Port Orange Jock
One upstate New York man's successful journey through life doing the only jobs he ever loved. Being a Radio personality,(with one long side trip through the Postal Service).
- Name: Bill
- Location: Port Orange, Florida, United States
Sunday, May 29, 2005
For me it all began in the early 1950's in my basement in Webster, New York with a turntable and an old microphone. I was automatically hooked and would never be the same again. Other kids would be out playing while I would slip down into my basement world and pretend to be a jock on WBBF or cousin Brucie on WABC in the big apple. I was an average student with only one thought in mind. Becoming old enough to go to Radio School. As a child, I was lucky enough to be born into a very musical family. My father had been offered a chance to be a jock thru the night at the only 50,000 watt clear channel AM station in the city. For some strange reason, he turned that down to open up 2 record stores. I guess he loved one side of the business and I loved the other. Meanwhile, my cousin, Bill S, was going to Radio stations trying to get them to play certain records. Yes, payola was very rampant in those days and everyone did it. He would often take me along knowing that I just had to meet the jocks. As I entered high school, I took every Radio course available to me and learned a lot about the business. The first 2 things were these. First, I learned I wasn't a salesman. I was much better at things behind the scenes. Second, I learned that no matter what form of the Media you get into(Radio,TV,Recording,Theater,Movies or Journalism), it's unfortunate but you have to have a super ego because you have to sell yourself in order to land the job. Unless of course your father would be the boss. End of Chapter 1.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
I studied hard and received very good grades in Radio/TV class, but otherwise I was just an average student. Other than Radio, the only other thing that occupied my time was a lovely young girl who had helped me get my school locker upon moving to the city in 1961. We soon became smitten and sat holding hands across from each other in homeroom. The only problem was the teacher who would sneak up behind us and crack his 3 foot ruler across our knuckles. I still feel that to this day. But more about the lady later. After high school, my Grandmother, Maude S. asked me if I wanted to live with her in California. She was moving there to be close to her son Bill. Since I had never been west of Ohio, I quickly agreed. I spent the next 16 months in LA, totally enjoying myself. This is where I really grew up and bought my first car. My cousin Bill helped me get a job with Vee-Jay records, which had their headquarters in Chicago. I packaged records for shipment while he was the National Sales Director. He had a beautiful home in Canoga Park in the west San Fernando Valley. He was a lucky man to have such a wonderful family. Lois, his lovely wife, and children James, Jerry and later Tracy and Max. I remember vividly taking horseback rides with my cousins every weekend in Chatsworth and still have the pictures to prove it. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After 16 months, Vee-Jay went out of business and my cousin and I were out of work. He and his family moved back to Indianapolis while my Grandmother and I would move to Hialeah, Florida to be near my Aunt Dorothy. (because of a minor heart attack my Grandmother was told to stay in warm climates). My time in Florida would ultimately be very short. It wasn't long before I was on an airplane heading for Indianapolis. I spent about a year living in their home and really got to know all of my cousins very well, especially Bill's wife Lois. She was both beautiful and intelligent and I came to respect her very much. It was with much hesitation that I left after a year and went back to Rochester. Then came a very large decision in my life. I knew that I would be pulled into the military because of the VietNam situation and because at that time the draft was in effect. I had to decide whether it would be 2 years in Nam or 4 hopefully somewhere else. I decided on the latter. Then which branch to serve in. My father had been in the Army during WW2 and advised me against that. The marines probably would end up killing me. So I tried for the Navy. I thought they had the best looking uniforms. Unfortunately, I flunked the Math part of the test. The only one left now was the Air Force. Luck was with me this time and I was on my way to Lackland AFB in Texas for basic training. At this point I must tell you that not only did I hate basic, but I hated the heat of Texas as well. Best thing was, our class was the last to go through in only 4 weeks. Then on to Keesler AFB in Mississippi for tech school to be an Air Traffic Controller. As I look back now, I cannot fathom why I didn't ask for Radio school. After that school, they offer you what is called a dream sheet. This is your chance to get either the state or the base of your choice. (Good Luck)! Personally, I asked for NY state and got Loring AFB, Maine. It was so far north it was 3 miles from New Brunswick. And I thought winters were bad in Rochester. But at least I wasn't in Nam. I stayed there for 3 years, mainly because ever year on my dream sheet I put down Bermuda and England, knowing they would never send me there. The first year was rough. After that, I made friends with a civilian who worked at the only radio station in Madawaska, a border town. He let me use his car whenever and he asked me if I wanted to move in with he and his girl because they had a 2 bedroom apartment. Naturally I accepted. Also, the radio station was only on during the day so he let me play DJ all night long. I began to forget about the military because I worked 3 days on but had 4 days off and left the base as soon as my shift was over. My fun ended after 3 years when my new orders came down to go overseas. But ultimately, where I went would be totally different from what was in those orders. End of Chapter 2.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Unfortunately, the military has this rule about no fraternization. There is no logic to it, so one of my best friends at Loring was a Captain Brown. We seemed to have the same interests on just about everything. Naturally, the other NCO's didn't like it, but I was young and really didn't care. About a month before I was due to ship out an airman arrived from Shemya AB in Alaska. The base is on an island in the Aleutians. Actually it is closer to Russia than the U.S. Their laundry is shipped out every 2 weeks. The gossip was someone had to go back and take his place(guess who!). I decided to play my trump card. I called the Captain and asked if he could help. He said if he did this I would have to accept whatever assignment came down. I agreed and spent the next 2 weeks wondering if I had done the right thing or not. Finally he called and said I was going to Southeast Asia. The sweat was pouring off me as I asked him if it was Nam. He said not to worry-I would be going to South Korea. After I thanked him I realized how wonderful it was to have a friend who would do this for me. I'm sure he took a big chance. Later I would thank him in person before I left. I went home to Rochester for 30 days before leaving for Korea. The lady friend I mentioned before from high school was still there and we became engaged before I left. Her name is Cathy and this August it'll be 35 wonderful years of wedded bliss. But more about her later. End of Chapter 3.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
There's not to much I can say about my stay in South Korea. The base at Osan was the headquarters for 8th Air Force. It was very large and therefore I was able to go bowling or enjoy the theater at will. There's alot of movies I must have seen 15 times that year. It was a safe haven from the 50,000 people that lived in the village outside the front gate. Back then, the streets were muddy and the country very poor. Beggars would sell their wares along Main Street. They did have some nightclubs that played Rock & Roll, but one never ventured off base alone at night. Most of the people were very friendly and polite toward base personnel. My best friend worked at the base Radio Station(naturally!). Talking with him about Radio made the time go by insanely fast, which is exactly what I wanted. My one constant thought was this would be the last Air Force base I would ever serve on. As the end of my tour approached, the Air Force, in it's infinite wisdom, decided to try and get me to re-enlist. Whom were they kidding! A lot of money was mentioned, which I basically laughed at. If they had guaranteed me another stripe, maybe I would have considered it. But the offer never came. To put it bluntly, I was never military material. But I was consistant. I hated it going in, and I hated it going out. When I arrived in Seattle to officially get out of the Air Force, I thought Lincoln had again freed the slaves. End of Chapter 4.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
You never saw anyone get home as fast as I did. I think I kissed the ground too. Speaking of kissing, I called Cathy and said how about getting together and going over our wedding plans. That night I proposed and she accepted, with one condition. I suggested we move to California; since I had loved it so much before. She was fine with that idea, since she had never been west of Ohio.(sound familiar)! We had a little over 2 months to get everything together, but we actually pulled it off. The only hitch occurred when I tripped going up to the altar. It was August 1, 1970, and the good Lord gave us a day of sunshine to boot. My father packed our VW bus to the ceiling with all of our worldly possessions. We left 3 days later not knowing what we would find. The only problem we had was getting over the Rocky Mountains in a vehicle that only went 40 mph at top speed. I almost had to get out and push a few times. Naturally we had to stop in Las Vegas to look around and give the bus a chance to rest. After arriving in LA it took us about 3 days to find an apartment. But that's something you should know about California. People move like crazy. In the 4+ years we lived there, we moved 11 times before we found the right place. It must drive the Postal Service crazy.(actually, in 1970, it was still called the Post Office). Our first few months were very hectic. Cathy had gotten a job with an insurance company in a high rise on Wilshire Boulevard. I meanwhile had signed up at Los Angeles City College for their next session, which would begin in the Spring of 1971. Until then, I would find odd jobs to keep me busy. These jobs were unimportant however, and I found myself extremely happy when Winter ended. All I could think about was getting ready for college in a few weeks. The new year of 1971 had finally arrived. Then we were awakened by a knock at our apartment door at 4 a.m. It was the California Highway Patrol with a message that would change our lives forever. End of Chapter 5.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
We invited the policemen in and they told us some news that they had just received from the New York State Troopers. It seems that my Father had just been killed in a traffic accident in Victor. At least he hadn't suffered. He had died instantly. The ice on the road had caused his car to slide into the back of an 18 wheeler. Amazingly, he had been packing to move to either Florida to be near his Mother or to California to be near Cathy and I. We had to return to New York for the funeral, but we didn't have enough money. Fortunately, the company Cathy worked for agreed to pay for both our tickets, which I felt was very kind since they didn't know me from Adam. After arriving in Rochester, I held up pretty well until I got to the parlor for the viewing. Then it finally hit me like a ton of bricks. My 48 year old Father and mentor was really gone. I would never be able to ask him for his advice again or tell him how much he had always meant to me. He, my Grandmother, and I had carried on correspondence via audio tapes since Cathy and I had moved to California. After his death, those tapes sat up on a shelf in my closet for 20 years before I got up enough nerve to listen to them again. As Cathy and I touched down in the sunshine of LAX, little did we realize that we would be returning to Rochester permanently to live in just over 4 years. End of Chapter 6.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Fortunately, I kept myself very busy upon our return to LA. I started school and buried myself in my work, trying to keep the pain of my Father out of my mind as much as possible. I loved what I was learning. About 6 months later, I became one of only two students that got a Radio job while still going through school for it. I was now on cloud nine. For 2 years I loved everything about life. Cathy was really enjoying her job too. Things were going much easier for us in LA than I thought could be possible. The months flew by, both at school and on-air. When graduation came around, I already knew what my grade would be. I aced every course, except for Sales(I told you I wasn't a salesman), so I ended up with an A minus. Just missed the dean's list by 3 points. But my proudest moment came when I received Summa Cum Laude. In high school I had been just an average student. Just goes to show what can happen when you enjoy what you are being taught. It was now summertime, 1973. I was now working at the Radio Station full time, and my wife was pregnant for what would turn out to be the first of our three children. We would remain in sunny California until February of 1974. The reasons we left LA for good bound for Rochester still make me laugh today. End of Chapter 7.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
After the birth of our daughter in the San Fernando Valley, things got a little more hectic for us but we still got along, at least temporarily. Turns out our daughter Dawn had certain allergies and had to have soymilk. Problem was the truckers that transported the milk from the factory to the supermarkets were all on strike and they said there was no end in sight. I was working at the Radio Station and at Getty Oil Company in their mailroom.(but not happy at all). It all came to a head one day when I came home to find my wife on the phone with her parents back east. She was in tears because her family wanted so badly to see their granddaughter. I misinterpreted this to mean that she wanted to go back to Rochester and was homesick for her family. I told her to start packing and I would take her and the baby to the airport. Two days later she was on the plane and I started driving back toward Rochester. It wouldn't be until months later that we realized that our decision to leave LA had been made with too much haste and not enough thought. I specifically took the southern route to stay in the sun. However, as soon as I hit the Ohio border, reality set in and the dreaded snow began to fall. I had been lucky enough not to see this stuff for four long years, but now the fun was over. End of Chapter 8.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
We were now back in Rochester and living with my in-laws. Even under the best of circumstances, we all knew how long that would last. Sure enough, we moved out after only three months and found ourselves an apartment. During that time, I worked three or four different jobs and hated every one of them. I wanted so badly to get a Radio job, but none would come. This lasted for about a year and a half. One day I decided to make the rounds of the local Post Office's, since I had worked as a carrier for a very brief time years earlier. Lucky for me, Pittsford had an opening for a carrier.(what tremendous luck)! Not only did the Postmaster hire me: he re-instated me which let me start at step 5 pay and get all of my benifits too. After that we decided to purchase our first home in Victor using the G.I. Bill. Cathy became pregnant shortly thereafter with our third child. That's when a baby boy named Mark came into our lives. Cathy and I sat down and decided that she would stay home and be there when the kids became old enough to get off the bus. I was now making enough money to keep us satisfied, but I still wanted to get back into Radio, and I was getting very frustrated. Thankfully, May of 1978 would start a whole new chapter in our lives. End of Chapter 9.
Friday, May 20, 2005
It was a nice sunny day in May when I applied for a part-time job at WCGR in Canandaigua. With my meager experience I wasn't sure about my chances. I gave them my audition tape and sat back and waited. Lucky for me it must have been a slow week, because they called back a few days later and said the position was mine. Working full time at the Post Office only allowed me to be a DJ on Sundays. This station was AM and FM, however the AM was only on during daylight hours(this took me back to Madawaska). My shift was from 10 AM to 3 PM, and I would be playing Rock music. To this day, I still consider this job my first Radio experience; for two reasons. The first station you go to is always a learning experience. For that reason it shouldn't be counted. Secondly, I had started in the LA market, one of the toughest in the country. There were times I was plenty scared those first 2 years. But now I was in a much smaller market. I could relax and really learn my craft. When I think back, I really believe I had the most fun at WCGR. Basically because, after six months I talked the station owner into letting me have a 3 hour Big Band show. My Father had raised me on this music and now I finally had my chance to play the kind of music he would have loved. After awhile I got so good at it that the owner told me my new show was the second most popular show on the station. Wonderful people were actually sending me cards and letters. I still have that scrapbook and will treasure it always. The station had no Big Band music, so I brought my own from home every week. I would stay at this lovely job until October of 1980. My reason for leaving was very interesting. All this time I had been paid four dollars per hour. Suddenly, there was another addition to our household; a son named Adam. He would turn out to be our last. So, our expenses had gone up. I asked the owner for a one dollar raise per hour for the following reasons. First, he had just built three new Racketball courts next to the station so I knew he could afford my small raise. Second, according to him, I had the second most popular show on his station. I was sure I would get the raise, but he threw me a giant curve and said no. His reasoning was, if I got a raise, everyone else would find out and want one too. Obviously, his theory was sheer stupidity, but he was the boss. To save face, I had no choice but to quit. He reluctantly accepted, and then asked me not to say anything about my leaving on-the-air. I relented, but almost changed my mind many times on my next and last Sunday program. I always felt bad leaving that job, but to this day I still have my memories and don't regret one bit asking for that raise. I will always look upon it as his loss. It would be almost three years before I had a chance to talk into a microphone again. End of Chapter 10.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
For the next three years I loved working for the Post Office in Pittsford while living in Victor. Our family now consisted of five, and of course life was pretty hectic for us. I didn't really have time to think about Radio too much. Then in May of 1983 I heard about a new Radio Station that had opened on route 332 just across from the State Trooper barracks. I went there and talked to the Program Director as I filled out the application. I got the job without too much of a problem, but it would turn out to be nowhere near as exciting as WCGR had been. The music on WYLF was played on 10 inch tapes that had to be changed every six hours. The only announcing I would have would be to back-announce three songs after they had played, and do the news every hour. My hours on Sunday were 5 to 11 AM. But at least I was back in Radio. The best part of working here came four times a year when they brought a Big Band into town. I really enjoyed listening to them live and got a chance to meet many of the people that listened to the station everyday. Working at the Post Office was a little stressful even in those days, but at the Radio Station I could sit back and relax all my cares away. Plus, I finally got the five dollars per hour that I should have gotten three years earlier at WCGR. I would remain at this station for a very short time however. They went out of business in December of 1984. In the past six years I had been at two different stations, but only on-the-air for 48 months. Having to leave WYLF really hit me hard. I became very depressed afterwards, but not only about Radio. The previous year I had expressed certain feelings toward my wife concerning Winter. I probably wouldn't have minded snow so much if I didn't have to be out in it everyday as a carrier. That day we made two decisions. I would become a clerk(if a position was available), and we would discuss seriously moving to Florida. I knew I wanted to retire in Florida, I just didn't know when to transfer. My Postmaster said that a clerk position was available at that time. That took care of problem number one. That would keep me inside of the Post Office all day long and out of the bad weather. Cathy and I then laid out a map of Florida on the carpet in the living room and tried to decide where we would try and get a transfer to. After much discussion, we settled on the Daytona Beach area because at that time both my Mother and Grandmother lived there. We decided to put our plan into action after Christmas of 1984. After enjoying the holidays, I got on a plane for my first flight to talk to all of the major Postmasters in the Daytona area. During January and February of 1985 I flew to Daytona a total of three times. I had decided I would do whatever it took to get this transfer. I was spending a lot of money, but I knew it was worth it. Then I flew back to Rochester and waited. Finally in March came the great news. I had been accepted at the Daytona Beach Volusia Avenue Facility. Problem was, they only gave me two weeks to get there and start working. I arrived the middle of March, 1985. Cathy and the kids started packing the house in Victor and contacted a realtor to sell it. Everything seemed to be going great. Little did I realize the huge problems that lay just around the corner for all of us. End of Chapter 11.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I arrived in Daytona Beach in March of 1985. I knew this would be a new start in a part of the country that I had never lived in before; and to tell the truth I was very nervous. My Mother said I could stay with her until Cathy and the kids arrived from Victor. I had rented an old clunker to get me around town. At the Post Office I had to start learning the scheme. There were 42 routes and I had to memorize the streets on all of them within a certain period of time. I wasn't worried because I knew Cathy had already found a buyer for the house and the family would be arriving in about two weeks. I had already found a house to rent. She and I had always done everything important together, so I really couldn't get into learning that scheme until she arrived. We simply had to do it together. Turned out however, at the eleventh hour, the bank must have found out something real bad about the buyer, because they nixed the sale. That set our timetable back another three months. Meanwhile, things for me couldn't have been worse. I tried learning the scheme on my own, but it was no soap. A while later the Postal Service sent me a Certified letter. They said I had 30 days in which to pass the scheme or I should pack my bags. Apparently they had waited this long only because I was in the Union and I was a Veteran. Fortunately, Cathy had another buyer in line and would drive down in about two weeks. This news couldn't have come at a better time. As soon as the family arrived, Cathy and I started working day and night on passing the scheme. I would get about 4 hours sleep a night. Every night I would go to work(my hours were midnight to 8:30 A.M.), and take the test first thing. This went on for weeks and I really thought I wouldn't make it. The gods must have been with me however, because I passed it with three days to spare. For the next five years I would enjoy the Florida sunshine, and the work I would do at the Volusia Avenue Facility. Everything was going great, even though it would be many years before I would hold a microphone again. Little did I know that upcoming changes in the Daytona Beach Postal Service would make things miserable for me for my last twelve years before retirement in June of 2002. End of Chapter 12.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
In 1987 I started hearing rumors about a new building that would be going up in Daytona Beach about a mile away from the Volusia Avenue Facility. I could only hope that they weren't true, but I knew better. Seems whenever things are going well, someone or something has to come along and mess things up. All of our work at the VAF was done by hand; but we got everything out everyday on time. This new building would be huge. Management, clerks, carriers and maintenance would all have their own separate areas. There would also be a gigantic dock to take care of the many trucks that would arrive 24 hours a day. It would open in 1990 and would have lots of machines to sort letters. Over time, manual work would slowly be phased out except for a few specific jobs. Luckily for me, I was able to get some of these jobs even though I was nowhere near the top of the seniority list. I knew I would hate this new building and I was right. The Union had run the VAF but now management made it quite clear to us whom would be running this new building. It would be called the Daytona Beach General Mail Facility. After a few months, I talked to a few co-workers about my feelings. They said that if you had come from a large facility, this new building wouldn't bother you. My problem was I had come from only small Post Offices in my career and was simply overwhelmed by my surroundings. I thought that given time, my feelings might change; but they never did. Right up until the day I retired on June 15th of 2002, I still hated that building. Funny about how a person can hate an inanimate object. I guess I was a person that just never liked change. I'm from the old school and knew without hesitation that I could never be a machine clerk. The last twelve years of my Postal career seemed to take ten times longer than the first twenty two. I may have hated the building, but I loved all my jobs and I made friends with many fine people over those years. So their was a silver lining to my story after all. I never got back into Radio during those final years in The Postal Service, but a few years before I retired I had a chance to host our Union Christmas Party and be D.J. End of Chapter 13.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Have you ever had to do something and you wanted to get it just right? That's how I felt as I planned to do the Union Christmas Party a few years ago. I got the equipment, had everything set up, and my music was all ready to be played. I knew what I had to say, and felt it would be a night to remember. Little did I know it would turn out to be just the opposite. Some people never even noticed my unprofessionalism. But then they hadn't gone to Broadcasting School and had a diploma on the wall at home to prove it. It wasn't a complete disaster, but it sure came close. Problem was, all of my experience had come in studios in front of a microphone. I was really talking to hundreds of thousands of people, but in my mind there was only one. That's why I was always so relaxed. I might have been able to pull it off if these had been strangers in front of me; but these were my co-workers. This would be the first time I would host a live show. That made me even more nervous. Probably a good belt would have helped me too before the show. That really would have been relaxing. The thing that hurt the most came at the next Union Meeting. The woman who ran the Recreation Committee said that next year they wanted a Professional Disc-Jockey. That was like sticking a Bowie Knife through my heart. I was punishing myself enough. I didn't need any help from other people. I would never have considered telling her she was an unprofessional clerk, even if she was. But I guess that's just me. Anyway, I learned a lot from that experience. I would love the chance to vindicate myself someday at another Christmas Party, but I'm not sure the powers that be will ever give me the chance to redeem myself. I can only hope for the best. As they say, time heals all wounds. End of Chapter 14.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Over the last few months I have had many chances to think over a variety of things. It's ironic but when I was 20, 30, 40 and 50 I never once thought about getting old. Now as I slowly approach 60 I think about it all the time. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. As I look back on my life, I only have two regrets; and neither one of them could have been helped. The first concerns my childhood. Not that it wasn't a supreme joy growing up in the 50's in Webster, because it was. It truly was the age of innocence, which only ended with the assasination of JFK. Problem is, I had to do it alone. Being alone doesn't mean that you're lonely. But try and convince society of that. True, I had friends, but I usually had to go to their homes to play. I spent a lot of time alone, which is probably why I turned out so introverted later on. I was a breech birth and my Mother told me later that she couldn't have any other children. I always felt a void in my life by not having a brother or sister. My other regret came with the loss of my father. When one is an only child, your obvious hero is dad. We spent an awful lot of time together. My father was certainly no saint, but then whose is. As anyone can tell you, the loss of a loved one is the worst pain you will ever feel. I would now go through life with only one parent. I have lived in Florida for the last 20 years, and yet my heart will always be in my home town of Rochester. I live here for one reason only: the weather. After delivering the mail for ten years in the snow, I simply couldn't take it any more. Maybe I'm just a weak person, but I have always missed the fall colors and the drives our family would take through the mountains of the Finger Lakes. Except in Winter, it is truly a beautiful area to behold. I hope to get back there someday for one last time to see all of our friends and family. Unfortunately, we had to miss our East High class reunion in 2004, but we look forward with great expectation to our next one. The End. For Now.