‘Spinners’ were important to radio broadcasts

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Some days, when I have difficulty coming up with something to write about, I merely lean back, close my eyes and think about memorable events that happened in the 1950s.

I remember one occasion when Dee Gibbs played the role of Santa for the Atmore Chamber of Commerce. He had just returned from auctioneering school, where he learned the entire fast talk auctioneering lingo that depicted an auctioneer’s demeanor. Answering one little boy’s request for his Christmas wishes, Dee said “little boy I’ll fill your stocking with all your wishes if you will repeat this after me, five, give me five, want you give me five minutes more, or I’ll take four, just give me four and your list will be filled for shore, or make it three, just three little vows to grow up to be a real good boy”. I’m not sure if these were Dee’s exact words but he brought the house down with his real good auctioneering style. It was obvious that that school taught him to be a wonderful auctioneer.

On another occasion in the early fifties, Dud Troutman and some more men were having coffee at Bristow’s. Dud saw C. Williams walking across the street from the post office and he told the group “I’m going to have a little fun with C.” Now Dud had the uncanny ability to mock or sound like some other person talking. He hid behind a medicine rack and said “Hi … How you today brother C? It’s very nice weather we are having out there ain’t it, brother, have ya’ll got the mail put up yet?” Well C looked around and asked all the guys seated at the coffee table, “I heard Houston Baker asking me if the mail was up but I don’t see him.”

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About that time everybody was rolling over with laughter and Dud popped out. C, readily recognizing what was going on, began to laugh too because he knew Dud had the reputation of mocking just about everybody in Atmore. There were other memorable occasions when I remember hearing Dud “mock” someone. He was loved and appreciated by all back then because of his friendly and pleasant nature. Dud, by the way, was Charlotte Miller’s dad and my wife’s cousin. He was also uncle to the twin McMillan politicians from Stockton. Their mother, Madie, is Dud’s sister. She is still living today.

Not too many years ago, Bob Morressette was entertaining Coach Hayden Riley who was an assistant to Paul Bryant at the University of Alabama. Bob and Hayden were classmates there. Hayden came down to sign an Ernest Ward football player and Bob was making arrangements for the two to meet. Well, according to Bob, they left the Advance office about 10 a.m. and were gone until about 5 p.m. Phil Sokol was waiting to write up the story about the player’s signing with Alabama but that was not the case, indeed. It seems some Auburn folks got word of Hayden’s visit and they “hid” out the ball player according to Bob. In other words, they could not find him. So Phil wrote no story, Alabama got no player and the Auburn folks got the last laugh. Hayden later became Alabama’s basketball coach.

In the early and mid 1950s, WATM was a thriving radio station here. Operated by Tom and Ernestine Miniard, the station was so successful that it captured an overflowing audience. There was no competition from any other stations. Only WALA in Mobile could be considered competition. The Miniards were very good to me. They gave me weekend and summer jobs which helped me get through college. Yes, I drove in each week from Tuscaloosa and Hattiesburg, respectively, to work there. I stayed on for 10 years more working part time doing all the sports. Ernestine wanted “her announcers” to sound good on the radio. We all thrived to do just that. Jimmy Cruise, Sam Ford, Mike Roberts, Billy McGill and “Popping Off Paul Woods” made up that staff. Everybody knew who we were by the sound of our voices. We all sounded different. Request phone calls and letters in the mail were quite popular in those days. And when a request for a song came in it was always tagged with “I want Jimmy or Sam or Lowell to spin it.” Listeners had their favorite announcers.

I remember a very sad situation when the one of our devout listeners was going through her last days. Her daughter called and wanted all of us — all the announcers including Tom and Ernestine — to dedicate the song “Suppertime” to her mother. This was the theme song we used on our “Suppertime Gospel” show. It was sung by Jimmy Davis. All of us got in the recording studio and recorded that dedication for that lady and Ernestine was to play it on her early morning show. But, about 30 minutes before she played it, we received word that our listener had died. Ernestine played the recording anyway and we received many, many acknowledgements for having done this.

Boy oh boy, what about that Auburn football team. And, the state of Alabama, too. But the talk in all of this is the desire for Texas to sign their next coach from our state. Ironically, they don’t want Saban but they do want the “Gusbus” from Auburn. One ESPN analyst calls Malzahn the “hottest commodity” going right now. In fact on TV just this weekend he quoted one Texas newspaper stating that the University of Texas would match any payout he is getting and would give him a piece of the “Texas Football Network” if he would take the job.

They say out there we want one of these fast break, quick huddle, and high powered offense coaches. Believe me that is the characteristic Gus displays. Well, I do not know if this will happen but I do know that the University of Texas operates with the most amount of money of college football programs in America. (As of Monday when this column was written Brown was still the Texas coach) In fact just about all schools looking to replace head coaches want coaches like Malzahn. He is certainly in the driver’s seat right now. No matter whether he goes or stays, he is the main topic of conversation by football analysts and pundits.

Finally, I would like to say a kind word on behalf of Fred Kelley, a retired airplane pilot based in Monroeville. This fine man operates “Pilots For Christ” flying service, which transports sick and injured to area larger hospitals. A dedicated chaplain, he is available for speaking engagements at schools, churches and charity events. His personal testimony to Christ highlights each of his engagements. Fred tells me that many flying endeavors have benefited local residents over the years. He can be reached at (251) 362-1746.

Next week, I’ll have more nostalgic tidbits from years gone by.


You can reach Lowell McGill by emailing exam@frontiernet.net.