by Don Purvis
At WVUG we had the full supply of AFRS transcriptions, plus whatever the mails brought us from Headquarters. Back in those days we had music that was recorded for the military programs but never released commercially. How I wish I had access to some of that music today!
Memories… there must hundreds, unfortunately, they are slowly fading from memory. What I remember are the funny happenings, and some of the not so funny times we had back then.
The station was located in an old Army hospital theater. The post coffee shop was just out the back door. We would often put on a transcription then dash over to the coffee shop for coffee and conversation. The transcriptions had a 15 minute side, meaning they had to be flipped after they had played one side. There were times the conversations got so intense that we would forget all about the necessity to flip whatever was playing. Imagine being in the listening audience and hearing click click, click click, click click, for fifteen or more minutes.
We did a live Country show every Saturday night. The announcers, put on their best “southern accents” and pretended to be big country stars. We even had a live audience. It was a completely unpredictable hour or two… it was fun. You have to remember that we were all privates back then… nothing much could happen to us.
When the Berlin air lift started the station became a central meeting place for a lot of the military dependents living in the on-post housing. Those days and night are better left in privacy. It was a wild time.
We didn’t have the niceties of recording that stations have today. We recorded straight to vinyl… that was an experience. Trying to keep the sound balanced while brushing the cut vinyl away from the tracks was a project. It sometimes took hours to record one song. We did experiment some with the recordings too. Stan Kenton had just gone to a new style… one of his best recordings was a little thing called “The Peanut Vendor”. We re-recorded it adding a delay of a beat or two… it came out very well. Of course it messed up the soldiers that attempted to buy THAT version in the local record shops.
One of our famous mystery records was a recording made by Spike Jones called “Minka”. I think it featured “Doodles” Weaver on the trumpet. By the way, this was not one of the Jones’ regular style efforts. Instead, as I remember it, it switched from the styles of Henry Busse, to Clyde McCoy to (I forget the other band). We would play it as a mystery recording, challenging the audience to name the recording artist. No one ever did.
We did a special sound effects recording, with the co-operation of a few of the female post telephone operators. They recorded brief sounds, a soft moan, a whispering voice saying “Don’t… please…”, and other suggestive sounds. We would play those on the late night show, leaving the impression that we had somehow left a mike on while we were “entertaining”. Our main target was the local MP’s. We would play a track and the MP’s would almost instantly raid the station looking for the woman. They would search the entire station but could never find the unauthorized woman. It was fun!
In time life caught up with us. The Information Officer somehow found out about our shenanigans and brought in a buck sergeant to take over the operation. Adding insult to injury, we had to train him. He was one of the straight-arrow infantry types that never understood us. But we did have fun… the old-timers slowly left the station for better fields. I left for Jump school and moved on up the ladder eventually becoming the Sergeant Major of a post information office. One of my duties, believe it or not, was to supervise the radio section.
Don Purvis served in the AFRS at WVUG Fort Richardson, Alaska Territory in 1947-48.
We’re grateful to Don for sharing his memories and photos of those days at:
“WVUG 1450 kilocycles on your dial, your Armed Forces Radio station”
We recommend Brass Button Broadcasters for a light hearted and informative look at AFRS history since the first broadcasts in Alaska way back in 1941.