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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :

FUN AND GAMES

by George Lester
George Lester
While I was working in Texarkana I had the chance to meet my first movie actor in person. Chill Wills was in town promoting his new movie called "Kentucky Rifle". He was a true Texan through and through. After his many years in Hollywood he still spoke with same accent he brought with him from Seagoville, Texas. He later became the voice of Frances, the Talking Mule in the motion picture series with Donald O'Connor, although he never got mentioned in the film credits. His two biggest acting parts were in Giant and then in The Alamo where he was nominated for an Oscar.

I chatted with him at a luncheon where all the local media and dignitaries were invited. He impressed me as being the genuine article, not a pretentious bone in his body. When the affair was over he came by our radio station and visited for quite a while. As we sat around chewing the fat he was just one of the guys, never dominating the conversation. I'm sorry to say that the movie he was promoting never got off the ground.

After I got out of sales I had to try and make it on my meager announcer's salary. It was tough going at best but if an emergency came up I would really be in dire straights. That was about the time my two year old son got his hand caught in a bicycle wheel, cutting off the tip of his thumb. The doctor and hospital bills overwhelmed me because my employer offered no medical insurance. In fact, very few radio stations did at that time.

I went into the manager's office with hat in hand to seek assistance. I needed immediate financial help and I asked him about a raise in salary. He couldn't have been less concerned with my problems. He not only turned me down but he informed me that he was not satisfied with my work and he had considered cutting my pay, not increasing it. After that dehumanizing experience I vowed never again ask for a raise. I figured if management didn't recognize that I was worth more money it would do little good to bring it to their attention. I charted out my own plan for advancement after that.

The program director was the manager's son and the two had complete opposite personalities. The son and I were best of friends and he had always expressed complete satisfaction with my air work. He knew how hard I had worked to make the station sound better overall, not just my own show. In fact, other radio stations across town had taken notice. At various media events I had received compliments from competing radio station people. Although it wasn't mentioned I felt that the door was open if ever I wanted to make a change. It occurred to me to test the waters.

I dropped in on a program director I had recently met at a social function and eased into the possibility of coming to work for him. Without hesitation he jumped at the chance and asked me how soon I could make the move. He also offered me a considerable raise in salary. To me, this was no brainer. I told him I would give two weeks notice and join him after that.

I hated to desert my program director but it had to be done. He was very understanding and accepted my resignation gracefully. The next day when I came to work he met me at the door and told me that his dad had blown his stack and wanted me out that very day. I was not allowed to work out my two weeks notice. This, from a man who had told me only a few days earlier that he was about to reduce my salary because of poor performance. I gathered up my belongings and left.

Thankfully, the son had held his father's feet to the fire and insisted he pay me for the two weeks regardless because in all essence I had been fired. It was the first vacation I had in over three years. I realized then that I didn't have to suffer the indignities of unscrupulous management anymore. Getting another job in radio was easy and I was taking advantage of it. I think that later I might have overdone it a bit.
George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir >

February 1, 2007 column
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