Budding Writer, 1979: On the air

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Icicles catch the first rays of sunset on March 10, 2023, in North Hero, Vermont. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

One doesn’t often walk into a job interview and go into the broadcast booth the next hour, but that’s what my journal shows I did on this date 44 years ago:

Cold and clear today, with a chance of flurries … currently it’s 30 degrees in Hanover, for Tri-Town News, I’m Howard Fielding. Or something like that. Today I played WDCR newsie for the first time in about 4 years. It was a fun way to redeem myself and to make some $6 for food. I even went to P.C.’s with station members, something I hadn’t done for a very long time. Jon P was on the air all day — yes, we made beautiful banter together.

Journal, Volume II
16 March 1979

During my undergraduate days, I worked for both The Dartmouth, the campus newspaper, and Dartmouth Broadcasting, which operated commercial radio stations WDCR (AM) and WFRD (FM). Alas, they are no more. Dartmouth College sold the broadcast license for WFRD (which we fondly called Wilfred) in 2021. WDCR remained as a campus activity but is entirely online today.

I got into both media at college because of my interests in high school, where I was editor of the monthly Patriot Press and part of the Masque and Gavel morning announcements team. But I’m a perfectionist, and I get flustered and tongue-tied. That’s why I’ve always preferred print to audio, even in these days of podcasting.

Radio news could have been recorded on “carts,” short for cartridges, in advance with as many takes as were needed. Most of us did it live, though, so we could talk to the disk jockey. Usually I did a “rip and read,” literally tearing the news stories off the UPI teletype, shuffling the stories into a new order, and reading them cold on the air.

Usually, Dartmouth Broadcasting did not pay its talent, who were student volunteers.* But this was during the semester break, so they recruited local alumni who had been on the air in the past. Jon, the DJ, was still an undergraduate. I was an old fart, so I got my $6. After all, $6 is $6. Food money.

Perhaps I should have taken that food money down to the grocery store, but instead I went with the WDCR gang down to Peter Christian’s Tavern, which in those days was in beautiful downtown Hanover. It was popular for its pub fare and choice of two kinds of beer on tap: light and dark. It had a good dessert menu, too.

I might have taken some of that six dollars home after chipping for the beer and tipping the server. But it wasn’t going to pay for a week’s worth of groceries, that’s for sure.

*Volunteers and, in my case, amateurs. I once had an hourlong slot for a weekly show highlighting original cast albums of Broadway shows. “Man of La Mancha” comes in at 55 minutes, but the additional time for ads and five minutes of news meant something had to give. I couldn’t bring myself to cut the finale, so I made the newscaster start the News at Noon at quarter after. He was not amused. Neither were our listeners.