Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Excerpt from Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts, How I became a DJ in 1967

The excerpt begins right after I had moved back to a small town in Southeast Missouri, and was in the middle of divorce proceedings. This was in 1967, and there were not many women in broadcasting at that time.  Few people know that I was one of the first DJ’s on the air.  It begins like this:

I found a job at Montgomery Ward’s as the Head of the Fashion Accessories Department.  Again, I was working forty-five to forty-eight hours a week, but this time I made sixty-five dollars a week.  This was in the late sixties, and the world for women was still very limited when it came to jobs and pay.

It was a time when men were paid more for the same position.  The men who were heads of department made a little over one hundred dollars.  I really did not think that was fair.  I was the head of my household, I had children and I was stuck with the bills incurred while I was married, and the money was tight.  The manager who hired me said that I would get a raise in six months, when six months passed I had not received a raise.  Finally, I made an appointment to talk to the manager about it.  He laughed at me.  I told him that I really needed to make more money because of my situation.  His response was, “Why don’t you get a part-time job as a carhop.”  To say the least, I was appalled.  However, I had no recourse because there was no such thing as gender discrimination at that time. 

Just before I had gone to the manager to ask about my raise, the marketing director had asked me to make some radio commercials for them.  There was at a radio station, KWOC, in the little shopping center where Ward’s was located.  I made several commercials, and one day while I was there, I overheard they needed a DJ for the Sunday night show.  I asked the DJ who had been working in the sound room helping to record the commercials about the position.  He said it was four hours and the pay was twenty-five dollars.  I wanted that job.  I went to the manager of the radio station, and told him I wanted the job.  I know he did not take me seriously because in those days, it was a man’s world.  He told me to “go get one of the guys to make a demo tape, and he would listen to it.”

I immediately went to the recording room, and snagged the DJ who had worked with me on the commercials.  I told him the boss had told me to make a demo tape, and I asked if he would help.  I made the tape, and returned to work at Wards. 

The next morning before I went to work, I stopped in at the radio station, and asked the manager if he had listened to the tape.  He said he had not but he would try to get around to it that day.  I went back after lunch, but I got the same response.  I returned the next morning, same answer.  I returned on my lunch hour and after work.  After doing this for about three days, he was really getting tired of seeing my face.  This time when I arrived at his door, he said, “You really want this job, don’t you.” I said that I did.  He said, “Oh well, show up Sunday evening for work.”  

On Sunday, I was early.  The DJ that was finishing his shift sat me down at the microphone.  He showed me the log, how to work the cassette tape for commercials, and the eight tracks for station ID’s.  He said I had to pull my own records for the show, and I had to go up front to get the AP news that came out on log sheets off the teletype machine.  I had to edit this to make a news broadcast.  He took me back to the microphone.  He said that if I flipped the switch to the left, I was on the air, and when it was straight, I was off.  There were three turntables.  One was for the FM, and that one used 331/3 records.  The other two were for the AM broadcasting, and would be the ones I used for the live show.  He told me to stick to middle of the road music.  He said I was to take phone calls for requests.  All this was done in a matter of minutes, and then he walked out of the room and said, “It’s your show, baby!” 

It was my show and it was called, Easy Listening with LaVon!  I was excited, but I was also filled with fear. 

What happened  that first night on the air and later, is the rest of the story.  You will have to read the book to know the outcome.  It is funny, embarrassing and even scary!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

More about Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts

By the time I was born, my family had built a small modest home, and lived in a very rural area.  My mother and father had survived the depression, managed to buy some land, and start a business.  My family was not rich by any definition of the term, but during my childhood and considering the time when I grew up, we were comfortable. When I was about four-years-old, I traversed my first personal rocky road of illness.  There are some memories that are vague about the experience, and some remain very vivid in my mind.  I remember that I was very ill, and because we lived in a fairly remote rural area, the medical facilities were limited.  Our family doctor’s diagnosis was polio. 
There is more about this journey in the book, and how faith and determination made a difference.  Coming in 2012.
I remember that he told my mother that I needed to go to a hospital where I would receive the care I needed.  He said he would try to find one, but it may be difficult because there were so many children with polio.  It was during the time there was a polio epidemic around the country, there was no vaccine, and hospital beds for children were hard to find because the beds were full with so many children who had this disease. The doctor finally found Saint Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis that had a bed in the children’s ward open.  During those days, it was a very long trip to travel to St. Louis by car or by train.  My father took us to St. Louis where I was admitted into the hospital.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Traveling a Rocky Road of Child Abuse

           One thing I discuss in the book was why and how my mother was abused as a child.  I am surprised that she survived it all.  She suffered everything from beatings to a stepmother who tried to poison her.  She was removed from the home at the age of twelve to be reared by a couple who had never had children.  In the book, I talk about the way she was abused.  It is abhorring what the stepmother did to her.  She was treated less that a dog. 

            My father met her for the first time when she was twelve-years-old.  She had run away, and he found her sitting on a log in the middle of the woods crying.  Little did he know that this would be his future wife. 

            My father tried his best to make up for all the years she had suffered abuse, but no matter how much he tried and no matter how much he loved her, it was not enough.  He showered her with gifts.  In 1929, he bought her a fur coat.  She never had to ask to go shopping for clothes or the get her hair done because he was always there to say, don’t you think you need a new outfit nor wouldn’t you like to go to the beauty shop.  Even with all the attention he lavished on her, she was never satisfied with what she had.  Finally, he stopped giving her gifts because she did not appreciate them. 

            By telling her story, it helps me, and the reader to understand why she abused me verbally and physically.  I wish that things had been different because I never felt loved by her, or good enough to measure up to what she wanted me to be. Even in the end of her life, she only could think of one thing, and that one thing was to be with my father.  It would just be him and her once again, and I would be out of the picture.  However, learning to cope with these things gave me strength to cope with other things in life such as a rocky marriage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Excerpt from: Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts

           I was a very, very late child who was the only child of parents who had given up all hope of having children.  My father was in his fifties and my mother in her forties when I was born.  I really did not get to know or understand my mother when I was small.  She would have moods of depression, fits of anger for no apparent reason and sometimes that anger was directed toward me.  I really do not remember much about her until I was around four-years-old. 
I can remember my paternal grandmother who lived with us for a while, and that memory goes back to the age of two.  Those are very fond memories and very special because she died when I was nine-years-old.  She would be the one to take care of me when my parents would go out for the evening.  She loved listening to Inner Sanctum Mysteries, which was a popular old-time radio program that aired from January 7, 1941 to October 5, 1952, created by producer Himan Brown.  It always began with scary sounds that only an organ can make then the sound of a creaking door slowly opening. Every week, Inner Sanctum Mysteries told stories of ghosts, murderers and lunatics.             
These radio programs were very scary for me since I was only two-years-old when she stayed with us.  I know that because she bought me a little red rocking chair when I was two.  She would sit in her rocking chair close to the big console radio, and I would push my little rocking chair as close as I could get to hers.  Imagine a small child sitting in a large living room with only lamplight and shadows in every corner listening to this while her imagination takes over as she hears this radio show.  My grandmother would reassure me often that it was just a story, and when it got too frightening, she would let me crawl up into her lap while I clung on tight with my eyes closed. 
My early memories of my mother are quite different.  I remember that I often hid in one of the closets until she was over one of her tirades.  She would often threaten to leave and never come back.  When she did this, she would go out the door and into the woods on the hill behind our house where I could not see her.  I remember going in our back yard, calling out to her while I cried my eyes out.
 I loved my mother and I wanted her to love me back.  I guess she did, but I remember asking my father why, and he would tell me that she loved me, but that she had a nervous breakdown when I was born.  He had been the one to care for me until I was about three years old.  My father said he had hired someone to come in to take care of me while he worked, because the doctor said she might hurt me.  He assured me that it was nothing I had done to cause it, and that she really loved me.  I do not know what I would have done or what would have happened to me if it had not been for my father. 
As I grew older, mother’s mental health seemed to improve, but there were times when she would still lose control of her temper.  I was amazed at my father because he had the patience of an angel.  He never lost his temper with her when she was out of control, but would stay very calm.  I can remember once when she was on a tirade that he gently held her and talked softly to calm her down. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sharing "Charlie's Story" from my Book, Traveling a Rocky Road

The Story of Charlie
            There was a very important lesson that I learned about the importance of faith and giving when I first starting teaching.   I learned this lesson at a very small, rural school in the Midwest. There were a total of two-hundred and fifty students in the entire high school.  I selected this school because I wanted to know my students and their families, and so I could be close enough to take care of my mother whose health was failing.  The school was located in a fairly remote area with very little means for employment.  There was only one school in the county, and the county was considered to be one of the poorest in the state because most of the land was state and federal forestland. 
            I taught communication classes, and I began a Speech & Debate team.  I had one young man in a speech communication class that had the reputation of being the class clown.  At this time, I did not know this fact about him because I was new.  We will call him Charlie (not his real name) for the purpose of the story.  On the first day of class, the students were to take turns going up to the podium to introduce themselves.  When Charlie’s turn came, he walked to the podium, and before he could say a word, the entire class burst out laughing at him.  I knew they were making fun of him, but I had no idea why.  It really made me angry so I chastised the entire class.  Charlie had a wonderful deep vocal quality that would make a great radio announcer or a public speaker, and this is what I told the class. 
            After I had been teaching a few weeks, I learned of Charlie’s reputation.  However, I also learned that there was more to the story.  Charlie was a big boy, overweight and his father was dead.  In addition to that, his mother was an alcoholic.  Charlie was apparently drinking with his mother because he occasionally came to school with the smell of alcohol on him.  The other teachers had already decided that his future would be the town drunk.  They had no faith in the possibility that he would be anything else.  After about a month in my class, Charlie approached me after class to ask if I thought he could be on the Speech & Debate team.  I was thrilled, but I was also feeling a bit cautious after all things I had been told.  However, I said of course he could be on the team and that he would be good in original oratory.  I knew that was one of the categories I could help him put together, and he could memorize it for competition.  He joined the team; he competed and even brought home a few ribbons.
            Later that year in the spring, he came to me again.  This time Charlie asked if I thought he could ever go to college.  Even though I had a few doubts, I kept them to myself.  He was beginning to show change, have confidence in himself, and his classmates were beginning to see him differently as well. I told him that of course he could.  I told him he could do anything he wanted, as long as he wanted it badly enough and was willing to work hard to achieve it.  I, also, told him that if he really wanted to go to college, it would be very hard because he had goofed off so much.  I told him that he would have to take classes to prepare for the college level courses.  I wanted to make sure that he realized that the road he wanted take was not going to be easy.  Charlie worked hard the rest of the year.  I did not tell him, but I visited the community college that was in a town close by.  I went to speak with the Speech Communication Department Chair.  I told him about Charlie, and I did not leave anything out.   I even had the courage to ask if there was any way Charlie could be helped financially.  Because of my faith in Charlie, he was given a small departmental scholarship. 
            The fact that Charlie got that scholarship put me in the doghouse with most of the other teachers.  I received a lot of flack over it.  Charlie graduated, and began college.  He had to take many remedial English and Math classes to make up for his past behavior.  He was given a work-study position at the college, and he worked part-time at another job.  Charlie kept in touch with me to let me know how he was doing in his classes.  He took his first speech class that first semester, and at the end of it, he came to my home to show me that he had made an A in his first real college class.  He was so proud of it.
            Charlie did not give up on his quest for a college education, he earned his Associate of Arts degree, and then went on to a University where earned his Bachelor’s degree.  While he was working on his bachelor’s degree, he kept in touch to keep me up with his progress.  Once he achieved this degree, he went on to get his Master’s Degree.  His job today is in the field of social services that helps handicapped adults. 
            Charlie was one of my students some twenty-plus years ago.  He still calls at Christmas to let me know how he is doing, and to check on me. 
Lesson Learned:
            Charlie taught me never to judge a student by their past, their records, or what other teachers say about them.  He taught me that having faith and caring can make all the difference.  It brings to mind the last verse in Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”.  
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I did not make judgments based on others opinions, or past history.  I learned that had I not had faith in Charlie, the outcome more that likely would have been quite different. Charlie taught me that a little faith, hope and love goes a long way, and as a teacher our attitudes and behavior plays a very big role in the lives of our students.  All these years I have remembered Charlie, and what he taught me about a teacher’s influence on his or her students. 

         I wrote the following poem, after I had encountered several Charlies along my travels on life's road.  There are so many Charlie's along the way, and everyone that can be reached, everyone one that you can do something to make a difference in their lives is the most rewarding thing you can do.  So, if you run into a Charlie who is going through a really rough time, you never know what influences you can have on his or her life that makes all the difference.  Maybe, just maybe, they will take the road less traveled.
                            Little Boy Lost 

               Little boy lost with big brown eyes
                           all alone in a crowd staring back at me
               Reflecting memories clear and blurred
                           watching, waiting for someone to see
               The stains of heart-sick tears cause
                            by illusion’s shimmering veil torn
               And stripped by neglect and pain leaving
                            youth’s shining armor scarred and worn.

               There sits the little dark-haired boy,
                           with sorrowful eyes that taunt,
               Invading my sleep as they squeeze through
                           the bars of my mind to roam and haunt
              Like a twisted road that somehow strayed
                           to leave me awake with mocking tears
              Wondering how such harsh, callous wounds
                           on innocence and youth can be made.

              How can I reach this little boy lost
                          with such bitter wisdom, so full of gall,
              From forgotten worth by the wraith of life
                          fighting a battle to survive it all, or ease
             The suffering from many a remembered blow
                         giving relief from the long dull pain
              So that the bright brave banners of youth
                         may fly unfurled and true again.

If you want to know more about others and their works in the publishing world, don't forget to visit my other blog, Thoughtful Rflections Blogspot at  http://wwwthouhtfulreflections.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More about the birth and author of The Rocky Road

I have been so fortunate to have the guardian angels in my life.  They have always been there in my darkest hour, and when I needed one the most.  They have walked beside me, helped me to maintain faith and belief in myself as well as in others.  I have learned that giving is much more rewarding than receiving. 
My life reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, in the line: “Two roads diverged into a wood, and I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”  I will always remember what my elementary teacher wrote in my scrapbook, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”  This book is not about crying, it is about getting knocked down by boulders, and standing in spite of them to go forward. 
Dr. Aman Kay, who is an internationally published author, has been helping me with this book by reviewing it.  He is the one who is responsible for my poetry that has been sprinkled throughout the book.  This poetry has all been published either in my book, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, or in various literary magazines.  It is poetry that is written from the heart and soul, and was the only way I could express my feelings.  I once had an instructor who asked me to explain poetry.  I told him that it was much the same as an artist who paints what he or she sees and feels.  The difference is that the poet uses words to paint the minds pictures rather than oil paints, watercolor or some other medium.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My first blog about my book, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts

As I have traveled along life’s highway, I keep running into people who have let the rocks that have been thrown in their life’s road giving up on themselves, or life in general.  The truth is that life is harsh, and it is not like the movies that give a false impression that it is smooth sailing.  Being the hero that toughs it out and keeps on regardless of the situation is difficult, but with faith, it can be accomplished. It often takes a backbone, humor and a wishbone to survive it all.
Because of this, I decided to write a book to share my life’s experiences so that it may inspire someone to come back fighting when life knocks them down.  The book is a journey though time from childhood to mature adulthood.  The stories and poems in this book reflect the lows and highs of life.  The loving memories, the hardships and the things we learn as we travel the road of life.  It covers an abusive mother who had mental problems because of being abused as a child, childhood polio, a rocky marriage with a husband who was often abusive, the role of caregiving, death and grief, coping with bladder cancer, asthma, losing a home and more.  Therefore, to not to scare you off with gloom and doom, there are funny stories along the way and an ending that I never dreamed would happen.
My hope is that the book will bring about understanding to others, and be inspiring to even more.  Our journey in life has a purpose, finding it is often the most difficult task of all.