From time to time across the dial

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2015

By Frank Roberts

I recently saw a picture of my 20-something self, taken in the music library at a radio station in Rome, N.Y., where I was semi-renowned as The Timekeeper, a name I inherited when I took over the morning show, where I was accompanied by a small xylophone known as Timmy the Time Tone.

I was a happy dude — young, easygoing, maybe slightly like dwarf No. 7. WKAL, like just about all of radio in those days, was an AM station. Back then, that’s all there was. FM entered the scene many moons later with its longer reach knocking AM for a loop.

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Ah, but revenge is sweet. Along came cable, computers — little gadgets all, in turn, knocking FM for a loop or three.

It all began in 1873, when a cat named James Clerk Maxwell was messing around with electromagnetic energy and continued when Guglielmo Marconi actually developed radio. Lee de Forest came up with the vacuum tube, and things really began jumping.

Skipping a few years, Frank Roberts arrived at ‘KAL.

I got more power when I became a Texan and worked in Corpus Christi at KWBU. (The KW, of course, stood for kilowatts, and the BU stood for the owners, Baylor University). We were upstairs from a Buick dealership. It was the only time I got the job with the help of someone.

Wife No. 1, Beverly, was the daughter of divorced parents. Momma lived in Brooklyn; Daddy became somewhat famous for introducing seltzer water to the previously deprived citizens of Corpus.

He wanted his daughter with him, and he knew the folks who ran the station — and he knew I was in radio — so he asked them to find a place for me. At the time, the station advertised itself as the most powerful AM station in the U.S. I was even getting mail from Canada.

I’ve written before about some of my radio experiences. My TV experiences were with NBC stations in Washington, which sounds impressive until I add the initials, N.C. Before that, I had hied my tail to KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa.

I was a semi successful freelance writer until greed took over. A newspaper editor in Jacksonville, N.C., heard my features on the Washington station and kept offering me $5 more, $5 more, $5 more — until it became ridiculous to turn down those juicy offers. (He was fired during my first day of work for being DOA — drunk on arrival).

I loved it there. I covered a lot of activities at Camp Lejeune, and I watched those rugged rascals run through their routines. I was thanking God I had joined the Army.

In those days, newspapering, radio-ing, and television-ing were, for the most part, all white male affairs. In Jacksonville, a lovely lady named Helen labored in the newsroom but was relegated to news and features about women’s clubs, tea parties, etc.

Nowadays, radio, TV and newspapers are quite democratic, thank you. All are welcome — IF you can do what you say you can do.

I recently watched an evening newscast on WAVY with a fellow who looks like he just graduated from junior high. This guy had a ’40s-’50s haircut (you could see his ears and you could not see a ponytail). He reminded me of a much earlier me.

Looking at my 86-year-old self in the mirror, I think I would give my eyeteeth to turn back the clock and start all over again. But it doesn’t work that way.

I keep my sanity thanks to this newspaper exhibiting excellent taste and accepting my humble efforts. And I am still running my mouth at

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at