Wednesday, November 11, 2009


My rememberances of events that were meaningful to me in radio could never be complete without the inclusion of WDLR in Delaware.

Ted Baxter used to say on the Mary Tyler Moore show "It all started in a 5,000-watt radio station in Fresno, California. With just a $50-a-week paycheck and a dream".

Actually Ted's start was much better than mine. My start was at a 500 watt radio station in Delaware, Ohio working for free and a dream. Free. I begged local manager Jim Lloyd to allow me to have some airtime and I would be willing to do so for free. My first day on the radio was Tuesday May 8, 1973. I was on the air between 7 and 8:45 pm. Working for free.

In just a few weeks, I was hired to handle Saturday's between the hours of 2 until sign-off which was 8:45 in May and extended to 9:00 pm in June. For $1.85/hour. I was thrilled and panicked. For 7 hours I was I was in a cinder block building, all by myself. I honestly believe one of the reasons I am comfortable by myself is that I learned to do so on those Saturdays.

But like Ted, I still had my dream.

WDLR began it's on air life on January 18, 1961 at 12 noon. It was scheduled to operate between the hours of 6 am until Delaware sunset which ranged from 5 pm in December to 8 pm EST in June and July. From a picture and an advertisement in the January 16th Delaware Gazette, here is the exterior of the studios and the announcement of programming actities. The station was to program a format aimed at young married and middle aged people, with lots of local news, farm news, markets and sports.

When I began in 1973 the stations line up included Dan Green doing mornings and news (he left soon after my arrival and was replaced by Ron Culp), John Phillips in the afternoon, Dan Allender Saturday morning and me Saturday afternoon. I was hired to replace a gentleman by the name of Hugh Hannah. Hugh was African-American and was leaving to join a black programmed station in Xenia.

Others at the station were Kris Keltner who was Delaware's version of Ruth Lyons. She hosted for lack of a better term a variety show.

Paul Heinlein who doubled as chief engineer handled evenings during the spring and summer allowing the haywire automation system which never worked right run the show. Uncle Paul as we called him was also responsible for an all religious pay for play preacher Sunday lineup. We teasingly called the Sunday line up "The Sunday Screamers", as they were mostly well meaning self appointed fundamentalist preachers willing to pluck down the $30 for a half hour of radio time to yell, rant and scream into the microphone about salvation and hell. Old time religion.

One preacherman, Barney Sheritt who ran the grain mill in Ostrander, had for lack of a better term religious turrets disease. While delivering his message with strong fervor, he would let slip curse words or strong sexual words. Yet when finished, he was a kind and soft spoken gentleman. Barney was doing risque radio long before it became cool ala Howard Stern.

Mark Litton, who I've remained friends with all these years joined the station a few weeks after I began hosting a top 40 countdown. He also did other sundry work including fill ins.

Mark filled in for Paul one Sunday. While Brother Barney was on the air referred to Mark as a long haired, hippified son of a bitch. On the air. Yet when he was finished, he handed Mark his $30 for his air time, thanked him for engineering the show and said he wished him a great week and would see him next Sunday if he was filling in for Paul.

Mark became one of the more successful of our WDLR graduating class as he has gone on to station ownership in Ohio and briefly Illinois.

Kris and Paul were old timers in the business. Kris and her twin sister sang on the the old WHKC (now WTVN) sometime in the long ago past. Kris read poetry, gave household tips, sang standards or religious songs, and gave anniversary and birthday greetings. Kris was in her 70's and yet had firery red hair and had a type A personality to match. She was a tough woman who had seen it all. She would often bring her husband along with her. Pappy as he was called was her polar opposite. Quiet and never without his pipe, Pappy would tamp and smoke away in quiet amusement as Kris did her thing. Looking back, he often reminded me of Pa Kettle. Actually he was a accomplished but retired business man who had built a business making church furniture that was widely respected.

Paul was her nemesis. Paul was a large man with a pencil thin mustache and gap toothed smile. Put him in german dirndl dress ans he would have fit perfectly at a beer hall in Bavaria. He also had a huge cynical and ironic sense of humor.

Kris said he was so big that he had to be incorporated. She nick named him UPI for Uncle Paul Incorporated.

Paul loved to play practical jokes. Kris had a 3x5 card file of birthdays and anniversaries. Paul would insert cards with the names of fake people. Such as Mr. and Mrs. Authur Rightous celebrating an aniversary. The card would keep appearing every few months and Kris would read it and then comment that it just seemed not so long ago that they had celebrated and anniversary.

One of Kris's sponsors was a cemetary. It was managed by a man named Dan. Kris discused on the air that she was looking for some sort of hook or line to use with her commercials for the cemetary. From behind her in the studio he said to "See Digger Dan for his lay away plan."

The station was sold in early 1974 and the new owners came in and cleaned the place up. While I wasn't allowed to do much on the air, the overall effect was a much improved station. But as I noted in the beginngs of this article, I had a dream and running an automation system was not part of that dream. I left in May of 74.

Oddly, I've worked off and on for the station for the next several years and until the year 2001. I hosted music shows, called play by play sports (which for me is a stretch, as I know next to nothing about the positions and strategies of sports), did a local talk show, hosted candidate interviews and more.

The station now has a satellite fed Mexican based format.

The station looks like this today.

No comments: