateful.

Post-writing notes:

I finally found one of the radios like the "pen" in the picture and bought it. Friend Glen Rairigh of Americana Auctions is correct...eventually we buy back our favorite childhood things!  Also, to the best of my knowledge, CKJD disappeared qutie a few years ago after a call letter change, when Canada moved toward more FM and less AM.  But it exists here and in my memory of the July 4th weekend of 1976!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

32 years in Broadcasting- "My How Things Have Changed!"

 (From writing I did a few years back, pictures had to be cut and pasted so not the best resolution)

On September 15, 1988, I entered WBCK radio for the first time; to learn Sunday morning operation of the radio console and be able to have my voice on the air a few times each hour introducing programming, and reading weather, maybe gathering some news.  

Back then, which is not even a half of a lifetime ago, our programming was called “full service.” It meant the station had news, sports, music, and live personalities bringing you some insight, some chuckles, or, some  words of wisdom which the audience takes as being more important from you than if it was heard on the street, because it was heard “on the radio.”   To bring that programming to you, there were things you won't see in today's broadcasting world.  Walls of cartridge tapes containing songs that played in endless loops.  There were rules  of how they played, too:  After you play one from the stack, turn it over, until they ALL are, (turned)  then flip 'em all back up! That was usually a weekender's job, but we'd cheat, of course and pick our favorites from the middle of the stack, or wherever they located.   In other parts of the room were found rotating stacks of the same kind of tapes containing station commercials and public service announcements, analog meters that never stopped moving...cassette tapes...and even albums!  The walls had cork glued up on them over the original white 12” acoustic tiles, and in the equipment rack behind the control board there was even a patch-bay which completed the landline phone circuit from a local church to the studios for a Sunday morning broadcast. The control board was big, long, with huge black control knobs,  and when you sat at it, you knew you were staring at the heart of the station. 

 It was a real STUDIO, and felt and looked to me like what every listener thought it should, on the rare chance they got to visit and see their local radio personality. It just had that “right” feel to a building that knows it's purpose.   In the 1980's, radio studios really hadn't come a long way since, say, the 1940's versions, except that the on-air announcer was running his own control board, without an engineer doing the audio mixing.  CD's were new to radio in the late 80's, and some programs were played from them for daily broadcast, but it wasn't unusual to see reel-to-reel tape decks in racks, playing half-hour shows, too. 

The station was mine on Sunday mornings, and after the news-calls to local authorities, I could wander the station room to room to peek, poke, and learn all I could learn, and yes, I did.  I saw the forms that were used to write commercials for proper length, read miles of  news copy written by the pros, and yes, I read things on people's desks behind unlocked and open doors. Never did I use this information for the “bad” but rather to learn more about what happens during the week at the station. I wasn't really sure how I'd ever put this information to use, but even back then, it seemed important to know more than just what was going on in the booth. 

By the 1990's, not much had changed. By the time the radio became my home on AM 970, studios still used tape cartridges, but the control board was a bit more “modern” with slide controls. There was still a studio turntable, but most of the equipment was generally the same. The neat part for me was because this was a night job, I had the same luxury I enjoyed back on Sunday mornings: reading forms, memos, and other papers left in view, plus wandering the station to observe the types of equipment used in the transmitter room, newsroom, and other areas.  Computers were only being used in offices back then to track payroll, print documents and conduct business. The average person was not involved in “I-T” or any kind of computer use. Fax was still the leader in business document communications, and you had a "fax room" for it because it was used so much!  I can recall proudly faxing in assignments to my college professor from WKHM on days that attendance in college seemed “optional.” 

AM 970 was my stomping grounds for real fulltime radio. I had around two or so years of nights along with fill-ins for our midday host Tom Krawzyck, and sometimes afternoons for Chris Kelley or Ken Friend. I learned so much, and it was during this time that I started forming my ideal path on which I thought radio would eventually lead me.  Somehow we never get the full picture when we're in the early stages of a career of what may come to us along the way, but if you work hard, and let things happen...they do.  I'm afraid that my faith in this kind of path for newcomers to broadcasting  is weaker today as I see less interest in the craft,  and less willingness to pay one's dues to any career.  It seems at least in this nation that we're more into “give me, I deserve it” than, “reward me for work well done"....but, I digress. 

While I held the job in Jackson, I applied to a station in Lansing I very much admired, and listened-to!  A well known country station, WITL's call letters stood for quality in country music, in radio, and in everything they did.  If you became part of of that team, you were among the BEST.  I sent a resume and tape, met their Program Director, and landed a regular Saturday night a studio with technology better than that of WKHM... 

Up the road a few miles, (33 or so) in Lansing, the Program Director at WITL, the late Jay J. McCrae had brought computers into his studios.  Not to playback audio, but to replace all the paper cards and notebooks of PSA's, Liners, and things the announcer would read, so common in most studios.  These are the things announcers read between songs.  His computers at that time scared the hell out of me! This was the early days of  Microsoft Windows, and a person with no computer skills could easily lose  the important on-screen information!  Even the part-timers with weekend shows at WITL read information from those computers, and it was also there that  I was introduced to the 'CD cart deck” which let us deliver CD quality sound on FM without the announcers' assumingly grubby fingers ever touching the actual CD! How cool it was to be around this technology on the weekend after a week of nights on AM 970! I'd never have guessed back then that in my future,  studios would be completely run by computers, and so much more flexible in what we can do with them! 

Today, my ideal studio is a mix of analog audio and digital automation. I think a studio should make you feel “radio” when you walk in. There has to be some kind of “feel” to the studio that makes those who work in it, and guests visiting it feel like they're at a real radio station not just a small studio which is part of corporate America.  WION's studios, for instance, utilize refurbished analog control boards, attached to computers with the latest in digital audio automation and recording. The rooms don't feel sterile, they feel 


It may be only my perception of radio having spent nearly the last 3 decades in the business, but, I believe that the energy and thoughts that transpire in the studio translate to the listener at a level much higher than just duplicating the content spoken or played by the announcer. If, for example, the studio is sterile looking and has that look of a “Bones” episode on TV, how can the people working in it feel like they're communicating through a warm medium to people in homes, offices, cars, or waiting rooms?  Radio is a warm medium, and to me, it starts with the studios making the talent comfortable. That includes guests and hosts, both.   WION has a round table in the studio, which, at times comes to life with many local guests, and mirrors the one we had at WKHM many years earlier.  I have to admit, I'd not really thought about the similarity of the two studios in that respect, until now.


Along my path in radio through quite a few stations,  most of the technology remained unchanged overall, and computers didn't seem needed.  We'd already introduced computer playback of our content on WLKI in the 90's, but still had announcers there 24/7.  It seemed odd at first to not have tapes and CD's,  and I can still remember the first meeting when we were introduced to “The Saw” (Software Audio Workshop), and eventually “Cool Edit.”  Yes, we all wondered if the computer was there to replace us, but the station continued live 24/7 for many years, until sold, when the new owner made massive cuts and instituted more multitasking from  those remaining, with the work of “announcing” falling to more voice-tracking recorded on computer servers. 

Rewind, however to a few years after computers entered the studio at WLKI.  That's when I became the Operations Manager of station WEAX at Tri-State University. Here, they had the worst technology you could imagine..a multi-disc CD player plugged into a board, and left unattended. A jukebox.  Totally illegal. No legal ID's, nobody on transmitter control, and later, when taking over as Ops. Manager, I found they had not even kept a public file....but again, I digress.  I got them into computer automation, found an alumnus who donated a few thousand dollars for a real set of control boards, and we were up and running 24/7.  Without computers, the station would  have remained illegal, unmanned, and probably not on the air. With a minimal student staff performing real jobs within our studios, a remote controlled transmitter, and the new technology, the TSU station was brought back to being noticed in the community. Technology was a big part of the revival. 

And that's where we are today.  You, as a listener enjoy your favorite music, or feature show, or news each hour, but chances are, it's got some computer interaction. In the case of WION,  we augment the automation with so much localism in-between songs and events that most listeners don't know we're not sitting in the studio.  We pre-record some shows to meet the schedules of our talent, and, we use technology not to replace human interaction, but to make it possible for us to exist. We're darn proud of our way of doing things, though all it really is, is good execution of the same basics we learned as “green” radio announces, coupled with knowing the capabilities of our computers to help us sound our best.  Sadly, in this day and age of multiple station ownership, there's more errors than applause for most radio stations' on air sound, and more mistakes made, because of people not taking pride in their craft, their jobs, and their stations.  I'd like to think at WION we stand out as an example of modern radio excellence in small town America, and that people notice us because of it.   

But, in closing, don't let me forget to say, our studios still have that comfortable mix of analog warmth (control boards, equipment,) and evidence of human existence in them (personal items, coffee rings on the counter, papers, and things used daily in “living” with radio.)  THAT makes WION unique. It's people.  People and programming working together to serve a small community, and our county.  OH, and so I don't forget, the man in the picture to the right? That's my dad. On the first day we signed on WION and saved it's license.  I never saw him more proud.  He's with me each day in the studio, and on our station website.  I think of him often, and he's a huge part of why I'm now so deep into a career in radio.  Not because he chose it for me, but because he encouraged me along the way.  Thanks, Reg. You were the BEST!

From  the WION Website:

The Rev. Reginald Angus, Episcopal Deacon, Retired. in the "command module" of the station, Autumn 2004 as he visited. Looks "right at home" at the microphone!

"Thanks for the memories, the voice, and your encouragement!"

March 10, 1914-March 19, 2005

Go, In Peace!



Saturday, September 5, 2020

Going Home Again, Memories of a Mill.

 Note:  This was written as noted in August of 2020, but I never published it as a blog. I have added some text to it to honor Elaine Saunders, Dean's wife, who passed away today...remembering how wonderful it was to be adopted by the Saunders' and how much they contributed to my life, and that of my friend Dave who is included in this writing. 

Mixed emotions this August 9, 2020

Today I returned to Addison, the town from which I graduated high school. The town in which I lived when my mom passed away, and the town that I think of as my “original” home town. My family moved there from Wamplers Lake (Brooklyn, MI) area in about 1975, I graduated from high school there,  in 1982.

I got a call yesterday from my friend Ray who still lives in Addison.  He told me the sawmill where I worked as a young man in high school had been sold, and there was a barn sale going on.  Please don’t get the idea I was ever a "good" woodworker, or even a great mill employee.  I was an employee. The Saunders family is a good family, and Dean, the operator of the mill back then was also a teacher at our high school.  I never had him for shop or mechanical drawing, but my best friend Dave knew I wanted a job, and suggested I come to work there, my first job being the emptying of maple sap buckets in preparation for the making of maple syrup.   It must have been an early Easter that year, I can remember working Good Friday and getting sap on my clothes from wind blowing suddenly while collecting and dumping the buckets.

Working at the mill was a year round job. While the mill was not heated in the winter nor cooled in the summer, it was a job!  I was so proud to have a job in high school, and remember sitting in my last period class which was advanced math (I sat up front because I was not a good student of it, the desks arranged after each test with the worst scores in front)…and looking forward to going home and working!   Working meant spending money for tubes, parts for TV sets, buying used TVs to fix, pizza, and just generally having money to spend.  When you think about it, the best financial times you can have are when the roof over your head and the heat, lights, and food on the table are bought by your parents….or in my case my Father.

My work at the mill included those things that I was best qualified to do. I was never the one who could set up a moulder (makes the trim and moulding for your doors and windows)…nor was I good at setting up and operating anything there except maybe the single-sided planer.  I was, however good at getting the boiler up to steam quickly and efficiently, good at being “quality control” while I stacked the moulding, trim, and other orders as they came OUT Of equipment, and at doing as I was told.  I was careful, I showed up on time, seldom took a day off, did as I was instructed, and I guess those qualities along with guidance on each job from my best friend Dave was enough that I was worth the paycheck in the eyes of Mr. Saunders.

But I learned there. Oh, did I learn!  We not only made maple syrup, but in proper season: sorghum, and a few times even apple butter all powered by the steam of the huge boiler.  I once cut sorghum in the field and felt like a migrant worker, I once  changed the teeth in the sawmill circular blade, went along a few times with the owner and Dave to sites where logs were to be picked up, loaded on the large truck, and usually had the job of stacking lumber in the sawmill part of the operation after it went through the edger.  Dave’s job was to take any lumber coming down from the sawmill carriage and rollers, decide the width it would be cut, and run it through the edger, trimming off rough edges for me to then stack the final boards.  The boards were placed on rolling carts, but the carts were not “permanently assembled.” They were two sets of wheels, the weight of a 4x4 on each end being just enough to keep them upright on rails when they weren't loaded, then the increasing weight of the lumber made sure they stayed in an upright position.  A few times, the cart’s wheels would give, and the lumber would tumble….Dave always teased me when that happened, and it held up production in the sawmill, but I actually did get pretty good at keeping the carts well stacked, and knowing where the wider boards and narrower ones would best go to tie-together a load, before it was taken to the upper mill for air drying. 

The wheels we built into carts by loading them with the weight of wood

The “upper” (finish) mill was where wood was dried in the steam powered kiln, and the planing, sanding, edging, making of moulding, and other wood "finish"  operations were done.  There was a huge electrical box on one wall that started up the large and powerful electric motor which then ran much of the equipment via huge line shafts above our heads.  The belts from the line shafts could be as wide as a foot or so, many were smaller…To start the overhead line shaft going, you threw a huge lever toward the wall on a large black (ancient) electrical box, held it there til the speed "felt" right, then pulled the lever from the back or “startup” position through it's rest position to the front  “run” position.  After a few times doing it and watching the bulbs dim in the mill, you had a feeling for how long to keep the lever in startup before getting everything up to speed. 

The "Start Box" for the one motor running the line shafts for the equpment

Today, there's no way high school students could work at a sawmill/finish mill. Too many regulations to protect the kind of employee that would hurt themselves. Dave and I were not that kind. We knew the dangers of each machine, Dean, the owner made sure we did, and he trusted us to work like adults.  It was a prideful thing to have that job. The job paid around $3-something or 4-something per hour back in about 1979, and the hours added up quickly. In the school  year, it was 3-6PM after school. On weekends, Saturday was a work day, often finished by mid afternoon unless it was a big-order day or a sawing day. Sundays we did not work, holidays we did not work, my memory tells me we did work some “snow days” from school, however.  Carharts were the recommended winter wear, heavy boots, and very heavy work gloves. In the summer, jeans, T-shirts, and lots of liquids to drink. What I did learn back then, but at the time may not have appreciated has now become priceless in memory, and still a prideful thing.  How many people today have seen apple butter made in a copper kettle?  Or, been part of collecting maple sap the old fashioned way...and firing the boiler that helped it become syrup....or even know how the trim in their home came to be (beyond going to Menards or Lowes and buying it!)....We made that kind of trim. We sold rough boards, planed boards, and helped make things for customers. In the sawmill, I learned not only how to stack lumber, but how to be efficient, how to keep up the pace with a determined best friend who I think got a kick out of watching me occasionally fall behind, who would then yell, "Stack them boards, and stack 'em FAST!" as they came of the sawmill's edger. 

There were steam operated pumps that refilled the boiler from the return of the pumps was the well pump itself, and we drank right out of the pipe some very cold, very fresh water on the hottest of days inside the boiler house.  After each “feeding” of the boiler with sawdust, and watching the initial fire grow with the huge air draw it had, you always wet down the area in front of the boiler...and swept back any sawdust that flew from the collection bin, sent through large piping from the upper mill.  We had it drilled in our heads (politely) how to be responsible around equipment that only “adults” should run or be near, yet we not only survived, we learned, we were proud, and we were treated well! 

In the summer, the Saunders family was a part of the event commonly called the Wauseon Steamshow, or properly named, the “Threshers' Reunion.” It meant we had a week of work, but it was now offsite, at the fairgrounds in Wauseon, Ohio.  Saunders' owned a steam tractor, a Port Huron, and took it there each year. It was part of the daily tractor parade. It was the only one on site that had a locomotive generator on it and electrical lighting under it's canopy. During that week in the summer, Dave and I would work the sawmill at the event, and get paid by the Threshers' reunion and by the Saunders!  Dean, our boss supplied many if not all of the logs for sawing and had to haul the wood back to Addison as well.  In essence, we were on display for a crowd that may never have seen a real sawmill (portable in this case) ..let alone one run by a steam tractor.  The flea market was always great, and one year in my memory the family was on vacation, and so Dave was in charge, and we still took part in the Wauseon event. I still try to go to the yearly event if possible, though in 2020, like with many things, it was canceled by the mess our country is in called “Covid-19.” My last trip there was about 3 years ago, and the memories of our years working there are still vivid and cherished.

It's hard for many of my friends of today to believe I ever worked in a place like the mill. It's hard for me sometimes to realize how many years have gone by.  I wouldn't trade the memories for anything.  At the close of each day it was a short walk up Saunders Street to home for me, and about 3 houses farther for Dave. I went home to dinner with my father, Dave went home to his family...and we'd do it all again the next day.  When I worked there, I knew it was indeed WORK. There were things I liked to do more than others, there were things that scared me, and there were things I never was good at doing. I believe that I was allowed to work because there's always the need of the person who can tell when a running machine has a problem...either by the sound of the equipment or a change in what comes out the “finished” end. That was me. I was a gopher, a stand-er at the end of machines, and a stacker of lumber. I was good at stacking at the sawmill after I got the hang of it...and really, the sawmill hours went quickly...though they were probably the most demanding.

I knew when working there that I didn't want to do manual labor my whole life for a vocation....but also knew there was nothing wrong WITH doing it. It was many times a rather heated discussion with my buddy Dave, but it seemed to end well most times. I had no idea and no plan for my life yet, because you have to remember both Dave and I were still in high school.  By the time I graduated, I thought engineering would be my direction, but I was not good at the math. Ironically, my best buddy ended up in engineering his whole life, and I ended up performing on the radio, something I'd never considered in school at all.

It's 40-plus years since I was invited to go to work at the mill. Many years since Dean wrote us paychecks in the upstairs office of the Saunders' home, and we'd proudly cash them and go to Jackson to buy work clothes (which wore out fast)...or stereo equipment, or whatever was on the  mind of a couple of best buddies who in high school were inseparable. Good at arguing, but inseparable.  Dave was adopted by my father, and considered family. Dave flew up from Texas for my father's funeral...which was one of the highest compliments to my father, and to me.  We've fought, we've been like brothers, we've kept in touch more lately than in the intervening years, and I'm grateful so much for the brother-like friendship.

Looping back to the start of this rambling; On the way driving down to Addison from my radio station to visit the sale, the mill, and the US 127 event, many memories came back to me of growing up on Saunders Street, working at the mill, and of my high school years. I was grateful for one last chance to visit this place while it's still as close to what it was as can be expected after years of weathering and not being in operation. I took around 80 pictures. I sat on the same forklift I learned to drive back then.  I walked in front of the boiler I used to fire,  went up the steps of the boiler house, and saw the machinery that paid for my high school fun.  I was nervous along the drive as to how it would feel, now that our former boss, Dean Saunders has passed away...and now that the house my father owned and in which I lived on Saunders Street is in it's second ownership since I locked it for the last time.  How was I going to handle  the experience which I describe the most as “bittersweet.” I knew it was a goodbye to the physical remains of part of my boyhood and growing up. It was the last chance to walk in the walls of the mill and relive some memories, despite some equipment being there only as ghosts.

(Added 9-5--20) It should be noted now, as I edit and publish this piece almost a month from the orignal writing, that I just received word of the passing of Elaine (Saunders), Dean's wife and one of my "adopted" mothers. Elaine's smile is what I will remember most, greeting me at their door, and she was very good at hugs, and making everyone feel like family. She was one of my adopted mothers after my mom passed away as I was literally a few days into high school.  As I complete this addition to the story, I know what I'll remember is Elaine's incredible outpouring of enthusiasm for life, that smile, and evenings I visited she and Dean in their living room for wonderful conversation.   I'm saddened at her passing, as she had recently reconnected with me on Facebook and had some wonderful things to say about my posts...though I've never felt I was important enough to "follow.' Elaine: you are already missed, but remembered fondly.

The Saunders'  and not just their mill were a wonderful and very big part of my growing up in small town America, a time that will not come again for anyone, as our technology-laden, lawsuit-crazy, cover-your-behind world has robbed the young people of today of having the kind of growing up I've described here.  I am SO grateful for my parents' move to Addison, for the people I met there, and the care of the community there for each other.  I'm grateful I had the chance to deliver newspapers to half the town (Dave had the other half)....and for graduating from a school where people really knew each other and each other's families.

80 pictures later, and driving home from my visit to the old mill grounds, I thanked the Lord for my growing up in Addison and what I had learned, and the people who trusted me.  To this day, I'm not sure why Dean kept me as an employee, with my tiny knowledge of wood, and bigger interest in electronics, but he was an honest man, honest boss, and a good human being. He gave me a chance at my first real job after my paper route.  The Saunders family adopted Dave and I, we were welcome anytime at their home, and they became very close. The times HAVE changed. but the friendships and the memories live-on.  Before writing this, I just spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Dave, now in Texas with his family.  I shared the pictures with him, we both had a few virtual tears and memories together, and I want to leave you with one last "event" of the mill that I think is very unique.

Since my father died in 2005, I've had a few coins of his, saved in a jar, and a few sequential bills he liked to save as well. Recently, I had the few coins appraised and had just enough to take on the US 127 garage sale circuit which goes right through the center of my old hometown. I'd sold the coins and taken the money with me on the day of my nostalgic visit to the mill.  Dave and I had spoken on the phone, and decided  that if there was anything from the mill which I thought he'd like to have or re-purpose in his home, he'd like me to let him know.  I called him from the sale, but at the time, he wasn't ready to have me buy anything, (like a wooden pulley or a saw blade) occurred to me, he was not wanting me to “bother.”  However, it also occurred to me  if I spent my FATHER's money on something for him, he couldn't argue with me or feel like it was a bother, or that it required repayment. So, that's just what I did.  Dave will have a large wooden pulley from somewhere in the mill, and a saw blade from the firewood cut-off saw (or maybe it's from the edger we don't know)...for his home. Gifts from my father, whom we shared,  who not only adopted Dave, but allowed me to work at the mill in the first place. 

So, I bought Dave the large wooden pulley, and a saw blade....It seemed the right thing to do...and tonight on the phone, Dave didn't argue with me since it was Reg's money, not mine.  I'm certain both Reg and Dean are smiling that Dave and I shared this last chapter of our working together.  Reg would be happy to buy Dave this gift and...I was happy to make it happen....and I can't wait to see what my best friend of so many years makes from the pulley we may have seen every day back in our days of working together.

(example of the large wooden pulleys on the overhead line shaft)

He'll have the mementos, I have the memories, the pictures...and so many great stories to tell of working in high school in a place young people now will never appreciate. We both, actually, have wonderful memories.

Thank you, Dean for the work, the teachings, the opportunity, and the trust in me....and thank you Reg, (my father) for the permission to work at the mill while in school, the roof over my head while I did, and the wonderful antique  radio I found on the “trail” this weekend after visiting the mill. And, thank you for buying a last and very fitting gift to Dave, as a final way of (Reg) saying, "Dave, you're part of the family."

And now, I return to my work....behind a microphone...with stories to tell, and this is one of them.  



Thursday, March 19, 2020

Does my Job Matter in all of this?

Normally I would take great pains to edit a blog, ..but in light of recent circumstances, I am opting for more of a free flow format....and you already know if you've read anything I've ever written that I write like I speak. Hope you can follow my rambling. 

I don't know how long this "blog" will be. I feel like I'm full of words and sentences and stories to tell, but somehow they're all jumbled together because of the rapid pace of work and the world the past few days.

As you know I work in radio. Literally.  Morning host, Manager, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, etc.  I'm on the air in the morning, then it's paperwork, music and commercial logs to complete or mix, sometimes writing of commercials, then sending them out to for voicing,  taking readings on our transmitters, paying bills, the works. It all crosses one desk.

That one desk is usually the studio itself. I never work in my office.  For the past 3 days, as more and more information, speculation, and public posts about a virus scare in our nation and even locally went from dotting Facebook to dominating Facebook, somewhere in there the "information overload" button went off in my head. Yes, the morning host who has been up with listeners through overnight tornados and severe thunderstorms, ice storms, power outages, gas leaks on Main Street Ionia, lightning strikes at the station, transmitting our FM from a bucket truck in the back yard in late Spring when our antenna failed, and even snakes getting caught on the kitchen and engineering glue nervous.  I got worried. Just like you. Information overload made me begin to wonder if "radio" had any relevance.  Every announcer  sooner or later wonders if the job really makes a difference in the world.  That question haunted me yesterday when compared to the world's more serious problem.

Our station has done food drives, began "Treasures for Troops" , we've done broadcasts from 9-1-1 dispatch, donated to school leadership projects, we've run fundraisers for the local Historical Society when heating their museum to only a safe level for the contents was all they could afford (back when fuel was $4.50 a gallon to drive, remember??)  We've had cancer fundraisers in the front yard, hosted After Hours events with the local Chamber, Re-produced a 1939 radio play 5 Christmases in a row, and had many Christmas Eve gatherings at our studios with wall to wall people.

Even after all that, the relevance of an "Announcer" in the bigger scheme of things sometimes is a question in my head, maybe in that of others with the same profession. It seems so insignificant and unimportant. I used to ask my Program Director Garry Osborn about things like that back when I'd go  from a busy morning show with lots of phone calls  to quieter phones and less interaction when school let out for the summer.  I thought it was something I was doing wrong and  that I wasn't making an impact anymore.  He explained the fact that habits change with seasons and events.  It's true.  The same applies today in this situation we all find ourselves in.

It seemed to me this week that doing my morning show and reciting  song titles, time checks, maybe a light joke, some history all meant nothing.    Combine that  with the fact that I had hit what you might call "information overload" the night before, I decided today that I would  not look at other people's posts and sites on the web,  and only post TO the station Facebook page, reading nothing from any local sites or anything from my "feed" to avoid a repeat performance of  last night's nerves over our nation's situation.  No more super-influx of bad news, scares, and worry.

Then, this morning while on the air and still wondering about my job's relevance to the world, I told listeners the story from above about wondering whether we, as announcers,  have a connection or if our jobs  make a difference in the world. I brought this up to my audience in a break on an "extended" morning show which ended up going to near noon.... and the messages started coming in from a truck driver, a resident of the Aland Islands (Finland)  A person at City Hall, a Lansing listener request, and...later email asking that we make sure our audience knows  a local food pantry was, indeed, open and ready to help people despite the rumors to the contrary.   Those are some of the emails I remember from this busy day.

I also told listeners that I, too am concerned about the situation we all share,  and that I feel connected to them when they email or call instead of alone in a square windowless studio, and something magical DID happen with the telling.  Connections were made.  I wasn't looking for a pat on the back, I was explaining that my job as announcer and the role of "radio" sometimes seems rather frivolous in the real day-to-day world. I actually told the listeners about this feeling. felt good to say something I've wanted to say since this scare began,  but had felt it would be unprofessional of me.

Being hokey has never stopped me from being on the air.  Being very personal with my audience has never been a problem, I tell stories from my past all the time.  But, today, I wanted my listeners to know about the one thing that I have seen happen the past few days which has made a difference in my outlook on this scary time. It's simply this:   If you are able to DO something for someone else,  it's a feeling that helps overcome all the others of fear and uncertainty.   It can be something small. It can be almost anything, as long as you DO SOMETHING to help others.

In my case the songs I played that were requested was a "doing." Teaming with WION's "Steve the Voice Guy" to help my former High School's  radio station management who is far away to get a message on THEIR airwaves about food for families in a far away town  was a "doing." Finding out that at least one family got the message about the local food pantry being open, through WION which got them help at the pantry was a "doing."  It all felt good, and took me from how I felt the day before which was helpless, scared, lost, and very alone to CONNECTED.

I'm grateful as I write this for every listener ever connected to our radio station. The TEAM that makes this magic happen is connected to you, and we're grateful for your loyalty, laughs, comments, emails, your listening and your trust.

Thank you for letting ME feel better today by simply extending the morning show a few hours, sharing some music, and emails....and CONNECTING with you.  Our station may not be a big city one, but if we can make a difference here, and now...especially's the reason we're here, it's the reason I'm here, means that Radio (Big letter "R") and announcers working in it do indeed... make a difference.


No republication or direct quoting without written permission. For your reading amusement only.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas Traditions

I'm writing this as I enjoy Randy Edwards' 3 hour Christmas special of "Edwards' Archives." For me, that program is a tradition.  Long before it was "Edwards' Archives", Randy would devote the last day before Christmas on his country-station morning show to be all Christmas music. I remember listening while wrapping gifts in my small apartment in Addison, MI to WLZZ when I was only a part-time announcer for WLKI in Angola, IN...and was full time on the air from Hillsdale doing evenings.  As you can imagine, it's a real pleasure to be able to bring you this special by Randy each year on WION.

That's just one  "radio" tradition.  The WION Christmas Eve show has become one for many people that stop by the station to wish neighbors and friends a Merry Christmas.  We enjoy that one very much.

For Five years, WION reproduced the 1939 radio script of "A Christmas Carol" and those shows are now favorites of those who starred in them and their families.

In my family, one Christmas tradition was to ask Santa to leave one present on the foot of the bed each year, and it was always the first gift opened on Christmas morning. I can remember also that one "family" gift was allowed to be opened, if my sister and I begged enough on Christmas Eve. Santa seemed to never mind the bother of putting one gift on the foot of our beds, and what a smile it was every Christmas morning in our youth.

My father always had a house with a fireplace, growing up and when he built his own in the 1950's and started our family.  On Christmas, the fire was always started with the "yule log" of the previous year.  While this may  not be true to the original meaning of "yule log" what it meant to us was that after Christmas, the tree was pruned, branches removed and the trunk cut into a small bundle which was then burned the following Christmas, starting the Christmas fire.

What are some of your Christmas traditions?  Simple or complex, let us know!  We'll talk some about this on our Christmas Eve show this year, 6-10AM (ish) on WION's morning show with Phil Cloud and a cast of many.  Chime in!  and...from everyone who makes this radio station possible...

Merry Christmas from WION!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Facebook: Asset or Annoyance?

I get teased. Quite a bit. Not about my bald head or wearing of caps, not for my "radio gut" from sitting as Harry Chapin sang in "WOLD"...but...for being angry at Facebook and for still USING it.

This has very little or nothing to do with the use of my information. I'm one of the few.  If I don't want you to know something on FB, you don't.  My personal page is locked down fairly tight.  You have to be "friended" to see most of my posts, at the most..."friends of friends" times, and I keep my "liking" of pages to a minimum.

I mainly use it for business communication. To have a WION page, someone has to be the admin of it, and that means an account must be held personally by someone, and that someone is me.  My personal page is a place for me to vent, usually at telemarketers, Corporate America's dehumanizing of our country, and things that I think are wrong.  These shared things not only make me feel better, but hopefully raise a few eyebrows of awareness to what I believe are things that need "righting" in the immediate world which we share.

What angers me the most about Facebook is the general lower awareness posts from users who seem to reach to Facebook for life decisions as opposed to doing good old fashioned research themselves!  Sure, it's okay to ask opinions of others!  There's LOTS of "others" now to ask in our electronically connected world, but before you do that, how about doing your own research?  Use REAL personal communications when the decision involves your family, your health, your TAXES, your expenses and your livelihood.   There's no "feeling" attached to words on a social media site.  The gut feelings which help some people to make decisions cannot be derived from words printed on a screen which do not carry a voice's tone, a face's expression, or real happiness, sorrow, or confusion.  No emoticon can replace the real thing.  Yet, the lazy, the uneducated, and the casual voters/casual consumers take what they see on Facebook as gospel truth, then they SPREAD it. While perfectly allowable in our modern free electronic society, that part angers me.

So, many Facebook users look to the site as if it's a real live entity.  It's not. It might be an anthology of many people's experiences, however. Some of those experiences are told well, some told badly.  Not everyone was given the gift of writing and public speaking. Not everyone should be in the media, act like they are, or try to be the next big journalist.

I also dislike the fact that in today's world, many internet users believe "If I read it on the internet, it is so!"  Opinions about individuals, cities, boards of education,  officials in city, state, and federal government, and more seem to spread faster and become accepted FACT way too fast. Amplified by their placement on the internet, unsubstantiated statements (opinions) become FACT through repetition.

Insert public service announcement here:   Please  don't use Facebook Groups to help you with major life decisions. We need to be a stronger country than that when it comes to good judgment. Use Facebook carefully, and take advantage of IT,  as I do, to make it suit you. Face book's been doing that  with you since you signed away some of your privacy for the service, and allowed them control of how many of your friends are important enough to see your all-important posts.

 A good example of taking advantage of Facebook is their live video streaming.  As long as it's free, we'll use it at WION for guests and promotion of OUR station. If the videos we make leak the fact to the world that we have the best sounding AM station in stereo and a GREAT community, OOPS.  Our bad. (insert evil laugh here.) If the world discovers Ionia through WION's many morning show co-host videos, so be it. Worse things can happen.  As long as it's FREE in exchange for information in the form of ads targeted at me, I'm okay with that. You don't even have to look at most ads if you run a good ad blocker!

So, to do my part, I've checked my information on Facebook. I'm boring.  My interests are minimal, my friends list only those who I really want to see in reality, (some yet to be added I don't go friend-looking).  I don't take the Facebook quizzes that can leak your secret password answers to others, and I don't accept invites to games on FB, or other apps THROUGH Facebook.   Facebook is not on my phone, so they're not aware of who you are if we message each other on the phone, and they don't know of what we speak.  Oh, and...did I tell you just how WRONG they are with guessing interests?  ONE post on the WION site a long time ago about Menards having a display of toilets with a "Demonstration Here" sign got me this on my "interests and hobbies" list at Facebook.  Notice the second item: (click to enlarge if you must.)

I suppose Facebook's view of my interests could be worse....and certainly much more accurate than it is. For the record....I'm not old enough for that the second "interest" be a hobby....I hope it never is.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ending 2017-Starting 2018...

This started as a personal post to Facebook,  but since I think it applies to WION as well, it occurred to me, "Why give MY personal thoughts and feelings to Facebook as we enter 2018?"  I'd rather put them in a place that's mine.  With that in mind, It's "digital housecleaning" today at the station as well as for me, personally! 

With the advent of the new year comes the NEW CBS radio news each hour (they've been slowly moving toward it for a week or so now) ....the removal of references to the retired Mr. Osgood, and the ending of the CNBC business minute! My father once told me,  "All holidays will be  different from each other" and I think the same can be said of new years' changes in both our personal and professional lives!  Of course, he was referring to the trying to keep traditions alive, and that sometimes year to year, changes in our celebrations are inevitable.

On the "WION side"...Unlike many stations who just look for things to "shove" on the air to replace what is no longer offered, we'd rather program FOR you and find things (as they find us) which we think are interesting. Thus, there's no replacement for Mr. Osgood's Files....but, in the meantime, CBS continues to be our news supplier, and I have my eye on a few features I think will be fun to hear on our station, and informative as well.  Give me a little time to audition these...and you may hear some new, fun things on our airwaves in January! 

Today is the last day of the year.  It finds me archiving old e-mails and paperwork, and physical SHREDDING is also on the agenda! (some things go away with the new year.)  Kind of feels good. One host on one of my favorite streaming services (TWIT.TV) calls it "the digital cleansing."  

It DOES feel good to hit the delete key on things no longer needed, free up virtual space, and blow-out things we no longer need or want to see on our computers and devices!

On the topic of new years resolutions, I have only two, and they work together: 

1) Simplify. This means in ALL avenues of my, home, online. Cut down on things that create "static" in my life.  This means getting 
rid of physical things which have followed me through life that I no longer enjoy or need.  It also means less worry about things that are out of my control...but in places where I thought my input used to matter. Seems fairly simple to do, right?   Then there's the second resolution: 

2) Plan. Plan for what happens AFTER WION radio here in a decade or so. God willing, I'll be on the air a long time, and hopefully in the drivers' seat of WION....but "planning" only makes the future more reachable!  I've had 29 very happy  years in radio.  My ultimate retirement plan if I still have a functional voice and thought to fall over dead at age 91 on a radio control board.  Aside from that, I'd like to be able to not be tied to any one particular radio location in about a decade, but still involved in broadcasting...somewhere.  That door has not opened for me...yet.

Will I be able to keep up the two resolutions? I can only promise to TRY. Hope you do the same with yours...and that you'll continue to enjoy the whole team's work at WION as we enter 2018!

Oh, and by the way...don't forget the old tradition tonight...(12/31) at midnight. Open the back door to let your old year out, and then do the same to let the new year IN! Not sure where that tradition came from, but it's one I was witness-to growing up. That AND...the yearly ringing of a very loud brass bell at midnight that my great grandfather supposedly made. (Heads-up Neighbors!!)

Happy New year to you...

-Jim Carlyle

Saturday, September 2, 2017

"13" is a Good Number...

This writing is overdue by a couple of days now, but hopefully still as significant.  Seems like each year we hit the anniversary of WION coming to life as "I-1430" with our team, I am compelled to write. Some say it gets too "sappy"...but that's a minor risk I'll take...

It's 13 years this weekend since WION was put back on the air by a team of talented people who love radio.  September 1st of 2004 was the actual day, and who knows how many listeners we had...the Sentinel-Standard had done an article on us, and we had a few visitors on the air that morning, but I'm sure, given the time it's taken to grow the station, that the date of Sept. 1st 2004 was bigger for us, than for most listeners to radio.

Personally, I never saw Ionia when I came here as my destination. It was a stop along the way, providing my first radio station to own (with Jim Aaron),  and a step closer to wanting something different, which, at the time included a license I had filed for out west.

I'm happy to report things have changed.  The station, which came back from the dead had no website. There was no following, no official current logo, no accounts receivable, no client-advertisers, and most listeners.  But, slowly and surely those problems were solved, one pair of ears at  a time, one issue at a time. You've developed trust in us, our on-air personalities, and our presence in your communities (not just Ionia.)  You've helped us fund-raise for many great causes. You've helped us grow.

I can remember many a trip back from my former hometown in Lenawee County to Ionia, thinking, "I'm heading back to...the station"... and, I can remember one night on that 100 mile drive finally saying to myself, "I'm going HOME." What a difference that makes when you settle in to a place in your life, planned, or unplanned, and finally call it, "home."

Tonight, I was traveling home from that area once again, after visiting family.  I passed through Jackson, the town where my first fulltime radio gig came to me on AM 970, and I got thinking, how blessed I have had the fortune to work for some GREAT radio stations, each of which, through my employment, taught me things which help me each day at WION.  WKHM was a full-service AM at the time, 24 hours a day live, no FM, and doing GREAT.  An incredible team it was!  Later came time in Escanaba as a program director, and Hillsdale, MI as both the night man who signed the station off at midnight, and later, as morning host before coming to revive and own WION.  There was WITL in Lansing on weekends as both Jim Carlyle, and "Jim McIntyre" when management wanted a different name in the big city vs. my name at nights on WKHM.  WITL taught me music radio, and I learned from the best, (the late Jay J. McCrae and Jordan Lee.) to whom I'll always be in debt.  It was there that "Steve, the Voice Guy" as you know him, and I first met as part-timers for WITL.   I spent nearly a decade, (the longest running morning host, I think...) on WLKI in Angola, IN and met Garry Osborn and Randy Edwards who now are part of our station here!  I learned localism, live phones, and how to be in "touch" with listeners in a way that promoted community and station together.  And, I even unofficially taught some students "radio" at Tri-State University, taking their on-again/off-again station to being noticed in the community!  While I was never a real "teacher" by pay or by diploma, I taught RADIO, and one of my students is successfully working and has-been in radio for many years now as a program director. He got bit by the bug, just like I did years ago.

So, landing in Ionia, while not the goal, became my place. My "Now." And, as I look at how this close-knit community works together and plays together, I honestly can't picture anywhere else I'd rather be doing radio right now!  Having spent 13 years as your morning host, and showing you how "hokey" I can be at times has been wonderful, enjoyable, sometimes challenging, but...always rewarding. 

It's amazing sometimes how a plan we have for ourselves changes....for the good.  Nearly 20 years ago I thought I'd be working and owning a station in Colorado, and here, WION continues to grow, WGLM was brought on board, Jim Aaron, my friend of many years manages and hosts there, and we have had the pleasure of sharing a dream. As I recall it was worded something like this: "To do radio fulltime, in a small town, and make a respectable living doing it!"  Well, with our team of announcers, engineers, volunteers like Popeye John, Penny Beeman and others,  BOTH Jim and I have been able to do that.  He now handles everything at WGLM AM and FM, and I have remained here, at bring you AM Stereo, bad jokes, and hopefully some support when the community or charities need us.

I'm sure Jim Aaron echoes my sentiments of thanks, and from MY seat, I've never had more challenges, and yet more FUN in radio.  It's been great building back the historic call letters, (WION) and. then adding the county-wide FM, the larger AM signal, AM Stereo, and streaming! 

It's not easy being in business these days.  Not for ANY kind of business, our case, at WION, it's because of trust...between listeners and WION, Client-advertisers and WION, and of course, between team members, too.  Most of our advertisers are small businesses, the "Mom and Pop" style of store or service, but they're not alone!  We try hard to market them well, treat them well, and grow with them.  13 years says, it's working.

So, this weekend, a huge thank you to ALL of you....listeners, advertisers, engineers, volunteers, listening businesses, and EVERYONE, who for 13 years have helped us grow.  You may not know it, but you're enjoying AM in an era where some people say radio is slowing.  We're Not.  Some say radio won't make it in the digital world. We ARE.  And, some say AM just can't be done in a small town and be done locally without "all talk radio." We do it every day. 

I'm a grateful owner and announcer, blessed very much to have found Ionia, and to have all the great relationships in business and personally that make life here my HOME.  I can't imagine not knowing the people I've met here, or going through life without them, now that they're part of this station and it's circle of friends.

Who knows what's next after WION.  I'm in NO rush.  It's my place to be for now...and that's MORE than good enough...that's GREAT.

Thanks for 13 years!

Jim Carlyle