Monday, July 20
I had always wanted to be a radio announcer since I was a small child growing up in the Blue Diamond coal camp. When I was eight or nine years of age my older brother, Quentin, and I played radio. We would make up a program log, use our 78 rpm record player, read news from the newspaper and use a tin can tied to a stick for a microphone. We would spend several hours a day playing radio. After Quentin graduated from high school and joined the Air Force I continued playing radio although now I called it "practicing." When my mother died of cancer I was only 14 years old and I went to live with my grandmother on Brown's Fork. My ambition was to be a radio announcer. I enrolled in speech classes at M.C. Napier High School and Mrs. Ruby Allen, who taught at Napier at that time, worked with me several minutes a day. I heard about the "Pepsi Party" program on WKIC and I got on the program as a guest disc jockey. Harry Minnich, who was doing the program, mentioned that the following fall he would be going to college at Eastern in Richmond. The wheels started clicking in my head and I decided I wanted to be the replacement for Harry. I talked to the general manager, Ernest Sparkman, about the job. He was not too encouraging but took my name and address and said he would contact me about an audition. I was now 16 years old and was determined. Each afternoon I would hitch-hike from Napier to Hazard to hang around WKIC to talk to Harry. Finally in May of 1958 after about three months of making a nuisance of myself, Ernest noticed me hanging around and decided to give me an audition. Harry found some copy, a Pet Milk promotional, to read. Ernest told him to wait for about 15 minutes until he got home and then put me on the air. I read the promotional 15 minutes later and Ernest called Harry and wanted to talk to me. He asked me if I would come in on Sunday and just read promotionals in between the recorded programs. I said sure. He also set up an appointment to talk with me after school on Monday. I read the promotionals on Sunday and was right on time for my appointment on Monday after school. Ernest had been delayed and was not there and there was a serious problem at the station. Harry Minnich was practicing graduation at Hazard High School and had failed to mention he would be late for work. Pete Pickins was on the air and his wife was sick in the hospital. Pete was fuming and said he was going to the hospital regardless. There was no one to go on the air. Norma Strong had heard me reading the promotionals the day before and asked me if I would go on the air. I said I didn't know how to run the radio controls. She said, "you get in the small studio and do the announcing and I'll get Yancey Bowling, our Chief Engineer, to run the controls for you. I made my debut in that fashion that afternoon. An hour or so later Ernest Sparkman came in, told me he had been listening to me on the car radio, and then asked me to fill out the time sheet and employment forms with Renee Elam, the bookkeeper. The next day Ernest gave me half of Harry Minnich's shift and I fully replaced him when he left for college that fall.