Sunday, February 28, 2010

From Here to There

I thought I was the only one that wondered where roads began and where they ended. And of course what was in between. I've spent hours over the years turning page after page following various highways from state to state.

I was reading the travel section of the paper this morning. Steve Stephens was relating that he too often wonders where highways go and end. Link

I've been at the begining of I-75 and at it's end in south Florida. Same for I-10 which begins in Jacksonville, Florida and ends in Los Angeles. Or I-80 as it begins just shy of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey and crosses the country to San Francisco. I-71 is much easier as it begins in Cleveland and ends in Louisville. And of course I-4 from Daytona to Tampa is a simple and relatively short drive.

Of course there are the standard highways too. I don't know how many highways I've come across through the years that I've traced from beginning to end in an atlas and envisioned the sights and sounds along the way.

In my area, as an example, US Route 62 starts in Niagara Falls, New York and ends in El Paso, Texas. While the highway travels through Columbus, I would never use that route to get to either city. It would simply take too long.

Or US Route 40. It starts near the casinos and boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey and continues west to Park City, Utah. Yet at one time, it made it all the way to San Francisco. The now truncated highway at one time did go from coast to coast.

Route 23 starts way up north at the Mackinac Bridge and ends in usually warm (and sometimes humidly hot) downtown Jacksonville, Florida. I been to both extremes of this highway, but never the entire length of it. It is at it's most beautiful in Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee and Eastern, North Carolina just north of Asheville.

Or the other major US Highway, Route 33 which begins in Elkhart, Indiana and ends in Richmond, VA. I've followed US 33 from I-81 in Virginia to Columbus. It passes through some of the most scenic areas along the Virginia/West Virginia border.

But in the end, wouldn't it be fun to be able to simply pick up and explore all the places along the roads that pass through your neighborhood?

But in the end, I guess it's nice to know I'm not the only one who traces the origins and endings of highways.

Monday, February 22, 2010

That's the Stupidest Thing I Ever Heard!

It was the late 70's or early 80's when I first heard Bruce Williams. I believe it was on WLW. Bruce, Sally Jesse Raphael and Dr. Bernard Metzler were the talkers on the old Talknet radio network.

As radio began to cut back on local talent, these talkers, based out of NYC were syndicated across the nation. You could virtually drive anywhere and hear these voices.

Bruce specialized in financial things. People would call about buying cars, having wills prepared, investing in businesses and Bruce's all time favorite, buying time shares. The key to calling Bruce was never, ever ask if buying a time share was a good idea. I don't know how many times someone would call about buying a timeshare only to have Bruce tell them that it was the stupidest thing he had ever heard.

Bruce was salty. Bruce would flirt or or be condescending with the ladies. Bruce was interesting to listen to.

Bruce was a business man, mayor of a small New Jersey town and once survived a small plane crash (he was a pilot).

Several years ago, an article was written about Bruce's show. The author likened listening to Bruce's show was like being a child listening around the corner as your father gave his wrath to one of your brothers or sisters. Yes, you enjoyed hearing them get it, but you were just as glad it wasn't you.

Bruce announced today that he was hanging up his headphones and ending his shoe in early March.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So Long JM in the AM

I received a phone call yesterday from my friend Mark telling me that long ago former morning host at WRFD Johnny Martin had passed away. Said he saw it in an article in the Dispatch. Johnny was 87.

JM in the AM as the show was called was a blend of standards, instrumentals, big band classics, farm market reports and Johnny Martin weaving it all together to make mornings a little better. And as the ad from the old Columbus Citizen indicates, he did some midday country music too.

Johnny sat behind the WRFD morning microphone from 1957 until about 1970. My recollections are he left the station when it dropped its standards format to become Ohio's County Giant.

After a brief stint running a bank, Johnny returned to the Columbus area to work for the Ohio Farm Bureau.

Although I'm unsure what his specific duties were, Johnny would do analysis and commentary during and as a part of WRFD's midday farm hour from the OFB's offices.

Johnny was a big band music fan and I had the opportunity to chat with him a couple of times when he called me on the air at WOSU when I was hosting Big Band Saturday and Moonlight Swing.

During our conversation I asked if the Dispatch had done an article or if it was just an obit. Mark replied that it was an article, but that so much of what Johnny was involved in was left out. But as we chatted, we both realized that it had been 40 years since Johnny was waking up Columbus and central Ohio. Many of the people who were JM in the AM fans likely are no longer with us either.

Johnny is probably now sitting behind an old Western Electric mixing board with an old Altec bird cage microphone on a boom with a couple of washing machine sized turntables playing Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" for thousands of angels.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Niagara Falls

This weekend, Diana and I enjoyed a weekend away at Niagara Falls.

I can't express how much fun we have together going off and exploring all the neat things in our neck of the woods. And with an unbelieveable co-pilot.

One of my greatest joys is sharing our journeys together.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Passing? BC Hangs up the Headphones on Saturday Morning Open Phones

I didn't actually hear it. But according to some reports, WTVN morning host Bob Conners announced he was giving up his popular Saturday Morning Open Phones program. He still plans to host his Monday through Friday morning gig.

Saturday Morning Open Phones began as something of an anomaly and until this weekend remained one. The former reason was at the time, WTVN was for the most part playing music when this show began. The latter one is that largely the callers could have their say without much moderation.

Indulge here while I stroll down memory lane for just a moment to give some background.

Sure, WTVN had began to make the transformation to talk radio (other than the Speakout public affairs program that aired Sunday evenings)in the late 70's when Dale Ulmer , just released from WBNS was named evening host at the station. Dale was to begin blending music and chat. Ulmer stuck around for a few months and returned to his native Minnesota. He was replaced by Paul Davidson, who was overnight host of the station at the time. Paul was a nice guy. He wasn't cut out to be a talk show host. Talk radio didn't really take hold at the station until Steve Cannon came south from Akron to host the evening show at WTVN about 1979 to begin playing phonograph records and to share fancy patter. Cannon, then using trivia and star interviews instead of politics struck a chord with Columbus audiences. For an evening radio show, Steve brought the station a lot of attention.

Sometime after that Bob began opening the phones to Central Ohio on his Saturday morning show. I can't remember for sure, but my guess is sometime around Desert Storm.

What came after that was a eclectic collection of callers and listeners. Callers promoting everything from the latest from the John Birch Society to the Cat Lady with pets to adopt to someone promoting a local ice cream social, spaghetti dinner, church yard sale or community festival. Politically it was libertarian/fringe in terms of tone, however there were more people from both sides using the show to "showcase" their political leanings.

All came on, all had their say and were largely left unchallenged. Even those who were talking events on the political fringe. It actually became something of the charm of the show.

Fast forward to today. Bob was one of the few major market talents still holding down a 6 day per week shift. Old timers like me will remember that the man who held the morning show shift, John Fraim, exited WTVN in part because his demand to only work a 5 day week was pushed back. (Maybe Bob figured the dust had settled after more than 30 years and he could finally get the day off!)

Listeners reportedly heard Bob say he could now take his wife out to dinner Friday night like most others do without having to worry about getting up early Saturday to make the show by letting the Saturday show go.

Now well into his 70's maybe Rockin Robbin and Don Howard as Bob was known in his days in Pittsburg at WEEP and KQV is slowly beginning to hand over the reins of the morning show. If so, then so be it. Columbus loses what is possibly one of its most identifiable radio personalities when that happens. Bob has became our Walter Cronkite and Paul Harvey all rolled into one.

Bob has created a legacy here in Columbus. As entertainment and radio especially begin to become more of a homogenized commodity, standout local personalities/entertainers like Bob will become fewer and fewer.

Bob, all the best in whatever lies in your future.