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Frames of Time...

042_04 - Broadcasts Into Nowhere
He was probably the closest I ever came to a possible true con man. Yet, in true cornball movie fashion, he awakened a spirit in a number of folks that made it hard to totally dislike him. His name was the common moniker, Bob Brown.

I met Bob while attending R.L. Turner High School. He was one of the "new kids" and we became friends the same way most kids in High School did, through common interests. He seemed a fairly normal kid, who had had the opportunity to do some unusual things.

Of course, I had done a number of unusual things, myself. I had vacationed on an army base, thanks to my scouting days. I had traveled the country a lot due to my father's business and family vacations. I was also a collector of comic books and had actually gone to conventions where other collectors met! (In the late 1960s all of this was pretty radical stuff.)

Bob? Well, he had a friend who worked for CBS and had let him hang around and finally assist during coverage of the first Moon landing. In fact, he celebrated the anniversary every year by replaying the audiotape. He had worked at a radio station as a part time disc jockey. He had even done some bit parts in local TV productions.

We paired up and were soon creating scripts for the drama class. We planned a school wide tribute to the Moon landing. We even started a local radio station. The school newspaper clip gives a bit of the details, including my pseudonym, John O'Neil (the last name taken from one of my current favorite comic book writers). I'd taken the name since I really wanted to be a writer and didn't want the two careers confused.

I knew little of the radio business in those days. The fact that we needed no license did not seem to enter my concerns. The fact that the broadcasting equipment had been built by Bob's dad, and didn't look much bigger than a normal stereo of the time, did not ring any bells. Bob had indicated his dad knew how to do things efficiently, and most of the stuff was really behind the house. Even that you couldn't really pick up the signal unless you were in Bob's front yard did not seem like trouble.

I, and several friends, donated large amounts of our older records for use by "the station". Larry Herndon, a well-known and respected media collector/historian/author/publisher was even involved. Larry did a weekly show on comics and media. I wrote comedy scripts that Larry and I performed with a small cast. The script I remember most featured a famed detective and his nervous assistant - Harry Bald and Twitters.

About four weeks into my first broadcasting career, things began to fall apart. One day Bob dropped by to state his mother had left him and his dad in the middle of the night, taking every thing. After seeing the totally empty house, my folks and several neighbors donated furniture for the house. Through some slips of the tongue, it became obvious that Bob had not worked anywhere near CBS when the Moon landing took place. Finally, it was discovered that the power to the radio transmitter had "died" a week earlier.

In true fashion Hollywood fashion, a few weeks later Bob Brown's house was empty. When we talked, some of us realized, we had never really seen Bob's mother. And a friend who lived near by said that no moving van had come for the furniture, yet the house was completely empty. Some concluded Bob and his father merely sold furniture for money. Since no one was really out anything valuable, most of us laughed it off as some bizarre joke. No one had been harmed, and in retrospect, we had all had some fun. We often laughed and said things like, "was he ever really here?"

Less than a year later, I moved from Texas to California. For a few years, I would return to Texas every year for the comic convention. It was really more of an excuse to see old Texas buddies like Larry and Buddy Saunders. One year, when I arrived at Larry's house to chat, I found him in a particularly puzzled state. We went into his office and he pulled out an audiocassette. Someone who wanted a job on the radio had sent the cassette to him. At the same time the cassette arrived, Larry had received a letter from Bob Brown.

The letter told Larry to sent the cassette back to the young man. Bob asked Larry to include a letter stating that Larry worked with Bob on their radio station in Texas. Larry was also to tell the young man that there were no jobs at the Texas station. Bob explained he had told the young man of the Texas radio station and need to prove it existed.

Larry and I looked at the cassette. I asked if he had listened to it. Larry had, and said it was awful. We began to chuckle and then laugh. We finally decided that Larry would do what Bob had asked. It might help this youngster have some fun. And we figured, if nothing else, it would make our previous "famed" radio careers stretch a bit farther than Bob's front yard.

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