On Friday, April 25th, 1997, I conducted my last airshift and worked my final day after nine fruitful, wonderful years at Hoffman Communications, which, at the time, owned and operated Contemporary Christian WDYL-FM, as well as WGGM-AM, a station that saw a frequency change and several format changes during my tenure.
So, today, twenty years to the day of my last on-air show, I have some feelings to share and some gratitude to pass along.
I look back on my nine years there, almost all of it coming out of a non-descript cinder block building in a flood zone at the bottom of a hill on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chester, and my first thought is, we did some incredible radio there. After years of falling into disrepair, I'm happy to see the building alive again as a used car dealership. That building deserves to live.
We crammed three radio studios, a production room or two, two bathrooms, a "lobby" and even a drink machine my children's generation wouldn't recognize. Part of my job as Operations Manager was to fill that machine. 35 cents a can. It looked similar to the one below. You pushed the can you wanted into a slot, deposited your money, then lifted the metal thingy to allow you to take your can. Those were the days. :)
I did, as the "boss" of the air staff for eight of my nine years, every airshift known there. If I was short employees, off I went. Sunday mornings with live choirs singing in the lobby (I have a special affinity for Rev. Jethro White and the Fireball Singers, and the Harmonizing Echoes), Sunday nights running taped programming, and many shifts producing sporting events from VCU basketball, VMI, James Madison and Virginia Tech football, even the Richmond Renegades hockey team.
That's how I met the late, great Terry Sisisky, running board on VCU hoops starting in late 1988. And who made a trip to our new studios in Chester on the morning of my last day to stop by and say hello? Yep, T-Man did. I'll never forget it.
I conducted hundreds of on-air interviews, played, and programmed, thousands of songs, printed countless music logs, and was honored to watch some special people come through those doors on Jeff Davis Highway.
Tracy Lynn, who many of you have watched on NBC12 for years, began her career out of college with us in my first year there in '88. Less than two years later, a kid fresh out of high school walked in looking for a break. Today, J.J. Surma is one of NBC12's station voices and has been the creative genius for several Washington DC radio stations for years now. Other announcers became attorneys, pastors, and one recently left CBS6 after many years to become a television news director in Louisiana.
So, today, thinking back, a few not very random thoughts.
1) I remember wondering how I would cope without a daily radio show. Radio is at the heart of what I love to do. While I've worked in radio since, I've never picked up a new daily airshift. And, after 20 years, I've handled that just fine. :)
2) You don't know how good you have it until it is gone. Yes, I came home many nights stressed and unhappy about what I look back on today as being "stuff". With this distance now to look back upon those years, I don't remember 99.9 percent of the stuff. I remember the friends I made, the people I saw grow, and the laughs. There were many, many, many laughs.
3) I was so sad when WDYL was sold and went off the air two years after my departure. We haven't truly had a "Richmond Christian Music Radio Station" since. 90 Joy wasn't, PER wasn't, the new K-Love isn't. National radio cannot and will never replicate local radio. It may replace it, and, when it does, our community is the worse for it.
And, finally, THANK YOU.
First, to God for the opportunity I received as a skinny, wet behind the years almost 21 year old.
To Paul Scott: Thank you for being exactly the mentor I needed at the time you came into my life. You are the very definition of consistency, a steady hand, a level head, and a servant of God. It's hard to do better than that.
To Rob Kennedy: Thank you for being the good friend I needed when I arrived, and for many years to come. Thanks for lunches, the decision bump, and introducing me to illegal games of Nerf Baseball at lunch time. Also, thanks for dropping my name to Bill Roberts in 2002 when he was looking for a play-by-play guy for his Ashland radio station. Without that, The RVA Sports Network and all it entails wouldn't exist today.
To ALL My Announcers: Thank you for your hard work, your dedication, for at least pretending to like me (hee hee), for the staff meetings, occasional memos, and helping out at the last minute. I don't regret a single late night frantic call or page. Their names are too many to mention, but one must be. Amy Howard, you were the cornerstone of my staff for years, even as a "part-time" employee. Thank you for everything!
To the rest of the staff I worked with over the years, from office staff (Hi Kathy, Kelly, Debbie!) to the WGCV family when they arrived in 1992, to all the account executives, our memories are great, and we made some mighty fine radio. I appreciate you all. :)
Snowstorms, near-miss hurricanes (save you, Fran!), The Gulf War, Oklahoma City, O.J. Simpson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, three presidential elections, and much more happened while I watched it come over the old AP wire machine in the room adjacent the studio. There were hot airshifts in summer when the AC system froze over, last minute studio guests, hours of training, commercials made out of reel to reel tape and, if you didn't have a grease pencil to mark edits with, you used White-Out. :)
Christian Skate Nights, Monday morning staff meetings, record company calls, three trips to Nashville, countless concerts and more.
Twenty years ago today, my son was almost five, Rachel was in her car carrier, a day shy of two months old. Today, things are a little different. But I know one thing that remains constant, and that is how incredibly thankful I am that I had a small role to play at WDYL/WGGM.
Wherever you may be in life today, take a moment, breathe it in, and think of all the good things. Because one day, they will be in your past. And when you are twenty years removed, I hope you have the great feelings of appreciation that I do on this day. :)