Sunday, March 13, 2016

It’s Twilight Time|

This is the big approach/avoidance day of the year for me. I love the extra hour of daylight at the end of the working day but I hate the spring transition day when I lose that hour of sleep.

I saw in the news last week where the next three days would bring a higher risk of stroke and heart attacks. The culprit is the loss of that hour of sleep as we spring forward. The interesting thing is that in the fall, when we fall back, the risk goes down for three days. So far this morning, I haven’t heard any ambulances on the roads but as Curly said in “City Slickers”, “Day ain’t over yet!” Let’s everyone take special care out there.

I remember fondly when the US Uniform Time Act of 1966 was passed and the rules for Daylight Saving Time were aligned in all the states. I say fondly because I was doing the evening show at WCOS at the time. Two benefits became immediately apparent.

First, the sunset and “Twilight Time” was set completely within the hours that I was on the air from a booth in the parking lot at Doug Broome’s Drive In. Since so many of the songs of the time were about this special part of the day, it added a extra richness to the music and the things I was able to say. The audience really got into it too. That hour immediately after sunset saw more requests and dedications come into the studio than almost the rest of the day combined. You see, requests are a real boon to a DJ, since it takes the guesswork out of selecting songs that the audience will love. Every song was a hit. I could tell by watching what was going on in the cars that surrounded me. Yes, in the twilight, I could see everything! Now if your Mama could see what I saw back in the day, most of my audience would have been permanently grounded.

The second benefit of daylight savings time was for the folks who were not in the parking lot 3 miles from our transmitter, or even downtown. AM radio signals travel farther at night than they do during the day. So many broadcasters were forced to reduce power at sundown. We had to reduce to a quarter of our daytime power. So for a while until the nighttime conditions took over the atmosphere my coverage area would shrink to about half of what the daytime coverage was. About an hour after sunset, conditions changes enough to get back to the daytime coverage area, by two hours later we really began to get out there and with “skip” we could be heard in places all over the southeast. Skip was not beneficial because it was so ephemeral, there one minute and gone the next. The real benefit was the local “ground wave” audience who would be there day and night. That is what I had for that extra hour.

There is also something special about the twilight. Back in those days, the temperatures would begin to fall as soon as the sun went down. The hot hazy summer days gave way to cool summer evenings when everyone would be out cruizin’ with the windows rolled down. There would be action in the parking lot as the kids would cruise between the drive in restaurants to see and be seen. We had no Internet, Twitter or Facebook, so announcements of arrival came in the form of requests of a favorite song and dedications to favorite people. Radio was entertainment, music and social media all wrapped up in one.

There was a “dark side” to this too. I had to be careful reading some of those dedications. Some of them were not friendly but craftily written challenges between rival schools or groups of people. We did not have gangs per se, but this was the tail end of the leather jacket and blue jean era so there was the occasional invitation to rumble mixed in all the “to Julie from Johnny” or “hey everybody, I’m here” messages. Since I was still new to Columbia; I didn’t know some of the hidden references. More than once, I wound up standing in front of the program director or station manager listening to how I messed up. It didn’t take long for me to get it down, though!

Today pollution keeps the temperatures up and the humidity in the muggy range well into the evenings so twilights are not as pleasant as they were back in the times of rock and roll, burgers, fries and milkshakes. That special tint to the sunlight is not as rich as it was, and that cool evening breeze no longer rustles the trees and lifts the curls in a pretty girl’s hair, but it is still a special time of the day. So it is worth a sleepy Monday. So have that extra cup of coffee tomorrow and enjoy. Oh MY!

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