THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM MY MEMOIR “RAISED ON THE RADIO” WHICH I LOOK TO RELEASE IN 2018.
After graduating from York High School in June of 1979, my college days began with taking general education classes at the College of Du Page or C.O.D. as it was known, in nearby Glen Ellyn. Going to a commuter community college saved lots of money and also helped me ease into the world of higher learning.
While at C.O.D., the coolest thing I learned was in a 1980 Journalism class from a teacher named Gordon Richmond. He was in his sixties and was an old school guy. Yet what he taught us was anything but “old school.” Mr. Richmond said the day was coming when everything we buy would come through our televisions; clothes, toys, electronics, we’d read news stories, get our music, pay our bills, all through our televisions. We thought he was nuts. How was our TV going to spit out an album of music or the newspaper? Years later I realized he was opening our minds to the concepts of the information super highway itself, the internet. The only thing different being we do our commerce with help of a computer screen and not a TV per se. The beginning of the internet has its roots in the U.S. military dating back to the nineteen fifties and I bet Mr. Richmond had family or friends in the military and they saw the start of these things happening.
In January of 1981 I transferred to Southern Illinois University. S.I.U. had a well regarded Communications curriculum and I visited there twice. My best friend Bobbo and another buddy, Dave Potter went there too and my dorm room was on the same floor as theirs. S.I.U. had a reputation for being a party school and I jumped into that pool head first. I spent too much time drinking, partying and living for the weekends of hitting the bars on the main strip. My first Everclear party ended with me literally crawling out of an elevator and back to my room.
One good thing came out of that ‘lost semester’ in Carbondale. I went to my first ever Bruce Springsteen concert at the S.I.U. arena and met and got an autograph from Bruce before the show when he arrived for his sound check. This was during “The River” tour and seeing the Boss in concert was one of those life-changing moments.
(Bruce Springsteen in concert 1981)
My parents came to take me home in early May and with a semester GPA below a ‘C’ average, I knew I wouldn’t return to S.I.U. in the fall. I wasn’t ready to be on my own and keeping my priorities in order was looking bleak.
My summers away from college classes were spent earning money to help forward my radio dreams. One summer I was sitting on a factory assembly line sticking caps on bottles of Musk cologne for the Jovan Perfume Company. The pay was good but it was mind numbing work. Then I did time working for the Elmhurst Park District. For four straight winter vacations I helped freeze the parks’ ice rinks. While Chicago winters are ridiculously cold, you don’t know cold until you and a partner are holding huge fire hoses at ten at night spraying water from a hydrant as a sub zero wind blows some of the water back in your face. In the summer months of ‘81, ‘82 and ‘83 I earned my pay with the Park District on the lawn mowing, baseball diamond maintenance and garbage crews. It was great to be outdoors and get a nice tan but it was also hot and sweaty work.
The park district’s maintenance garage had a radio tuned to 103.5 FM, WFYR. Each day as we got ready to pull out of the garage, I would hear their morning show starring a host named Bill Gardner go through the news, weather and play adult contemporary music. That job sounded a hell of a lot better than filling up a truck with ‘Diamond Dry’ and shovels to prep ball fields for softball teams to play on. I felt my radio days were coming soon. Actually, I HOPED my radio days were coming soon.