Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Horror stories of employment ...

Direct from Mike's Memory Pocket:

Our Marti (God bless Cleburne, Texas!) was the remote unit of choice in the 1970's and we used it for everything. But suddenly, in the middle of a commercial remote, I heard a guy reminding his buddy to bring back a pizza to the studio!

The one-sided order went on for many minutes while they negotiated toppings. We had a week's worth of remotes disrupted occasionally with personal messages and food orders, and it got to be unbearable until I tracked the signal down to the CBS properties in Chicago, who were using a lot of Marti freqs, for everything from programming to vehicle dispatch.

Turned out that they were using our programming frequency for their dispatch channel and had never checked the East side of Lake Michigan to see if there was a conflict when they set up their licensing.

Their Marti mini-watts were shooting off the top of one of the big buildings downtown and knocking ours right off the air from clear across The Lake. Nobody in Chicago wanted to listen to me...took a few days of phone calls to find the right office in NYC, but CBS wound up doing a new frequency search and paying for a retro-fit of new Marti gear for our little Class 4 on the Michigan Western shore.

I was the PD/OM at an AM/FM combo in Western Michigan in the early 1970's, owned by a regional company. One of the principals was my GM and he loved him some golf. So there was no way that his AM station wasn't going to cover a local tournament sponsored by one of the auto manufacturers. Golf on the radio? I worked the presentation down to round-by-round cut-ins and occasionally jock bits from the course and it actually sounded pretty good.
The station had two engineers. One of them was a construction and RF-type who efficiently built a little mobile studio into a tiny used travel trailer complete with out-of-the-backroom 16" turntables and a VERY used console and mic, the signals from which would get sent home via our Marti unit. We never used the TT's, the DJ called for records to be played from the studio and the format stayed pretty much in place.
The other engineer was charged with creating a backpack unit that would, with two-way radio capability, allow the reporters to send hole-by-hole info back to the trailer for incorporation into the remote feed. He built the reporter backpacks with commercial two-way radios and motorcycle batteries (remember, it was the 1970's).
About halfway through the first round of the tournament, our on-course anchors heard screaming on the radio circuit and saw the reporters in their golf carts driving at high speed back to the station trailer, plumes of smoke following.
Their backpack batteries had 'sploded and caught fire. No serious injuries, but the backpacks went back to R&D for more work.