Reminiscing again

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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 (that’s East Alabama Male College for you foreigners), 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’s Fool Day, 1955. 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 Mr. Salter immediately put me to pounding the pavement, selling advertising.
Remember how it was? Auburn was a sleepy (except on football Saturdays) college town, student enrollment of about 6,000 and a ratio of about four boys to each girl.
Opelika, on the other hand, was a thriving industrial town. Two major textile mills, the junction of two major railroads. There were men’s clothing stores, women’s clothing stores, children’s clothing stores, car dealers, automotive stores, furniture stores, jewelry store, two picture shows, the state (ABC) store… .
There were two radio stations in the area, us (WAUD) and WJHO in Opelika, and the Opelika Daily News (five days a week) and the Auburn Bulletin (weekly).
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 the sound of hoof beats and “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 the morning slot. Mr. Salter looked around and tried out numerous people for the job. But 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 started. After the initial shock, I like to think I got to be a part of the community. Even now, once in a while someone 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, and ‘What in the Hell is that?’ .” They later became radio friends.
Today there are four radio stations in the building where I toil. Once in a while, there’ll be a newcomer or a visitor and someone 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. 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!”
Neill 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 McTeer a little thing I had written and asked if he might possibly be interested in printing it. He looked it over and asked, “Can you do this every week?” I said I could try. Thus was born the “Esoterica” column, which has been in the Bulletin, the O-A News, the Auburn Alumnews and Jerry Roden’s nice but short-lived Alabama Living magazine. And, of course, the Opeelika observer.
There was no pay involved that first attempt in the Bulletin, but Mr. Davis authorized Graham to give me a nice Christmas bonus. Said he didn’t want to lose me.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.

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