Best Birthday Gift

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What was your favorite birthday gift as a child? What gift not only brought you joy but gave you a kick of direction in your life? These are questions I am pondering today as this codger celebrates another year on the planet. Flashback to Morganton and my sixth grade in school. My parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I had been eyeing those neat little "Made in Japan" transistor radios with the tiny earplug at Morganton Hardware Store and the Western Auto on West Union Street. The World Series was coming up. Back then the series games were played mostly during the day. With the radio and earplug I could listen to the games while in class without the teacher’s knowledge. Bad boy. I know. Well, teacher Winnie Garrison quickly caught on to my mischief and after reprimanding me struck a compromise. If we all worked extra hard on game day we could listen to the World Series during the final period. That radio became a dear friend. Late at night after my parents thought I was asleep I would hide under the covers and listen to the late night disc jockeys from faraway places like Chicago, St. Louis, New York and Fort Wayne. I would listen to the radio newscasters in Atlanta and sportscasters in Pittsburgh. I would listen and then emulate their voices. It became an obsession but a fairly good obsession. Kids at school would compliment me on how I could sound like a big time radio announcer. “Come on, Bill. Give us your radio voice.” Christmas came and the only thing I wanted was a mini reel-to-reel recorder like they used on Mission Impossible. I would tape myself over and over. Before long I had lost much of my heavy Southern dialect and was ready for a real job at the local radio station. Radio led to television and here I am today. I would probably never be here at WRAL had it not been for that wonderful birthday gift from my parents many years ago.