Thursday, October 30, 2014

"I've Been Hacked-UPDATE"

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Thursday October 30, 2014
Partly Sunny 80F/ 27C in Rancho Santa Margarita
                Back on Monday a call from my credit union woke me up with the news that someone had been making charges on my credit card. In Italy!   One of them was for $951 dollars. The credit union rep quickly reassured me that I would not be charged for the thief’s shopping spree. The credit union was on top of the situation. The card had been cancelled and a new card had been mailed to even before my phone rang. The caller could offer no explanation for how my credit card number came into the evildoer’s possession, except for a guess that I must have lost the card in Italy. Hmmm! Fat chance!
I explained that particular credit card had been used only once by me - to consolidate the balances on two other credit cards so I could close them out and off their balances at a lower interest rate. The credit card itself had never been out of my desk at home. I had spent two months in Italy last winter, but that card had stayed in California. So, I concluded that the credit union’s data base had been breached. And, while the credit union guy couldn’t confirm that, I cited the information that the credit union had made the discovery on its own, otherwise the card would not have been cancelled and replaced before I was even notified.
                Now, I’m not complaining here. The credit union came through in championship fashion. However, this incident prompted me to get a head start on my next “Rome Diary” series and share some of what I have learned in my own travels. Since this story was prompted by a case of attempted ID theft, let’s start there with some of my thoughts on safer traveling  with today’s edition of….
“MikeBo’s Travel Tips:”
·         If you plan a trip out of town, especially to a foreign country, call your bank and let them know where you’re going and for how long. While you are on the phone, order one of those European-style credit cards with the imbedded computer chip to replace your magnetic stripe card. As we used to say on the electric radio at the end of all those live commercials, “You’ll be glad you did.” This is a good place to get in a plug for on-line banking. Remember, you’re going to be a long distance from your hometown bank branch.
·         Order some currency from your destination country. Call your bank and order the cash over the phone or on line. You can pick it up at the nearest branch or delivered to your home or office. That way you have some local currency in your wallet when you arrive. You can order traveler’s checks before your trip, but plan on using your ATM or credit cards just like you do at home. The European standard calls for cards with those chips, but, many places still take the mag stripe cards.
·         If you are going to Europe, the primary currency is the Euro, which is worth about $1.35 US. Just figure that when the clerk rings up €100 Euro on the cash register, it translates to about $140 US bucks. By using your ATM card you are drawing the Euros you need through your own bank at a better rate. Again, it’s a good idea to call your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling so they don’t think your identity has been stolen by Al Qaida.
·         Make sure you have your passport and that it will still be valid one year after your planned return to the states. I decided to stay in Italy an extra month on a whim. If my passport had expired, I would have been like the Tom Hanks character in “The Terminal,” where he played the Eastern European immigrant without a country stranded at JFK Airport.
·         Speaking about your passport. Be prepared to show it during the frequent passport checks you’ll encounter as you travel. At the Frankfurt Flughafen, I had to show mine about five times during a one hour stop to change planes. Also make a copy of copies and put one in each bag you bring. It wouldn’t hurt to put a scan copy on the laptop or tablet you bring with you. That way if you lose it, or, your passport is stolen, you can at least have some ID.
·         If you are a licensed driver, stop by the Auto Club (AAA) and get an International Driver’s License. If you have an occasion to rent a car in Europe or borrow one from a friend, this will come in handy, and will provide an extra piece of validated ID for you.
·         I caught a heap of flak from some of my American friends for this, but my suggestion still stands- make your flight reservations on an airline other than a U.S. air carrier. In my humble opinion, U.S. airlines have become penny pinching bus companies flying oversized sardine cans stuffed with fat people and screaming kids. My first choice among foreign carriers that I’ve personally flown is Lufthansa, a preference that dates back to my first trip to Germany in 1975. Swissair is another jewel of the international air carriers. They make international flying in this day and age just like it used to be, a real travel experience. If you like riding on a crowded New York subway, go ahead – fly Air Gringo. MikeBo Jr., who’s the real frequent flyer in my family, likes British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. For my next trip to Rome, I’m looking to avoid the dreaded LAX by taking a Jet Blue “Red Eye” from Long Beach to JFK in New York, laying over for a day and then catching an Alitalia flight non-stop from NY to Rome. The Pope flies Alitalia. I rest my case.
Some other handy household hints:
·         Call your cell phone provider and sign up for “International Roaming.” That way your friends and family can still call or text you and not even realize you are out of the country. Muy Importante! Sign up, too, for a discount calling rate FROM Europe. It will save you a ton of money.
·         One – learn some Italian, or French, or German or whatever language is spoken at your destination. Pick up some maps of where you’ll be going along with a pocket phrase book. A pocket dictionary is handy, too. If you have the time, take a language class for travelers.  I took one through the Italian Cultural Society in Sacramento. Plus, there are a lot of free language tutors on the internet. Just consult Dr. Google.
·         Plan on taking some guided tours on your trip. In Rome, I recommend the Dark Rome tours or City Wonders in Rome and other cities in Europe. First of all, my son the tour guide could use the money. The company prefers to hire native English speakers, which is the best way to go. I struggled through Pompeii with a guy named Enzo, who had the same effect on me as a Bengali call center. 
For me, actually living in Italy was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to going back. I've left coins with all of my friends in Rome to toss into Trevi Fountain for me. Trust me. It works.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Yikes! I've been HACKED!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Monday October 27, 2014
Sunny 79F/26C/ in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
IRONY 101 DEPT: A call from my credit union in Sacramento woke me up this morning. I was told that one of my credit cards had been charged and fraud was suspected. I confirmed that the foreign country where the card charges were made is 6500 miles from my present location. The man on the phone quickly assured me that I would not be liable for those fraudulent charges and that the card was being cancelled and a new one would be sent to me. Evil deed thwarted. I got up, started a pot of coffee and then ran a quick check of my other accounts. All seemed to be well. Then I brushed my teeth, poured my first cup of coffee. Then I sat back down at my computer and clicked on the thought for the day that begins my daily musings. Subject of today’s “Thought for the Day” GLOBAL SHARING!

Today’s “MikeBo Travel Tip:” If you plan a trip out of town, especially to a foreign country, call your bank and let them know where you’re going and for how long. While you are on the phone, order one of those European-style credit cards with the imbedded computer chip to replace your magnetic stripe card. As we used to say on the electric radio at the end of all those live commercials, “You’ll be glad you did.”  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Story My Father Told Me!

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday October 22, 2014
Sunny 83F/28C/ in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 
                This week, I found another treasure in the collection of family photos and papers that I brought with me when I moved back from Northern California in January.
I’ve been carrying the family memorabilia with me since my father died in 1965. And, now that I’m retired and have the time, I’m going through the collection and trying to collate it to pass on to my children and grandchildren. In the process of sorting this week I came across a yellowed, eight page essay written by my father for his sociology class at the University of Pittsburgh, probably around 1929 or ‘30. This typewritten document opened a window on his world for me. As I read this story, I realized that I had heard it before.
Charles Botula, Jr.
My father had often talked about his family in the “Olden Days,” usually in family conversations over Sunday dinners after church when my brother Packy and I were growing up. Now, with his hand typed memoir from so long ago in my possession, I can share his first-hand account with you as Charles Botula told it himself so long ago.
Johana and Karel Botula
My grandparents had come to the United States in 1903 from what is now the Czech Republic. Back then, it was part of the Austrian Empire, and they were part of a massive migration from Eastern Europe. There were hundreds of thousands of people fleeing poverty, persecution and war who were looking for a better life in America. The Botula family started its upward climb to the middle class from the very lowest rung on the ladder. Actually, it wasn’t even the ground floor. It was more like subterranean. My grandfather Botula started his new life in America as a coal miner.
Karel Botula “got off the boat” in Philadelphia in 1903 and started work in Cokeburg, Pennsylvania, a small coal mining town near Pittsburgh. My grandmother, Johana, arrived with her three children, Karola, Maximilian, and Frantiska at Ellis Island a short time later and joined him in Cokeburg.
                My grandfather Botula worked for the James W. Ellsworth Coal Company.    Karel Botula was one of the thousands who answered the call. He was a young man, married with three young children. In the Europe of that era, his family faced a bleak future. America, in his mind, offered the future he wanted for his family. So, in 1903 he booked passage to the United States, arriving in Philadelphia and traveling on to a small mining town in western Pennsylvania. His wife, Johana and the couple’s three children followed him a few months later, arriving at Ellis Island in New York harbor.
                Dad picks up the story from there. “It took a lot of researching on my part to get a complete picture of the turn of the century migration that brought my family to America in the first place and I still have a lot to learn about my family’s early life in Europe, but this much I have learned.”

                Cokeburg, Pennsylvania was a “company town,” built and maintained by the Ellsworth Coal Mining Company. The company owned the land and built the homes the miners and their families lived in; operated the company store where they bought their groceries and other necessities; built the church where they worshipped; built the school and hired its teachers, and it provided medical care to the miners and their families. The town’s entire purpose was to mine the bituminous coal deep underground and from this raw material bake it in massive ovens turning it into coke, a hot burning, gray, ash-like product used in the manufacture of steel. The coke ovens dotted the countryside around the mineshafts, and, as the coal was distilled into coke, the ovens gave off thick clouds of black sulfurous smoke. Karel Botula’s job was not only dangerous from the necessity of digging for the coal deep underground, but the work was carried out under environmentally dangerous conditions. I can remember as a small boy seeing the smoke from the ovens and the downwind hillsides near them that were devoid of all living trees and brush. In the center of the village was a huge slag heap, where the mine tailings, and waste from the coke ovens were piled high. Today, the slag heap has been reclaimed as a park, but then it was a raw wasteland where the immigrant children would play. 
Coal Tipple at Cokeburg, PA 1939
According to the official history of the Borough of Cokeburg, the town was founded in 1900 by James W. Ellsworth, a Chicago businessman who had purchased 238 acres of land to build a coal mining development called Shaft Four in Bethlehem Township. Shaft Four was the original name of the village. The name was later changed to Cokeburg in 1902. My grandfather arrived the following year and moved his family into one of the company-owned houses.

During the first 15 years of their lives in America, “the Company” was the face of American government. In the 1950s my grandfather’s life was immortalized by “Tennessee Ernie” Ford
in his song “16 Tons.”
“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.”
Company store, company house, company school, company church. The miners were even paid in company “scrip” rather than U.S. currency. The whole town of Cokeburg was owned lock, stock and barrel by “the company.” For a family of eleven like my grandparents’, living in a company house was a tight squeeze. Dad’s story continues……

I couldn't help but compare that to the small two-story home that I grew up in. It was a two story house and my only sibling, my brother Packy and I each had our own room upstairs, while our parents had their own bedroom on the ground floor. Most of those miners’ homes in Cokeburg are still there. All modernized, of course, and not an outhouse to be found. 
Old Miners' Homes in Cokeburg. Coke Ovens Below the Houses.
Here’s what they looked like some years later. The old coke ovens were no longer being used.
The companies controlled everything. They advertised all
over Europe to attract workers with promises of money and
opportunity in America. They owned the ships that brought them to the U.S. from “The Old Country.” They controlled the railroads that carried them to their new homes. They owned the towns where they would work and the and the houses they lived in, the schools their children went to, and the churches where they worshiped.
The Old Company Store

The company store sold them the food and other necessities they needed. The currency that paid for everything was company “scrip.” It was phony money printed by the company. It was acceptable only at Cokeburg’s company store. The miners and their families could not go shopping at the next town over. And the people who lived in the company town nearby could not buy anything in Cokeburg, because their company “scrip” was no good in Cokeburg.
Karel and Johana’s children attended Cokeburg’s one-room school. Two of the girls eventually went on to nursing school, another graduated from a business college, still another graduated from high school, but the youngest stayed home to help my grandmother. Two of the boys followed their father into the mines when they finished school. All of the boys might have followed their father and brothers along that career path, and my life could have been very, very different if my dad had gone into the family business. My grandfather, as it turned out had other plans. My dad’s story continues….
Twenty three years after the Botula family came to the United States and settled in Western Pennsylvania, they made another move, but not as far as the original transatlantic journey in 1903. Once a family of five—Karel and Johana along with their three children, Karola, Frantiska and Maximilian, they were eleven strong when they arrived in Pittsburgh, the biggest city in Pennsylvania, little more than 30 miles from Cokeburg.

Botula Home 3316 Ward Street
They bought a three story home at 3316 Ward Street in the Oakland area, just off the Boulevard of the Allies, not far from the University of Pittsburgh, where Charles Botula would become the first member of his immigrant family to graduate from college. The 1930 U.S. Census lists Karel and Johana, and their children: Karola, Frances, Maximilian, Mary, Julia, Hannah, Adolf, my father Charles and Theodore. This became the family home until the last child, Julia died in 1991. Over the years as the children grew, married and started their own families they left, but all came back frequently for family celebrations. My dad met my mom and they moved to New York where I grew up, but the rest stayed around Pittsburgh. Adolf died in 1947. Karel died in 1948 and Johana died in 1952. Julia remained to tend the flame until she passed away in 1991. 
Right up until the old homestead was sold, after my aunt died, the telephone listing still read Karel Botula, 3316 Ward Street, MUseum 2-4072. 
Here they are, the Botula Clan.

One of my prize possessions. The Botula Family Portrait. In the front is my Grandmother, Johana, Theodore, Karel, and Charles (my father) on the right. Behind them in the back row are Julia, Mary, Karola, Adolf (behind Theodore), Maximilian, Frances and Hannah. Every person in this photograph is now deceased. In January 2015, I will be my grandfather’s age when he died - 74.
Mike Botula

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Random Notes from a New Blogger

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Wednesday October 15, 2014
Sunny w-high clouds 81°F/28°C in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA   
Buongiorno et Bonjour!
                After several years of posting on Facebook, I’ve concluded that it and the other “social media” sites are giant electronic conveyor belts constantly delivering an endless stream of information. Some of which is actually useful. Closing your web browser or turning off your IPhone or laptop is like turning off a garden hose or, better yet, a fire hydrant. What it delivers when the faucet is turned on remains there, just waiting to be turned loose once more the next time you open the valve. Last year I stepped up my own participation in social media when I started posting a chronicle of my extended visit to Italy with my “Rome Diary” on Facebook. Happily for me, I received a fair number of comments and compliments on my unorthodox travel log. Since my return to the US coincided with some major life changes for me including a divorce and a move back to Southern California and a whole new life as an elderly single male, I couldn’t exactly continue posting something called “Rome Diary.” However, the response to my Italian adventure was of such a positive nature that I decided to continue with my writing efforts. The question was, what means do I use for my “bully pulpit.” So, I decided on a blog. It’s just me and my computer, the internet and thou, gentle reader. It’s the perfect outlet for a retired news guy who looks at every event in life’s passing parade as a potential news story and has developed an indelibly ingrained habit of writing a news story on these events and broadcasting them far and wide. And that gentle reader is how came to be. No assignment editor. No other writer, unless I invite one to chip in. No producer. No news director…..just you and me….and maybe the NSA.
                Several times a week I sit down at my trusty Hewlett-Packard and start writing. As soon as I post the day’s masterpiece on Blogspot, I send it on to Google and Facebook and generate a “Tweet” on Twitter, and other points on the blogosphere. Now, when I “Google” myself, I get a lot of responses, for in just a few short months I seem to have become search engine fodder. I don’t think I’ve “gone viral” yet, but I’m hearing some rumblings in response to my efforts.
                My personal notebook has collected some odds and ends that I’m revisiting with an eye to including in my blog. These are usually false starts on stories that I thought would stand alone as a blog posting but didn’t. Or they are paragraphs that I edited out to make my day’s story more concise. Or maybe they are sub-plots that I included in the draft, but decided to drop and revisit sometime in the future. Occasionally, I will recycle them and include them in a new edition of “MikeBo’s Blog.” Funny you should’s one now…….
                It’s actually a quote from the legendary attorney Clarence Darrow’s opening statement at the “Scopes Monkey Trial” back in 1925. That’s when the State of Tennessee had outlawed the teaching of evolution in public schools, and brought substitute teacher John Thomas Scopes up on criminal charges. In his opening statement on July 10, 1925, Clarence Darrow said…..
“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.”
Since we are locked in a similar discussion today, I thought it might make sense to reprise the comments of one of the greatest lawyers in American history.
Now, briefly, here’s a look at some events from “Poor MikeBo’s Almanack.” (Via
1581 - Commissioned by Catherine De Medici, the 1st ballet "Ballet Comique de la Reine” is staged in Paris.
1815 - Napoleon Bonaparte arrives on island of St Helena to begin his exile.
1948 - 38th US President Gerald Ford (35) weds department store fashion consultant Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Warren (30) at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
1951 - Mexican chemist Luis E. Miramontes synthesized the first oral contraceptive.
1969 - Vietnam Moratorium Day; millions nationwide protest the war.
1993 - Nelson Mandela & South Africa president F W de Klerk awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
And, so it goes.

Mike Botula

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Among My Souvenirs"

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Saturday October 11, 2014
Partly Cloudy 66F/19C (Going to 85F) in Rancho Las Musket
                 I've been sorting through boxes of family photos, documents, letters and postcards, souvenirs and small keepsakes that somehow have survived over my years of wanderings. When my first marriage ended in divorce after 35 years, some of the family treasures went to Arizona with my ex. When she died, they returned to California in the care of my daughter. Some of these treasures are now with my son in Italy where he lives. The other day, my daughter Dana handed me a pocket size leather folder that looked like an old wallet. But, when I opened it I saw two old black and white photographs looking out at me. I hadn't seen them in many, many years.
Dana had found this among some of her late mom's keepsakes. It was the pocket portfolio my dad carried with him everywhere he went while he was serving in the US Navy during WW2. The photo on the left was a little boy. The other photo showed the little boy with his mother. Judging by the hair styles and their clothing the photos appeared to have been taken during the 1940’s. I recognized them immediately. I was that little boy, and the pretty woman in the picture was my mother, Mary Botula.  This little picture wallet with these photos of us traveled with my dad throughout the war. My father, Lt. Charles Botula, Jr. had served as the Executive Officer-second in command-of a Navy LST, (Landing Ship Tank). Mom and I were there at the Hingham shipyard near Boston when the LST 920 was commissioned. But, after his ship sailed, the lieutenant’s family went with him in that little photo wallet. He had taken us with him from his ship’s commissioning in June of 1944, across the Atlantic in a huge convoy to Europe and later through the Panama Canal to the Pacific, over the equator and eventually to Korea and China.   My mom and I went with him to Omaha Beach at Normandy. We were with him during the U667’s attack on his convoy in the Dover Channel.  He took us along several times to Normandy-Utah Beach, Arromanches and Le Havre; ports of call at Southampton, Falmouth and Plymouth, England where he spent Christmas 1944.
A few weeks later, the LST 920 set sail back across the Atlantic to the U.S. for new orders and a new cargo and then south to the Panama Canal and on to the Pacific. He was at sea on May 7th after leaving Pearl Harbor when Germany surrendered. They crossed the International Date Line, traversed the Equator and on to Eniwetok, Guam, and Saipan. After Saipan, it was on to Ie Shima where Ernie Pyle, the legendary war correspondent had been killed by the Japanese.  Tinian, just before Col. Paul Tibbets and the Enola Gay would carry the atomic bomb to Hiroshima. Then they took part in the final Allied offensive on Okinawa. The LST 920  and that little photo book made port calls throughout the South Pacific and on to Korea and China before coming back across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco when he finally came home for good in late 1945. My mom kept a portrait of him in his Navy uniform prominently displayed in our home as a reminder that even though great distances separated us, we were still a family.
Mike Botula

Saturday, October 4, 2014

My Own Golden Age of Radio

“LOST MUSKET DIARY” Saturday October 4, 2014
Sunny and Hot 96F/36C/ in Rancho Las Musket
Buongiorno et Bonjour!
I realize that my blog “needs attention.” But, what to talk about? I’ve spent a whole week tending to financial matters and family business and trying to make what could be described as a life-changing decision. Not overwhelming by any stretch, but enough to divert my creative juices from their intended retirement goal of finally getting around to doing the writing that I've aspired to for decades. That said, I haven’t said much about my earlier career in radio, the theater of the mind.
T’other day as I was perusing a notebook with the articles and essays I’ve written over the years, I ran across a piece that I wrote for Don Barrett’s “” web site some years ago. Don is a contemporary of mine with a history in broadcasting about as long as mine but far more successful. Back in the 90’s he wrote the defining archive of Los Angeles Radio personalities under the title of “LA Radio People.” Now, there is a whole bookshelf of his books on LA radio that meshes perfectly with his website, “” Don’s work has become, over the years, the defining chronicle of the Los Angeles Broadcasting Industry. When I sit down at my computer in the morning with my coffee, “” is one of the first things I look at. And as I do so, I can’t help remembering the afternoon I first talked with him.
“Hello, Mike. I’m Don Barrett and I’m updating my book called “LA Radio People. Tell me, where did you go after KNOB?” I remember laughing out loud. “Don,” I asked. “How in the hell did you find me?” Since KNOB, I had gone on to bigger and better things in my broadcast career: KFWB with the advent of the All News format in 1968; KRLA briefly in 1971; a side trip to KSDO in San Diego, and finally back to Los Angeles and Gene Autry’s KMPC in 1972. After that, I started my TV career at KTLA, and in 1989 moved “over the fence” to do press relations with the District Attorney’s office. With a new boss in 1996 I found myself in the department’s “Siberia,” transferred from downtown and all the action at the Criminal Courts Building away to sea of warehouses at the Child Support Bureau in scenic Commerce, California. When Don found me I was in a tiny, borrowed office with a computer that did nothing and a telephone that rarely rang.
Now, I realize that I haven’t said much about my early career in Radio. For one thing I haven’t earned my living in front of a microphone since about 1988 and memories fade. But, my kids remember when their dad was a “star” and love to prod me into telling my “war stories.” Occasionally, I’ll even hear from someone who remembers listening to me many years ago. Bob Zeichner, a prominent photographer and artist from San Francisco still emails me from time to time. He first heard me on WTFM in New York back in 1962. And, so it goes. But time marches on and I had pretty much put those days in the past until the phone rang and Don Barrett asked me where I went after KNOB. Later, Don asked his followers to share their “radio days memories.” That prompted me to put this together. It published originally on January 6, 2000.

"My First Day on the Air in "L Capital A"
By Mike Botula
July 1966, my first day on the air in LA.  "I've arrived," I think. Finally, after ten years of paying dues- this is the big time!  (“Well. Sort of!”).
When I arrived in Southern California in June of 1966, I felt like Moses glimpsing the Promised Land after years of wandering in the wilderness. Ten years of 500 and thousand watt day timers, back in my then-rural hometown in New York; suburban radio and FM radio (In 1961, what the hell is FM?); this was followed by a side trip to Florida, and three years in Arizona. So now, my wife and I break open the piggy bank and move the two of us and our mobile home to California. It was a calculated career risk. My entire future "on spec." I had no real prospects, just a gut feeling that things would turn out.
After signing up for the First Phone Class at the Don Martin School of Radio and TV in Hollywood ("We guarantee your First Class FCC License in Six Weeks!"), I leafed through my Broadcasting yearbook and started dialing radio stations. After a dozen or so calls, I made a call to KNOB-FM in Long Beach. That got me a job interview, where station manager Jack Banoczi offered me a Saturday air shift. That fit perfectly with my Monday through Friday schedule at Don Martin. For a "new kid in town," I felt pretty good. Being a jazz buff, I was well aware of the "Jazz Knob's" reputation. It was once the home of Chuck Niles and Sleepy Stein. We had even heard about this station back in New York.  Banoczi gave me directions to the top of Signal Hill. “Things are looking up,” I thought. “I've got a 79,000-watt audition showcase while I'm getting settled and some money coming in.” When I get home, I tell my wife, "We're on our way!" The following Saturday morning, I exit the San Diego Freeway and head left on Cherry Avenue, turn left on 25th St. and wind my way up Signal Hill through a large grove of oil derricks, parking under the tallest tower at the summit. The location turns out to be a rundown building, the yard overgrown with weeds, the front choked with ivy. A swarm of bees masks the front door.
Jack and his brother Bob, who is also the station's Chief Engineer, are standing in front. "Wow," I think, "the GM and the Chief Engineer are here to greet me." "We're gonna be fixing the roof this afternoon," I'm told. "We'll be listening to our transistor radios, but you may hear some pounding on the air. Try not to let that bother you." I asked who would be breaking me in on my new shift. "The morning man, Bob Cory will show you everything you need to know," said Jack.
I moved carefully through the swarm of bees, walked through the front door, directly into KNOB's on-air studio. Sure enough, Cory was sitting behind an ancient Western Electric audio board. Through a dirty plate glass window, I could see an equally ancient Western Electric transmitter dating back to the days of Col. Armstrong. Plugged into one side of the ancient transmitter was a new Collins stereo generator. On the back wall was a pay telephone. Bob quickly showed me the copybook and the program log and pointed out the transmitter log, which required instrument checks every thirty minutes. As he talked, there was the incessant pounding from the roof above as the Banoczi Brothers showed off their carpentry skills. Cory took about three minutes to share everything he knew about how KNOB operated and then turned for the door and the swarm of bees beyond the threshold. "Who do I call, if I have a problem," I asked. He pointed to the pay phone. "There's a dime in the coin return slot," he told me. If you need to reach Jack, pick up the dime and call Jack at home, COLLECT. He lives up in Los Feliz. He will answer the phone, but he'll deny your call. Then he'll call you right back. It’s a toll call and the boss pinches his pennies. If he's not there or nobody else is home, you'll have to deal with it yourself."
"So, tell me about the format," I asked. "You can play any record you want to," Bob told me, "except for the cuts with masking tape on them. The boss has put masking tape over the cuts that he doesn’t want to be played. Otherwise, use your own judgment." Great! My first day in big-time Los Angeles radio has me walking through a swarm of bees, working in a studio with two guys pounding nails in the roof over my head. The equipment predates Edward R. Murrow‘s puberty and my sole line of communication to the outside world is a pay phone with a dime in the coin slot. And, I've got to peel off the masking tape from the LP cuts that I really want to play.
The hammering on the roof above went on most of the afternoon. I was able to drown out some of the racket by turning up the volume of my stereo headphones, but, every once in a while, a heavy “thump” above me would cause the stylus to skip a groove on the LP I was playing. Two hours into my six-hour shift, in the middle of a commercial I was reading, the pay phone rang. (Incoming calls don't cost). It's a listener. “Hey," says the caller, "I've been listening to you all afternoon." I perk up. It’s a fan. Maybe it’s a major station PD who will offer me a big time LA radio job. "You're new to Southern California, aren't you," says he. "Yes," I reply. "Why do you ask?" "Because you don't know how to pronounce X-I-M-E-N-O Avenue."
The pounding on the roof finally stopped. A short time later I have a problem. Commercial copy is missing from the book, but Jack and Bob have left without even checking to see if I was OK.  I head to the pay phone to call the boss. The dime is gone from the coin return. I don't have any change. I sit back at the old Western Electric console writing a note to the boss. I heard a car pull up in front. It's six p.m. Quitting time for me. As I wonder just who is going to relieve me, the door opens. A man is silhouetted by the setting sun in the swarm of bees outside. In he walks, extending his hand. "Hi, I'm Jay Durkin. I work the night shift here. Who are you?" My first day in the big time was over.
The only time in later years that I really gave any thought to my time at KNOB (which is now KLAX, a power house Spanish language pop music station), came one afternoon in 1996 when my phone rang at the District Attorney's office. "Hi," said the voice at the other end of the line, "I'm Don Barrett and I’m writing a book called LA Radio People." Yeah, I used to do LA Radio," I replied. "Tell me," Don asked, "where did you go after you left KNOB?"
And, also on this day in history:
2333 BC - The state of Gojoseon (Modern-day Korea) founded by Dangun Wanggeom during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Yao.
52 BC - Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls, surrenders to the Romans under Julius Caesar, ending the siege and battle of Alesia.
1283 - Dafydd ap Gruffydd, prince of Gwynedd in Wales, becomes the first person executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered. (Dafydd gets my “Loser of the Day” award for the 13th century.
1789 - Washington proclaims 1st national Thanksgiving Day on Nov 26.
1849 - American author Edgar Allan Poe is found delirious in a gutter in Baltimore, Maryland under mysterious circumstances; it is the last time he is seen in public before his death.
1863 - Lincoln designates last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. (So, who do we blame for “Black Friday?” Lincoln or Washington?)
1872 - Bloomingdale's department store in NY opens.
1906 - SOS adopted as warning signal by 1st conference on wireless telegraphy.
1945 - Elvis Presley's 1st public appearance at the age of 10.

Mike Botula