Radio, Reunion, and Rain

Many black-and-white “B” horror movies from the 1940s and 1950s concluded with the words THE END filling the screen in big runny capital letters.  These words would then disappear, and then a huge ? would dominate the screen.  While Susie, Steve, and I were headed down Interstate 71 yesterday for the 26th Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention, all the while I was composing a fitting tribute to the convention, its denizens, and the many times I have attended.

Definitely, the atmosphere at the convention was more funereal than I have ever seen.  Soon after the flyer appeared online, all of us on the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio email list received word this would be the final convention.  Susie and I had discussed the possibility of going on Friday, auditioning for the broadcast re-enactment, and spending the night.  I finally decided against that because I did not want to spend the extra money for a hotel.

Around 10:30 Saturday morning, Steve, Susie, and I pulled into the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blue Ash, the convention headquarters.  We headed straight to the dealer room, which is the nucleus of the daytime activity.  (There are workshops and talks held in conference rooms here and there in the hotel, but the dealers are the heart and soul of the show.)  There were a lot of people greeting each other, many people moving from table to table, and laughing, joking, and reminiscing.  However, it did not escape me that the festivities were more akin to a wake, than to a reunion.

Susie did quite well.  Many vendors were looking to unload lots of merchandise, so she came away with several books and DVDs at below sticker price.  One man is sending her a complete set of all the Harry Potter movies, since she did not have enough cash on hand.  He said try ’em out for a few days, if you like them, send me a check.  I anticipate mailing him a check really soon.

Even in misunderstanding, there was charity and good will.  A man laid out a table of free goods, including eight-track tapes (which I ignored; I never owned an eight-track player even when they were in vogue), albums (mostly 101 Strings and Mantovani), and even a prerecorded cassette or two.  (I took Neil Diamond’s soundtrack from The Jazz Singer and a Liberace tape.)

On the adjacent table, the man had an assortment of cassettes, of everything from my beloved CBS Radio Mystery Theater to The Catholic Hour to Journey to Freedom.  I grabbed a handful of several tapes, including Nick Carter, Master Detective.  (I have a personal connection, a <6 degrees of separation situation with that show.  Its star, the late Lon Clark, had lived in my W. McMillan Street apartment in Clifton during his years as a studio musician for WLW-AM and his job at the Cincinnati Summer Opera.  (Mutual hired him for Nick Carter during World War II.  Another WLW studio singer, Doris Day, once played gin rummy in the same apartment.)

A little while later, I took another tape to give Susie, and the man told me the tapes were $.50 apiece.  I apologized, and began unloading all the tapes from my bag, explaining that I thought the freebies extended to both tables.  He put up a hand.  “Keep the ones you already have,” he said.  I thanked him.

Cassette sales got cheaper and cheaper the last few years, especially with the advent of MP3 disks.  Why pay $1 or $2 for a single episode of a show, when you can pay a dollar or two more and get the show’s entire run on a single disk?

Steve bought the complete run of Night Gallery, and I surprised myself by getting two MP3 disks of a radio game show, Information Please.  (I remembered the title because my parents had given me an Information Please Almanac for 1974 on my tenth Christmas.)  I had heard excerpts from the show before.  A panel of experts discusses questions mailed in by the listening audience, and if they could not answer the question, they relied on humor and double entendres instead.

All three of us posed for pictures with one of the Radio Convention’s demigods, Bob Hastings.  Bob has had a long career in radio and television.  His most memorable radio performance was Archie Andrews, where he played the title character.  (The late Hal Stone, who played Jughead, attended the convention annually until his death in 2007.)  The first year Susie went to the convention, she borrowed my microcassette recorder and interviewed Hastings for a school project.

Your faithful blogger and Bob Hastings.

Bob Hastings is also in this 1971 All in the Family episode, “Judging Books by Covers.”  He plays Tommy Kelsey, the bartender.  (The episode is memorable because three ABC-TV soap opera stars are in this scene: Hastings, who would play Captain Burt Ramsey in General Hospital; Steve is portrayed by Philip Carey, who became Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live; and Roger was played by Anthony Geary, who played Luke Spencer, America’s sexiest rapist, on General Hospital.)

Part of the joy of the radio convention is the excuse to venture into Clifton, the neighborhood near the University of Cincinnati where I lived in the early to mid-1990s.  Susie was excited because we would be seeing her friend Cynthia, whom she met at a Unitarian youth conference at our church two years ago.  Cynthia lives in Westwood, and she and her parents braved the rain (which was almost constant by this point) to come to Clifton and meet us for lunch at Chicago Gyros.  Susie and Cynthia were overjoyed to see each other, and it was a good time meeting her parents.
Steve headed back to Columbus because he had a meeting to attend, so I flipped open my laptop and bought Susie and myself two seats on the 6:30 bus back to Columbus.  The bus ride was a comfortable one, heading north under gray and wet skies.  Susie was frustrated because the bus’ Wi-Fi seemed to be DOA, so she listened to her iPod and I dozed a little.
I am glad I checked my email once we were back in Columbus.  At the convention’s closing ceremonies, Bob Burchett, the founder, announced that he has decided there will be a convention next year.  The board has been very active with discussions and debate about logistics, finances, etc., but the consensus is that no one wants to see the tradition die.
I was very happy to receive this news.  So, I predict that an April 2013 entry will talk about the next convention.  Stay tuned.

My Pod is My Castle

I should be heading off to bed by now, since Susie, our friend Steve, and I will be en route to the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in about eight hours.  However, I’ve felt bad about neglecting this blog, and since I need to wind down in order to get to sleep, I’ll end the hiatus from writing in here and post this entry tonight.

Work today got interesting toward the waning hours of the day.  My workload is usually feast or famine, and for much of the day it was famine.  I had some reports to correct, and about eight orders I needed to type up and send to hearing officers for signature.  I managed to keep myself occupied, but there was a brouhaha toward the end of the day that–I’m proud and relieved to report–did not involve me directly.
The woman who sits next to me usually has WOSU-FM playing on the radio from the moment she arrives (which is at 7, an hour before I come in) until 4 (an hour before I leave).  She usually keeps the radio up loud enough for her to hear it (and for me, in the adjacent pod, to hear it as well).  I am not complaining, because I love classical music–my last few LP purchases have been classical, in fact.  I usually don’t give any thought to how loud it is, because oftentimes I have my headphones on to transcribe a doctor’s report–something which kept me beaucoup busy earlier in the week–the “feast” end of the workload pendulum.
This afternoon, when she left the desk for her break, the co-worker who sits on the other side of her came into the pod and turned the volume down just a little, and he didn’t think she would notice.
Well, she did.  She did not completely lose her temper, but she did harangue everyone at length about not going into her pod when she wasn’t there.  She asked me if I knew who had touched her radio.  I committed perjury by omission by saying, “I just got back,” which was true.  I had just returned from break, but what I didn’t tell her was that yes, I did know who had adjusted her volume.
The co-worker who had turned down the volume admitted he had done it.  This did not prevent out supervisor from sending out an email to the whole section, one of those “if the shoe fits, wear it” communications, about how wrong it was to enter someone else’s pod for the purpose of practical jokes.  The worker who turned down the radio ‘fessed up in a reply (which he copied to all of us), and our supervisor appreciated this, but reiterated the point about not going into other pods and messing with personal property, especially as a form of practical joking.
Another co-worker and I have an ongoing joke/challenge, which we play out every morning.  During the night, a report prints listing all the informal and ex parte orders that hearing officers have signed.  One of my tasks is to go down the list, yellow Hi-Liter in hand, looking for the orders which I typed, marking them, and then making sure they completed properly after release to the signer.  (I’m embellishing this; it is nowhere near as exciting a job as I portray it.)
This co-worker arrives at 7:30, and usually takes everything off the printer that came out during the night.  He has made a little game out of putting it in a different place every morning.  This usually poses a challenge, because when I come in at 8, I am still not 100% awake, and because there is usually a fair amount of clutter on my desk, most of it paper.  His rule is that he will always post it within my sight line when I’m sitting in my chair.  (If our supervisor gets to the printer first, the report is either on my keyboard or in my chair.)  My co-worker, I think, thinks along the lines of “The Purloined Letter”–the best hiding place in the world is right out in plain sight.
I’m not going to ask him to cease and desist from that.  Looking for the report gives me a small challenge first thing in the morning, while I’m waiting for my computer to boot.  I have something to occupy me while I eat my usual breakfast of a banana and milk.
However, I am not totally unsympathetic to the plight of my co-worker, who felt offended when someone went into her pod to turn down the radio’s volume.  I spend 40 hours a week in my pod, and as far as working for the State of Ohio goes, that pod is my house.  In a bittersweet coincidence, the night before I signed the lease for this place in Olde North Columbus, burglars broke into our place in Weinland Park and stole two laptops and a Wii game set.  So I understand the feeling when someone enters your place, your sanctuary, without your say-so.
Part of my ex-pod (before moving to another part of the 10th floor).  Note all the medical reference books–including the DSM-IV-R and The Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.  I do, however, have a fair share of leisure reading material.

The woman I described earlier in this entry left without shutting off her fluorescent lamp.  So, on Monday, I half expect someone will be excoriated for not turning off the light and for letting the fluorescent tube get too hot.  But, after the events described above, there is no way I am setting foot in her pod.