St. Louis calls......
Now you have to understand..at KMBC Kansas City...I was happy hanging with Lenny Dawson of the Chiefs each night and...and getting some really interesting guests on my show.
I was also living in a hotel a couple of blocks from the KMBC studios so things were fine. The manager of that hotel, Tom Richardson, and his lovely wife Nicky became a lasting friends...and if I get up the nerve or have a few too many glasses of wine some night I’ll relate a wild trip with them to Chicago one weekend to see the love of my life...my next door neighbor Jackie...in Mt. Prospect.
I may never tell that story but I will say I eventually wrote a manuscript about 400 pages long about her and about my first two experiences in Vietnam as a free lance reporter.
The book was titled “Jackie Doll”...so you can guess what went on there for some years. Jacqueline with the deep brown eyes and lovely brown hair. Anyway I did send it to one publisher in NYC who turned it done nicely....so I never got to say I wrote the “great american novel”...but this blog will do the trick just fine.
But I digress.
WIL Radio in St. Louis hired me away from Kansas City.
Here I’m going to go way back and tell you why working in St. Louis was like the fulfillment of a dream. So we are going to go back...to what they now call the middle school years...6th through 8th grade...called “junior high” in my days.
My Dad loved to play catch and wanted me to play sports and I got that bug too as most youngsters did when they were in their early teens.
If Dad had work, then a neighbor, Jim Parker, would be available. Jim was a little older than me (and would go on the become a lawyer) and already trying to perfect his “knuckle ball”. Results of that would be me chasing lousy pitches all over the park across the street where we did all this stuff.
I played basketball also...and was actually on the first five of the school I attended. One kid down the street I shot baskets with was Chucky Keller who would eventually own Keller’s Restaurant at the big intersection of the two huge interstate highways my Dad was in charge of building for the state. (see my earlier post) Chuck Keller would also become a State Representative in Springfield.
I had two heroes at that time in my life.
The first and most important was Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals...and my Dad made sure we drove over to St. Louis to see him and the Cardinals several times each baseball season at the old Sportsman’s Park.
I adored him...we had the same first name and last name initial “M”...he was left handed...so was I...he batted on the left side and although I could hit better from the right...I tired to bat left and even copied his wicked crouch in the batter’s box. However, I was no Stan Musial!
I remembered one time we were playing the New York Giants...this was before they moved to San Francisco. The manger of the Giants was the famous Leo “the lip” Durocher and his wife was there in the box seats...famous Hollywood actress Laraine Day.
But my eyes were always on Stan the Man.
After each game I insisted that we wait outside the clubhouse so I could see Musial up close and maybe get an autograph.
Stan had a deal with the other star Cardinal players.
He would come out and tell us he would sign for everybody but we had to follow him to his car in the parking lot. So great...we would eagerly do that and then the rest of the players would exit to much fewer kids seeking autographs!
He did this each time I waited after a game. And he stood by his car (with the SM 1 license plate) and signed balls, caps, scorecards or whatever until every one of us was happy. What a guy!
Thanks to a former producer for my national talk program who was in the trivia business I still have a little Musial tribute here in my living room...a signed baseball and a small plastic statue of him in the batter box. I treasure it. And I just got my St. Louis Cardinal tee with Musial and the number 6 on the back.
An opposing pitcher was once asked "how are you going to pitch to Stan the Man?" The guy thought for a second and answered: "I'll walk him and pick him off first!"
So this was a definite influence on my taking the job offer in St. Louis. This and the fact the my former home town was only about forty miles away.
Also...I was influenced by St. Louis radio...the big KMOX which had Harry Carey doing the play by play of the Cardinals at the time and on KXOK a guy named Ed Bonner...and the St. Louis Ballroom.
I listened the Ed almost every day and one time I called the station...mentioning I was with WCRA in Effingham and they put me right through to him. I told him I planned to be in St. Louis and wondered if I could watch his show. He said absolutely.
I did “knock” on Ed’s door several days later and went up to the studio where his show was just starting.
He said “Stan , nice to see you” and then introduced me to his guest that day...none other than Margaret Whiting...singer of songs and great hit records. She was lovely and very nice (but no Paula Prentiss...see my earlier Boston post)
On a break she turned to me and looking a bit pale said “I feel like I’ve been drugged.” Then she smiled. A little weird, huh?
I also tried “knocking on the door of the big, really big KMOX...but I was turned away rather impolitely. No big deal except I swore an oath never to go to work at CBS. It was funny that David Brinkley would basically say the same thing to me when we chatted at 30 Rock before I flew off to Vietnam. Brinkley hated CBS with a passion!
My other hero was a sports nut and four sports letterman at Effingham High School. His name was Bob Monet and he was built like a linebacker and even had a tryout with Bear Bryant at Alabama.
Bob gave me a pair of Alabama sweat pants so we got along well.
Bob and I were on the EHS baseball team for awhile (I got cut because of the radio job after school) and I remember we played out of town on a hot day and the bus driver stopped at a small creek and we all piled out...dropped our drawers and hit the water bare naked.
I heard Bob scream as he hit the water... apparently there was some barbed wire fencing that we couldn’t see. The fence got Bob in the balls...and we had to drag him back to the bus bleeding...and the coach administrated first aid. Just witnessing that made us all squirm cause it could have happened to anyone.
Bob only wore plain white tees to school and blue jeans. So the guys generally took his led on that but I wasn’t built like Bob and passed. It was an interesting fashion thing to witness though.
Bob Monet had the best looking girl in Effingham as well he should. Janie was really something and we all were envious. But tragedy struck...Janie died before graduating..of Leukemia I think. That was a bummer for all.
Since Debbie Reynolds couldn’t make it to Effingham to be my prom date (see earlier post) I had to find another. I had been dating a girl named Wanda and it turned out she was named Prom Queen. So we hooked up for the big dance.
I had a series of good looking girl friends...in Jr. High... Carol the cheerleader...dark and of course the brown hair and eyes that go with it. Another knockout looker with the same requirements...brown hair and eyes...Jeannine...but my first serious involvement was with a girl named Kay (yes these are all real first names) who attended St. Anthony’s High School on the northeast side of the city.
We had a few movie dates and then it ended.
A priest told her not to see me because I wasn’t Catholic!
Yep...things like this did happen in those days although her parents probably had the same attitude about me.
Then there was Ruth whom I eventually married. Ruth was blond and very pretty...and a couple of years older than me... which I think really influenced my interest in her.
Ruth was Catholic too...but nobody got in her way in our relationship...she was intelligent and strong willed...they wouldn’t dare!
Before we got married (in St. Louis no less) I started taking instructions in the Catholic religion. I was never baptized but I still refer to myself as an “un-catholic”...a non-practicing Catholic if you will.
I was all of seventeen years of age...a married high school grad...with the draft looking me right in the eye. Married guys were not given a break from the draft...your name came to the top of the list...you go. Actually my name was near but not at the top...but I decided to volunteer for the draft and get the two years of serving my country out of the way.
So...off I went.
(please see the early lengthy posts on Germany and The American Forces Network.)