I also did something that got me started in radio and that was I built a little AM transmitter to broadcast my neighborhood. It only maybe went for a block with two blocks but if you hooked it up to part of the telephone line you could go for a couple more blocks and I would do a radio show from my basement from six to nine every night. I’m sure my parents would open that cellar door and look down there and say “oh what has become of this child”
A few others in Erie also had radio stations in their basements, Ron Seggi, Rich Ritchkowski (sp), and Tom Lopez would stop by my basement for a couple hours as a “guest” disc jockey.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was at time in class and I evidently am the only person who had a transistor radio in my in my locker. We weren’t allowed to have them but I had it in my locker and once we had gotten the word we were in Miss Shaw’s English class. Miss Shaw was about 400 pounds of fun, she also believed in paddling this was back in the days if you were bad you got a smack with a big paddle. If you didn’t get it all year she would make sure on the last day of class that you got it, so I mentioned that I had a radio so i had permission to go out in my locker and got my AM radio and turned it on and that’s how we listened to the news coverage.
At the house on 32nd street, we had a good garden, we would walk in the garden and as we were walking in a garden it was like walking on foam and we never under never understood this.
My step-dad would because he worked for the railroad he knew where the cars would be parked and sometimes they would leak things out. There was one place called the rendering plant, we had no idea what this place did, we found out later but what they did is they took the carcasses and bones and things and rendered them into fertilizer. So they put it in these cars and some rendering would leak in between and on the tracks so we would have to drive down there and my dad would have these two big metal tubs in the trunk of the car, we would fill the tubs and bring it home and spread it on the garden.
We had an empty field next to our house, there weren’t too many houses, now of course it’s crammed with houses but back then it wasn’t, and this field next door would get really weedy, our parents would make us mow it down or use a sickle to keep the weeds down. We would have little picnics and parties and things, and we had a couple tents we would camp out over there but since it was next door to our house we felt safe. The neighbors were really close, there were some older families and we of course had to mow their lawn and we had to shovel their snow and if we took any money from them for doing that we would be severely punished.
I don’t remember us being poor. I remember as being kind of like middle ground. We didn’t go on vacation, our idea of vacation or my parents’ idea of vacation was to get in the car drive to Niagara Falls Canada, look at the falls turn around and come back the same day. The trip was long, no interstates at the time, Route 5 and 20 from Erie to Buffalo. (Photo taken from a C-130 flight a former student arranged for me)
We would pack sandwiches that we could eat on the roadside rests, we didn’t know what restaurants were so we ate in these roadside rests and they had a water pump you would crank to fill a cup of water and it tasted like iron but needless to say that was how we spent our vacations. We would spend some time on the American side but mostly the Canadian side because the Canadian side had better views and there was also free parking. Back in those days you could park near the falls, now you have to park at these parking lots and they bus you into the viewing areas. I remember the power plant, the floral clock. I had an eight-millimeter movie camera and I shot a lot of eight millimeter film of me growing up and going to Niagara Falls .
Along with the shop aspects of a technical school we also had a half day of academic material.Subjects like what they called “the new math: those yellow books that really ruined my appreciation and ability to do math work of any detail. We had history, english, political of course gym and swimming. So whether you were in metal shop, plumbing utilities, art where I met one of my girlfriends and electricity electronics areas. I learned later on you’re going to discover that things I learned about power and how to generate power would come in very handy when I would go to Vietnam.
While I was in high school I worked 2 weeks at the McDonalds on upper Peach street. 2 weeks of working the grill taught me that fast food was not a career choice for me. I would go at night to a radio station to watch thru a small window the disc jockey. The station was a 1-thousand watt AM station, WJET, 16 blocks from my home. They played top 40 music and disc jockeys with personality. I would spend hours just looking into the small windows from the driveway along side the station and one rainy night, Johnny Holiday let this 16 year-old kid into the station. My first job was to paint the bottom of the tower silver, my next was the do all night news, then eventually playing music. I would work at WJET until September of 1967 when I enlisted in the Navy.