Friday, October 27, 2006

Flint's WTAC Radio station and Max Henderson

 (Note: "Unlike Palin's book. We have no ghost writers. And this book wasn't written in a two month period. Everything written is true." - Bill Dakota)



Available at Amazon, Barnes &Noble and many other Internet book sites

Retailers may order at INGRAM Book Distributors
ISBN  978-0-615-37758-2

 (The manuscript chapter follows below. The book has photos and complete autopsy reports).

One day my Aunt Esta was listening to the radio, to the Max Henderson show. It was on WTAC radio, which was only two blocks away from where we lived. She said I could go to the radio station and watch it while it was being broadcast. But, by the time I got there the program had ended. So the next day I got there earlier. I arrived and was invited to sit down with a group of people who had also gone to watch the airing. Max was around thirty years old and had two other guys playing as he sang. Russ Waters played the electric steel guitar and Don Faulkner was playing the accordion. I had seen Don at grade school when he played the accordion for the "singing policeman," Lieutenant Lagree, who would sing safety songs like:

The boy stood on the railroad track,
and did not hear the bell.
I'd like to tell you the rest of the tale,
but it's too sad to tell.

So, ....stay away from the railroad tracks,
it isn't the place to play.
The trains go fast, when they go past,
and you might be in the way.
Toot toot."

In the third grade we had to sing these songs along with the Lieutenant who was part of a safety school program, while "Tiny" Don (over 300 pounds) played the accordion. We used to hate it when they came to school.

WTAC was located on Saginaw Street, off Third next to the Adams Hotel, a barber shop and a coffee shop. The small entrance door was downstairs and you had to walk up to the second floor. There was a long hallway that had small sound-proof booths where the programs would be broadcast. There were two large rooms and a small one, in addition to the control room that could look into all three booths. Each one had large windows to see into the control booth, where records were played over the radio. I enjoyed watching "Smiling" Max Henderson shows, although everyone sitting in the audience had to be silent. We couldn't even cough or it would be heard over the radio. I went there to watch them air the programs before I left to go to the movies before it was too late for me to buy a ticket. After 5:00 they refused to sell tickets to minors or adolescents, or whatever I was. For a while it even took the place of movies. They all got to know me at the station and Max had me blow into a harmonica, into the microphone, and called me "squeaky." I would often go to the coffee shop next door with him. He would buy me a pop and then make preparations for his program, lining up the songs he would sing. He wrote a few songs and recorded one I remember called, "The Ricky Tick Song." On weekends I'd go to the station and sit in the booth with the radio announcers as they read the news stories from the teletype machine.

A talent show was started at the Palace theater and Max was the MC along with a station announcer. It would be broadcast live over the radio. It was every Friday night and the theatre always filled up. It brought in so much profit that they were able to remodel the theater. I used to go early and sit in the front row. The show would be around 8:00 and I would get there at 4:00. And sometimes taking a sandwich with me. Of course the regular movie would be showing and I would watch it twice. I would save two seats for the wive's of the station workers, and two seats for a couple of Max's fans. The fan club made me Max's mascot. I was about thirteen.

Max would often play at a dance hall located at Potter's Lake. It was a few miles outside of Flint and many people would picnic there. There were swings and a few rides for kids. I remember when a friend named Spike drowned there. He had a habit of teasing the lifeguards and pretended he was drowning. And they got tired of swimming out to him. But, like the boy who cried wolf too many times, he drowned. Nobody believed him. Max's fan club would also meet there and they gave me some sort of special award, (a porcelain cowboy), because I was Max's mascot. I was embarrassed to walk up on the stage to receive it. After the Palace was remodeled, they discontinued the show. Max later had a television show in Detroit and would often take me with him.

One night, at the lake, I decided to play on the rides. I was bored sitting and watching people dance all night. It was dark but there were a few lights throughout the park And a young guy tried to talk me into going into a dark area with him. Ahem...I knew what he wanted and I didn't go. Looking back, I guess I could have been a victim after he got what he wanted. This was a real sex offender. I was too young for that type of thing.

I used to ride my bike out to Max's home, way out in the country. He had a daughter who was a little younger than me. The last time I saw him, he had a day job at Greenley's Furniture store on Dort highway. I don't know whether he still sang or not.

I later took guitar lessons from Russ Waters at the Honolulu Conservatory of Music. I wanted to learn straight guitar but grandpa, who was paying for the lessons, wanted me to learn the steel guitar. Russ said I was a fast learner and could become a professional. But, I never liked playing the steel. And when I got home, I had to show grandpa what I had learned. I was teaching him to play!

I over heard some guys saying that "queers hung out at the City Hall, in the restrooms. The City Hal was also two blocks away, which was across Third Street, from the radio station. So, I sneaked out and went to the City Hall to "see the queers." But, when I got there, I wondered what queers looked like? It was an old City Hall that resembled all the old City Halls that still survive in many cities. The one in Flint was razed many years ago, as was most of downtown Flint.

I tried to get photos of Max for this chapter, but I guess nobody has any. And when I tried to phone WTAC they weren't listed. Nothing stays the same. I wish Flint was like it was during the fifties. In my mind, it still is -smile!

( up with Pop music.