One of the things about small towns in West Central Ohio is that they often have their own radio stations. Sidney was no different, and had a little radio station that played an astonishing variety of what the people in that area needed. You got the farm report, you got yard sale advertisements, you got the sports all the kids in the area did, and you got music.
It was a simple radio station, meaning it had exactly what it needed and no more. In this case, at that time, that meant a mike, a transmitter, a couple of turntables, and a supply of records (yes, vinyl). I’d already had one experience in shooting someone with turntables, and by now the car had aired itself out, which was very good.
Now one of the things I did in my job as a photojournalist was to be the eyes of the county I worked and lived in, and it pretty much gave me free rein to go anywhere I wanted, within reason.
One day I was driving past the radio station, which I had playing in the car, and figured, simply, “How hard can it be?”…to talk my way into a radio station and take pictures, in the studio, that was on the air at the time.
Questions like that have never stopped me, much less slowed me down. I barely had time to put the blinker on before I pulled into the parking lot, where was only one other car. I wandered in with my cameras clattering against each other and the camera bag slung over my right shoulder.
The speakers in what could have been considered the lobby were playing what the DJ was saying, and he waved me to come on in as he put on a song and swung the mike out of the way.
He stood up, leaned over the console and shook my hand as I introduced myself, and we chatted for a bit before he stole a quick glance at the clock and asked me to hang on a second, he had to do the weather report.
He glanced out the window, which was, mind you, open, and told all of Shelby County that the weather was clear and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. I’d never, ever heard such an accurate, and simple, weather report, but there wasn’t one thing wrong with it. I’d been in studios before, but they were usually isolated beyond comprehension. To have a window in this one, that opened, mind you, blew me away.
We talked for a bit, and I got another shot of someone with turntables (but better this time than in the other story) and he told me about how he’d almost gotten fired one time for playing In A Gadda Da Vida (the full length version) one evening just before going off the air, and how much fun the job could be when you just let it be fun.
After that, we’d run into each other every now and again, and I’d stop by the station between assignments just to say hi, often late at night when he wasn’t too busy, and he was always glad to see me, and was often the only one there. I could sense that there was a loneliness inside that was covered up by a gregarious persona on the air, and the times I stopped by were times he could “let his hair down” so to speak. We both had a lot of fun just chatting on those evenings.
And I noticed that Kodachrome and Blue Moon were played a little more often after that.
I’d be going off to shoot something in a nearby town, and while I was driving there, it was nice to hear a friendly voice from the radio, “and up next, for our photographer from the Sidney Daily News on his way to shoot another assignment you’ll see soon enough, is a song I’m sure he, and you, will appreciate.” – and out would waft “Kodachrome”.
And it got me thinking…
He and I both worked for and with the public, but we did it, for the most part, alone, and even though many other people heard it over the airwaves, when I heard that voice come out of the radio, it was one lonely person talking to another one, letting him know that somewhere, someone cared, and wanted to share a smile in a language both people understood.
And in that 1979 Ford Fairmont, driving alone on a dark country road to my next assignment, I did smile.