[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Donald & The RADIO STATION
Hi. Here's a true story that you may enjoy. All names have been changed to
protect the innocent. -jt
DONALD AND THE RADIO STATION
New England, summer of 1966. My pal Chuck and I had spent the previous winter
huddled against the warm tube glow of our CB radios, exchanging sarcastic
comments with the hapless users of the local airwaves. Chuck and I had met "on
the air" and were pleased to discover we were both around the same age
- ---thirteen. Kid CB users were as rare as one-armed outfielders. The 23
channels of the Citizen's Band were so sparsely populated back then that it
was a really big event when there were more than a handful of people on a
time. I'd get an excited phone call from Chuck saying "You gotta get on
channel 5! It's a blast! So-and-so's on!". I'd warm up the set and sure
enough, he'd be on there sparring and joking with a gang comprised mostly of
grown-ups and the occaisonal teen-aged girl. We'd wisecrack ardently for a
while before reluctantly shutting down sometime near 2 AM. Without exception,
the interplay was all ridiculously innocent: no profanity....and everybody
announced their FCC-issued call letters with great ceremony.
I used to stay over Chuck's house on weekends. The CB radio was actually his
Dad's, but Chuck used it more frequently. In front of his radio was something
I'd never seen before. It was a shiny silver microphone, the kind into which
Bing Crosby would croon in those old movies. A small red badge on the front of
it said "Argonnne AR57".
Attached to the Argonne was a small, metal box featuring a huge control knob
hanging off the side. I was told this was a range-boosting device Chuck's
father had obtained illegaly. I was also given to understand that the big knob
was never to be turned past "1" on the scale, or some sort of bad consequences
would befall us.
Naturally, first chance he got, Chuck would crank the knob to "10".
The result was a booming vocal effect we liked to think sounded like the
wizard of Oz. This phenomenon was said to originate from the special unique
quality of the Argonne mike. Everyone on the air seemed to have one. For $4.98
at the local Radio Shack, anyone could take part in the mystique. Whatever the
case, I quickly sought one out for my own use.
The contraband box turned out to be no more than an ordinary preamp for a hi-
fi turntable. But I'd discovered that this little device had another, more
tantalizing use: with minor re-wiring, it would broadcast AM radio signals to
I got Donald involved in my experiments with the thing because he had a
car and driver's license. I had hooked up the box in my room to a turntable.
This, my one 45 record ("Cast Your Fate To The Wind") and the Argonne
- ---comprising a crude broadcast center. 150 feet of copper wire strung between
pine trees outside served as the antenna system. After firing up the radio
station, I would carefully tune Donald's car radio to it, then instruct him to
drive off around the neighborhood and take notes of where I started to fade
away into the static.
I had visions of my broadcasts reaching the polar ice cap; where brave
explorers huddled around a tin stove listening to my every word.
Unfortunately, my signal never reached more than a country mile as far as I
could tell. And Donald's testimony was unreliable at best. He'd drive for a
few minutes, then get distracted by something he saw and forget to take notes.
Alternately, I found he would attempt to re-tune the car radio and end up
listening to some other station and not even realize it. Still, the dubious
coverage gained by this haywire lash-up seemed plenty good enough for me.
Every chance I got, I would go on the air. I pictured stunned families all
over the neighborhood tuning in to my little station ---captivated by my
repeated time checks and endless encores of "Cast Your Fate To The Wind",
tickled pink by my lame jokes ---gathered round the radio, desperately waiting
for my next appearance.
One Sunday after Canobie Lake Park had closed, Donald and I found ourselves at
my house with an evening to kill. I fired up the radio station and decided to
let Donald have a turn at the mike. He seemed thrilled with the opportunity to
sing atonal compositions of his own into the sultry night air, the radio waves
beaming his flat monotone crooning out in all directions ---for at least a
During this acapella performance I noticed my teenaged sister had arrived home
from her date. A long blue Chevy had pulled into the driveway below my room
and parked there. She seemed to attract an endless variety of geeky college
guys who pursued her continually that summer and all the next. Some came on
motorcycles, some in huge convertibles, but all took part in the same extended
parking ritual in our driveway. Many times my mother would intervene,
appearing on the doorstep to extricate my sister from a particularly long
goodbye. And the window in my room provided the perfect balcony seat to enjoy
all the amorous goings-on from.
But nothing much was going on tonite. Muffled conversation inside the car.
Radio playing some Beach Boys ballad. Suddenly a whooping howl and giddy
laughter pealed from below. I strained to listen, sure that wild orgiastic
revels would indeed follow. Instead ---I began to hear the unmistakeable
sounds of Donald's scratchy voice coming from inside the Chevy. My sister and
her boyfriend had accidentally tuned us in! I quickly grabbed the mike and
slapped my only 45 on the turntable while I filled in Donald. We had an
audience! Here was a chance to impress actual human beings with our
broadcasting finesse. Donald agreed, and insisted he be allowed to continue
his command performance for this audience of two. I gave him the mike, unaware
of what was to come.
Donald had this unpredictable streak that made him, well....Donald. You never
really knew how he would react to any given situation. He could be a perfect
gentleman if he ran into some local girls from school, saying hello and making
the requisite jokes and banter. Then suddenly he would insert some utterly
graphic scatalogical statement into the conversation that was so completely
offensive and outrageous that it would cause everyone's jaws to drop. This got
him into trouble too frequently with the local toughs who felt obliged to
defend whatever poor local maiden's honor had been besmirched. Somehow he
managed to refrain from this practice around adults, as far as I could tell,
so there were no arrests or brushes with the law, at least yet.
Tonight, Donald's uncontrolled attacks on propriety would embark upon a new
medium. As soon as he cupped the mike into his hands I knew something was
"Hey out there," his gravelly voice rumbled into the Argonne, "Stick your ****
in her ear."
I went into an instant state of shock. Outside, birds had stopped singing. The
air was still. I heard a car door slam. Donald was in stitches ---rolling on
the floor in a wave of loud, mule-like guffaws ---as if he couldn't believe
he'd said something so uniquely funny. Meanwhile, the sounds of panic and rage
filled the house. A huge screaming argument had erupted in the kitchen. It
sounded like my sister was being restrained by both my parents in order to
prevent her from tearing down the door to my room and annihilating both me and
The end result was that I was compelled to dismantle the entire broadcast
facility to prevent another such occurrence. Donald was barred from the house
forevermore (although after a few weeks all was forgotten when he showed up
with bagfuls of fresh tomatoes: peace offerings for my parents.)
In retrospect, I honestly don't think Donald ever fully understood what he did
or why it might be considered disturbing. He displayed none of the fears about
"fitting in" typical of other guys his age. In fact, the whole concept of
worrisome introspection seemed to elude him completely. His complete freedom
from self-judgement was a mixed blessing bestowed on him ---and one that would
remain at the heart of his problems with members of the opposite sex for as
long as I knew him.
End of boston-radio-interest-digest V2 #9