‘Moondance’ and college radio memories

The teacher of my exercise class likes to dip into her varied music collection while leading us in stretching at the end of the class, which is how I heard Van Morrison’s “Moondance” last night.

And I smiled.

When I was at the Utica College radio station, WPNR, there was DJ who always played “Moondance” at the end of the show, or at least I think there was.

I assumed it was my buddy Mix, but when I asked him, he said it wasn’t him.

But I’m pretty sure someone did, although if it wasn’t Mix, I’m not sure who it was.

Heather works on the news.

I had no interesting in being a DJ — and the station’s formats of alternative, metal, urban and jazz wouldn’t have appealed much to me, anyway — but I worked on the news staff all four years of college.

I was news director my junior and senior years. Between a lack of time, resources (and possibly ability) our newscast mostly consisted of writing jokes about stories from that day’s Utica Observer-Dispatch or USA Today that I had bought at the Nice & Easy on the corner.

As college students do, we called it “Nice & Sleazy’s,” or “Sleazy’s” for short.

Had I watched “Saturday Night Live” then — I still haven’t watched it more than a handful of times — it probably would have been obvious we were ripping off “Weekend Update,” but instead we were having fun and doing what we could.

When I stared on the radio, people would ask me if I was nervous about talking to an audience. My reply was always that I couldn’t see them, so it’s not like they were there … not to mention, I don’t know if many people were actually listening.

On Tuesday nights, we had a segment called “Bob’s Babbles,” where my friend Bob would riff for five or so minutes on whatever topic I gave him a couple hours before. The inspiration for the segment was … one night where we were going to come up short, so I asked Bob to start babbling.

Once in a great while we got serious. While I was tutoring in the Writing Center one day, word got around that the college president had held a meeting about money problems, but students weren’t invited.

So I called the president’s office, and the result was a half-hour, live interview that night. Apparently, students weren’t invited because there just wasn’t enough room.

At least that’s what he said.

This ancient artifact is called a “cassette tape,” and it may be our best work. (The picture is from my friend Kit’s Facebook.)

As you might guess, there was occasional silliness.

One random day, I saw a loose piece of pipe sitting around. Someone must have irked me, and “The Metal Rod” was born.

The picture at the top of this piece is me using it on Kit — it’s from my friend Sue’s Facebook page — but the most-common victim was clearly one guy in particular. He was mostly referred to as “F***nut.” I have no idea if that’s even a word, but it’s what Kit yelled at him one night when he was being particularly annoying, and a nickname was born.

(It should be noted that, even at his most annoying, he was always a good dude, and he still is. Also, who someone was as an 18- and 19-year-old is not who they are today. I certainly hope I’m not.)

The tape pictured was from our news program during the all-nighter at the end of my junior year. At the time, the station only operated from 6 a.m. to midnight, except for the last day before shutting off for the summer, when we ran 24 hours.

The news staff signed up for a spot for either 1 or 2 a.m., and one by one, we spent the next hour saying whatever was on our minds, including an epic Bob’s Babble from our favorite graduating commentator. I believe the theme was that just days from graduation, there still was time to transfer to Syracuse, right? (Utica College was founded by Syracuse University, and at the time, was actually part of the university. My undergrad degree is technically from Syracuse.)

And then there was the time station management was upset the college paid someone to DJ a campus event that day instead of asking us, so that night, someone set up the rather large speakers to the station’s stereo in the back windows and turned the volume all the way up.

The sound was bouncing off buildings until we were asked, politely-ish, to stop.

No broadcast on this day, but there would be others.

What I wanted to do more than anything at WPNR was call sports. We only did basketball back then, and when I was a freshman, there were two seniors who had been there for three years, so I had to wait my turn.

The next year, three of us signed up, and another guy who had been the board operator the previous year, so he got first claim on the play-by-play duties.

I was the color man, but the arrangement only lasted a half. He had a DJ business, and had to leave at halftime of our first game for a gig. I moved over to play-by-play, and he never came back to the booth again.

We did five or six games a season, and added women’s games later on so more people could get a chance. We could only do home games, and I tried to set up the schedule to spread out whose shows were being pre-empted for us.

Our equipment was a console the size of an oversized briefcase that we plugged into the phone lines at the gym to be patched back through the studio. The headphones were giant, and the accommodations were a single table in the press box, which was basically a balcony above the court.

The highlight was calling UC’s victory over our archrivals from Hamilton College for the first time in, I believe, five years. As I recall, I got slightly excited at the game-winning basket, to the point where our board operator said I pegged the volume levels and he couldn’t turn it down.

I don’t have a tape of that game, or really any tapes of anything I ever did. My mom might have some tapes, and there’s Kit’s tape of the news all-nighter, but other than that, I don’t know how much record of my days on the radio exists.

When I stared on the radio, people would ask me if I was nervous about talking to an audience. My reply was always that I couldn’t see them, so it’s not like they were there … not to mention, I don’t know if many people were actually listening.

The station’s range barely cleared the edge of campus, and I don’t think lots of people on campus were listening to news and basketball.

But it doesn’t matter. It was too much fun to matter, and between the radio and my speech classes, I have zero fear of public speaking.

Now I just need to remember who played “Moondance” on their show.

2 thoughts on “‘Moondance’ and college radio memories

  1. Pingback: Five jobs I’d like to have – A Silly Place

  2. Pingback: The week gone by — June 13 – A Silly Place

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