Where I Was 40 Years Ago (a radio story)

A. Joseph Ross lawyer@attorneyross.com
Sat Nov 22 01:37:17 EST 2003

On 21 Nov 2003 at 13:31, Donna Halper wrote:

> His name was Dr O'Leary (I never figured out what
> he was a doctor of...) 

Probably Education.

> I do recall that I was the one who confirmed for everyone the terrible
> news that yes, it was no rumour; the president really had been shot.  And
> so much changed for all of us after that. 

I have a radio story, too.  I was a freshman at UMass, and I had already begun to do news 
announcing on WMUA.  At the time, the station signed on 
at 4:30 PM, with something called "Music Theater."  This was a direct steal, both the format 
and the title, from WBOS at the time, but it consisted of instrumental pop music, played 
without announcement, except for 5 minutes of news on the hour, headlines on the half hour, 
and a promo on the quarter hour.  It was a convenient place to start a freshman, and my 
airshift was every Friday afternoon until about 6:00 PM.

After a late lunch at the Dining Commons, I returned to the dorm to find a large crowd around 
the TV.  After learning what had happened, I went upstairs to my room and listened to the 
radio for a little while.  At that time, the President's condition was unknown.  There was also 
a brief rumor about Vice President Johnson having had a heart attack on learning the news.  
This turned out to be simply a misinterpretation of the simple fact that LBJ did have a heart 
attack in 1955.

Anyway, at some point I decided to go down to the station, where I found a large crowd in 
front of the teletype.  The news studio was being used by people who were preparing for a 
special report later in the evening, and the performance studio was being used by the 
campus paper, which didn't have a teletype of its own in those days, to prepare a special 
edition.  As it came time to go on the air, they ran a line to the Tech Department shop and 
set up the "consolette," a two-turntable remote affair normally used to do a Friday night rock 
& roll show from the Student Union.  Meanwhile, the classical music director picked some 
appropriately somber music.

I cleared some space on the workbench for a microphone and copy, including the sign-on 
announcement, which I was going to have to read in place of the taped version that we 
usually used.  I also had an announcement that classes were going to be cancelled until 
after the funeral.  That soon became until after Thanksgiving break.

I managed to keep my voice steady, with only one bad moment, as I read the sign-on and 
class cancellation announcement.  We went to music until 5:00.

I sometimes had to fight to get the news copy that I needed, since others were using it either 
for the evening special or the newspaper.  I remember specifically asking for the story of 
President Johnson's swearing-in.  As I was doing the 5:00 newscast, the program director 
came tiptoeing into our makeshift studio, with a piece of teletype paper in his hand.  I could 
tell that he had some late-breaking news, and when I finished what I was reading, I stepped 
back from the microphone, and he stepped up and read the news of the arrest of Lee Harvey 
Oswald.  He then stepped back, and I resumed my newscast.

I suppose I could have reached up for it and said, "This just handed me!" but I didn't think of 
that until sometime in the early 90s, when I told the story at a station reunion.

A. Joseph Ross, J.D.                           617.367.0468
 15 Court Square, Suite 210                 lawyer@attorneyross.com
Boston, MA 02108-2503           	         http://www.attorneyross.com

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