Memories of WBRU
in the 1960s
My oldest memory of WBRU is that to join the staff you had to be interviewed by the station manager. So in the fall of 1961 Paul Forrest handed me some lines to read. When I finished he said "what part of Connecticut are you from?" To this day I don't believe he detected so specific an accent. He cheated.
But he gave his approval and my first assignment was an evening sportscast. I sat at the microphone in that little sound proof room looking through the window toward the main studio. The UPI teletype's clickity-clickity noise was used as on-air background for that "professional" newsroom sound.
My next assignment was a show called Rhythm Section in the late afternoons. The format was up-tempo popular music. We always used an instrumental to take us up to news time. That's more than 40 years ago, but I can remember how we wore out Si Zentner's Up A Lazy River; Moe Kaufman and Swingin' Shepherd Blues; and Kenny Ball's Midnight in Moscow.
But my favorite spot was hosting the Saturday Night Dance Party. Back then that name didn't sound as corny as it does today. That show introduced rock 'n roll to WBRU's format in 1962. The show was on the air until two o'clock in the morning. There was plenty for students to do on Saturday night, so generally the DJ was all alone in the studio, especially by the later hours of the show. At 2:00AM the show concluded with the end of the broadcast day sign-off, which wished the Brown community "a good night and a good morning." Well then you had to power everything down, lock the doors in Faunce House and head out across the empty campus. It felt as if you were the only person awake.
When WBRU was 25 years old in 1961, someone collected recorded anniversary greetings from stations around the country. We had one from New York's famous William B. Williams of WNEW's Make Believe Ballroom; also a Chattanooga Choo Choo jingle from a station in TN; and the University of New Hampshire cleverly congratulated us on "25 years of good BRU." Those tapes, from an impressive list of radio personalities, were broadcast throughout the day.
I participated in a few remote sports broadcasts. By sitting up on the mezzanine running track at the old Marvel gymnasium, we could air coverage of basketball games. But more often I was back at the station monitoring the board while the games were being broadcast by the crew at the remote site. Monitoring could be very boring, so after a Brown basket was scored I would slip onto the air a "wee-ew" exclamation from a hit record that I think was called Let Me In.
I vividly recall the afternoon of November 22, 1963. I had just finished a class and walked over to the basement of Faunce House to check my post office box for incoming. I overheard someone say that in Dallas the president had been shot. I ran up three flights of stairs to the WBRU studios. As I remember there wasn't much we could do, since I believe we switched over to NBC news coverage.
One of the fun things each year was the staff of WBRU and the staff of the Brown Daily Herald squaring-off in a touch football game. I forget what the game was called (something obscene probably) or whether we had a trophy. But I do remember that the losing team, from the previous year I guess, brought the beer. If you lost the game, the challenge was to buy the cheapest beer you could find. One year we bought Bohemian Bock something or other at four dollars a case. But, nobody refused to drink it.
Don Harris '65