Sunday, April 16, 2017

Working on a Holiday

Today is Easter Sunday and that means most of us are taking time to be with our families and friends. These days, that is less true for those who work in retail than it used to be.

When I was a young pup, just getting my feet wet in broadcasting, the band of brothers and sisters working on Easter was much smaller, police, fire, hospitals, a few short order restaurants and of course, radio and TV broadcasters.

I remember my first Easter shift; April 10, 1966. I was working one of my last weekend shifts at WCOS. During that period I was filling in on Saturday Nights on the all night show that I would be doing full time Monday through Saturday in two weeks. I worked from 1 AM until 7 AM Easter Sunday then returned at 7 PM that evening to control op a couple of New Orleans’s style Jazz shows followed by a rock and roll record show from 9 PM until 1AM Monday.

By that time, I had already worked over the past year on a couple of holidays as a part timer filling in for the regular DJs. But this was going to be my first major holiday. This was starting to be real serious; the first time I won’t be traveling home to be with my family on a big holiday. As I walked from my apartment to the station, I realized that my life was really changing and for the first time I was going to miss that family gathering.

As I sat down in the air chair, my first task of the night was to read the news between the Nightbeat Show that was just ending out at Doug Broome’s and the All Night Satellite. I felt a little sad and lonesome as the show ended and I punched the button to start the news sounder, but that soon changed. I didn’t have much time to think about things during the news, the commercial and the weather. There was much less time to think after that. Next came the end of news announcement, the station ID which we always read live and then the intro jingle to my show.

I was off to the races! Since the top 40 45 RMP records were in the box being brought back to the station by the DJ before me from Doug Broome’s, I had fewer choices for music to play. The top 20 songs were recorded to cartridge tapes both as backups to the vinyl copies and to provide music during the time it took to get them back to the station. Columbia was much smaller then and it rarely took more than ten or fifteen minutes to get back.

The only drawback was that there were only three cart machines in the studio, one for the song that was playing, one for the commercial that followed, and one for the next song. If there were more than one commercial, I would have to stop the music cart after it finished in order to play the next song. I had to remember to put the first cart back in and let it re-cue after the next song started. It was like playing musical chairs. I was sure glad to see the DJ with the records walk in the door. By the time that happened, the phone calls were coming in and folks were wishing me a Happy Easter and requesting their favorite tunes the rest of the night.

Left: A Western Electric audio board similar to the one in this story. The evening shift that day was a bit lonelier. I was running the board for those Jazz shows that ran on both the AM and FM stations. At 9 PM, things got scary busy. My rock and roll show started on AM and my Classical Music started at the same time on FM. To do this, I had to split the console and DJ the rock show on one “side” of the audio board the classical show on the other. To make matters worse, I used the same microphone for both shows, the difference was the direction I flipped the switch. Fortunately, I only had to talk a couple of times during the classical show as I flipped the LP from one side to the other. The FM show went off the air at midnight with the station sign off while the last hour of the AM show was just coming up to speed. I think this is where being ambidextrous was a great benefit.

By the time, that last hour of the Easter shift was over; I realized that I was going to be OK with working on the holidays. Radio was such a big part of our lives back then. That day, I heard from police headquarters, the fire station and a hospital or two when my fellow holiday workers called to wish me a Happy Easter and to ask for a favorite song or two. It wasn’t until the 80s that I finally had a job that didn’t require holiday work. So today I salute all of you who are covering a shift at a hospital, in a police car, riding on a fire engine, keeping a grocery store open or broadcasting a TV or radio show; I’ve been there and I appreciate what you do for us. Oh MY!


  1. Nice really do have many things to do at one time.

    1. Thanks - there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

  2. Nice story. I worked many a holiday in radio back in the day, and later on in TV. You miss a lot, but there are compensations.

    1. There sure are, Roberta! Thanks for the kind words.