Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back in the day in Alaska every town of size had their own radio station.

 I guess they still do.

I suppose that in Anchorage they were fairly polished affairs but in the smaller towns they were a little less polished but were more in tune to the actual needs of the town or area they served.

They generally had little programs scheduled that announced who needed people to work for them. In Kodiak sometimes the canneries would have an announcement that they needed a few people or that someone needed a carpenter or plumber.

They opened that little daily program with Sha-Na-Na's song, 'Get a job'. Then they announced the jobs that were open.

They also provided a message service for people that lived out of town in the bush. When my father died I was out of town and the station announced "Piccolo, call home."

Someone else heard it and passed it on to me via marine VHF. I called home on the marine operator and got the bad news.

The service in Kodiak was called "Kodiak crabbers". You could call the station and have them announce something directed to someone out of town. They would air them about five or six times a day.

Other towns had similar programs. There was the trapper hotline and another town had a program called Caribou Clatter. There were also Mukluk Messages, Ptarmigan Hotline and others all over the huge state. They are the ame thing with different names, messages to people outside the grid.

Many of the messages sounded like they were coded and likely they were to avoid broadcasting someone's personal business. It was generally easy enough to figure them out, though.

"To Tim Smith. Aunt Louise is fine." ( We took this one at face value.) 

"Al Murphy, your prescription is ready at the drug store." (We always said that message sounded like a dope deal)  

"Lonnie Davis, Doctor Lewis says the test was negative."(We guessed Lonnie had been sleeping with Betty Lou Thelma Liz last time he was in town)

"Louise Gilson, Mike is coming out on Inland Air tomorrow." (Louise had best clean the cabin up.)

People from the Lower 48 were somewhat confused the first time they heard some of the local programming. I don't know if they still have these programs in Alaska, but I'd bet they do.

They are useful for people living off the grid.

Someone explained to me that stateside it's illegal to use a radio station to broadcast private messages like that but that the FCC had given Alaska an exemption because there were enough people living off the grid so that the programs would provide a bona fide service.

Another thing some of these local stations did was to air little things that locals created. I remember in Kodiak a group of locals got together and created a drama serial program based loosely on local characters. Of course the names were changed but everyone knew who they were.

It was a local thing. You had to be a local to appreciate it but it was funny as hell. It was obviously a product made by amateurs. There were no personal computers or internet then to get special sound effects from back then. It was like one of the old radio serials of the 40s. Thunder sounds came from shaking a piece of sheet metal, for example.

The program sounded pretty much home brew but that just added greatly to its entertainment value.

Another thing they had was a daily morning program called "Stump the professor". If you could, you won 5 gallons of gasoline from a local service station. You would call in and he'd answer the first caller's question.

The Professor was actually pretty good. People would generally ask him all sorts of complicated science questions and he usually knew the answers.

I won 5 gallons of gas once. There was a bar manager that always wore beautiful hats to work every day. She was often affectionactly called  'The Hat'.

I called in and asked the professor what color hat she was going to wear to work that day. He instantly admitted he didn't have a clue. The bells rang and the announcer announced that Piccolo had just won 5 gallons of gasoline.

When I came by to collect my gas the station owner came out and grinned. He told me he thought I was pretty sharp and told me he was giving me an extra gallon for making him laugh. I felt like I had just won the lottery even though it was only three bucks worth of gas.

Later that day I met up with The Hat. I went into the bar she managed to meet someone. She looked at me with a blushing, sheepish look on her face and shook her head. Then she bought me a drink. Actually I knew she wasn't upset in the least. She actually thought it was pretty funny. 

I suppose she made money on the deal. Half the town had to come in and tease her about it and most of them bought at least one drink. One of the things I noticed about successful people there is they generally had a pretty good sense of humor.

One of the things I liked about life in Alaska was that things like radio stations did cool things for the average guy. They actually tried to serve and entertain the community.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

No comments:

Post a Comment