The Big Break

In the summer of 68 I drove all over Northwest Ohio cold calling every little radio station I could spot by their transmitter towers. Defiance, Celina, Moulton, Kenton, all in my crosshairs. But it was Van Wert where I got my first full time job. W.E.R.T 1220 AM and 98.9 FM. Larry Orchard was the program and sales manager and Donna Wermer was the General Manager. Donna was an extraordinary professional woman. Way ahead of her time.  I did an audition in their production studio and they hired me on the spot. 

I was given the job as traffic manager. At first I thought I had to go out on the Lincoln Highway and report on traffic… but I soon learned that it meant preparing the daily program logs, scheduling all the commercials. It’s an important job because the reconciliation of those logs is what creates your billing.  But I also got to be on the air. I worked a split shift. Mornings 10-noon, then afternoon 2-signoff.  We played what was called middle of the road music…MOR. Real crap. Si Zetner and the Orchestra, Les Brown and his Band of Renown.  Every now and then we would play something really out there – like an orchestral version of a Beatles tune. 

I got to read obituaries on the air. They were sponsored by a local funeral home. And I butchered local newscasts.  Every morning I had to stop at a local bakery and get day old rolls for the station. But they sure tasted good with the swill we called coffee. By the way, most radio station coffee sucks. ( years later, when I was a GM, I installed a Kurig type coffee maker for the staff. Now THAT was good coffee). 

The 1968 election was a busy time. Every possible local politician advertised on WERT. And I had the job of making sure their commercials were scheduled as ordered   I had to keep the D’s away from the R’s. Of course in Van Wert, there weren’t many D’s. 

Election night we did Wall to Wall coverage. Our chief engineer Ray Tanner hung a microphone in the teletype closet.  The mic cable ran along the floor into the studio where we could turn on the mic for the continuous clacking of the teletype. Made us sound like big time news!  My job that night was a runner.  I’d run to the teletype, collect the latest election results, and run them to the announcer in the studio.  As the evening wore on, I went to the teletype closet to collect the latest presidential count and saw the bulletin that Richard Nixon had won. At which point I exclaimed “oh shit” forgetting that there was a live mic overhead. Yep, it went out over the air. Nope, I didn’t get fired. But a big lesson learned.  When you’re around a microphone, you just don’t say naughty words. 

10 thoughts on “The Big Break”

  1. Skip, I love that you did traffic in the beginning. Gives you a unique perspective that many do not understand. Looking forward to your next installment.

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  2. Wow Skip we have something in come besides our hometown. My first night on the air at WPNM in Ottawa, Ohio we were carrying two live basketball games. Confusing to the listeners and to me. I would take it from one game, read live commercials, then send it out to the other game. During one of the breaks I read the live copy and sent it back out to the broadcast team, removed my headphones, and didn’t hear anything and promptly said, “oh Shit…come on back Bitch!” When I realized the mike was still on I switched it off and heard the guys yelling at me to “cut the mike.” I thought it was my first and last day in radio. We did have a big laugh about it when we all got together at the Red Pig Inn. Like you, I realized I was going to have to clean up my language in everyday life otherwise when I found myself in a pressure situation I was going to fall back on my rather colorful language. I’m looking forward to reading more of your reminiscences.

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  3. Thanks for the friend confirmation. Loved reading these. I loved it when I was hired at Wood. Marilyn Whitener hired me. (Don’t know if you heard but She passed away over a year ago) And I liked working with you, too! Trying to fit all the commercials in and you making sure I didn’t put too many on. 28 years doing traffic. What was wrong with me? I think I was burned out for at least a year and 1/2 before I retired. Just counting the days. Hope all is well with you and Sharon and your family. Jim and I still want to come to California. Looking forward to your next blog.

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  4. And I thought I was bad when you were my PD & I shouted “what the hell is he doing?” & an open mic shared that with the audience of “The Talk of Toledo” Saturday morning show!! lol

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