Sunday, April 20, 2014

Did you ever have to work on Easter Sunday

When I read the comics in the paper this morning I saw that the Easter tradition of Sally Forth eating the ears off of her daughter Hillary’s chocolate bunny is safe for another year. I hope you are enjoying a Happy Easter.

As I think back across the years, I remember the times when I had to work on Easter Sunday. That started early in my career, when I was part time. It seemed that the part timers had to work all the holidays so the full timers could have the day off. The first time that really hit home was on Easter weekend of 1965. I had started in September of 1964 at WCOS running the board for football games eventually graduating to the Sunday morning religious shows. By the spring of ’65 I was beginning to fill in on the Top 40 record shows and had risen to the top of the part time ladder. I wound up working 12 hours straight that Easter Sunday, running herd on all the religious programs in the morning and then doing a top-40 record show all afternoon. We were paid time and a half for those holiday shows so as a single guy it was all good for me. In fact, it was sort of special, for it was then I discovered that there were people out there who had no one to share the holiday with but the DJ spinning the records and keeping them company on what would otherwise be a lonely day.

When the holidays rolled around for 1966, I was full time and was again able to enjoy them with the part timers filling in for me for a change. But that would all change when I made the transition from radio to television, from being in front of the microphone to behind the scenes in the television station master control room.

At WIS-TV, there were no part time engineers; everyone was on a level playing field. So a different set of rules came into play and holiday work became part of my life again. It seemed that most of the other engineers had little children, so the boss had the great idea that the guys with kids got to be off on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving while we got New Years, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. That almost worked out for me, except, I worked the prime time evening shift and that meant that I worked New Year’s Eve and had New Year’s Day off. He never got it. I never convinced him that there was something wrong with that concept. So my glass of champagne had to wait until after “The Tonight Show” was off the air and the station went dark at 1 AM. Yes, for you millennials out there reading this, most broadcast outlets signed off for a few hours each night, they really did.

Finally, I moved from WIS – TV to WIS Radio as “chief engineer” and now I was the boss and no longer had to work on holidays. Hurray… wait, not so fast! It seemed that the Gamecock Football Network was now my responsibility so I was working every Saturday of football season from ‘76 through ‘79. That wasn’t too bad; I was an alumnus and a fan of the team. I even shared a plane ride or two with George Rogers as he was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy in ‘80. I thought my holidays were secure but it was not to be. We had a part timer who was working the high school games for us. He would later in life make college football recruiting his playground writing about it in the newspaper and doing his own radio recruiting shows in season. His was the responsibility for doing the annual “Bronze Derby” football game between Presbyterian College and Newberry College played on Thanksgiving every year. You can see this coming can’t you. He needed to go home for Thanksgiving and sure enough, there I was, munching on a chicken leg in the announce booth on a cold wet Thanksgiving day while everyone was having their turkey dinner. But don’t feel too bad for me. The next year we spent Thanksgiving day at a Luau on Waikiki beach because South Carolina was playing Hawaii the Saturday after Thanksgiving. One of the radio stations in Honolulu offered to provide engineering services to WIS Radio for that game but management felt they owed me for all those weekends and that rainy Thanksgiving in Clinton, SC so they declined and paid our expenses for the trip. One week in paradise in exchange for 5 hours of work on a warm sunny afternoon in late November! Yup, that worked for me!

So, as you enjoy time off with the family on this Easter Sunday, think of that radio station announcer or that control room technician in your local television station. For them, the celebration has to be postponed so the show can go on! Thanks my brothers and sisters! Oh MY!

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