By Joe Wills
Listen to Joe Wills
Right after World War II, you ask for a job at KXOL, but you dont want a job at KXOL! Its lifes great irony. You think youre better than KXOL, but there you are! Nobody will pay you what youre worth, certainly not KXOL! So you sharpen your talents while you are there with whatever challenge you can find. You try to make KXOL sound better than it is, you give it stature, you raise it up to the level of its owner, a local dress shop on lower Main.
You spin some race records and read commercials for Buddies Supermarket and dream youll work someday with Lowell Thomas and Mel Allen. You cover every local news event as if it were the Hindenburg disaster. You try not to make spaghetti of your wire recorder as you interview a woman who has just drowned her baby. She reassures you and your wire recorder that it was an accident.
Inside, youre not at KXOL you are at Rockefeller Center writing the AP radio news that announcers across the country read as if they wrote it. You interview a freshly nabbed felon who actually confesses to your tangle of wires just before the police chief yells at you and says, The perp hasnt been interrogated yet! This doesnt disturb your fantasies of signing a 12-year contract with 20th Century Fox as a writer/producer where, of course, you win an Oscar and Cannes Film Festival award.
You look at your fellow announcer Norm Alden and realize that his groupies know that hell make it big in Hollywood. Norman makes you feel like your not so lost anymore. You also see Jimmy Lowe ready to climb too. Your bigger problem is you should have already started to rise after working at KFJZ before the war or later at WOAI the big 50kw NBC station. But youre at KXOL getting $3.50 for handling the play-by-play of a football game. Ewe-gods! If you can only write scripts for Hank Fonda and pal around with him and get to know Marilyn Monroe and the big-time stars in Hollywood and New York.
Youre not only the only announcer on duty turning a six hour trick, youre your own engineer and you dont know Jack about the knobs. You dont know yet that George Carlin and Bob Schieffer will ride gain here and play with the same call letters. You do know that talking beats working and you stick with your radio dodge. You have no choice but to keep learning how to play-by-play all sports not just football, baseball, basketball, but ice hockey here in the devils own furnace. Yes and golf, calling the game as the only announcer walking the course alone, talking without breath all the way. In wrestling and all the sports including the soapbox derby, you dont have to worry about hyperbole or accuracy. Radio was great that way! Spectators couldnt have transistor radios in their stands for several years.
You cooled your ambition by selling your own programs. You dont know it, but you had almost total liberty to train yourself for a fuller future. You dont know exactly how your experiences will educate you, but you proceed and interview a rapist whose remorse following his radio appearance moved him to cut off his donaker. You ignore the bizarre event and think of becoming studio manager at Fox along with scripting shows for something emerging called the boob box. And scripts even for a musical comedy with Broadway directors, cast and crew.
You have only hope for the future and each time you say this is KXOL in Ft. Worth, your station for local news and sports. Oh lord, dont you want those days back now, even though your dream came true? You want a job at KXOL now. It definitely beats working!
Joe recorded this story to be played at the KXOL reunion. If you want a copy, please email me at johnlewis@KXOL1360.com