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.