"In September of 1970, a motley crew of rhynes converged on the studios of WNDY, the College radio station, anxious to prove to the world what we knew already--that we were COOL. What better way to demonstrate that than to become a disc jockey, and WNDY was just the place. Where else could you be entrusted with a microphone and 1,000 watts of broadcast power with no more qualification than the chutzpah to take advantage of it?"
Shades of 'That 70s Show'
by Jim McDaniel '74
WNDY in those days was unique; the only commercially licensed broadcast station owned by a college in Indiana.
WNDY was day-parted, playing Easy Listening in the daytime to attract the hausfraus of Crawfords-ville and, hopefully, some advertising revenue. At 6 p.m. we switched to Top-40 to attract the teenie-bopper townies. We got a little heavier at 8 p.m.
Obviously, the night spots were the coveted ones, and if a rhyne were going to get one, he'd have to work plenty of the drudge shifts to qualify. Four of us made that commitment: "Jungle" Jared (Willets), Nathan D. Young ('NDY, right?) known to the FCC as Larry Meagher, The Red Max (yours truly), and Neil Allen, the only one of us cool enough to use his real name.
At some point during that first semester, the Saturday night gig came open, and there was no rush of upperclassmen to fill it. All of us rhynes wanted it, but since there was only one slot to fill, we decided to try a team concept, and "The Nighttime Coalition" was born. It was a late night party on the air, with plenty of open-mike banter to demonstrate how witty we were, and lots of hard rock.
The station signed on Sunday at 8 a.m., playing some nondescript music until a church service was piped in by phone line around 9:30. Although that arrangement had been in place for some time, the church decided a few months into the year that they had better ways to spend their money. The cancellation of that agreement set the stage for NTC's big move.
One Saturday night, we all decided that there was really no reason to sign off just because the station log said we were supposed to. With four of us available, one or two could crash for an hour or two while the others carried on, and we could keep the party going until 8 a.m. with no problem. After midnight, somebody called to tell us we were on TV! Since there was no camera crew hanging around the studio, we determined that what they meant was our signal was being rebroadcast over the local cable access station. CCATV aired an hour or two of programming every day and filled the rest of the time with a camera rotating among four or five weather dials in the studio, with background music playing. They tuned in to WNDY during the day so they would also have some local community announcements, and switched to an Indianapolis easy-listening station in the evening. But this weekend someone had forgotten to flip the switch. Black Sabbath and King Crimson on your weather dials!
Kids in town started calling each other to get a load of this obvious faux pas, which they knew would be the cause of great consternation among their elders when discovered. We built a pretty hefty audience over the next few hours, and we were loving it. Eight a.m. rolled around, and the sign-on crew didn't show up. The 10 a.m. relief also failed to show, so NTC accidentally became the longest radio show in Indiana, possibly the country, possibly the world! And CCATV got enough comments on their goof that they decided to make it a regular feature and left us on every Saturday, so long as we'd commit to not signing off and leaving them with dead air. Now we were stuck.
Creative minds are dangerous minds. Not satisfied with music and conventional mayhem, NTC hit upon the idea of a radio serial. Originally conceived as a link among our four weeknight shows, with an episode every night and all four rerun on Saturday. We soon (like, the first episode) discovered that was overly ambitious. "The Further Adventures of the Scarlet Hickey" became a fixture, intermittently, on Saturday nights. The second year, Jared was replaced in the title role (and in NTC) by new rhyne Tom Wilson '68 as "The Return of the Further Adventures of the Scarlet Hickey" took to the airwaves. A later incarnation featured "The Son of the Return of the Further Adventures of the Scarlet Hickey," and there was even a post-collegiate incarnation cooked up by Meagher and myself with help from staff at the Oklahoma City radio station he was working in the early 80s.
It may not sound like it, but the "NTC" experience actually proves that college is all about learning. It's just that much of the learning comes outside of class. Teamwork is essential throughout life, because you'll be on teams of different sorts all your life. The teams that have fun and achieve their goals are magical. The Nighttime Coalition was that kind of team.
Radio is an addiction. Jared Willets returned to New England
and took up broadcasting professionally. Tom Wilson didn't last a lot longer
at Wabash than Jared had, and worked radio in the Chicago area. Larry Meagher
graduated a couple years late, and although he went on to law school, he
never left the business. He now works for CNN. Despite all the frivolity,
I became WNDY's youngest General Manager, and the first in memory not to
flunk out, drop out, or die during his term of office (coming close to all
three, but that's another story). I worked at WCVL in C'ville for a couple
years after graduation, went to New York and worked at the Associated Press
awhile, then moved to Dallas and spent seven years in television before
I got smart (got fired) and found a respectable job. Only Neil escaped the
clutches of this addiction as far as I know, he never bothered with radio