Turkey day is this coming Thursday; a day full of tryptophan, cartoon balloons in parades and football games. The games of course will be accompanied by a turkey induced nap.
I’m so glad that I have reached a point in my life where I am not expected to run down to the station to do an air shift or broadcast a football game. My worst Thanksgiving ever was the one when I had to drive up to Clinton, SC to engineer a broadcast of the Bronze Derby football game between Newberry and Presbyterian Colleges. I thought I was in the clear because I was running the Gamecock Football Network at the time and spent every Saturday traveling with the USC football team. We hired a part time operator that year to do the high school games and the Thanksgiving classic. But alas, he needed to go home for Thanksgiving and I lost that day off. It all worked out though, he is now the preeminent sports reporter specializing in recruiting and we got a free trip to Hawaii the following year to do the game out there the Saturday following Thanksgiving. That was my one and only thanksgiving without turkey. A luau complete with pork and pineapple and some sweet young Polynesian women swaying in grass skirts made up for it. I was even invited up onto the stage to prove the point that men can’t hula! I could tell you what was under those grass skirts, but then I would have to shoot you to protect Hawaiian state secrets.
This Thursday also marks the official start of the Christmas Season for me. Everything Christmas that precedes Thanksgiving earns negative points from me. As they say in my part of the woods; “It just ain’t right!” I’m so glad to see the de-emphasis on “Black Friday” sales and stores closing on Thanksgiving Day so that retail sales folks and the families of customers having the time to spend with each other. I hope that trend continues. It takes the pressure off everyone to have a single day that makes or breaks the sales budget for the year. I hope we get back to better sales over the entire period. A little more fun, a little less market analysis.
It wasn’t just the retailers that needed better sales at Christmastime. The broadcasters counted on it too. December was always the time when the program log was filled with spots. Most of these spots were locally produced and the entire announce staffs filled up the production studios just to record the commercials. It was so bad that often we had to patch the FM automation system directly into the transmitter so that we could use the FM audio board to record the commercials for both the AM and FM stations. We certainly earned our keep those busy Decembers.
For me, one of the best things about working at WCOS back in those days was the arrival of “The Box!” Just like Santa Claus, our program director Woody Windham would sneak into the back of the AM studio the day after Thanksgiving and surreptitiously place an old cardboard teletype paper box under the table that held the cart machines just behind and to the left of the “air chair”. That box was stuffed full of 45 rpm records. Not just any records, these were the Christmas Songs for the year. We did it right back then; no wall-to-wall Christmas station for us. We had a plan! Thanksgiving weekend we played one Christmas song per hour. Then the next week, it was time for one per half hour. Following that, it was two per half hour, then three per half hour. You get the picture! Then Christmas Eve at noon we would go Solid Christmas until Christmas night at six PM. Then between Christmas Evening through New Year’s Eve, we would continue to mix in Christmas songs at a decreasing rate. We did not (if you pardon the expression) go cold turkey.
What songs they were; Gene Autry and Chuck Berry had their very different “Rudolf” songs, The Drifters, The Platters, Darlene Love, the Shirelles, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis Bing Crosby and many more songs. Who can forget the Jacksons “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Brenda Lee’s “Rock Around The Christmas Tree” or “Jingle Bell Rock” by Brenda or Johnny Helms. Rock and roll music back then was laden with backbeat and four chord progressions, but most of all they were heavy with “feel good!” Perfect for Christmas time! I can hardly wait. Bring on the Rockin’ Christmas time! Oh MY!