Talk radio made magic time
Talk radio is a format that emphasized talk and discussion instead of music. Over the years, I have been a talk radio listener — mostly NPR — as well as an occasional participant.
My first experience as a talk radio participant occurred in the summer of 1958 when I was 10. My boyhood friend Jimmy Hastings and I were invited to be on KYW’s (1000-AM) “D.J. Jury.” Our mothers took us to downtown Cleveland on Thursday afternoon in June so that we could pre-record the show.
As I recall, we first listened to, and then graded, a number of new popular songs. We stuck together — Jimmy and I did — grading the songs either quite high or quite low. One song that I remember in particular was Doris Day’s “Everybody Loves a Lover,” which turned out to be a chart buster, despite the low grades we gave it.
In addition to grading each son, we also had to give reasons for our grades, be they high or low. Some of the reasons included a nice lyric, a catchy tune, or a good beat. Since the show was pre-recorded, we were able to listen to it a few days later back home in Oberlin.
Another talk radio experience for me happened in he late summer of 1999, when I ventured into Cleveland to be interviewed, along with Oberlin College English professor Patrick Day, on Dee Perry’s WCPN “Around Noon Show.”
I had helped to organize a 50th publishing anniversary celebration of Jack Schaefer’s western “Shane,” whereas she asked me about the exhibit of “Shane” books in some 30 foreign languages, as well as about examples of Schaefer’s writings when Schaefer studied here. The exhibit took place at Oberlin College’s Mudd Library.
After the live interview, I received a tape when I left the WCPN studio.
One of my favorite talk radio programs is “Black on Black Crime” with Cleveland activist Art McKoy. His show occupies the 8 to 10 p.m. time slot every Sunday.
McKoy puts his heart and soul into his show. He is apt to yell a bit; nevertheless, he exudes a sincere desire to help folks with their problems.
I have called the station twice to read him a poem on air. Since he claims he can make it rain, I let him know that I, too, can make it rain, so I read him this 1885 poem, “Rain,” by Robert Louis Stevenson:
The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree.
It rains on the umbrellas here
And on the ship at sea.
Recently I had occasion to call WCPN’s morning show, “The Sound of Ideas,” hosted by Rick Jackson. He was interviewing Pete Hamill, the noted New York City journalist and novelist.
Hamill’s book “Snow in August” is one of my all-time favorite stories. It traces the friendship between an Irish American lad and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi.
When I called the station, I thanked Hamill for writing one of the loveliest novels I have ever read. I went on to tell him I especially liked the part of his book where the rabbi and the young man take in a Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field. His description made me feel like I was right there.
I ended my shout-out to Pete Hamill by saying, “God bless you for writing that book.” Hamill responded to my praise by telling me about the first time he ever saw Jackie Robinson play in 1947, Robinson’s rookie year. He said Robinson got hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored on a single. Three Orthodox Jews, who were sitting behind Hamill at that Ebbets Field game, yelled, “Yonkala, Yonkala, Yonkala!” — their version of Jackie.
For Pete Hamill, watching Jackie Robinson play for the first time was a magic moment in his life. For me, having the opportunity to tell Pete Hamill how much his novel “Snow In August” has meant to me will always be a magic moment in my life.