We’re going to spin the clock back to 1982. I was a reshmen at Hamilton College, and inbetween actually studying for classes and trying to actually garner an education, I finally scored my first recurring radio slot on the campus radio station, WHCL.
Understand that at the time, the good prime radio slots were claimed by upperclassmen, so I had to take whatever was available.
And “available” meant a 10pm to midnight slot on Tuesday evening.
You know what? I was okay with this. I really was. At least I had a recurring broadcast, so I was happy.
So in the winter and spring of 1982, I would go to the Minor Theater (now known today as Morris Dormitory) and do my two-hour broadcast. The show ended at midnight, and the radio station – which didn’t operate on a 24-hour basis, as it does today – had to be completely shut down. Transmitter turned off, station locked up, all of that. Then I would leave the Minor Theater, trudge through the thick Central New York winter snow, cross the campus and walk all the way down the hill to my dorm room in Bundy West. Then maybe get a few precious hours of sleep before walking up and snowshoeing back up the frozen tundra uphill for an 8:00 a.m. literature class in Root Hall. And Professor Ivan Marki was a punctual educator. You showed up at 8:01 a.m., you encountered a locked classroom door that didn’t unlock until class was over.
In other words, once my radio show was done, I had to walk downhill in the snow to my dorm room, then uphill in more snow – going past the Minor Theater – to my first morning class.
So one Tuesday night, after my broadcast, I shut down the radio station, turned off the transmitter, and began my journey. Opened the door to exit Minor Theater … and …
Snow drifts all over the place. Hell no. I’m not doing this again.
Went back inside the building. Okay, Miller, you can’t wait out the winter. Better think of something.
And I did.
WHCL’s studios at that time featured a small production studio and a meeting room. The meeting room contained an old, beat-up couch with more peeling leather than an old saddle. But you know what? It was a lot easier than trying to navigate through the arctic mix that permeated College Hill Road.
I didn’t even honestly care about who had previously used the couch. I simply flopped on the couch, closed my eyes, and in a few moments zzzzzz…
And then, I heard a scream.
“AAAAH! WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??”
I woke up. And at that moment, as I fumbled for my glasses, I saw another person in the studio.
It was the morning DJ at the time. She had entered the building to begin the station’s broadcast at 8:00 a.m. And to her surprise, she saw an unknown-to-her student snoozing on the radio station’s furniture. And she did what anyone else might have done at the time. She screamed in shock.
Woke me up faster than a clock radio, I tell you.
A few minutes of explanation – and an apology for frightening her – I had just enough time to rub the sleep out of my eyes, run up the hill to Root Hall, and arrive at class with three minutes to spare.
To her credit, the morning DJ didn’t report me to the station’s student board. I mean, technically, I was using the facilities after hours, which really isn’t a proper use of campus property. But I’m sure she also had to deal with some all-nighter study sessions and wintry weather, so we both chalked it up to an unexpected surprise and left it at that.
And for the rest of the semester, when I did camp out at the station after hours, she arrived a few minutes earlier just to make sure I was awake and out of the studio – early enough so that I could run over to the Commons dining hall (a few buildings away from Root Hall) and gulp down some orange juice and a bagel. No screams, though. More like a polite, “Good morning, Chuck, get out of the studio so I can do my show, thank you.”
If nothing else … by my sophomore year, I was able to schedule a more amenable timeslot, a prime Friday evening window. Trust me, by that time I knew there were NO college classes on Saturday morning.
At least not in Professor Ivan Marki’s curricula.
How times have changed:
– 10 to Midnight on Tuesday has been a plum slot for about 20 years now. No freshman would get it nowadays.
– On the other hand 8AM on Wednesday hasn’t had a student host for about a dozen years. It’s after their bedtimes.
– Students no longer have to turn the transmitter on or off, which is a good thing…
– My wife inherited what I think had been Ivan Marki’s office/classroom, but she gave it up when Literature and Creative Writing (nee English Literature) moved from Root Hall to List on the other side of campus this last semester.
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