Adam ("Bob Franklin", WCEF)
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STAND-UP-SIT-DOWN AND THE MOP SINK
Since the last time I put brain to paper I heard from a nice guy, Mark Aulabaugh, and to my amazement, he once worked at WCEF in Parkersburg, WV. I worked there in 1960, as Bob Franklin. We had a nice long talk. Not only is he a "lifer" but he's the owner of KSEY in Texas (way to go!) He also worked at WCAW in Charleston, so we knew a lot of the same people - like C. E. Franklin, the owner of WCEF, or as I called him (for the first few days I worked there), "The guy that barfed in the mop sink." That sink was at the end of a short hall that separated the studio from the newsroom. C. E. (or "Frank") would be out drinking at the Red Fox Club, then come back to the station. And half dozen 3.2 beers were heard from again (at least that's what Gene Snyder told me.) I never worked mornings (thank God.) This little ritual added to the station's ambiance, which was about the same as a Turkish prison.
When I went to work at WCEF for Gene Snyder, I was dying to get back to personality radio and I took a cut in pay to do it. My first night in town, I stayed at the Blennerhassett Hotel for $5.00, in a room that was so small that you had to move the bed to get in the bathroom. The next morning I went in search of the station. Snyder had told me that it was on a side street next to the YMCA, and that the call letters were right on the door. I kept walking back and forth from the corner to the YMCA and all I could see was an alley and a flight of stairs in an old building that had a hat shop on the main floor. When I started up the stairs, I saw that there was a swinging door on each side of the stairway with "WC" on one and "EF" on the other.
At the top of the staircase you could see extension cords drooping from the ceiling with one end connected to a big fan in a window at the end of the hall. When I got to the top, I turned right, into a hall that was so dark that it looked like the inside of a giraffe's neck. Halfway down was the station office door with an air conditioner sticking out of the transom. As if on cue, when I opened the door, it dripped condensation on my head. The first thing I saw when I came in was a time clock! How ignominious! (Snyder later told me that Frank had gotten caught by the Wage Hour Board, and they made him put it in.) Just past the infernal machine was a receptionist who was so pregnant that she looked like she was peeking at me from behind herself. (I found out later that she was perennially in this condition.)
Just as I was thinking to myself, "Years from now, I'll laugh at this but right now I think I should get the hell out of here," in bounds Gene Snyder, all happy and smiling (I would see this look in years to come, mostly when he was trying to con me into working at some crappy radio station.) WCEF had the only sit-down-stand-up studio I've ever seen. It was a dumpy little room with no outside window. Well, there was a window in the corner. But it had a big air conditioner stuck in it, and the top part was so dirty it looked like Zero Mostel's window in the "Producers." And speaking of that a/c, it was hooked up to the mic switch. When the mic was on, the a/c was off. Now, at that time, the average Rock & Roll record was 2 1/2 minutes or less, so on a hot afternoon the a/c couldn't catch up, and you'd be forced to play a four minute cut from an Ahmad Jamal album just to keep from passing out. Oh yes - the a/c stuck out in the alley across from the YMCA shower room, so when their fans were blowing out, and the station's a/c was sucking in, the studio smelled like old sweat socks. Snyder told me that the last time they painted in there, they had to put Absorbine Junior in the paint.
The DJ had to sit staring at a blank wall using a "Gates board." Up above at about head level was a heavy plywood shelf with an Ampex 601 recorder on each side. All the spots intros and stuff were on those dreaded five-minute tape reels. So after you put a record on you had to: Jump up, rewind the spots that were on the machines, put those tapes back, find the next two spots, cue them up, sit down, log the on and off times for each commercial, cue up the next record, and try to think of something entertaining to say before the two-minute record ran out.
After four hours or more of this your knees and your brain were shot! I don't know how we did it, but the station had great ratings. Years later, in 1998, my son and I went to see Snyder and he showed us some Hooper ratings that showed WCEF with 60's in the a.m., and 70% in the afternoon. Not bad for a daytimer with a sliding sign-on - in a four station market! I asked Gene why he had never shown me those numbers before. "You would have asked for a raise. Frank would have said no, and you'd have gone somewhere else!" As it was, a few months later we all went somewhere else - me, Gene, and David B. Simmons. I saw David B. a few times on TV over the years. Gene Snyder died a few years back. We were friends for almost 40 years and worked together several times. From time to time we'd talk on the phone about our exploits. I miss that!
- Adam Jones