I wiped away dust.

Going through boxes demands second looks at things that once meant something to me.

There were pay stubs from my first real paying job in which I had to contribute to Social Security and pay taxes.

I was hired at 55 cents an hour to sit in a lumpy, vinyl chair with broken wheels and spin 45-rpm records on Friday and Saturday nights at a small radio station.

Sunday nights were sold out with what is known in the business as “preacher shows.”

My shift ran from eight until eleven, three hours a night, times three, netted me not quite enough to pay for gas.

But I didn’t have a car, nor a license to drive either and my mother was not happy with my standing on US Highway 280 with my thumb out.

Once I arrived in the middle of Lyons, Ga., it was a mile or more up North Victory Drive to the studios of WBBT.

No matter the weather, the music had to go through. I probably walked through as much rain as fair weather.

At half-past eleven I started the march back to the main highway and stuck out my thumb. I was 15 years old.

Today you wouldn’t think of allowing a teenager to hitch-hike in the middle of the night, but that was when crime rates were low and assaults on strangers rare. People were less suspicious.

Sometimes my ride took me to the door of the station to hear a favorite song. That was cheap transportation.

At 16 I bought a $27 Chevy and my mother slept better.

There is still something sweet about the night air of South Georgia.

Sometimes as the air above the Southeast Georgia terrain cools and settles back to earth you can get a sniff of sea air as it flows inland from the Atlantic Ocean a hundred miles away to replace it.

My radio career bumped along in fits and starts until I realized there was no real future in it.

I landed at WBT in Charlotte to work “over-nights” playing “elevator music.”

Station Manager Paul Marion told me that people listened for the music, not to hear me. I was to do the required “station ID” with “W-B-T Charlotte.”

Coming from a rock-n-roll station I could not leave it at that and was fired.

WAPE in Jacksonville was THE rock station in the South. That lasted three months here and there under two different names, not my own.

The guys I knew, Cliff Hall Jr. and Jack Mock, are long dead. Ken Fuller cannot be found. He was also a talented musician.

My new-hire instructions were to “do whatever you want when you want.”

The station invited me back for their 50th anniversary. I knew no one there.

There were and probably still are three ways to earn real money in radio: You can fix it when it breaks; sell air time; or own the station. On-air people who make money do it at very large stations and are syndicated.

What I miss about small town radio are the listeners, the people, the night air.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.

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