My hometown doesn’t make a lot of Top 10 lists so I was pleased to see it near the top (#3) of this list. What did it take to make the cut? Using publicly available government data, as well as Google Maps, data was collected on the following white trash metrics:
Cities where there are lots of white people
Cities where residents are poorer than average
Cities where a high number of residents are high school dropouts
Cities with a high number of single parents
High drug use
Higher than average Payday Loan Outlets
Violent cities (measured in aggravated assaults)
Cities with a high number of residents on welfare
Alas, Kennett has fallen on hard times since I left in 1984, not to mention when I grew up there in the 50s and 60s.
If my family paid more than fifty bucks for my senior picture, I’d be very surprised. That would have included a couple of 8×10’s, maybe some 5×7’s and a stack of wallet size prints to hand out to relatives and friends. Wore a coat and tie that day, walked into the room next to where the band practiced, smiled a smile that would haunt me the rest of my life and I was done.
Today a friend told me about the senior picture experience (for his granddaughter) in 2017. Let’s not bury the lede: $660 for the mid-priced package. $1500 for the top-of-the-line package. I didn’t ask what the cheapest package.
And you don’t stand in line outside the band room anymore. You book a “shoot” that can involve multiple “locations.” And costume changes. He said something about professional makeup and hair styling. Sounds like my buddy will drop a grand before it’s over. And this is in a small (< 10K) community in southeast Missouri!
I don’t have kids so I can say what I would or wouldn’t do for my kids but this is pretty fucked up. What message does this send to a high school kid? Again, I don’t have a dog in this hunt but I’ll tell you what… I won’t be taking any shit for pissing away a bunch of money on vintage truck. Not from people who spend a couple of grand on yearbook photos.
I’m not sure I’ve shared this photo of my old man. I’m blessed with a lot of great pics. It’s clear from this one how much he enjoys what he’s doing. Note the disc on the turntable in the foreground: just one track cut into the center of the disc. Probably a commercial. You can see more of these to the right of the control board. This is before magnetic tape and they “cut” these discs in the adjacent studio. If you fucked up while cutting, you put a piece of cellophane tape over that track and cut another one. I can’t even imagine trying find and cue these while doing a live shift. But the alternative was reading everything live. That would get old fast, for the announcer and the listener. Must have been an exciting time.
I’m fortunate to have a lot of photos of my father. At all stages of his life. This might be my favorite. When dad smiled in a photo it often came off as a grimace. When he did not smile, he could look pissed off or bored. This one works.
In 2009 Joe Bankhead retired — at the age of 92 — from a 60 year career in and around radio. One of the first things he did was bang out a 20 page history of his time at KBOA in Kennett, Missouri. It’s a long read. A twenty-page core dump of Joe’s recollections. He apologizes a couple of times for his rambling, haphazard style but Joe wrote exactly the way he talked. (Lots of exclamation marks!)
I don’t think Joe really expected anyone to read 20 pages of memories (nor do I) but there’s some good stuff, especially for anyone interested in the early days of radio. So I’m going to share some of those stories here from time to time.
“I’ve got to tell you about Miss Martha Turner. Martha was a clean cut black lady from Hayti who purchased a 15-minute segment to be aired each Saturday morning. On her program she would sing an a cappella song and read all the cards and letters she would receive during the week. She’d arrive at the station three or four hours before her airtime and type out her dialogue (word for word) that she’d recite while on the air I kept a copy of Martha’s script on hand for years and I’m sorry I can’t provide it for you now. That it was unique and entertaining is a huge understatement. Miss Martha Turner deserves her spot in the history of KBOA. I don’t recall her ever trying to sell anything, or ask for donations from listeners. It appears she just wanted to be on the air and accommodate her fans by reading their letters.”
Joe died in 2011 and took with him a lifetime of great memories. I’m still amazed at his ability to recall so much detail at the age of 92. Joe’s son, Jim Bankhead, was kind enough to let me include Joe’s history on KBOA383.com (as a PDF). I transcribed the original and added a few links. It’s also searchable.
I’m about halfway through Genius, James Gleick’s biography of Richard Feynman, considered by many the most brilliant American physicist of the 20th century. Feynman was probably the smartest of the scientists working on the Trinity Project (America’s atom bomb program). The first (and only test) of the bomb took place July 16, 1945. American bombers nuked the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few weeks later (Aug 6-9). Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.
According to Gleick, building the atomic bomb dramatically affected the lives of the scientists who created it. The Japanese lives lost to this terrible weapon have always been balanced against those that would have been lost in an invasion of Japan. Like my father, for instance. Japan surrenders, they turn the ships around and head home. Discharged March 9, 1946 in St. Louis. Meets and marries my mom (March 23, 1946) who was living in St. Louis. Happy ending. For some.
I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to boil down some meaning from this bit of history. But “what if this event hadn’t happened” is a pointless game. It did happen.
“Nothing can happen unless the entire universe makes it happen. A thing is as it is, because the universe is as it is.”