Sunday, November 3, 2013

50 Years

Something about the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard time makes me introspective and brings back memories of special times even more clearly than normal. This year is no exception; in fact, the memories are coming back bright and sharp; especially those of November 1963.

That was my freshman year at the University of South Carolina and I was just getting into the swing of college life. I was a chemistry major on a Naval ROTC scholarship. I had been in my high school band so naturally I was billeted to the Drum and Bugle Corps in the Midshipman Battalion. The commander of the Corps was a member of the Carolina Band so naturally I joined the “Marching Gamecocks.” So my days were full of classes, studies, music and marching, especially Thursdays. That was ROTC drill day. I can remember getting up early to put on my blue Service Blue uniform, complete with white leggings and blousing rings white web belt and dress white hat complete with gold braid. I was usually up late on Wednesday night “spit-polishing” my navy issued black shoes. No, we didn’t really use spit to polish our shoes; we filled the top of that Kiwi polish tin with water and dipped our polishing cloth in it ever so often to get that patent leather like shine.

Drill time was 3 PM after a day of classes spent being very careful to keep my feet flat on the floor under my desk so as not to get creases in my pants legs, dirt marks on my leggings or God forbid scuffs on my shoes. The battalion would assemble in the Naval Armory at what was near the northeast corner of the campus back in the day. The D&B Corps place was at the end of the armory floor on the right side nearest the door. Most of the time we “fell in” with our instruments but once each semester, we assembled with our Springfield rifles. After commander’s inspection we put our rifles up, grabbed our instruments, and marched across campus to Davis Field for “Pass in Review.” Davis Field today is but a shadow of its former self, since they built the reflecting pool in front of the Undergraduate Library and added to the west wing of the Russell House University Union building.

Fridays were time for a final rehearsal with the Carolina Marching Band for the weekend football game at Carolina Stadium now named Williams-Brice stadium. The new baseball stadium built a couple of years ago is now named Carolina Stadium, a source of confusion for all of us who think of that as the football stadium. A different sort of uniform went on Saturday mornings then gathering in the parking lot of the college of music for bus transport to the stadium for the game. Half time was a pretty nervous time for me. I was well used to marching and playing after high school band and the ROTC Drum and Bugle Corps but the Gamecock Band did formation marching something I had not done before. I had to not only read and play the music but keep count of how many steps I had taken in a given direction so I would stop in the correct place on the field to take my place in the formation. I always marked my copy of the score with the count and when to stop. Somehow I made it through my entire college career without having the embarrassment of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those college years were both hard and fun at one time, and a time of great changes for me. I did not know it at the time, but I was now living in my new home town; except for semester and summer breaks, I would never live full time in Jacksonville again. I was majoring in chemistry and planning a career as a Naval Aviator. I was playing the trumpet and surrounded by music, in fact my trumpet playing armature or “lip” was in the best shape that it ever was in my entire life. I still enjoyed playing my favorite songs on the transistor radio that I brought to school with me.

Left: A fellow DJ at the console I used to record my first radio show on WUSC AM November 8, 1963. I can point to the exact date and time that my life took an unexpected turn. It was 11 PM on November 8, 1963, fifty years ago this coming Friday. It was also a Friday. That night, my very first radio show, recorded earlier that day went on the air on WUSC AM. It was called the “Night Owl Show” and was sponsored by Coca-Cola. The show was recorded for two reasons. First, it gave fledgling DJs the experience of doing a show without the risk of being live on the radio. Secondly, the station was located in the Russell House at the other end of the hall where it currently sits and Russell House closed at 10 each evening. We were able to extend our broadcast day with the taped show. When the tape ran out, it automatically shut off the transmitter. I remember sitting in my dorm room with some of the guys on my hall listening to that show and their wisecracking but supporting comments about my performance. Now 50 years later, after a career that was mostly broadcasting (all but 7 years I was a broadcaster, either full time or part time) I am back on the air at WUSC, FM! This time the frequency is 90.5 mHz instead of 730 kHz on the dial, still on the left side. it is satisfying to give back to the place where my lifelong career began, where everything changed. When 11 PM comes this Friday night, I will be finishing a special remote broadcast on my internet station. You can bet that my memory will be swirling with images of all the friends I have made over the years, fellow broadcasters, sponsors and listeners as I hum the songs I played 50 years ago and pack up the equipment for my next show. Oh MY!


  1. Enjoyed this read...always like to know a story from the very beginning...envious of the "job" you have.........:)

    1. Thank you, Lady Beach. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. And thanks for all the support of the old school music.