December 25, 1969: Family Affair

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(Pictured: two soldiers decorate a trench for Christmas in Duc Lap, South Vietnam, December 1969.)

December 25, 1969, is a Thursday. In Vermilion Parish, Louisiana, a tornado kills one person and injures eight. Nine other tornadoes are reported today in Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia. In Portville, New York, the Portville Star has a front-page story in which a Cornell University economist predicts that the 1970s will begin with a period of slow economic growth but no prolonged or serious recession. President Nixon issues a Christmas message to American armed forces around the world. Three games are played in the National Hockey League: the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Oakland Seals 3-1; the Boston Bruins blast the Los Angeles Kings 7-1; the Chicago Black Hawks and Minnesota North Stars play to a 4-4 tie. In the National Basketball Association, four games are played. The league-leading New York Knicks run their record to 30-and-6 with a 112-111 win over the Detroit Pistons. Willis Reed of the Knicks leads all scorers with 33 points. In the American Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Stars beat the Kentucky Colonels 105-101 and the Washington Capitols beat the Pittsburgh Pipers 131-112. Future comedian Costaki Economopolous is born. The top movie at the box office is the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also packing them in, as it has since its release in September: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidThe Reivers, starring Steve McQueen, opens today.

The federal government issues a regulation requiring all TV sets manufactured after January 15, 1970, to conform to new standards designed to make sure sets do not pose a radiation hazard. On today’s Merv Griffin Show, guests include Carol Burnett, Danny Thomas, and Green Acres stars Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Shows on TV tonight include This Is Tom Jones, with guests Judy Collins and David Frye, Daniel Boone, Ironside, That Girl, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Family Affair, Kraft Music Hall with guests the Cowsills, and It Takes a Thief. Florence Henderson fills in for Johnny on the Tonight Show. Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman is on the cover of the current edition of Down Beat. The Velvet Underground open a holiday run at the Second Fret in Philadelphia.

At WKNR in Detroit, known as Keener 13, the new music guide shows “Venus” by the Shocking Blue at #1, knocking last week’s #1, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter Paul and Mary to #2. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B. J. Thomas is #3 and “Don’t Cry Daddy” by Elvis is #4. “Midnight Cowboy” by Ferrante and Teicher, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and “Jingle Jangle” by the Archies are next at #5 through #7. The biggest mover on the survey is “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry, up 10 spots to #18; Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” is up nine to #19. Topping the album chart are Led Zeppelin II and Abbey Road. The main page of the WKNR survey plugs the game at Detroit’s Olympic Stadium between the Keener Cagers and the Harlem Globetrotters, coming up on Saturday night.

Perspective From the Present: As I have written many times in other places, our family Christmas routine was very much the same for as long as I lived at home. On this day, my brothers and I (ages 9, 7, and 3) would be positively vibrating with anticipation on Christmas morning, waiting to see what Santa had brought, but we weren’t allowed out of our bedrooms until Dad could finish the milking and come in from the barn. That period of time, from Mother’s signal to his footsteps up the basement stairs, however long it may actually have been, represented the longest minutes of each year. All these years alter, I marvel at the sheer amount of stuff we got every year, things we’d asked for and things we had not (which often turned out to be even greater than what we had asked for). Dad and Mother weren’t rich, but we never wanted for a single thing, not just on Christmas but the other 364 days of the year. Whatever I’ve been able to do for them in adulthood will never come close to paying what they’re owed.

I owe each of you reading a debt of gratitude as well, that you have found your way to this lightly traveled corner of the Internet and the other corner on which I do business. Thank you, and a merry Christmas to all, wherever you are.

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December 23, 1970: Remember Me

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(Pictured: the Everly Brothers on The Johnny Cash Show, 1970.)

(Programming note: entirely new day posts will appear here on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, so stop back.)

December 23, 1970, is a Wednesday. The weather forecast for Madison, Wisconsin, includes a cold wave warning with a predicted low of five below for Thursday morning. The morning papers headline a government shakeup in Poland that replaced the country’s prime minister. Today, construction continues on the World Trade Center complex in New York City, with the topping-out ceremony for the north tower at a height of 1,368 feet. Black militant Angela Davis is arraigned on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder for a courthouse shooting earlier in the year. The Green Bay Packers must find a new coach and general manager to replace Phil Bengtson, who resigned yesterday. In college basketball, Iowa defeats Iowa State 87-68. Outside Nashville, Willie Nelson’s house burns down. The Associated Press reports on a Connecticut state police list of expired driver’s licenses that includes a man named Santa M. Claus.

Comic actor Charlie Ruggles, who appeared in 100 movies including Ruggles of Red Gap and Bringing Up Baby, and also provided the voice of Aesop on the “Aesop and Son” segments of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, dies at age 84. Robert Burck, who will grow up to be the Times Square street performer known as the Naked Cowboy, is born. Tonight’s TV listings include a Christmas episode of The Johnny Cash Show on ABC featuring the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, the Statler Brothers, and the Carter Family. NBC counter-programs with an episode of Kraft Music Hall titled “The Eve Before Christmas Eve,” hosted by country singer Eddy Arnold and starring Brenda Lee, Charley Pride, and the Klowns. CBS airs Medical Center and Hawaii Five-O.

The Grateful Dead plays Winterland in San Francisco. Laura Nyro opens a two-night stand at the Fillmore East in New York City, where her opening act is an unknown singer/songwriter named Jackson Browne. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs on the new Boss 30 survey are unchanged from the week before: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” “One Less Bell to Answer” by the Fifth Dimension, and “Knock Three Times” by Dawn. Biggest movers on the chart are “Merry Christmas Darling” by the Carpenters, moving from 21 to 9, and “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, moving from 29 to 21. New songs on the survey this week include “Remember Me by Diana Ross and “Let Your Love Go” by Bread.

Halfway across the country, a 10-year-old boy in Wisconsin and his two brothers, aged 8 and 4, are geeked up for Christmas. The 10-year-old is similarly geeked up by the radio. Tomorrow, he will hear something that will shape what his life will become, and make him what he will remain, for as long as life lasts.

December 15, 1978: Sweet Life

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(Pictured: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.)

December 15, 1978, was a Friday. President Jimmy Carter gives a televised address to the nation announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and explains America’s new relationship with Taiwan. After the speech, President and Mrs. Carter fly to Camp David for the weekend. The city of Cleveland, Ohio, defaults on $15.5 million in short-term loans it had received to meet its financial obligations. It’s the first major American city to go broke since the Great Depression. Today is the last day of manufacture for aerosol products containing ozone-destroying fluorocarbons, following a federal government order last spring. The exhibit of treasures from the tomb of King Tut, which has been touring the country for over a year, opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Nine games are played in the NBA tonight. In a battle of top teams, the Los Angeles Lakers edge the Seattle Supersonics 100-98. Dennis Johnson of the Sonics leads all scorers with 28 points; Norm Nixon leads the Lakers with 26. New movies at the box office this weekend include Superman starring Christopher Reeve and California Suite starring Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Michael Caine, and Richard Pryor. The Deer Hunter opens in New York after its Los Angeles premiere last Friday. It will go into wide release in February. Philips/MCA puts laserdisc technology on the market under the name MCA Discovision. A laserdisc edition of Jaws comes out today. Actor Chill Wills, famed as the movie voice of Francis the Talking Mule and for many western roles, dies of cancer at age 76. Carter’s China speech preempts or delays scheduled network TV programming. NBC has Diff’rent Strokes, the final episode of the soon-to-be-cancelled Who’s Watching the Kids, and a two-hour episode of The Eddie Capra Mysteries. On CBS, it’s Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Flying High, a comedy/drama about flight attendants starring Connie Sellecca. On ABC, it’s a Christmas episode of Donny and Marie followed by the TV movie Long Journey Back starring Mike Connors and Cloris Leachman.

In The Crusader, the campus newspaper at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, music critic Tim Brough names his top albums of 1978. Billy Joel plays Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Grateful Dead plays Birmingham, Alabama, Bob Dylan plays Lakeland, Florida, and Cheap Trick plays Boston. Bruce Springsteen plays San Francisco in a show broadcast on KSAN. Across town at KFRC, “Le Freak” by Chic and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond continue at #1 and #2 on the new survey out today. There’s little movement among the top 11 songs on the survey. Al Stewart’s “Time Passages” makes the biggest move of any song among the Top 30, moving from #19 to #12. There’s one new song in the Top 20, “Sweet Life” by Paul Davis, at #18. The highest debut on the chart is Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real” at #22. The top albums on KFRC are Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits Volume 2, Let’s Get Small by Steve Martin, and The Best of Earth Wind and Fire, Volume 1. At WSUP, the campus station at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, final exams mean some changes in the regular Friday DJ lineup. A freshman who did his first-ever live radio show yesterday will be on the air today from noon til 6.

Perspective From the Present: The freshman was, of course, me. My six-hour Friday show was supposed to be my debut, but I got asked at the last minute to fill in on the morning show the previous day. I was too busy to think much about it on Thursday, but that Friday show was the most exhilarating experience of my life. That afternoon represented the single biggest dream of my life coming true. It’s no exaggeration when I say that nothing else in my life since then—nothing else—has ever come close to the thrill of it.

December 12, 1988: The Best That I Got

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(Pictured: kicker Max Zendejas tees it up for the Green Bay Packers early in the 1988 season. He wouldn’t be around for long.)

December 12, 1988, was a Monday. Indiana representative Dan Coats is appointed to the United States Senate by governor Robert Orr. He replaces Dan Quayle, who was elected vice-president with George Bush last month. At the White House, Nancy Reagan leads reporters on a tour of the Christmas decorations for a final time, telling them, “It’s very sentimental.” The Supreme Court rules that the NCAA can suspend University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian for recruiting violations and other irrregularities. The decision is expected to increase the NCAA’s enforcement power. Texas A&M football coach Jackie Sherrill, under suspicion of paying a player to keep quiet about rules violations, resigns from his position. In the NFL yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys broke an 11-game losing streak with a 24-17 win over Washington. Also breaking a losing streak: the Green Bay Packers, who had lost seven in a row. They beat the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings, 18-6. Newspapers around the country carry an Associated Press story about a man and woman in Puerto Rico, aged 90 and 70, who were arrested over the weekend for possessing a $45,000 stash of cocaine and heroin. In Mountain View, California, a couple is arrested after their 17-year-old daughter complains to her school counselor that her parents were teaching her how to use cocaine. The girl’s parents believe they’ve done nothing wrong, police say. They believe their daughter would be exposed to cocaine eventually, and they wanted her to learn about it at home.

The movie Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, has its New York premiere. The film will be officially released on Friday. At the box office this past weekend, the top film was the new release Twins, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. Other popular movies over the weekend were The Naked Gun, Scrooged, Tequila Sunrise starring Mel Gibson, and the animated Disney film Oliver and Company. The death of actor Richard Castellano is announced. Best known for playing Clemenza in The Godfather and for an Oscar-nomimated role in Lovers and Other Strangers, he died on Saturday at age 55. Organized-crime figure Anthony Provenzano, known as Tony Pro, dies in prison at age 71. On TV tonight, ABC presents MacGyver and Monday Night Football, where the Miami Dolphins beat the Cleveland Browns 38-31. CBS airs Newhart, Kate & Allie, Murphy Brown, Designing Women, and a Christmas episode of Almost Grown, a new dramatic series exploring the life of a married couple during three different periods in their lives, which is co-created by former Rockford Files writer David Chase. NBC’s lineup includes ALF, The Hogan Family, and the made-for-TV movie I’ll Be Home for Christmas starring Hal Holbrook, Nancy Travis, and Eva Marie Saint, which scores the night’s highest rating.

At Z100 in New York City, “Giving You the Best That I Got” by Anita Baker is the #1 song on the new survey out today. Last week’s #1, “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys, falls to #4. In between the two are “Free Bird/Baby I Love Your Way” by Will to Power and “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown. New songs in the Top 10 are “How Can I Fall” by Breathe and “Look Away” by Chicago. “I Wanna Have Some Fun” by Samantha Fox and “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins are the hottest songs on the survey, both up seven spots from the previous week. The station’s top three albums are unchanged from the previous week: U2’s Rattle and Hum, Giving You the Best That I Got by Anita Baker, and New Jersey by Bon Jovi.

Perspective From the Present: The Packers were struggling through a season that would see them finish 4-and-12. Despite beating the Vikings on Sunday, they released their kicker, Dean Dorsey, on Tuesday. He had missed an extra point in the game. He was the Packers’ third kicker of the season; they signed a guy named Curtis Burrow for the final game of the season, who promptly missed two of four extra points in a 26-17 win over the Phoenix Cardinals. It was the only NFL game Burrow ever appeared in. I was listening to the game, and one of the misses inspired a favorite radio moment of mine: Packers color commentator Max McGee remarked to his play-by-play partner Jim Irwin, “You know, Jim, they’re running a damn punt-pass-and-kick contest up here every week and they keep bringing the losers in!”

December 7, 1981: Let’s Get Physical

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(Pictured: Olivia Newton-John.)

December 7, 1981, was a Monday. President Reagan tells reporters that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has sent assassination teams to murder top U.S. officials, after an American official is killed by suspected Libyan gunmen in Paris yesterday. (Later in the week, Reagan will call on Americans in Libya to leave, and forbid any other Americans to enter.) Reagan also meets Colonel Joseph Engel and Captain Richard Truly, the astronauts who flew the space shuttle Columbia on its second mission last month, and nominates Robert Bork to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Seven coal miners are killed in an explosion in Knott County, Kentucky. Spain officially joins NATO. The Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce of the Northwest holds its first meeting in Seattle. Joe’s Pizzeria and Vittoria opens in Summit, New Jersey.

The Oakland Raiders score 16 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 30-27, on Monday Night Football. At baseball’s annual winter meetings, the Chicago Cubs trade pitcher Doug Capilla to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitcher Allen Ripley. (Tomorrow, they will make a major trade, acquiring three players from the Philadelphia Phillies, including infielder Keith Moreland and pitcher Dickie Noles, for pitcher Mike Krukow.) Future NFL defensive lineman Tank Johnson is born. William Edmunds, who played minor roles in Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life, dies at age 95.

The cover story in Time magazine is “Crazy Over Cats,” inspired by the proliferation of cat-related popular culture, including Garfield, the musical Cats, and the book 101 Uses for a Dead Cat. People‘s cover story is about Johnny Carson’s return to his hometown to film a documentary. Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. TV shows on the air tonight include M*A*S*H, That’s Incredible!, Lou Grant, Knots Landing, and Little House on the Prairie. The Grateful Dead plays Des Moines. Badfinger plays Cleveland. Eric Clapton plays Budokan in Tokyo. Frank Zappa plays Salt Lake City. The Rolling Stones play suburban Washington, D.C.

At WLS in Chicago, “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John takes over the #1 slot from “Private Eyes” by Hall and Oates, which slips to #2. Among the biggest movers on the chart are “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart (#26 to #14), “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie (#45 to #24), and a live version of “Closer to the Heart” by Rush (#44 to #30). These records indicate the hard-rockin’ direction the station has taken in 1981, particularly in morning drive and at night. The station is still playing Air Supply, Christopher Cross, Sheena Easton, Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, and “Endless Love,” but also Triumph’s “Magic Power,” “Nicole” by Point Blank, “Heavy Metal” by Don Felder, and Diesel’s “Sausalito Summernight.”

December 4, 1972: Winter Show

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(Pictured: Elizabeth Montgomery, at center, plays Password.)

December 4, 1972, is a Monday. Time magazine reports on the opening of the SALT II arms limitation talks. At the Vietnam peace talks in Paris, North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho tells Henry Kissinger that even if the United States were to use nuclear weapons against his country, “our children will continue the struggle.” Five mice are selected to fly aboard Apollo 17, the final mission to the moon, which will be launched on Wednesday—if mission controllers don’t go on strike as they are threatening to do. Future porn star Nikki Tyler, future NBA player Howard Eisley, and future NFL linebackers Ted Johnson and Damien Covington are born. An executive at Motorola tells the company’s lead designer, “We have to build a portable telephone.” Less than four months later, Motorola will unveil the predecessor of the cellular phone at a press conference. In Merced, California, seven-year-old Steven Stayner is kidnapped. He will be held for nearly eight years; in 1989, his story will be told in the TV miniseries I Know My Name Is Steven.

Guest celebrities on Password this week are Elizabeth Montgomery and Bert Convy. Stars on Hollywood Squares are Wally Cox, Nanette Fabray, Jan Murray, John Davidson, Paul Lynde, Marilyn Michaels, Don Rickles, Della Reese, and Vincent Price. On NBC tonight, Jack Klugman, Rich Little, and Henny Youngman appear on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Also on NBC, it’s The Perry Como Winter Show, a Christmas special with guest stars Joey Heatherton, Art Carney, and the Muppets. In tonight’s NFL game, the Los Angeles Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers 26-16. Roman Gabriel throws two touchdown passes for the Rams and David Ray kicks four field goals. At the 92nd Street Y in New York, author Erica Jong reads from her current bestseller Fear of Flying.

In a courtroom in Nice, France, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Taylor are cleared of drug charges. Led Zeppelin plays Glasgow, Scotland, the Velvet Underground plays Reading, England, and Lynryd Skynyrd plays Atlanta. Disc jockey Don Imus celebrates his first anniversary on the air at WNBC in New York. At WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, it’s a glorious week for soul music: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations knocks “I’m Stone in Love With You” by the Stylistics from #1 to #5 on the new music survey out today; “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul is at #7, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes is at #9, and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is at #11. Also on the chart is a cover of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by a British group called Blue Haze, at #12. In a small Wisconsin town without a single black resident, the manager of the seventh-grade basketball team is deeply into soul music nevertheless.

Perspective From the Present: “I’m Stone in Love With You” is a wonder. It makes me feel stupidly happy whenever I hear it, and nobody made prettier records than producer Thom Bell did. He and his songwriting partner, Linda Creed, were responsible for some of the most glorious confections of the 1970s, including all of the Stylistics’ signature hits and “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners. Bell and Creed (who died in 1986) are both in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As for “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” I knew neither the song nor the Blue Haze version of it back then, although I have since come to adore the Platters’ version.

November 30, 1989: Another Day in Paradise

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(Pictured: George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev get along famously during their December 1989 summit in Malta.)

November 30, 1989, was a Thursday. President George Bush speaks at a Rose Garden departure ceremony before his summit meeting with Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta, which will be on Saturday and Sunday. He also signs the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, which, among other things, raises the pay of senators and representatives. Bush also issues a statement in advance of the second World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow. Prominent West German banker Alfred Herrhausen dies in a bomb blast. The case will never be solved. A story seen in newspapers around the country recaps the six-month 1989 hurricane season, which officially ends today. Seven hurricanes formed in the Atlantic during 1989, including Hugo, which was the costliest storm in American history. Early this morning, Linda Cortile Napolitano, age 41, is abducted by aliens from the roof of her Manhattan apartment, or so she will claim. UFO researcher Budd Hopkins will find several people who say they saw it happen; one of them is reportedly UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who tells Hopkins he obviously can’t be quoted regarding the incident.

The New York Yankees sign free-agent outfielder Mel Hall, who has spent the last four-plus seasons with the Cleveland Indians. Six games are played in the NBA; the Los Angeles Lakers run their league-best record to 11-and-2 with a 109-93 win over Sacramento. The NHL schedule has seven games; Montreal pulls into a tie for the league’s best record with Buffalo when the Canadiens defeat the cellar-dwelling Quebec Nordiques 6-2. On TV tonight, ABC’s lineup includes the revived Mission: Impossible, the western drama The Young Riders, and an edition of the newsmagazine Prime Time Live. CBS starts the night with its own newsmagazine, 48 Hours, followed by the political drama Top of the Hill and Knots Landing. But NBC will win the night by a large margin with The Cosby Show, Ann Jillian, a sitcom that stars the titular actress as a New York widow relocated to small-town northern California with her kids, Cheers, Dear John starring Judd Hirsch, and L.A. Law. In today’s Peanuts strip, Snoopy is demanding.

In the current edition of Rolling Stone, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead sits for an extended interview. Also in the magazine, Billy Joel’s new Storm Front gets a positive review from writer John McAlley. The Rolling Stones play the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Phish plays Boston, Squeeze plays Providence, and Van Morrison plays the Beacon Theater in New York City. Black Sabbath, with Tony Iommi the only original member remaining, plays Leningrad in the Soviet Union, and the B-52s play the Fox Theater in Detroit.

On the Billboard Hot 100, the #1 song  is “Blame It on the Rain” by Milli Vanilli, which knocks last week’s #1, “When I See You Smile” by Bad English, to #2. The B-52’s “Love Shack” holds at #3; “The Way That You Love Me” by Paula Abdul holds at #4; “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel is up to #5. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Don’t Know Much” by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville at #9 and “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins at #10. The latter is up 12 spots from last week, the biggest mover within the Top 40 along with “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, which jumps from #34 to #22. The highest debuting new song in the Top 40 is “Swing the Mood” by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers at #34. The highest debut within the Hot 100 is Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” at #54.

Perspective From the Present: If we’re honest about it, most of our days are fairly mundane. Stuff happens, but in a day or two we’ll have trouble remembering it. November 30, 1989, looks like it was one of those days. I was working at the elevator-music station, and I suspect that by this time our new program director had arrived in town, or was on his way, with all of the upheaval he would bring on a less-mundane days to come.