KCPR Alumni Reunion 2007
by Cathy Dausman
(from The Oregonian - Southwest Weekly, November 2007)
I close my eyes, and still hear the voices. Names from 35 years in the past still have the power to make me smile. Names such as The Sheriff, Rockin' Roy, Hurricane Hines, Andy Anaheim, F. Fester Fletcher, Bruce Queen, Morgana Hill and Alan Wrench.
Once we were disc jockeys at our college FM station, KCPR in San Luis Obispo, CA. FM Radio was in its infancy -- not necessarily in stereo and certainly not a significant market share. An FM receiver in an auto was an upgrade. Satellite music didn't exist. Personal stereos consisted of separate receiver, turntable, and reel-to-reel tape deck on wood plank and cinder block "furniture." MP3s, iPods and CDs were still in the future and music cam in vinyl 33 rpm albums or on 45 rpm singles.
Being on the radio was a big deal. You had to be trained. You had to pass a test and earn a Federal Communications Commission third-class radiotelephone operator's license. That was your ticket to ride.
When they assigned you an air shift, you sat down, plopped on the headphones, took a deep breath and opened the mike: "this is 91 point 3 FM, KCPR, San Luis Obispo." Music followed -- the music you listened to and loved, the music you chose. KCPR -- Cal Poly radio! Always eclectic, occasionally esoteric; it was never dull.
On a warm September weekend this year (2007) we gathered on the central California coast. We were five dozen middle-aged professionals: writers, sales associates, producers, on-air personalities, broadcast and computer engineers. Home is California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, the East Coast or overseas.
We hold government jobs or work in the private sector or are self-employed. Some are retired. Most are out of radio -- many gravitated to television -- but that doesn't matter. We turned back the clock and memories of radio when radio was real -- think "WKRP in Cincinnati" -- came flooding in.
We traded stories of being locked out of the station while a record ran out, of missing commercial breaks, of newscasts to produce when the Associated Press teletype machine broke down, of ambulance-chasing around town for exclusive stories. We shopped at Cheap Thrills and Boo Boo Records. We wondered about absent classmates.
Touring the old station, we unearthed voice tracks not heard in 35 years. We stood dumbstruck inside the new studios, where microphones cost $800 and three flat-screen computers monitored the entire program process.
We ate. We drank. And always we laughed. We laughed at ourselves, looking back to when work was attending college and weekends were for parties.
This radio reunion wasn't some long-scheduled event; it wasn't even a college-sanctioned event. No one was in charge. Yet somehow more than 60 of us dropped our day jobs and convened on our college hometown to share stories of our early lives and how they intersected at "The Fun 91."
Yes, the good old days were really old, but they were also very, very good.
Much to her classmates' chagrin, Cath Dausman of Lake Oswego once really was a DJ. She has since come to her senses and returned to print media as a neighborhood correspondent for the Southwest Weekly.