High class remembering


Some of you have heard some of this before, but some of you haven’t, so bear with me. We are going to do some high class remembering.
Three years after getting my degree at EAMC, I came back to Auburn to work. I was fresh out of the army and looking for a job. I heard about an opening at WAUD and I took it. Mr. Elmer G. Salter, the owner/manager hired me and I went on the air for the first time on April Fools’ Day. I guess it was his way of saying “April Fool” to the people of Auburn.
I worked anywhere I was needed, all shifts at one time or another. I thought I’d just be an announcer, but he immediately put me to pounding the pavement, selling advertising.
Remember how it was? Auburn was a sleepy (except on football days) college town, student enrollment of about 6,000 and ratio of about four boys to each girl.
Opelika, on the other hand, was a thriving industrial town. Two major textile plants, the junction of two major rail lines. There were men’s clothing stores, women’s clothing stores, children’s clothing stores, car dealers, automotive stores, furniture stores, jewelry stores, two picture shows, the state store … .
There were two radio stations in the area: Us, (WAUD), and WJHO. There were two newspapers: the Opelika Daily News (five days a week) and the Auburn Bulletin.
When I came to work at WAUD, we were still carrying “My True Story,” the last of the radio soap operas and “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club.” And late in the afternoons, there was “The Lone Ranger” (“Who was that masked man?” “Why, you stupid idiot, that was the Lone Ranger.” And from the top of the ridge, you’d hear “Hi-yo Silver, away!”) That’s how long ago it was.
We had an excellent morning man, Tony Carter, who later became a pharmacist. But Tony got sick and had to quit. Mr. Salter looked around and tried out various people for the job, and there was one big problem: nobody could dependably get up on time. Late, late, late.
Finally I told him, if he’d take me off my Sunday shift (I was working seven days a week), I’d do the morning thing. And so I just started. After the initial shock, I like to think I got to be part of the community. Even now, once in a while somebody will come up to me and say something like, “When we first moved to Auburn, I turned on the radio and said to my wife, ‘What in the hell is that?’ “ They later became radio friends. There are now four stations in the building where I toil.
Once in a while, there’ll be a newcomer or a visitor in the building and somebody up front will show them around. “This is Kate, this is Tiger, etc.” I’m in the last little den at the end of the hall. When they get to me, they’ll stop at the door and look in. The “guide” will always say, “He’s been with the station over 60 years,” and their eyes will get big and round like Little Orphan Annie’s, and I’ll hear them as they go back up the hall, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
Neil Davis was the editor/publisher of the Auburn Bulletin. I respected him very much. He was fearlessly for civil rights, long before it became popular to be so. But I was too much in awe of him to approach him. He was way up there and I was way down here. We were acquainted,  but not buddy-buddy. But I did know Graham McTeer, the managing editor.
One day, I showed him a little thing I had written and asked if he might possibly be interested in using it. He looked it over and said, “Can you do this every week?” I said I could try. Thus was born the “Esoterica …” column, which has been in the Bulletin and the O-A News and the Auburn Alumnews and Jerry Roden’s nice but short-lived Alabama Living magazine. And, of course, the Opelika Observer.
There was no pay involved in that first attempt with the Bulletin, but Mr. Davis authorized Graham to give me a nice Christmas bonus. Said he didn’t want to lose me.
When Mr. Davis was on his death bed (as it turned out), he sent word that he wanted to see me. I went, of course. I was still in great awe of him, but I felt more comfortable around him than I had at first. He was in a good mood, talkative, upbeat. I helped him arrange his mattress so it would be more comfortable. He said he had wanted to tell me that I had been good for Auburn, had made people laugh at themselves, not to take themselves too seriously. I hope he was right.
By the way, I should have told those journalists the other day (Bob got an award the other day at a gathering of journalists), an example that illustrates you never know what effect your word will have:
“Field and Stream” used to have a wonderful writer named Ted Trueblood. He died. I did a column about him, how great he was, and how I would have liked going on a camping trip with him, bnut he wouldn’t have wanted me along, since I’m such a klutz.
Somehow, that issue of the Bulletin, I think it was, got on a plane going from Washington, D.C., to Mexico City. A man who knew the Truebloods happened to pick it up. He sent it to Mrs. Trueblood, and she sent me a gracious letter.
Auburn to Washington, D.C., to Mexico City to Idaho (where Mrs. Trueblood lived) and back to me. Words do get around.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here