*Note: This is a special blog post written in honour of what would have been my graduating class’ (I didn’t graduate) 30-Year Reunion, which I am unable to attend.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman who decided she wanted to be a Broadcast Journalist. This was due, in part, to a much older ex-boyfriend who had done exactly that, and partly to an admiration for female journalists of the day such as Barbara Frum, Hana Gartner, Adrienne Clarkson and (*whispering) Pamela Wallin.
The application process was fairly straightforward: fill out the college application, and send it along with an audition tape (there may have also been an essay, but I’m not sure) and the application fee. I was lucky that my parents lived near Loyalist College…I was spared the whole student loan nightmare that many of my fellow students were subjected to (surviving on Kraft Dinner…aaack!). I was accepted, and started the course with about 19 other students in September of 1982.
At 21, I was one of the oldest students in our class. I felt infinitely more mature than the mostly 18 and 19-year-olds in the rest of the group! I remember feeling sorry for the kids who had come from the Maritimes…they were so far away from their families!
Within the first month, I had (unwillingly) earned a nickname: “Wendy Shoots, She Scores”. This was courtesy of our journalism prof, Phil R., who thought it was hilarious…he also teased Lisa M. mercilessly about being from Dingwall, Nova Scotia! I took a lot of flak from other students for my homemade tape recorder case…it didn’t occur to me when I made it that putting “Wendy B.J.” on the side in big letters might be a bad idea.
Classes that year were a bit of a blur (although I did go to them)…I remember the soporific quality of Len A.’s Broadcast Journalism and the Law class, and struggling to pronounce Russian names in Ken B.’s Foreign Language Pronunciation class. I was happy to get an exemption from Typing…I passed the test with flying colours…the test machine was a far sight better than the 1940’s Underwood I had learned on at home!
The school had its own radio station, which was staffed by the Broadcast Journalism and Radio Broadcasting classes. There were more than a few pranks played: one time, a fictitious story about The Flintstones was inserted into an unsuspecting newscaster’s copy. There was at least one instance of news copy being set on fire while the news was being read on the air (glad that wasn’t me!).
I was always nervous doing radio news…somehow, seeing the mike in front of me was intimidating! I always did well on airchecks though…my voice was naturally low, which I supposed made it easier for me than some of the other girls!
One of my favourite things was producing radio documentaries…I spent hours in the studio editing tape with a razor blade! I still have some of them somewhere…
The heart of our school life was the Radio Lounge…all the fun happened there! That was where my classmate, Steve S., got his nickname: he was playfighting with his cousin, Kent Mo. one day. One of the Broadcast Journalism students, Brad S., hollered: “Look…it’s “Chunk” Norris!” From that day forward, no one ever called Steve by his real name again.
Chunk was the oldest in our class at 26…he was one of the few students who had a car: a Mercury Comet, which became known as “The Chunkmobile.” A bunch of us used to bum a ride back into Belleville after school with Chunk…I was the only girl, and often ended up sitting on someone’s lap (I’m sure my mother would have been upset to know that I was usually not wearing a seatbelt!). Later on, the Chunkmobile became “The Vomit Comet” on account of the powerful smell that erupted one day and never went away, even though Chunk made his best effort to get rid of it…
Another fun part of Loyalist College for me was the “Pubs”: I loved music, and saw many acts live that I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to: Lee Aaron, Matt Minglewood, Murray McLaughlan, etc. I was probably one of the few students who didn’t go to Pub just to drink…
I spent a lot of time hanging out with the folks from the Radio Broadcasting classes…they seemed to be closer than my own classmates, and had way more fun! I went to several parties at various students’ apartments…I remember at least one Toga Party, Tequila Sunrises (didn’t drink them…just watched them being made and consumed), and dancing to Stray Cats rockabilly. There was the M*A*S*H* party on John St. where I started dating my (now ex) husband, Radio guy, Kent M. (we were introduced by Radio girl, Becky W., at an earlier gathering at the Doc’s Hotel).
One party stands out…it was the one and only time I was ever drunk in my life: this one was at Broadcast Journalism guys, Ed L. and Greg V.’s apartment on Front Street. Ed and Greg were two of my “Chunkmobile” buddies…the day of the party, I got dropped off with them at their apartment since I lived in the country and didn’t want to have to get my mom to drive me back into town for the party later. I planned to just “hang out” until the party started…Kent had to work that night, so he would come and join me after his shift was over at 11 p.m. We got to the apartment around 4. I remember somebody asking me if I wanted a drink. “Do you have any rye?” I asked. They did, but no ginger ale, which is what I usually mixed it with. Greg had gotten a large root beer at McDonald’s on the way home, and still had a lot left…he offered me the rest to mix with the rye. Stupidly, I agreed.
It was about 8 p.m. when I started feeling really sick…I spent the next three hours in and out of the bathroom. When Kent arrived, I was ready to get out of there. We had to walk several blocks to the rooming house where he lived…some of the sidewalks were under construction…my arms and legs were not cooperating at all! We went to Kent’s room, where I lay on his bed as the room spun around, and wished for either death or my mom to come…she came at midnight to take me home. Lesson learned…I never got drunk again!
Beside the Doc’s Hotel, we also liked to go to Dolan’s, and Copperfield’s. Songs like Laura Branigan‘s Gloria, Men at Work‘s Who Can It Be Now?, Alan Parsons Project‘s Eye in the Sky, and J. Geils Band‘s Freeze-Frame all remind me of that time.
When summer came, I went off to Ottawa for six weeks and did my internship at CFRA Radio. It was there that I got the first inkling that perhaps I didn’t have the personality to be a journalist…I was a basket case nearly every night…I was wrapped up in all the stories I’d had to cover…a lot of them were upsetting! I did get to see Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their visit to Canada though…I was told by my News Director to get some tape of the Princess’ walkabout. I was having difficulty controlling my boom mike in the wind…Diana was saved from a possible concussion by a burly RCMP officer swatting my mike away from her head! Needless to say, I didn’t get my tape!
The second year of our course was mainly television. I loved doing the newscasts! However, dragging heavy video equipment around to get stories was not my cup of tea, especially when it was very likely you could arrive at a venue with a completely dead battery pack! Editing videotape electronically was not my forté either…
In October of 1983, Kent got a job offer from a new radio station in St. John’s, Newfoundland: CKIX-FM…I was sure I couldn’t live without him, so I quit school and moved to the Rock (we were married less than a year later, and have two daughters together).
I’m grateful that I went to Loyalist College…it was the first time that I ever felt I “belonged” to a group…I was very much a loner in high school! I made many wonderful lifelong friends (including my future husband), and the skills I learned in our course came in handy later on in my writing/non-profit communcations careers. If it weren’t for Loyalist College, I would probably not be living in the Maritimes, my adopted home of the last 30+ years!
Have a wonderful reunion…wish I was there to see you all!