Excerpt from "Sign On at Sunrise" by Steve Newvine

photo by steve newvine

photo by steve newvine

Grey arrived at the station onSunday atabout ahalf-hour before his shift was to begin.  The station was doing a remote broadcast from the annual winter festival so this debut would be shortened with his role essentially being that of a news anchor with an hourly newscast.  His other duty would be to stand by and be ready to go on the air in the event the remote line failed.

While in anticipation of his debut, Grey could not help but be amused by the remote broadcast from the scene of the annual snowmobile races that were a big part of the winter festival.  The two race announcers were sales representatives who had sold the advertising for the event.  The pair practically stumbled over one another to frequently mention each other’s clients who were sponsoring the radio broadcast.

The announcers were set up near the finish line of the snowmobile racetrack.  Their audio was great while a race was in progress, but every time the racers got close to the finish line, all that could be heard was the loud sound of souped-up snowmobile engines swooshing past the broadcasters.  The listeners rarely heard who actually won each race, but at least the advertisers could hear their names mentioned every five minutes.

“The racers are coming across the final turn, Johnson is in the lead, with Jones inching up closer.  As they approach the finish line, it’s….  (VROOM, VROOM).  …oh what a race that was.  And now,  a word from our sponsor.”

The remote broadcast ended shortly after four o’clock. This gave Grey about a half-hour of real on-air time.  Loretta was there to be sure he was doing everything in accordance with F.C.C. (Federal Communications Commission) regulations with regard to meter readings.  She was also a security blanket in the event Grey became too nervous to finish the shift.

The nervousness was there as the announcer on the remote broadcast wrapped up the event and pitched it back to the studio for the remainder of the broadcast day.

The first song Grey played as a professional disc jockey was How Deep is Your Love by the Bee Gees.  He had prepared a formal introduction for his audience, but he was so tense, all he could do was start the turntable and turn on his microphone, only to shut the microphone off immediately.  He let the song finish, then said hello to his listeners.

“You just heard the Bee Gees, and I’m Grey Harriman, your new voice on Sunday afternoons.  It’s thirty-three degrees outside and twelve minutes after the hour.”

He quickly started up another record and flipped his microphone switch to the off position.  He thought to himself, I wonder if my family is listening?  He looked over at Loretta who was smiling.

“You’re doing just fine,” she said.

He played a few records, talked a little in between songs, read the weather forecast, and signed off at 4:45 p.m.  Then, under the watchful eye of Loretta, he completed his F.C.C. log, turned off the station transmitter, straightened up the studio area of his used wire copy, put away records that were pulled but didn’t make it on the air, turned off the lights, locked the station door, and headed home.

His first shift on the air in a real radio station was over.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.