Last week, I got into a discussion with a friend about this blog. They asked how was I able to come up with different topics to write about. I explained that certain events occurring in my life at present would remind me of something that may have occurred while I was growing up. That in turn would prompt me to reminisce about a certain period of time, an event or even an isolated incident. Bottom line, I told him it was easy to write about a place and time that you loved.
I was listening to an online music source that I use daily on my computer when I got the idea for this post. I stumbled upon the Pandora site years ago, and have been a fan ever since. The site address is www.pandora.com. It’s a free site that allows you to design your own radio station that will play the type of music that matches your musical tastes. The procedure to create the station is a simple as typing your favorite song or your favorite recording artist. You can create as many “stations” as you would like and they will be available for you to select from each time you sign into Pandora. There is an occasional commercial announcement if you opt for the free service, but they are quickly over and done. You also have the option of upgrading for $30 a year that allows you to listen to your favorite type of music with commercial interruption. I pay the $30 annually and it is well worth it in my opinion. I have created stations such as ; “James Taylor Radio, Eddie Fisher Radio, Bette Midler Radio, Big Band Radio, Beatles Radio, Beach Boys Radio, etc.” Whatever my musical mood, I have a source to satisfy it. The other wonderful thing is that as you are listening to the music, if a selection comes on that you don’t like, just click the “thumbs down” symbol, and you will never hear that selection again. By letting Pandora know what you like and don’t like helps it to design the perfect listening experience for you. I love it, I whole heartedly recommend it and I strongly suggest you at least give it a try. I guarantee that by trying this on your computer, you will NOT accidently press a wrong button and launch a nuclear war!
The reason I brought up the subject of Pandora is quite simple. As I stated earlier, I believe everything has some connection to the past and to Duquesne. (Yes, I’m kidding, but it does make for interesting reading.) However, I must admit that the music on Pandora does occasionally conjure up some rather strong memories of earlier times and places. Although television was a big part of my life growing up, radio was also an integral part of my youth. As I listened to Pandora radio, Nat King Cole’s hit “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” began to play, and I remembered warm evenings and sitting on the back porch with my dad and neighbors.
It seems as if Duquesne was an entire community of “front and back porch neighbors.” Neighbors usually led their busy lives during the day, but by the time the warm Spring and Summer evenings rolled around, just like moths to a flame, we’d be hanging out together on one another’s porch. Quite often, our house seemed to be the gathering point. My dad was always ready to play host to the neighbors too. We had plenty of patio furniture to go around, a radio tuned into hear Bob Prince and the Pirate’s game and of course, cold beer for the adults. Hours would go by, and they would fill the evening with lots of “BS and beer,” as my dad referred to it.
The kids would gather as well on those evenings. My dad owned the empty lot next to our house, so we always had plenty of space to run and play with all of our friends. On the really warm evenings, I remember seeing the entire yard glisten with fireflies. We would always have contests to see who could catch the most in our Mason jars. This may sound a bit odd, but I can still recall the rather pungent odor the lightening bugs had, a rather organic musty smell. Our favorite games to play at night were Hide n’ Seek, “It” and just rolling from the top of our yard all the way to the street without throwing up! Ahhh….good times!
We seemed to tucker out by 10, and we’d begin to hang out on the porch with our parents. The game would still be on, but usually in the final innings. That old radio also acted as our weather predictor as well. Since it was an AM radio, we got to hear every bit of static and crackle that would occur in the atmosphere. On evening when there seemed to be a looming storm, I loved to hear the loud crackle that the radio produced a thunderstorm approached. As soon as that happened, our moms would quickly gather the kids and scurry home for the evening. The guys would usually hang around until the end of the game or until the rain came or the beer ran out!
On evenings when there might have been more of a breeze, sounds that were being produced further away would sometimes reach our back porch. I recall sitting outside with my dad and hearing the distant clanking of pipes and production from the mill as if it was in our own back yard. If the radio was playing softly and the wind was blowing just right, we would hear the clacking of the roller coasters at Kennywood and the screams of the riders as the zoomed down the dips in the night. Since we lived just over the border in West Mifflin, we were at a vantage point to be able to tell which way cars were traveling on Kennedy Avenue. The whirring sound produced by tires on the brick roads was distinctly different from the sound of those same tires on the paved road that abruptly began at the point where Duquesne ended and West Mifflin’s Texas Ave. began. If we heard the thump of tires going from the paved surface of Texas Avenue onto the brick surface of Kennedy Avenue, we knew someone was heading to Duquesne. Whenever there happened to be fireworks occurring in the area, we would hear them from our back porch. Although we could always count on hearing them on the 4th of July, on special occasions, Kennywood as well as the Woodland Drive-In would have an occasional fireworks show. I even recall hearing the cannon firing at Kennywood when they happen to have Bruno Zacchini, the human cannonball, appearing on the lagoon stage.
The evening gatherings continued year after year, and it never felt like summer had arrived until the get-togethers commenced. By the time I was a teenager, the evenings meant gathering with friends and listening to music on our transistor radios. I had developed a love for rock and roll music by being exposed to the songs whenever I visited my older cousins as a child. I remember my cousins Bobbie and Joanne Carr talking about someone from Duquesne that had made a record. That person was Kenny Ambrose, and the record was “Don’t Be a Fool For Love.” It came out in 1958 and I happen to have a copy of the 45! While I was searching for a picture of Kenny Ambrose, I came across the actual song on YouTube. If you’d like to hear it, click here.
I remember falling asleep at night with my transistor radio tucked under my pillow. Back in 1963, some of the songs I was listening to were Sugar Shack, Rhythm of the Rain, Blue Velvet and Hey Paula. I was still able to hear the familiar crackle of approaching storms on my transistor, and that was always comforting to me. During the hot summer days, I would often listen to the radio using the little earphone that came with it. Although a far cry from the stereophonic, acoustically perfect earphone available today, that little earphone was able to entertain me with hours of private listening.
FM radios and stations were not the popular choice as I was growing up, it was AM or nothing. Radios didn’t begin to have an FM band included with the AM band until the late 1950s and 1960s and it was not until the 1970s that the FM audience size surpassed that of AM. By the time I was 11 or 12, I began having a real appreciation of popular music and steadily listened to some of the more popular stations in the area. KQV was the most popular choice. My brother or I would always be sure to pick-up a KQV top 40 list from National Record Mart in McKeesport each week. I tried to find an actual KQV Top 40 Sheet, but was unable to locate one. However, in my quest to find the elusive sheet, I was able to find a site that is devoted to KQV and in fact, publishes a list of the #1 songs for the current week as far back as 1959. If you would like to check it out, click here! I discovered an interesting fact as I was check out the KQV site, one which you may already know, but DID YOU KNOW that one of KQV’s top-40 personalities in the 1970s, with the on-air name of “Jeff Christie,” later became famous as a talk-show host under his real name, Rush Limbaugh!
In addition to KQV, we had some other stations to choose from. Other favorites of mine included KDKA, WAMO and of course WMCK. Some of the DJ names that I remember from those days were Chuck Brinkman on KQV, WAMO’s Porky Chedwick, (AKA “The Daddio of the Raddio, ” “The Platter Pushin’ Papa, ” “The Bossman,” and “Pork the Tork”.)
Porky Chedwick is still making appearances at area Oldies Club at age 93! Most of the year he lives in Tarpon Springs, Florida. By the way, were you aware that he was born in Homestead, Pa in 1918, and was one of ten children, and his father was a steelworker! I attempted to prove that Porky was a hunky, but unfortunately, I found no evidence to support that idea. So, for lack of evidence, let’s just call him an honorary hunky!
UPDATE FROM LINDA GIBB: My brother just sent me info that Porky has moved to a
different part of FL & is now down here part of the yr. so could you please post that for me on you Duquesne radio page. He sent me a you tube video of Porky celebrating his 1st ever birthday not in Pgh., but here in FL. If I knew how to get that to you I would so you could post it on your site. Porky sends greetings to all his old fans & thanks them for their support of him. I also found on that same site ater I watched a couple of clips that
amazon.com has a cd of porky music with the porky theme song played. Of
course I had to order one.
To me, the most memorable of all the DJs in my youth, was Terry Lee from WMCK. Terry Lee had a nighttime program that I think EVERY teenager in the area listen to. If you were growing up in the area in the 60’s, then you were undoubtedly listening to “The TL Sound – Music for Young Lovers!” The “TL Sound” was the perfect music to slow dance to, neck to (come on, you know you did!) and to party to. As he introduced each song, his deep voice would echo as he spoke. Songs that never made KQVs Top 40 became some of my favorites. The Court of Love, Gee Whiz, Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye were some of my favorites. It seemed that everyone’s VERY favorite was first released in 1963. You haven’t lived until you’ve been able to slow dance with your best girl or guy to “High on a Hill.” There is a website that is dedicated to The TL Sound and where you’ll be able to hear more of the songs that you grew up with. To visit the site, click here. Click the arrow in the photo’s center below and prepare yourself for instant memories!
With that, I’ll be signing off and home that you’ll share some of your favorite “radio days” memories with us!