"Heard for miles around, Wharf country's mighty sound, the starboard side of your dial!"
One day, my Aunt Ginny took me to WHRF, the local station I listened to quite often. The station was located in the now-defunct Flanders Drive-in outside of Riverhead. I recall Don Cannon at the mike introducing Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" on these huge turntables. He was talking loud, ringing a huge ship's bell mounted to the wall, and juggling these odd looking tape cartridges. From that point, there was no doubt of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. (more WHRF memories here)
During my junior year in high school, I decided to show up at the station, now known as WRCN, offering to sweep and take out the garbage. The Program Director, Mike Fischetti, showed me inside and then disappeared into an office just large enough to accommodate a desk, chair and bumper stickers from other stations. After a few minutes of staring into the studio, someone came out and introduced himself as Dave Schrieber. He was the news director and he asked me if I could read news copy. He wanted me to do an "actuality" to make his newscast sound like he had someone out in the field. The piece was edited directly on the page, cut from the local paper, Newsday. I went into the production studio and did a few takes on the reel to reel recorder. I recognized the equipment from my trip to the station ten years earlier.
This went on for a few months until one day I arrived at the station and Dave wasn't there. He had walked out, quit, earlier in the day. I asked Mike what I should do. He took a long drag from a Kent cigarette and shrugged. I told him I could do the news and he seemed satisfied enough to return to his desk. I quickly headed for the news room where I found a fresh copy of Newsday. At 4pm, I was seated at the microphone with about 15 stories neatly typed out. All the stories came from Newsday, but I did a little re-write here and there. My true input came from changing the newscast intro to what WDRC was using (I did replace "the capital city" to Riverhead!) The afternoon jock, Bob Ciaska, looked in at me and shook his head in disbelief. The previous day, I had almost poked him with a broomstick. Then he raised his hand, pointed his finger in my direction, and in an instant - the microphone was live and I was on the air.
Normally the news ran for five minutes. I was still reading at 4:11. After I finally finished, Bob walked in and told me it was too long, but not bad. I definitely needed to work on some pronunciations. He stopped counting at 15 and noted that "Worcester" was up in Massachusetts anyway. I heard nothing from anyone else. Each afternoon, I'd show up and read the 4, 5, and 6 o'clock newscasts with nary a word from the few people working in the building. This continued for a number of weeks until I heard that the morning newsman quit. I seized the moment proclaiming myself News Director, morning and afternoon anchor; and I wasn't even on the payroll! I felt privileged. I'm sure management had no problem with this arrangement either.
Five days a week, I woke up at 5am and drove to the station. I called the cops and firehouses and recorded their voices for actualities. I would do the first newscasts live, then record the later ones that would play while I was heading off to high school. In the afternoon, I returned to do the afternoon news. Around this time my parents thought the station was taking advantage of me. I should be paid. I told them I loved what I was doing and would do it for free. But the 1967 Impala took a lot of gas and I finally approached management about getting paid for my services. They looked surprised and I really thought I'd be fired right then. I wasn't.
I graciously thanked them for the 50 dollars a week salary and a yearly dinner at John Duck Jr.'s in Southampton. Within the next day, station owner Jim Putbrese, felt it was time to sit me down and give me a few pointers on news reading. In the fall of 1975, I gave notice and headed off to college. Regrettably, I've never worked there again.
In 2002, the original 1570 AM was back on the air, playing the same music and jingles as when I was 9 years old with the radio glued to my ear. I took my son, Kyle, to view the old studio/transmitter building on a generous offer from Mike Erickson who helped get the facility back on the air after its lifelong simulcast of WRCN-FM. Lately, the station is off the air more than it's on; and that's a shame.
in 2007, Kyle and I finally completed our FM100B, a transmitter kit from Ramsey Electronics. It needed a final look-over by someone with far more technical ability than Kyle and myself, but it's working! With a program of oldies and drop-ins by members of the family, the station covers a few houses around the block. Asked recently if the station is "legal," Kyle promptly replies that we operate under Part 15 of the FCC rules & regulations. Boy, I sure hope so!
More interested in just the radios? Click below for more on my "collection."
photo of Bob Goodman in front of WRCN studios circa 1973, courtesy of "Whole Nuther Thing."
updated March 2010