- Hometown: Ticonderoga NY
- Now Living In: Conneaut OH
- Years at JI: 1975 – 1976
- Assignment: AFRTS
I remember receiving orders to JI in early 1975. I had NO idea where it was, or what it was – never heard of it before. My sponsor (pretty sure his name was Bob Beyette) wrote me a letter and said he couldn’t wait to meet me – I don’t think we ever actually got to meet one another – he was on the outbound freedom bird that I came in on.
I stepped out into the brightest sun I had ever seen in my life. All I could see was water everywhere. I was to discover that the there was a LOT to do on JI. We played golf on the 9 hole course outside my apartment. The FOOD was INCREDIBLE, they had Ice Sculptures on the Holidays and so much more. Every Saturday night we went to the club and burned some steaks and drank free drinks – it doesn’t get too much better than that! We got to make a phone call about once every week or so and usually wound up calling home about 3 in the morning NY time. Had we only understood how good we had it – but most of us simply crossed off the days until we could leave – waiting to get “short.” Sad that when we are young we can’t get the concept of enjoying the experience of it all. I couldn’t wait to get home, and then I moved again and have only been back occasionally since then. I did, however, make every effort to enjoy it.
I was assigned to AFRTS on JI, I had a radio show on AFJI (99.5) and began doing the weather, then sports, then the News on AFTV. Later, Ken Rogge taught me to direct the TV news and run the projectors, etc. To me, that was more fun than anything else. I had spent most of my High School and College years working in commercial radio, but I was shocked to learn how much I didn’t know. Guys like Carl Sargent and Ken Rogge took me under their wings and helped me learn. I soon discovered that there was a lot more to broadcasting than being a DJ. Years later, I used much of what I learned on JI as I went on the work (mostly part time as I spent my full time career in Newspapers) at radio stations in Pittsburgh PA, Erie PA, Ticonderoga NY, Vineland NJ and Ashtabula OH.
The station was assigned a blue Air Force Ford Pickup Truck – and for the most part I was allowed to use it whenever I wanted and I pretty much had the run of the island. I enrolled in the Basic NAUI course taught by Stephen West and later went on to pick up the Master Divers Course. We also did some night diving. I got involved in the Pacific Atoll Divers Club and we had meetings and dives. The club had a “pontoon” type boat that we called the barge. We’d load a bunch of guys on the barge and go out diving. Although I continued diving in fresh water on Lake George NY and Lake Erie in Ohio, nothing has ever compared to the diving on JI. I also completed the Red Cross 50 Mile Swim in the JI Pool and took the WSI Course there as well. I remember going to the BX and buying every piece of Scuba Equipment I could get my hands on. I have NO idea what I was thinking – maybe I thought I was gonna go pro after I left the Island LOL!
In early ’76, word came down that the LIVE broadcasts of AFRTS would conclude at mid year or thereabouts. The station had two engineers (Jim Campbell & Bob Hooks). They laid the groundwork for the move to a building down by the post office. Then we had the “Final Farewell” – a 24 broadcast with each staff member doing one hour of radio show and saying goodbye.
After that, everyone on staff left the island except me. I completed the move to the new building and got the TV station up and running using the old equipment. The plan was to move to the latest technology (VCR) but I left the island before that happened. I remember the audio section of the TV Transmitter went down and I couldn’t get parts for several weeks. I ran the TV Audio to the FM Transmitter and asked everyone to put their FM Radio on top of the TV. A few weeks later, we got the parts and put it back up correctly.
I remember waking up one morning to a knock on the door. They were doing a door to door search to see who was missing. Seems someone had “borrowed” a road grader, run out on the runway, called the tower and asked for permission take off. The Tower, going along with what they thought was a joke, gave it to them. The grader rolled down the runway and off the end of the island and into the Ocean…..so much for a joke.
We hung out at the “shit chute” and fished for sharks….and caught them. I remember finding a rocket in the water on the west side of the island while diving. We dove on the plane wreck and a scuttled tugboat. Got beat up on the reef and wound up with a puncture wound from a black sea urchin.
I left JI and moved to Junction City Kansas. I worked in the PIO there for about a month, and with three months left in service, basically started looking for work. I wound up working part time for KJCK-FM in Junction City and full time for the Junction City Republic at Montgomery Publications, Inc.
Eventually I moved to Pittsburgh PA and became Ad Manager at The Homestead Daily Messenger and Spenley Newspapers. Finally, I wound up in Erie PA working for the Erie Times and Brown Thompson Newspapers. In 1994 I decided to go into business for myself.
Today: Married to Judy and I live in Conneaut OH. Daughter Michelle (Mickie) and Melissa (Missy) both live in Joplin MO.