Published 12:30 pm Friday, August 1, 2008
Goodbye to old friends, hello to new ones
By Lowell McGill
The passing of Lynn Toney this week created memories of three old friends who made careers in the media.
I met Lynn in 1967 when he and Leroy Morris were in Atmore looking into a possible cable franchise. Leroy, who was from northwest Florida, had brought him to Atmore. Both were employed with WEAR TV in Pensacola. Many of you will remember their tenure at that ABC station.
Lynn died this week at the age of 83. Leroy, who died several years ago, is buried in a Bratt cemetery.
A couple of months after meeting Lynn he called me and told me WEAR needed a weekend booth announcer. I went down and was hired to work but it was difficult to hold down two jobs. I was teaching school at that time. During this time a full time job came open and I was offered it. But I was not interested in full time TV work.
I called Jimmy Cruise, who was working at a radio station at Bay Minette. He went down and landed the job. In fact Jimmy worked there until he retired I was told.
According to a story on the Internet Sunday, Lynn had been in a nursing home for a couple of years. He left WEAR several years ago and went into the ministry.
You will remember his wearing the leopard skin jacket and played the bass fiddle on his afternoon kid’s show. He was also the weatherman at WEAR during this era.
Lynn, a native of Texas, enjoyed western swing music as I did. We often talked about all those great sounding western swing bands like Bob Wills, Spade Cooley and Pee Wee King. He was an excellent TV showman.
Leroy, who was a “round robust” king of comedy, is also well remembered from Channel 3.
And, now to a more joyous subject.
Sam Ford, my old friend from WATM days of the 1950s and I were reintroduced to each other two weeks ago. His former sister in law Annie Sue (Keller) Newman gave me his email address and I immediately contacted him.
He was responsible for my learning sports play by play announcing as he taught me all the ropes when we worked together at WATM. I worked there on weekends and summers while attending college. Sam was the right hand man for Tom and Ernestine Miniard. He could write commercials like a pro. He had a great radio voice. In fact he and Jim Campbell had a show called “The Ace and Deuce Show” which generated a lot of listeners.
After he left WATM he worked at some larger radio stations and ended his career in Christian radio in New Orleans.
His former wife was Virginia (Jennie) Keller of Atmore. Their son Sammie is a medical doctor and their granddaughter is a secretary to former General Wesley Clark in Washington DC. Jennie is now married to a doctor and they live in Mississippi.
Sam’s present wife is the daughter of Louis Prima. He was one of the leading big band leaders of the 1930-1970s. Prima later married Keely Smith. This duo enjoyed much success in the 1950-1960s. “That Old Black Magic” was one of their hit songs.
Sam informed he did wok for NBC Radio news prior to his becoming the manager of the New Orleans station
Katrina almost completely destroyed his St. Bernard Parish home. He and his wife had to be rescued from the flood and were relocated several miles from his home.
It was interesting as we talked about that flood. I discovered that I worked several flood claims only a few streets from his home. He says things are now getting back to normal after much cleanup and repairs.
We have exchanged several emails the past several days. He wanted to learn about many of his old friends here. We will continue to exchange emails and I plan on paying him a visit the text time I am in New Orleans. I hope he will be able to come back to Atmore and visit us soon. He said his health was good with the exception of his eyesight. He explained he was having difficulty seeing well and was being treated for this condition. I wish for him the very best of health and happiness.
He has also emailed me a 1954 photo of himself and officers in the Atmore Jay Cees and a very interesting story about this excellent group. He was active in the local organization. I hope to have this story ready next week.
In closing, I posed a question in my column last week. I asked how many of you have heard the Johnny Cash motel commercial. In this ad he sings the song “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Atmore is one of the towns mentioned in the song. Without a doubt I have received more response than ever from readers who have also heard that commercial. And, they too, agree that Atmore is, indeed, mentioned in the lyrics of the song.
Next week we will look at rising insurance rates and that all-important tanker contract now under consideration for Mobile. Is it safe to say that a possible “ill wind” from Chicago may be blowing against us?
You will find out next week.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org