Sunday, January 6, 2019

Twelfth Day: Transition to Winter Music!

Today, January 6th is the feast of Epiphany, the day after Twelfth Night when Christmas officially comes to an end. Yes! Now we can take the Christmas Trees and all the decorations down. I’ll have none of that “these decorations must be down by New Year’s Day” foolishness. The twelve days of Christmas start, not end on Christmas day. So in a little bit, I’ll be out in the front taking down the outdoor decorations much to the relief of my neighbors who I’m sure were taking bets on whether or not I’ll leave them up all month.

Taking Christmas decorations down is always a little sad for me. It marks the end of the best part of the winter; the Christmas Holidays. Once again, no White Christmas for me. Now it is all cold and ice until the end of March. Historically the coldest time of the winter and the time most likely to see snow or ice is near the end of January and the beginning of February. The rest of the winter here is filled with crisp days with blue skies and a brilliant sun. Highs will be in the forties and lows in the thirties or upper twenties. According to the Farmer’s Almanac February 2019 average temperature will be 49° (3° above avg.) and precipitation for the month will 3" (1" below avg.) so it doesn’t look too good this year. We could use the cold and ice to hold back the onslaught of Palmetto Bugs, otherwise known as roaches this year. By the way, for those uninitiated to southern bug life, these puppies can actually fly.

Also, by now the few local radio stations that did not go cold turkey on the Christmas music on December 26th have cleared their studios of all the holiday CD’s and except for those stations that have changed formats, they have replaced their holiday automation playlists of all the seasonal tunes and we are back to their regular music. Even Sirius is shutting down all sixteen of their holiday channels. The last one flips back to normal tomorrow, January 7th.

Back in the day, after a month of diving into the cardboard box of Christmas 45’s on the control room floor, I found myself turning around in the air chair to grab a record. I was a little disappointed that they weren’t there any longer. Offsetting that was the waxing tide of new releases arriving in the up and coming box. It seems that the record promoters knew better than to try to compete with Christmas Music with new offerings. So Januarys were a little brighter, music-wise. If my memory serves, the January releases generally were more “feel good” than the rest of the year. For example, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” was released as a stand-alone single on October 22, 1966 just in time to make the charts in January 1967. Later when the time from release to charts grew shorter, the Bangles released their version of the song in November 1987 just in time for the January 1988 charts.

Likewise, “The Choir,” a garage rock band from Cleveland released their first single "It's Cold Outside" on Roulette Records in December 1966. I remember playing that song on WCOS in January 1967, thinking that it was a great winter song. The Choir is well known for containing three of the four original members of Raspberries Dave Smalley, Wally Bryson and Jim Bonfanti, (all except lead singer Eric Carmen). I never understood why that song did not break onto the national charts. It remains one of the long lost garage band oldies of the late 60s.

Maybe I’ll play it on WUSC-FM tomorrow just for old time’s sake. Thanks to Rich Spina, the current keyboardist of Herman’s Hermits, who is from Cleveland himself; who supplied me with a copy of the song four years ago when I could not find it anywhere else.

A final example of what I call Winter Music is “Popsicles and Icicles” by the Murmaids. The songs began receiving airplay in Los Angeles in October 1963, breaking nationally in November, and reaching its peak at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and The Cash Box Magazine charts on January 11, 1964. Again, we see perfect timing to be a January “feel good” song.

I tell you, you can’t sit still listening to these songs, the feet are a-thumpin’ and the heart’s a-pumpin’, and you are definitely doing the “DJ Air Chair Behind Boogie” when these tunes are spinning at 45 RPM on the turntable. Well, at least in the hallways of our memories; they are all computer files these days.

But that doesn’t matter; the headphones are firmly on my head, turned up way too loud. My eyes are closed and I’m singing along at the top of my voice. I am transported from the WUSC-FM control room at Russell House to the old WCOS studios on the second floor of the Cornell Arms Apartments just a couple of blocks to the northwest. The smell of vinyl is in the air and my feet are warmed by the hot water heating system that was in the floor of the Air Control Room. Back to the present! The flasher on the phone blinking to let me know there is a listener calling with a request! Life is good. Oh MY!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Time for the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Debate

This month the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF) officially announced next year’s inductees. Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will all join the class of 2019. With apologies to Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone and the rest of the band, this announcement has re-ignited the annual backlash from rock and roll fans of a certain age about the 50s and 60s artists who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but are not.

The rules for the nomination are simple artists are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first album or single. There is a voting body of over 1,000 members who determine the nominees and the public has a chance to be involved in the final selection on line or in person in Cleveland with the top 5 artists the public votes for tallied along with the other ballots.

And this is where the rub comes in, there are so many 50’s and 60’s artists who deserve RRHOF recognition but are not included in the nominees. And as time passes, there is a smaller and smaller chance to make the nominees list as the older members of the nominating body and the public fan base age out.

It started off pretty good for the old rockers; on January 23, 1986 the first group of inductees included Elvis Presley, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Other awardees included Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, and Jimmy Yancey, who were inducted as Early Influences. That year John Hammond received the Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio DJ Alan Freed who coined the phrase “rock and roll” and Sun Records’ Sam Phillips were inducted as Non-Performers.

But since then there have been several voting controversies like the charge that there is a bias against some genres. According to Boston music critic and author Brett Milano, "entire genres get passed over, particularly progressive rock, '60s Top 40, New Orleans funk and a whole lot of black music." In contrast, since the mid-2000s, numerous hip hop artists have been inducted, including Tupac Shakur (class of 2017), N.W.A (class of 2016) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (class of 2007). The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But the powers that be felt that the RRHOF couldn't go another year without a rap act. So votes that were received between the technical deadline and when the votes were tabulated were not counted that year. The Dave Clark Five were nominated again the following year and easily made the inductees list. By the way, I'm not knocking rap and hip hop, they have a huge fan base, but are these two genres really rock and roll? It seems to me to be the same issue of "relevance" that has moved "Oldies" off of so many commercial radio stations' play lists.

A former member of the nominations board (who I will not name here) once commented that "At one point a member of the nominating board lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist ... I saw how certain pioneering artists of the '50s and early '60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in '70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today." I’m not making this up, you can look it up. It seems that the annual inductees list is weighted in favor of “more commercially viable acts that in my humble opinion do not meet the definition of rock and roll.

Let’s take the Grass Roots as a great example of a band that should be in the RRHOF. They charted frequently between 1966 and 1975. In their career, they achieved two gold albums, one gold single and charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100 a total of 21 times. Among their charting singles, they achieved Top 10 three times, Top 20 three more times and Top 40 eight more times. They have sold over 20 million records worldwide. In December 2015 the American Pop Music Hall of Fame released their 2016 inductees as follows: Barbra Streisand, The Grass Roots, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, The Association, Dion, The Lettermen, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Temptations and Three Dog Night. Until his death in 2011, early member Rob Grill and a newer lineup of the Grass Roots continued to play many live performances each year.

The current line-up of the Grass Roots, all hand chosen by the late Rob Grill, are still performing today as a solo act and in tours with other Rock and Roll giants such as The Turtles, The Association, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams and The Cowsills, Peter Asher, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Felix Cavaliere of the Young Rascals, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, The Guess Who, Jefferson Starship, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Steppenwolf, Tommy James and The Shondells and Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone.

Yet, they are not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A body of work of over 52 years and they are still not recognized. Much more impressive than many of the artists who came along later and made it to the RRHOF.

I’m sure that some of you feel like this is just an old guy ranting about some of his favorite music not getting proper recognition. And that is OK. I might shut up if the RRHOF nomination process which really controls the inductee list every year was more transparent. But it is not and that casts doubt and shadow over what should be a celebration of rock and roll. I stipulate that music preferences are very subjective. But I feel this foundational music needs better recognition. After all, commercials on television and sound tracks of movies frequently feature oldies music in their offerings. Can I say, “I am Groot!” Oh MY!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

This is the way to do Winter

Winter is on the way! The old man will arrive at 5:23 PM Eastern time on Friday. Well that is true if you follow the astronomical measurements. If you follow the Meteorological Seasons, winter runs from December 1 to February 28 (February 29 in a leap year). So the case could be made that winter is already here.

I can’t believe it! They have made the seasons complicated, just like everything else. Growing up we had but one system for the seasons, I had all the dates memorized, even when the date varied back and forth depending of the time the sun crossed the equator. I liked it that way; a little change was good for the soul. Now I have to be careful because the difference is almost a month between the two systems. Geesh! Oh yeah! There is the third season system. When one side of the flat earth flips from facing the sun and the other, has its time basking. Now before you start sending me cards and letters, I’m just kidding. Send them instead to Area 51!

I just came in from the mailbox where the latest Amazon delivery was left a short while ago. Wow! I stepped out of the shadows and into a bright sunlit day complete with blue skies overhead, a light breeze out of the north with gusts up to 8 MPH, and a temperature of 55 degrees. After the cold and rain we’ve had for the past few days, it was like stepping into heaven. My thought was that I could get used to this. I even stopped to take a picture of the sun peeking through the branches of the white pine in the front yard. That white pine was a live Christmas tree in the living room years ago. It sure has grown, standing next to the cedar tree that I rescued from the old WCOS tower field behind Providence Hospital, before the original WXRY-FM tower was erected. That tree was marked for cutting down because it was in the way of one of the guy wires that would hold it up. By the way, there is a huge Magnolia tree in the back yard that came from the same tower field.

As I stood there basking in the sunshine, thoughts of southern winters drifted through my memories. And I gave thanks that I live in a place that has four seasons yet has mild winters. We had a close call with snow last week when the snow coverage from that big storm came to about 90 miles from here. We don’t get snow every year but it does happen sometimes. In really bad years the ice storms come; paralyzing the city and knocking power out for folks in large swaths of destruction. It is not unusual for power to be out here for up to 5 days in bad ice storms. The last bad one happened here in 2004. Ironically I left the day it started on a business trip to Minneapolis. I saw temperatures there of – 30 degrees but had power the entire time. Back to Columbia and no power for three more days. With gas logs installed a couple of years ago and a new generator installed last month, I think we are ready for the next one that is long past due.

Pups checking out that strange white stuff on the deck after the 2010 snow. I’d much prefer the light fluffy snow we get most of the time we get winter precipitation. The perfect snowfall began late on a Friday evening on February 12, 2010. It ended just after the dawn of a crystal clear Saturday. Everyone had a great romp before my show on Our Generation Radio began at 10 AM. By the time the show was over at 1PM the snow had melted on the roadways and travel around the city was easy. There was not even a flicker on the power or internet connectivity that day. Perfect!!!

Blue skies and sunshine are the hallmark of southern winters. I really came to appreciate that during the time I was running projects all over the country. I remember catching planes in the sun on Sunday afternoons then transferring in Atlanta or Cincinnati to places like Ann Arbor, MI, Des Moines, IA or the metropolitan NYC area. It was always overcast at these destinations in the winter and I was so lucky to be able to escape back to the sunlight every Thursday to recharge my batteries before the next trip.

It was during this period that I began to appreciate “Southern Winters.” Some of my co-workers did not see much sun between the end of November and the middle to the end of April. And for some of them cabin fever set in hard. When one of my co-workers who lived in Edmonton, Alberta Canada retired, he moved to Costa Rica. I can definitely understand that. He plasters awesome pictures of kiteboarding and riding through the mountains on motorcycles all over Facebook, even one of his flip flop shod feet on a balcony bathed in a tropical sunset. He’s had enough of the snow and ice to last a lifetime. Me – I’m ready for a taste or two more, as long as they are not too bad.

The storm that just missed us last week was one of the earliest to bring snow to SC, even if it was just to the northwest corner of the state. It’s very unusual to have snow in the state in December. Late January and February is the sweet spot for winter weather around here. So this just may be the winter we get some. That’s cool, the gas logs and generator are all checked out and ready. Oh MY!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Backstage

Much has been written about the magic of the stage, the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. But to this child of the 50s and 60s being backstage has held a fascination both as a performer and as a technician. Like so many kids from that time, my first “stage” was the choir loft at Mass where every Sunday my classmates and I would sing out the hymns that the sisters dutifully taught us. We carefully rehearsed and learned to sing out of our heads and not out of our chests. Even as our young voices started to change, they were always pushing us to get to the high notes. We learned to sing with an “N” sound not an “M” when humming because that gave us more volume and control.

In the years between choir in elementary school and band in high school, there was not a lot of stage time for me, but from high school on, there has been a stage somewhere. In high school, the stage in the “cafetorium” wasn’t much more than a shell built into one of the walls of the room where we ate lunch every day. The only access to that stage was via a pair of steps at either end of the stage that was barely a couple of feet higher than the floor where the audience sat in neat rows of tan folding chairs. It was during my high school years that I was introduced to a “real” stage for the first time. I was a member of an orchestra that performed several concerts at the then new Jacksonville Auditorium. I will never forget making my way through the backstage area to the stage and with my heart pounding a million beats per minute looking at all the stage trappings; the ropes, pulleys and counter weights that held the curtains, flats, overhead lights and backdrops in place. I was in awe of the lights, the microphones and sound systems. It all seemed so mysterious and confusing. Finally, facing the house, I was transfixed, looking out across rows and rows of seats that seemed to fade into infinity. I could just make out the sound and lighting booths embedded in the back wall.

Since then, I have been backstage in hundreds of theaters across this wide country; from the modest stage at the Cooper Union in New York City where Abraham Lincoln made the speech that made him president all the way to a stage in Los Angeles where William F. Buckley debated the issues of his day in the latter 20th century. In fact, it was Buckley who afforded me the opportunity to travel the country and see all these stages. I was fortunate to be a small part of his debates that were broadcast on PBS during the latter part of the 1980s and all of the 1990s as part of the production team.

Left: A stage set up for a Firing Line Debate in March 1997 at Rice University in Houston. As I became familiar with backstage after backstage, I quickly learned that no two were alike. Some had small wings, the area just off curtain at the side of the stage; some were voluminous, as big as or even bigger than the performance area itself. Large wings provided space to quickly move set pieces, actors or bands onto and off of the stage proper quickly between acts. The Newberry Opera House in the Piedmont of South Carolina has a large wing on stage left side. But on stage right, there was only room for a lighting board and a sound board and the battons for the light halyards.

There are two more types of stages in my memory; outdoor stages and temporary stages, some of which were outdoors and some indoors.

Outdoor stages are a lot of fun but can be uncomfortable in the heat and rain that sometimes go with the territory. The one at Finlay Park here in Columbia is a really fun venue that allows for good interaction between performer and audience. But in the heat of the summer late afternoon concerts, the performers looked directly into the glare of the setting sun.

Temporary stages are the bread and butter for broadcasters. We set them up everywhere; in football stadiums, on basketball courts even in the Senate Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington DC. Yes, we broadcast a Firing Line Debate from the very same room where the Watergate Hearing occurred in 1973.

As I sit here memories of these stages come flooding back into my consciousness; hot times on the Finlay Park Stage, sub freezing times covering Gubernatorial Inaugurations on the South Steps of the South Carolina State House, and everything between. There is one thing in common with all of those experiences, as a performer, announcer or technician; a sense of excitement as the clock ticks down to ShowTime. It’s about to begin. Oh MY!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sitting down on the job!

Back in the days when I first got started in broadcasting, being a radio air personality was a sit down job. All the radio and television audio consoles were at desk top height and the air chairs we used were the old “secretary” chairs made of steel with cloth covered seats and backs. What made them “secretary” chairs was that’s most of them did not have arms. Being armless made them much better for air work, one could move around to cue up records or load carts in the machines or tapes on the reel to reel machines that in many cases were actually behind the disk jockey.

Left: Me as "Johnny Foxx" at WCOS - AM in 1967. This was a typical sit down radio control room configuration. Then sometime in the 70s, someone got the bright idea that radio announcers sounded better when they were standing up, a throwback to the studio microphones on floor stands in the cavernous studios where radio dramas and live variety shows poured out to the airwaves in the 30’s and 40’s. I never really cared for stand up studios. They were fine for an announcer on a 30 minute or hour long show. But we worked 5 to 6 hour on air shifts. So it wasn’t long before disk jockeys brought in bar stools. We were sitting down again, just a little bit higher than before.

The next bright idea was to make these bar stools ergonomic by putting in a height adjustment. Letting the user adjust the chair to fit their anatomy sounds like a good idea but like all good ideas, there are unforeseen consequences. In the case of air chairs that consequence is the “DJ Air Chair Behind Boogie” sometimes known as the DJACBB. At least for me it is! You see, like most old school DJs, I can’t sit quietly while the song is playing. I got to move my groove thing and sing along at the top of my lungs.

The problem is that all that bouncing around is hard on the lifter mechanism of the chair. I start off each show with the chair adjusted to the top of its range and by the time the first half hour has passed, it has slipped down half way to the bottom stop. Most of the time that slippage is so slow that I don’t notice it. But sometimes it slips an inch or so while I’m talking. At WUSC, it seems to be when I am doing the weather. It also happens sometimes when I do in studio interviews. I think is because I have to turn the chair to the right to see the monitor where the weather shows up or to look at the person that I’m interviewing in the studio.

The Air Chair at WUSC has another ergonometric feature that annoys me. The back of the seat can be locked into any position from straight up to about 20 degrees back. That’s fine for the younger DJs but it is a hazard for me. Not being the young stud I was back in the day, I rely on that back being upright and in the locked position when I pull my feet up to the console desk to take my Monday Rockin’ Socks photos at the beginning of the show. If that back is not up and locked, I feel like I could roll backwards over the chair and onto the studio floor. There is a saying that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and I’m a prime example of that. After years of catching my hands under the console desk to avoid tipping over, I have finally begun to check the back lock before executing the old “feet lift” maneuver.

I am fortunate in that WUSC-FM is the only station where I have worked that has a stand up studio. Most of the “stand up” craze came during my TV days. The closest I had to another was at WIS Radio. But when they moved their studios out to the transmitter site northwest of the city they maintained the sit down configuration that they had downtown.

These days, radio stations have a mix of sit down and stand up studio configurations. All but one of the stations where I have pulled air shifts in the past decade have sit down configurations. Of the three recent studio builds that I’m familiar with, two of the stations have stand up studio configurations. One of those has four stand up studios! Although it seems nationally that the stand up studio wave is passing.

I opted for a sit down configuration when I built the studio for Our Generation Radio at home. I’ve gone through two air chairs in the ten years I’ve been doing shows in there. Both times I’ve chosen nice leather covered swivel office chairs. They were great!! Almost!! I can’t find a chair that does not have that height adjustment feature. Sure enough, at the beginning of, and several times during each show, I must reach down and grab that control and stand up to allow the seat to rise to the top. These chairs also have the ability to rock back and forth to the music, giving my DJACBB an added dimension not available in the other studios. Unfortunately, the rocking mechanisms in these chairs get squeaky after six months of use. So I have to make sure that I’m sitting up straight and still in the chair before I turn the microphone on. Hey, that forces me to open up my diaphragm so that I can project my voice while announcing. So it is all good! Oh MY!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Carolighting: A Broadcast Tradition!

It’s that time of year! Thanksgiving has passed and the way is clear for the long anticipated Christmas Season to take center stage. I love the sounds of the holidays. I never miss the Christmas Tree lightings in Rockefeller Center in New York and the National Tree in Washington on TV. The Rockefeller Broadcast never fails to have at least one of my favorite old time musical acts mixed in with all the young whippersnappers that I’ve never heard of. OMG, I hardly knew any of the acts in the Macy’s Parade this year.

Left: Carolighting Ceremony, Courtesy Experience Columbia SC The Christmas Tradition that stands out in my memory is the Governor’s Carolighting Ceremony on the State House Grounds here in Columbia. My first Christmas at WIS-TV in 1971, as the technician in charge of Master Control on that Sunday after Thanksgiving, my responsibility was to stand on the roof of Studio A, outside the door leading to the control room. The master control switcher operator was monitoring the ceremony as we broadcast it live. At the moment the State Christmas tree was lit, he would yell “Go!” and I’d throw the switch on the brick wall outside to light the Christmas Tree on the top of our 400’ tall downtown tower. Unlike the FAA tower lights, There was no automatic control on the Christmas Tree lights so each night as I’d go out on the roof to verify that the FAA tower lights were on I’d switch on the tree. It would stay on all night; the morning engineer would switch off the tree when he came in to start the broadcast day.

Left: The Tower Tree. Courtesy WIS Television To be sure, this was no little spruce tree with a string or two of lights strapped to the top of the tower. This was a big deal! This tree was a 75 foot tall light show cascading from the top of the tower in eight strings of light.

Little did I know it in 1971 but my involvement with the Carolighting Ceremony would last until 1985 through two changes in jobs. A couple of years later, I took over the responsibilities of the microwave operator; connecting the WIS-TV microwave to the SCETV remote truck so that we could get the feed from the Statehouse Grounds. In the late 70s, as Chief Engineer for WIS-Radio, I would haul the station’s MARTI unit to the truck and simulcast the audio feed that was on WIS-TV and SCETV on Radio 56. I thought that would end in 1979 when I moved to the engineering shop at SCETV. But there I was again with an even bigger role in the ceremony, the SCETV engineer in charge of the remote truck that we rented from Jefferson Productions for the ceremony. I was already very familiar with that truck because WIS-TV also rented it to carry the University of South Carolina Basketball games from the Coliseum. It was a good time to visit with my old friend Emerson Lawson who was the JP engineer on that truck. I even got to see the Emmy that he won as part of the NBC coverage of Lake Placid Olympics in 1980. My involvement in the Carolighting Ceremony ended when I moved from the broadcast engineering section of SCETV to take over their data processing operations. Despite the hard work those remotes were, those cool, crisp and mostly rainless nights still shine like stars in my memory.

In 1999 I was in New York City as part of the Television Crew for the last Firing Line debate show before William F. Buckley retired. I was no stranger to NYC and I must admit not a huge fan of the city. I’ve always been a city boy but for some reason, never enjoyed New York. That is, until that year, the first time I was in the City at Christmas time. The city was transformed into a magical place with all the store window displays. The evening before the taping of the show, several New York City Firemen who worked as grips on our crew when we were in town, took us to midtown and the Rockefeller Plaza. We passed the displays at Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue taking in all the magic that the season brought to the city. As we entered the Mall leading up to the iconic ice rink under the balcony where the Rockefeller tree stood, our view was lined with those angels with trumpets blowing triumphant notes over the Channel Gardens. The rink was full of skilled ice skaters twisting and turning to the music complete with many expert lifts.

Then there was the tree itself. There were so many lights and ornaments on the tree that one could barely see the branches underneath. Amazingly, there were no barricades (at least that year) that prevented us from actually walking up to the tree and feel the branches with our very own hands.

Back to Columbia and 2018, the decorations are going up all around the city. Some of the best are in the yards of friends and neighbors who are getting ready for the season. Christmas oldies are making their way into the playlists for all my radio shows, and they will not go completely away on Christmas Day. No cold turkey shutdown for me; a gentle wind down until New Years Day. Speaking of New Years, the tree here at the old homestead will not go up for a couple of weeks, but it will stay up until the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6 in commemoration of the coming of the Magi. Just a note to everyone who says that the decorations have to be down by New Years, Christmas isn’t over yet! Oh MY!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Great Fall Shirt Exchange

The great shirt shuffle happened this week. The weather finally went down to freezing and it was time to put the golf shirts and t-shirts in the hard to reach back side of the closet and bring out the oxfords and woolen plaids to where I can more easily retrieve them every day. Normally this happens near the beginning of November, just after Halloween, but for the past few years it has been closer to Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love the cool days with sunny blue skies. I’m just noting an annual ritual that seems to have sprung up in recent years. One of the things I have accumulated in my years is a rather large wardrobe that fills the hanging rods of two closets. In the last year or so, I’ve lost some weight and clothes that I should have thrown away years ago fit me again.

Don't Judge! One half of my closet as it stands now. I hate to say it, but I’ve become something of a pack rat. Just to prove my point, I went up into the attic this morning in search of some items we are planning to donate to the annual church sale we have the weekend after Thanksgiving. When I was done, the mud room underneath the western attic access ladder was full. Yet, I have just put a dent into the stash up there. What’s more, there is the other half of the attic accessible by the other ladder that I haven’t seen in years.

The attic will be my first major project when I fully retire next year. I figure it will take me a month or so to go through it. It will be like reliving the past 40 years. Heck, I still have my SCUBA gear that I used in high school and my first computer, an Apple II +, up there somewhere. Also up there are a ton of photos that used to hang on the walls of my office. That will be both a fun and an emotional project.

Another noticeable thing about the switch to winter wear; the weekly laundry loads grow substantially. The major addition is that undershirts are now in the load. After all, I’m a southern boy; we don’t wear undershirts under our golf shirts down here. Yes we do wear them under short sleeved dress shirts, but not under golf shirts. And as to wearing them under t-shirts! Whassup with that!?!

This week was cool and very wet; over four inches of rain before it cleared up on Friday. So, for the first time since spring, I began wearing sweaters and rain gear. Wait, that is not true, for the first time here in the US I began wearing sweaters. Last August, we wore them while in England, Scotland and Ireland. It was so cold last Thursday that I considered wearing the “Scottish” sweater, but when I put it on, I realized that it was a might too heavy for the weather outside. I am sure gonna love that sweater come December and January.

One other thing about the cooler weather; the WUSC-FM studio is a lot more comfortable this time of year. When the rooms in the West Wing of Russell House were reconfigured to move the control room to its present location, the duct work in the heating and air conditioning system were not reworked for the different heat loads. The studio is on the south side of the brick building, three stories above the brick patio, with two large windows overlooking the sun-baked patio. If that sounds like a brick pizza oven, it feels like one. Despite a much smaller equipment component, the meager A/C is completely overrun the summer months. Late morning temperatures in the studio run well into the 80s. And there is nothing that the maintenance staff can do. Now that cooler weather is here, the mid 70s are normal in there.

Studio temperature problems seem to be the norm. When the WCOS studios were on the second floor of the Cornell Arms Building, the all night show was a torture chamber. There was a single cooling tower that supplied the central A/C and heating system for the building. On summer nights the building management turned off the cooler because it was not necessary for the apartments in the rest of the building. With lots of vacuum tube equipment in the three control rooms, the nighttime temperatures would often be in the 80s as well. Add to that was the fact that we ran 5 hour DJ shifts back in those days, it was no wonder that I was a lot thinner than I am today. It’s a good thing that I was in radio instead of television because I often did my show in my undershirt in order to keep cool. Yup, we worked for the “hot” radio station in more than one sense of the word.

Back at #1 Radio Lane, the WIS studios had a large picture window facing west toward the tower array and the river. It could get a little toasty in there for an hour or so when the sun was in the right place in the sky, but we had an A/C system with plenty of capacity so usually the temperatures stayed in the 70s during the entire year. You can be sure that I kept up with the maintenance schedule for the A/C. Power outages were not a problem either. We had a big generator that supported the operational areas of the station; transmitter, three control rooms, the news room and the engineering area were the IGM DJ assist automation sat right next to my desk. Yup, A/C was part of that support. I think the three general managers that came through during my time there were a little jealous. But to their credit, they never complained.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day! The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a low of 35 and a high of 58. For all of you travelling the highways over the hills and through the woods to Grandma’s house… Wait who’s Grandma lives over the hills and through the woods anymore? Well, wherever you are this Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Oh MY!