Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Photo I Forgot About

I'm often asked to do free-lance writing, and I was working on an article about Boston radio in the 1960s. That led me to various newspaper databases, and eventually, I ended up on a database I'd never used before. I found some interesting stuff (although not what I was seeking), but before I went on to something else, I typed in my name, curious to see if my college radio experience got written about anywhere. No, I didn't think I was especially important in the greater scheme of things, but given that I was the first female deejay at Northeastern University, I thought that maybe someone (other than a reporter at my college newspaper) might have written something. 

I didn't find any articles that I hadn't already seen, but I did find this: a photo taken in October or November of 1968, evidently intended to go with an article written about my debut at WNEU Radio.

I had no idea this image even existed. I had seen a photo of me in the WNEU studio, sitting at the console, next to a turntable, surrounded by 45s (remember those?); but I did not recall this photo-- which was taken in the station's record library. It brought back memories I hadn't thought about in more than five decades.

I was 21 years old, and a senior at Northeastern. I had fallen in love with radio as a kid, found (to my disappointment) that women were not welcome on the air, and then, fought to get a chance to prove the doubters wrong. I didn't have many friends at Northeastern, but once I got on the air, I started getting fan mail. And when I was in the record library, surrounded by so many amazing albums, I felt at home. I was not only a deejay at WNEU but also the station's music director, and I loved it.

In some ways, those were the happiest days of my life. I felt that I had found my calling. I wasn't that fond of school, where the expectation was that I'd be a teacher; back then, girls were supposed to become teachers, nurses, or secretaries, but while those were good choices for some folks, I knew in my heart that I was supposed to be a deejay. And when I went to the WNEU studio to do my show, or hung out in the record library, I knew I was where I belonged.

Not everyone shared my view. Much to my frustration, the radio industry still wasn't hiring many women. It would take me nearly 5 years to find a full-time radio gig, at a small suburban AM station called WCAS in Cambridge, Mass. But by the end of 1973, I was on my way to WMMS in Cleveland, much to the shock of my parents. I had never really left Boston before, but this was my chance and I intended to take it. Many of you know what happened in Cleveland (and in my radio career). But that's a story for another day.

In this long-forgotten photo, I look confident and at peace. I generally didn't feel that way; but when I was on the air, or when I was listening to new music, I knew this was where I belonged. It gave me hope that maybe my life was finally going to get better. After so many years of being mocked because I was different, I was finally getting some acceptance, and even some love. I remember it well. And while the story would have its share of ups and downs, on this day, the future looked bright. I knew that radio was where I wanted to be, and finally, I would get my chance to be there.    

1 comment:

  1. Donna that is very cool to see that! Thank you for paving the way.