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It wasn’t ALL fun and games…

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Being even a low grade local celebrity has it’s gloomy parts. My work ethic was handed down from my father and grandfather. The motto was: “If you can walk and talk, you can work.” I was the guy the boss could rely on to make it to work under other than pleasant conditions of health. I was the employee they called when somebody called in sick. Indeed at broadcasting school there was a whole chapter on how to sound happy and energetic when behind the microphone even when you’re feeling like crap. I call it my “Fake being Fine” method of acting and with radio not having any camera pointing at you like in television, it made it much easier to pull off. This reminds me of another story out of my past. (Please bare with me) I was on the air doing the afternoon drive shift (at KMVI) when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my abdomen, then intense nausea. I had to wait an hour and a half before a replacement could be found willing to take over my duties on very short notice. In those days we didn’t have computers to fall back on when emergencies popped up. While trying to maintain my cool, I called my doctor to explain to him what I was experiencing. Without hesitation he said “Get yourself to the hospital- Now!”Yeah, right. Like THAT was going to happen. So as soon as my replacement took over the microphone that’s exactly what I did… all the while I am practically doubled over in excruciating pain. 15 minutes after stumbling into the emergency room I was under the knife getting my appendix removed. According to the surgeon, had I waited a few minutes longer, it would have burst inside me and that would have been that. Lights out. Anyway…While I waited for another DJ show up and take over, I tried my best to sound “normal” (All but impossible, even under “normal” conditions!) live on the air and conducted myself as if nothing was wrong… no one knew what was actually happening. For anyone listening, one minute I was there happily giving the time, the temperature outside and introducing tunes… and then I wasn’t. That was exactly why I acted like nothing was wrong. In live radio, you just do not walk out of the studio leaving only silence or “dead air” to use broadcasting terminology. That’s just NOT the way things are done in this business. At that time, we didn’t have a pre-recorded bit of music programming to use when things like a possible malfunction in the mixing board or the microphone might occur. Everything was live. It was a real effort to sound happy and excited to be there, considering how I really felt. I guess not knowing I was minutes away from dying helped me keep my head screwed on straight and nobody noticed something had gone terribly wrong. Obviously I am still here to tell the story.

Actually not only when the unexpected happens while on duty, things can go wrong while simply trying to get to work on time. But that’s another story. More to come.

Written by ldreynolds

September 20, 2021 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Acknowledgements

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I want to thank as many of my many friends that I have made through the years before I forget. The list is long and I no doubt will manage to forget a few. Let me apologize for that in advance. The whole staff at the radio station should be included as it seemed to me quite clearly that everyone employed at KMVI was indeed a member of the family, so let me start with them. First Bob Frost (no longer with us) was the first person I met as Mrs. Cooper gave me the fifty cent tour of the facility. We first saw each other as I walked into the main air studio. We hit it off immediately as he shook my hand and welcomed me with a huge smile. I don’t think I ever saw him with a scowl on his face and he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. At this point my recollection of one of the first laws of on-air staff psychology was: beware of that smile and that pat on the back- it just might hold you back. As the song goes: “Smiling faces sometimes don’t speak the truth.” And in this business it really means something. My tenure at WJIM and then later at WILS in Lansing prior to my trip to Hawaii taught me to use caution when dealing with certain staff members. However I never had my first impression of Bob Frost altered in any way in the years I knew him right up until the time of his death. He will always be remembered as “Uncle Frosty”. The first friend I ever made at the station. If he had a job description it must have been as a true mentor to newbies arriving at the station. He was always there with words of advice and encouragement. If I ever needed help, he was always ready to aid me in my day to day duties. From then on he never let me down.

Moving on the very next person I recall having big time first impression feelings with was Thom McGarvey. He was also part of the KMVI on air staff. AT first impression, he seemed somewhat “stodgy” to say the least. His background was quite impressive as an accomplished pianist and thespian. However we got along regardless and in fact I learned an awful lot about the music industry from him. It was him I owe my current ability to figure out where anyone I meet is coming from. The old “friend or foe” detector was well established by listening to his experiences. The next staff member I was to meet that first day at work was Richard Graham. He had that perfect radio announcer voice. You know, that very baritonish, deep, resonant, articulate sounding voice. It was him who really took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. Indeed for a day of two he would drive me around the island and had me pronounce all of the road signs I saw as we passed them. It was then when I learned how badly I could destroy the Hawaiian Language. In fact my very first day on the air I mispronounced the very commonly used word “Kaahumanu” during a newscast I was delivering. I mean after all, it was the main drag between Wailuku and Kahului. Everybody knew that name and here was this tall skinny “Haole” newcomer stumbling all over it on the radio! The every next day there was an editorial written by a popular columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser who proceeded to rake me over the coals. Railing on about how could a radio station hire such an asinine, unprofessional buffoon. I should have cut the op-ed out of the newspaper and framed it. But I was way too embarrassed. I later learned how to pronounce Hawaiian names by breaking the word down into two letter syllables and in most cases putting the accent on the next to the last syllable. I signed up later that week for language lessons at Maui Community College. Still, it was a rough road to travel but I seemed to have manged it as no further artillery was aimed my way from then on. However, it was a lesson I will NEVER forget I can guarantee you. More to come.

Written by ldreynolds

September 13, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Saturday Night Love Letters…

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Memories Are Made Of This…

There are many fond- and not so fond memories I feel compelled to jot down for the book… One that stands out was about a show I cooked up for Nitetime Radio with L.D. Reynolds. Which aired from 1967 to around 1975 on KMVI. It was four hours on a Saturday night where I would read a dedication then follow it with the song requested in the letter. In fact, it was called “Saturday Night Love Letters”. I would come in early for my shift to sort through the mail and make individual piles of letters that were for the same song. I had to do this because there was always more than one dedication with a particular song requested. I would read the letters on the air, then play the song. Well, the program got so popular that the incoming mail resembled an alpine avalanche. Big cardboard boxes full all for the upcoming Saturday evening show. Well, it got so popular I eventually had to cancel the program because there was no way I could get hundreds of dedications all within the allotted four hours. As I look back on this, I realize that I really didn’t think the idea for the show all the way through. Still, I think it would have been great if I could have had help with the show prep and then maybe at the end of the show say something in an apologetic tone like: “If you didn’t hear your dedication tonight, I’m sorry but we just ran out of time By all means please try again for next Saturday’s show!” Great. Another intense “What If” moment. I truly loved those kids. Today they’re probably all grown up adults, married with children or maybe even grandkids of their own Now, in my retirement I always get a kick out of those few precious moments when a person would recognize me on the street and come up to me and say what fun they had hearing their dedications live on the radio. Indeed once in awhile they would say they actually ended up marrying the person they dedicated those songs to. It warms the old ticker quite nicely.

Written by ldreynolds

October 23, 2020 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Great Storm of 1980

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It was the closest thing to a hurricane I have ever experienced. It wasn’t as violent as it was lengthy in duration. The worst had passed after 72 hours, but the system proceeded to stall over the islands and refused to leave. I recall it was more than a week of steady rain pouring from a dark thick cloud cover consisting of millions of shades of gray.  It was most depressing after the initial excitement of the  storm had passed,  followed by several days of constant rain, (varying between drizzle and downpour) wind and for Maui it was damned cold… I really began to appreciate the sun and one of the main reasons I moved to Maui in the first place.

However it was during the evening hours of the second day of the storm when something happened that would change my life forever…

Today’s radio is no way like it was back in 1980. I knew what a computer was, but at that time computers were what ran NASA or our accounting system at the station. The live announcer had much more to do with the day to day operations of the station. During the telling of this story, you will learn just how true that statement is…  On the morning of January 8, 1980 I woke up to a most unusual sound. It was the sound of rain, but not quite the same familiar sound that rain usually makes. It was different enough to peak my curiosity, so I got out of bed and shuffled over to the bedroom window and peered outside. Instead of the usual green grass and foliage,  I found myself gazing upon a large pond where my backyard used to be. So it wasn’t the sound of rain hitting the ground that woke me up and caused me to investigate, it was the sound of rain hitting a rather large body of water. The weather report had warned of a large tropical depression heading up towards Maui from south of the Big Island. It was a “typical” forecast more or less expected on rare occasions during our winter season so it didn’t seem like that big a deal at the time. Yet the rain was really coming down hard and  and on top of that it was steadily increasing in intensity as I stood there.

During this period in my life I had obtained my Amateur Radio “Ham” license, passing the FCC exam roughly ten years ago and by this time was heavily involved in the local Ham Club and in emergency communications for the local civil defense agency. By the looks of things outside, I thought maybe I’d better head into my “Ham Shack” and see if there was anything going on I should know about.  I dialed my receiver to a local shortwave frequency where I always used to spend the first two hours of my typical daily schedule shooting the breeze with a few of my fellow Ham buddies. There was already excited talk on the channel mostly about the tropical depression, which during the night had suddenly turned itself into a full blown tropical storm.

It must have been the weekend, because I wasn’t scheduled to go into work that day. The roof over the ham shack was an “after thought” addition to the house and the aluminum roof sloped downwards away from the main house rather unconventionally and when standing up, the top of my head was only inches from the ceiling. This was significant for an entirely different reason this day in particular because by then the sound of the rain hitting the aluminum roof made it difficult to hear my extremely concerned wife speaking to me over my shoulder as I sat at my desk, let alone try to hear what was going on on the radio.

The usual “ham” gang was on the air that morning. Jerry, out in the boonies of Peahi.  Dave, upcountry in Pukalani.  Mike, way out in Kaupo in East Maui. Wesley, an old timer up in Olinda and myself in Kahului just a block or two away from the AM radio station where I was employed. The National Weather Service had nothing but bad news for us that fateful morning. We were expecting 45 to 50 mile per hour winds with gusts of up to 75 miles per hour and there was several more inches of rain on the agenda as well. Already I could sense the wind picking up in the  bushes outside the ham shack window and in the mango trees in the back yard. An hour later the house was beginning to show signs of distress and I had a wife and young daughter looking at me with eyes that were saying “oh crap, what are we gonna do?”

The mood was suddenly disrupted by the telephone. In those days it was an actual telephone hanging on the wall in the kitchen that actually rang. It was the radio station wanting to know what frequency the guys and I were yakking on. It wasn’t my boss who wanted to know,  it was in fact the United States Coast Guard. Evidently there was a crisis in progress due to the storm and they were aware that we were a regular feature on the 40 meter “ham” band every morning and sure enough not 30 seconds after I hung up, the Coast Guard cutter radio operator was calling me on frequency giving some weird U.S. Coast Guard radio call sign. By this time the weather outside had built up to a loud raucous roar and I had to resort to headphones to hear what the radio operator was saying… With my young family of three all huddled around me and my radio gear, we were all starting to get more concerned with all the storm related goings-on outside and curious to boot as to what the coast guard wanted with my rag tag ham radio morning crew.

Sam, the radio operator on board the cutter, filled us in on the situation. A small 45 foot sail boat had been caught in the storm, ripped from it’s mooring and blown way off course and completely lost in 25 foot waves and ungodly strong rain and wind… and worse, we learned there was a family of four on board. There was a certain amount of luck involved here as it so happened the father was an amateur radio operator. Another stroke of luck was that the coast guard was able to pick up his distress call.  Before long the frantic father of two, trying to speak as calmly as he could, began feeding us information while myself, the the other members of our “rag tag 40 meter ham morning crew” and the coast guard radio operator tried to triangulate the exact position of the tiny craft using our radios. All the while I couldn’t stop thinking about what this guy must be going through out in this storm on a small wooden sail boat surrounded by waves bigger than a six story office building, that awful howling wind and pouring rain. Even at our location,  I doubt I could have stepped outside without scuba gear (I jest)  it was coming down so hard. In fact, while all this was happening my neighbor’s roof across the street found its way onto my front yard.

We stayed on the air for the rest of the morning giving badly needed moral support to the poor skipper on that boat, who through out the whole ordeal kept his cool… even when the children in the background started to sound a bit panicked. We could hear their inquiries “off mic” about what was happening and he kept it all together.  I have to hand it to him. I don’t think I could have pulled off what he did had I been in his shoes. It took about 10 minutes to get an actual “fix” on the boat’s location and the cutter finally zeroed in.  As the storm built up in intensity it was touch and go as to whether the that brave Coast Guard cutter crew would be able to see that tiny craft in all that violent weather.

When the cutter finally found them we all let out a hardy whoop and I nearly spilled my sixth cup of hot coffee in the process. In all the excitement, roughly fifteen minutes after the cutter had retrieved the wet and frightened family, their tiny craft with everything the that family owned, sank straight to the bottom. It was determined later that as the boat was being towed back into Kahului Harbor, the waves were just too high for the small craft to handle. The only home this family had ever known could no longer stay afloat. In seconds it was gone. But they were safe and we were some of the most jubilant and full-of-ourselves bunch of hams you’d ever see in your entire life.

The next day I was pulling an afternoon shift on the air and I got a surprise call from the Mom, whom I bet was just as instrumental in keeping spirits up that fateful morning as anyone else involved. She was calling from a phone booth in the parking lot of the Kahului Shopping Center. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind doing an interview about the ordeal and she agreed. It was probably the most interesting and gripping interview I have ever conducted. She explained how they had lost everything when their boat went down, which was indeed their home for several years. That boat contained everything they owned. Food, clothing, memorabilia, everything. They lost a lot but she made sure we all knew that they were alive and thankful for it. She thanked the crew of the cutter and all of us who were on the ham radio airwaves that day, everyone  who was involved in the process of getting the boat located, minutes before possibly an even larger disaster could happen.

But the story doesn’t end there… While she was talking to me, a lady (to this day I don’t know who she was) pulled up in front of the phone booth and after our conversation, picked her up and took her shopping. Later when I was talking to the father, I found out that the mysterious lady was a well to do woman who was listening to the interview on her car radio and and decided to help them out. The generous lady spent more than a thousand dollars buying food, clothing and providing a place for the now homeless family to stay while they got back on their feet. While listening to the interview she happened to spot the young mother of two in the phone booth, pulled into the parking lot and offered to help. It was an extremely heart warming end to a very exciting story. It’s all there in the January 8, 1980 edition of the Maui News. Read all about it. The Great Storm of 1980.

Written by ldreynolds

September 15, 2012 at 11:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized