Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remembering the Times of Martin Luther King

Posted to OGR on 01/17/2010

This week we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King! Each of us
who can remember the 60’s has personal recollections of the events that
surrounded the life and death of MLK. I remember announcing the stories
of the civil rights movement on the news on the half hour and at 5
minutes before the hour. Those stories came from the Associated Press
teletype in the hallway outside the air studio at WCOS. That tireless
machine clacked, creaked and hummed to print the stories of strife and
struggle in places like Selma and Montgomery onto fan-fold sheets of
yellow paper in print that was intermittently light and dark depending
on condition of the ribbon that was passing under the ever banging
print head.

Late in the evening of Thursday, April 4, 1968, I was doing my nightly
radio show from a booth at Doug Broome’s Drive-In restaurant, when I
pitched back to the studio for the news. It was then I heard Mike Rast,
our announcer back at the station read the story that Martin Luther
King had been pronounced dead after having been shot at the Lorraine
Motel in Memphis. I remember wondering at the time what changes that
would bring. Like most top 40s stations in the 60’s, we played a
mixture of black and white artists and our audience was racially mixed.
I didn’t realize that the changes would be immediate and have direct
impact on me; for that would be the last show I would do from that
studio for months.

The next day, as with many cities and town in the south, a dusk to dawn
curfew went into effect and the show was moved back to the studios,
cutting us off from that close contact with the kids in the drive-in. I
remember going down to the police station to get a permit to be out
after curfew in order to get to and from the station after dark. I
remember the eerie feeling driving deserted streets. Each night, after
my show I had to drive to the restaurant to pick up the station’s
receipts from the show and then I would drive Mike home since he did
not have a car at the time. Eventually the curfew was lifted and we
resumed broadcasting from the drive in. But after a few short weeks, we
returned permanently to the studio. Times had changed and an Era ended;
after nearly 15 years of nightly on-site broadcasting, the radio show
from a drive-in restaurant slipped away into the dark, swirling mists
of time.

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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