Christmas Eve on the Radio…Bah, Humbug!


It’s been just over eight years since I’ve been on the radio. I certainly had fun while my 15 minutes seconds of fame lasted, but I’m glad I’m out of the business because of the relatively low pay and job security.

Working on holidays was the worst part of the job. On many holidays, while the rest of my social circles (a.k.a. people with normal jobs) slept in, partied and/or traveled, I usually had to slave over a hot microphone, isolated in a dingy studio playing the same tired songs over and over.

Of all the days to be on the air, Christmas Eve night was the worst. This was hammered home on December 24, 1977. The time: 7:00 pm-12:00 Midnight. The place: WHIS-AM 1440, Bluefield, West Virginia. Recently graduated from Ohio University, this was my second fulltime job in radio. I was hired in September of 1977, and the company policy was no vacation time until an employee accrued six months of service. So guess who couldn’t request time off? This was the first time I had to work on the night before Christmas.

The station’s format was Top-40, but at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve, we switched to all-Christmas music and continued in that vein until Christmas evening. It wasn’t difficult. We just “segued” Christmas songs and played recorded greetings from station employees in between. The guy on before me started his last song and bid me, “Merry Christmas”, and bolted for the door, on his way home to spend the night with his family. So now it was my turn.

I took things in stride and kept my chin up. I decided to have a little fun and drop in some pretty cool Christmas songs from the rock-and-roll and comedy genres in addition to the traditional stuff. However, about two hours into my show, I received the first of two phone calls that would drive me into a funk. It was my fiance (now my wife), who was still in college. She was spending the holidays with her family in Euclid, Ohio. We talked for just a few minutes because she had to go to her family’s annual Christmas Eve bash at her uncle’s house. A few minutes after we hung up, the phone rang again. This time it was my mother, who was calling from my grandmother’s condo in Stuart, Florida. She, my dad, my two sisters, and assorted aunts, uncles, and cousins were down to get a taste of Christmas cheer in 80-degree weather. The phone was passed around and I spoke to my immediate family and some people I hadn’t seen or talked to in years. This call lasted almost a half hour. When my uncle Jack said the family’s last goodbye and hung up, I felt a void like I had never felt before. I slumped in my chair and lost all interest in making my show a creative masterpiece. I just started tracking holiday album sides until midnight. When the next guy came, I passed the baton and left for my empty apartment.

On the way out, one of the engineers at our co-owned TV station, Channel 6, was also leaving. It turns out that his wife was out of town visiting her family, so he had nothing to do. We went out to get a bite to eat at the only eatery that was open: the Greyhound Bus station! After we feasted on cheeseburgers, fries, and really bad coffee, I drove home, laid down in bed and thought, “What the (bleep) did I get myself into?”

On Christmas Day, things got a little better. After opening a few presents that were mailed from family members, I was invited to an afternoon dinner at a co-worker’s home, and then went on the air that night, going back to playing our regular music.

Tonight, as I enjoy the night before Christmas in my house with my family, I’ll be very thankful that I’m now able to do just that.

Epilogue: One holiday I didn’t mind working so much was New Year’s Eve night, and I will tell you about that on December 31.

Have a Merry Christmas! If you don’t celebrate this holiday, have a great day!


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