My interview for the job in radio/tv was memorable, even if I can't remember the station call-letters now.
I was seventeen and the position I applied for was Assistant
to the Manager of the radio station. The man who interviewed me was probably in his late 50s - a cynical,
hard-nosed, blunt man. The first thing he ever said to me was "You're too young to work here.
Can you spell?" My feathers were definitely ruffled and I replied, "I can probably spell as well as you can, and
I presume you do have a dictionary around somewhere!" Two days later to my great surprise, I was hired.
The manager I was to work with was on holidays the day I started, so they put me into the reception area to deal with the visitors to the Station. My first
encounter with the other staff was one of the fellows from the newsroom who wandered in with something grey
balled up in his hand. He looked at me curiously, draped it over the back of my typing chair and disappeared. When I turned
around, I discovered a soggy pair of men's briefs. "Huh! I muttered to myself, as I gently
lowered them on the end of pencil into the wastebasket. Later on I was to learn
it had been the habit of the night news crew to hang their "laundry" (hand washed in the men's washroom) over
the back of the chair in reception.
About two hours later, while I was still struggling to become familiar with my first encounter with an electric typewriter, he came back
to ask me if I knew I was supposed to pick up the news from the teletype machine. No, I had no idea what I was supposed
to be doing. I followed him down a long hallway to the newsroom where a group of scruffy looking fellows
were all sitting at typewriters, lots of empty coffee cups sitting around, with a haze of cigarette smoke blanketing the entire room.
I timidly said, "Can you please tell me where to find the teletype machine?" Before I had
a chance to finish the sentence, one big fellow stood up, came over and picked me up bodily and dumped
me into a huge six-foot wastebasket filled with great masses of teletype paper - and I couldn't get out.
There was a lot of laughter (not mine) and a lot of cracks about short blonde people. They actually left me there until I
begged to be helped out.
From that day forward, I realized that being timid was one thing; surviving was a different can of worms. As the days went by, my inferiority
complex simply couldn't survive and it fled, leaving behind the me that would eventually
find herself able to do a morning show, a kid's show, and sing blues in a downtown Halifax bar. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The "manager" arrived about a week later; he was about three years older than I was, married with (at that time) four kids. He
was a heavy drinker who eventually turned into a full-fledged alcoholic.
I soon learned that my primary duty was to keep the bar in his office fully stocked. By the end of my first month, I knew
almost every taxi driver who would pick up booze and ice for me at a minute's notice. I also had an envelope filled with hundred dollar
bills locked in my desk drawer to use if I had to go down to the police station to bail my new boss out. He was
frequently being picked up on charges of drunken driving.
On the plus side, apart from his drinking, he was a nice young guy. He took me for what was my first plane ride in
a little four-seater sea plane. We buzzed the radio station and landed on the water in Armdale. The radio station had its own news helicopter
and if it was an "off" not-so-busy day, they'd let me go up in the chopper, hovering over downtown Halifax.
I got to do a lot of things most seventeen year old girls didn't do in those days. When the fellow who did the morning show ("Breakfast with Bill") didn't show up,
they let me host it. Granted it was mostly cueing in the music and reading recipes that people sent in, but it was "on the air".
A few times, I even filled in for Miss Mary who had an afternoon children's show on TV...I
would romp around the set with the children of the crew, singing and chanting pre-arranged scripted stuff.
I was part of the anti-drinking and driving commercials. I stood in an empty newsroom in front of a microphone and somebody
yelled at me from behind the scenes..."Hey, scream, willya". So I'd let loose a blood-curdling scream and
later in the week, I'd hear me, in the background with screeching brakes and an announcer saying in
sombre tones, "If you drink, don't drive - the life you save may be your own".
About a month after I'd started, I noticed that the big fellow who had dumped me into the waste bin on my first day was doing the news.
He was live and on-air in a small booth off to one side of the newsroom. When no one was watching, I snuck in, closed the door quietly behind me,
and slipped something down the back of his trousers. It was a handful of ice cubes. As he
struggled not to yelp, I quietly backed out and closed the door behind me. I left a note on his desk that read, "Short blonde people
shouldn't be messed with - the
life you save may be your own".