Saturday, November 19, 2016

Radio Daze, Part 1

Was it this bad?  No, not initially.
This past week some friends let me join a new group – The WQBR Old Folks Home.  It’s a Facebook group, apropos for this bunch, as it’s a mötley (crüe) collection of former Eastern Michigan University students who used to “…work (or at least hang out) at WQBR Radio…” 

That’s me in spades, as I spent more time there than most.  I was there three times – from 1971 to 1973 (when I dropped out of college entirely), then 78-9 (when I finished my degree…finally), and then again from 1982-4 (when it seemed I just couldn’t get enough of dear old EMU).  Each time I enjoyed my time there, learning (of course) but perhaps more importantly, smoking dope the camaraderie that existed among all the staff.  And of course, all that camaraderie means I have stories to tell.  Here’s the first, and it involves “the couch.”

No, not what happened on it.  We all know that.  Even first semester students got wind of the couch’s “unique characteristics.”  You’d know they knew when you invited them into the office area and asked them to sit, pointing at the couch, and they’d look at you and say, “No thanks, I’m good.”  No, this is about how we got the couch in the first place.  In fact, it’s how we got ALL the initial batch of furniture.

When I came back in 1978, WEMU has just left 129 Quirk for King Hall, leaving the former studios for the newly-christened WQBR (it was WHUR initially).  Some of the offices were taken by broadcasting faculty, leaving the 3 studios for WQBR.  The main studio (with a board as old as Marconi’s mother) remained, the production studio was empty (we wouldn’t get a real production area until 1983 when a new board replaced Marconi’s mom, which moved to production), and the large open “live” studio was to be our office area.

Except we had no furniture at all, except for a very large (awkward) table.  That was it.

Buying furniture was out of the question (we had zero budget).  I asked Admin about getting some desks and chairs from Surplus, and was told that requisitions would take “a while.”  No offer to help (or to speed up the process) was forthcoming, so I called the EMU Physical Plant myself, and found that without a faculty advisor’s signature, there was nothing they could do.  I asked them what type of furniture was available, and they told me that all sorts of things would be on hand, usually.  “In fact, we’re starting to collect a whole bunch of items right now from Downing Hall.”

Oh, really?

There’s an old saying that, as long as you LOOK like you know what you’re doing, no one will question you.  It seemed simple to me – if we followed the standard routine, the Physical Plant would take furniture out of Downing Hall, drag it to the Warehouse, wait for our requisition, then drag it back to Quirk Hall.  Or, we could take a shortcut and eliminate the middle.

So we took a few burly DJs over to Downing (did you laugh there?  I certainly did) and we started picking out furniture.  We found chairs, desks, and the infamous couch out in the halls, properly tagged for surplus…and all for the taking.  Best of all, we were there only about a half-hour, and no one said a word.  Well, that’s not true.  One RA saw what we were doing and said, “Hey, what’s going on?”  I quickly grabbed some papers from my back pocket and replied, “It’s OK, I’ve got paperwork.” He waved us on (couch and all).

By the way, I have NO idea whose inspired creative thinking caused us to grab the couch.  I should tell you that it’s a tradition I continued when I started up KEDM in Monroe, LA (and yes, it was a used couch – tradition!). 

Once we got all of the furniture back to Quirk and set up, it made for a very nice office area.  Certainly the students were pleased, but Admin…well, only once did someone ask me about it, wondering out loud if they really wanted to know how we got it and/or where it came from. 

Probably not.  Especially the couch.

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