Friday, June 3, 2011

Radio Days

Early on, I loved listening to the radio. We're not talking about FM or satellite or HD, but plain old static-filled AM radio. I wanted to be a radio announcer, although I never had the voice for it, but I thought maybe something would work out.  I built a crystal radio set from a kit and listened to it in preference to the table radio in the kitchen. The crystal set entailed stringing a rather long antenna from the house to the garage and also running a ground wire to make it work. But work it did and I had the thrill of listening on headphones with a radio I had built.  Eventually I got a table radio of my own and listened to that.  I preferred top 40 rock music and sang along with all the songs. In the summer I listened to the broadcasts of the Washington Senators baseball games, hearing the static from distant thunderstorms during the play-by-play.  They usually lost, but they were, after all, the home team.

When I went to college, I was thrilled to learn that the campus has its own 5-watt FM radio station, WESU-FM, the voice of Wesleyan University. We had to take a test for a license, and so many people were interested in broadcasting that the freshmen started out doing newscasts. We had a teletype machine we could rip wire service stories off and tape them together for our script.  I didn't like this very much, but I persevered and I think shared a three-hour show with another guy. He played rock and I played folk music.  Sophomore year I was in Europe the first semester, but found on my return that the other guy had lost interest and I would have a three-hour show if I wanted it.  The only catch was it was on Saturday, but I usually stayed around on  weekends so that worked.  I did the "Come In, Stranger" Folk Music show the rest of sophomore year and the first semester of junior year. I called it that after the Ian and Sylvia cover of the Johnny Cash song. If I were doing it today I would call it, "Biscuit City." I played strictly folk music, and while I was never sure anyone was listening, I had a good time.  Surprisingly, although I am a shy person, speaking to an unseen audience didn't bother me at all.  A friend of mine told me that my show was the favorite of the professor who ran the biology rat lab Saturday afternoons.  Seems the rats did better at their tasks on a diet of roots music.  Could be.

I never did any more with radio, save a turn at sound effects when the Chorale did a 40's radio show for a concert a while back.  That was fun and a real addition to my resume. A few years ago, some of the current students were cleaning up the studios at WESU-AM & FM and came across my third-class radio-telephone operator's license. I have it here somewhere, proof that once upon a time I was on the radio.

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