I started at WHEN in September, 1981, but my love affair with NewsWatch 62 began years before that. I was driving back and forth from Penn State to my family home in Fulton on weekends and at about Wilkes-Barre on I-81, I would start punching the buttons on the radio to see if I could pick up the signal of this great full-service AC station with absolutely amazing news and great voices. Normally, I'd find it somewhere near the Pennsylvania border and listen for the final 90 minutes of the ride home.
I was working fulltime in news at that time at a small full-service AC in State College, PA and knew that 62 WHEN was about as good as a full-service AC could be. News, tight music, fun personalities, Call For Action, movie reviews from Doug Brode, air traffic. Wow! What a station!
On a whim, I called the station and asked if there were any openings in news. I was told to bring my demo reel and a resume in for a meeting with the News Director, a guy named Bill Carey who had the most amazing voice -- deep and full, it rumbled my car's speakers every time he was on. I was coming home a week before that meeting, so, on a whim, I decided to stop by the station and drop off the reel early.
Sitting in the lobby at that moment was a skinny guy with a mustache. That guy stood up and introduced himself as Bill Carey in that inimitable bass voice.
During the interview, he threw my tape on top of a tall stack of tapes and said he had lots of applicants to consider. It will be no surprise to anyone that that stack of tapes never left his desk. It was just a prop to fool the naive....like me.
My parents were so proud to have their boy on their favorite radio station. I got my Dad one of the beautiful blue satin station jackets with the famous license plate logo on the back. It even had his name on it. I lost my jacket ages ago, but I still have his.
Anchoring the news on Joe Gallagher's midday show. It didn't take much to crack me up, and Joe had a gift for it. I remember looking up from my copy to find him staring back at me, a big leaf of his lunchtime lettuce salad hanging down over his chin, dripping dressing. I lost it. As usual.
Watching Bill type news in the morning, faster with two fingers than the best secretaries from Bryant & Stratton could do with all ten. I say "two fingers", but I mean "four fingers". He typed so hard on those old manual typewriters that his fingers would swell like sausages throughout the week. He typed with one finger doubled over the other for support, and always had a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Filling in for Capt. Scott King on rare occasion and being proud of the fact that I didn't barf after the bouncy afternoon runs.
Basebreaker games, though my memory is hazy due to the after-parties. I do recall getting liquored up after a game and coming back to the station with Bill to try to make Tony Rizzo laugh during an evening newscast. His voice broke just a tiny bit, and only once. But it was enough to send him into a rage when he came out of the booth. Such creative swearing!
Taunting our friends across town at WSYR. One day, their newsroom had three of their full-timers put in their notices -- a huge one-day loss. Bill and I were talking about what a loss it was when our eyes met and we began laughing non-stop. It *was* a loss, and don't you send flowers to someone who has experienced a loss? I called a florist and asked if they had black roses.
The clerk laughed and said, "This is a joke, isn't it?" Indeed it was. The 3 black roses went to Clinton Square with a card that said, "We're sorry for your loss.". Their News Director stewed until he ran into one of our staff members, whom he abused verbally.
That staff member, Rizzo, had no idea what he was talking about and was so doped up on flu medicine that he could not respond with his usual creative swearing.
Carl Fiorini stomping down to the newsroom one day and bitching me out, up and down, side to side. My eyes must have widened to the size of saucers, because he decided he couldn't keep going and just started laughing, with Bill right behind him. They were messing with the naive fellow.
Fast Eddie McKee giving me my nickname -- Moose -- because between left-gonad of God Bill Carey and right-gonad of God Jules Coleman, I sounded like "Mister Moose" from Captain Kangaroo.
Banging away on the typewriter in morning drive and realizing that I hadn't heard anything on the air monitor in a while, going to the control room window and seeing Phil Markert asleep on the board, head down on the faders, arms spread wide. A couple of bangs on the windows, and Phil pops up, cracks the mic and says, "We had a little transmitter trouble there, but we're back now. It's 7:52, 8 before 8......."
Being assigned to cover three events, all happening at 11am in different places, getting all three and getting back in time to get one of them on the air for the noon news.
Driving to Sing Sing prison in the old Blazer to cover a prison uprising, giving the great Jimmy Breslin a ride to the briefing room, and getting back home with ten cents in my pocket because we didn't have time to get petty cash and the Blazer had a leak in the gas tank. I smashed the driver's side mirror driving the wrong way on a one-way street to get to the prison briefing room, and I think the Blazer started leaking gas to get back at me.
Recording wraps at 1:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time in the parking lot of a Super 8 in Rapid City, South Dakota only to be interrupted by some drunken member of the military who heard me and opened his second-floor window. He asked me where I was from. When I told him, he said, "No shit? I'm from Utica!"
"365 days in all of our lives. This is the Year in Review..."
Bill's soul and funk carts, which came out to play every Friday at 8:35 a.m.
I met such an incredible group of people -- talented, funny, and smart. Many remain friends to this day. Bob Carolin remains the most decent GM I ever worked for. He cared about radio as radio, and not just as a medium for selling stuff to people. Hell, everybody cared. Bill taught me more in 4 1/2 years than I learned in twice the time anywhere else.
I know this note is long, but one of America's great radio stations lives only in our memories now and writing some of those memories down is a fitting tribute to a time and place and people.