Forty years ago today, I was doing what most normal 19-year-old Minnesota guys did: thinking about girls, working on my car, and trying to decide which bar I wished to frequent later that evening (19 was legal back then, kids!)
Everything changed when my phone rang. Actually, my parents’ phone, since I still lived at home. My mom answered the call and then came to get me. “There’s a lady on the phone who wants to talk to you. She says she manages a radio station in Colorado.”
This was it! The moment I had been waiting for. This was THE CALL! Just 9 and 1/2 weeks ago, I graduated from Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Minneapolis. The deal was that if you paid their high tuition ($3,960 for the 9 month course + $50 “books and supplies fee”), they would find you a job. Mike Kronforst, Brown’s excellent Placement Director, made good on that promise. I believe their placement rate was around 97% at the time. Now, it was my turn. I was extremely nervous, but very excited as Bette Bailly explained what she needed at KNAB and what she was offering for the position. It paid $700 per month. No moving expenses. No holidays. No overtime. No health insurance. No fringe benefits of any kind. Lots of hours, including weekends. In other words, it was your typical first job in radio. I told Bette I’d need some time to think it over. After all, this was a big move. It would be my first time away from home. Burlington, Colorado was a long way from Apple Valley, Minnesota. Plus, could I even live on $700 per month? Her response was “Well, hurry up and decide! If you don’t want it, I have a list of other people that I need to call. Let me know by tomorrow!”
Hanging up the phone, I immediately thought of what Mr. Kronforst had told us shortly before Graduation Day: “Don’t be picky with jobs! Don’t worry about station power, ratings, format, or location. Rookie announcers are a dime a dozen. If you get a job offer, TAKE IT! You can always get a better job later when you have experience and a tape from a real station to send out!”
Who was I kidding? Being on the radio was what I had wanted to do since I was 4 years old. I would have done the job for free! The next day, I called Bette Bailly and accepted…no, wait…being a 19-year-old kid, I had to attempt the gutsy move of asking for more money. I knew there wasn’t much more to be had, but I also knew the first offer an employer throws out is always a lowball. I told her I had some concerns since it was such a long way from home, but I would do it for $50 more per month. Silence on the other end of the phone. I’m sure it only lasted a few seconds, but it seemed like the longest silence I had ever experienced! After what seemed like an eternity, Bette said “Okay. I’ll do that. $750 per month. You damn well better be worth it! When can you get here. I need you next week! Can you start Monday? Since it was now Wednesday, August 17, Monday was only five days away! But what could I say? I successfully negotiated the deal I had wanted, so now it was on me to follow through and make this woman happy! “Sure! I’ll be there. See you Monday morning!” And that was that.
I called U-Haul, reserved a trailer, conned my parents into helping me move (which was lucky since I didn’t have a trailer hitch on my car), and got to packing. Three days later, on National Radio Day, we hit the road. After an overnight stop in Lawrence, Kansas, we arrived the following (Sunday) evening in the thriving metropolis of Burlington, Colorado. As promised, I met Bette at 8:00AM on Monday, August 22, 1983. Thus began my employment with KNAB AM/FM Radio as well as a 16-year career in Broadcasting. Mission accomplished!