October is a month of significance for me.
I was born in October of 1952 and will soon turn 68.
And in October of 1975 — 45 years ago — I began my media career as a $3 an hour, part time sportscaster at local radio station CKCY.
I was hired in a rather unusual manner. That is, CKCY news and sports director Paul Leonard gave me the job over several glasses of draught beer at the Algoma Hotel, which was located beside Memorial Gardens, across from the radio station, in the Sault’s downtown.
If the expression “those were the days” can come into play, this might rate as a prime example.
I came to hear of the part time opening in the CKCY sports department from my Sault College journalism friend Joe Petrolo, who was already on board at the radio station as a weekend newscaster.
So, eager to get into the media business after having departed Sault College, I put in a phone call to the aforementioned Paul Leonard, inquiring about the part time sportscaster position at CKCY.
A job interview was quickly arranged in which I would meet Paul the next day at the radio station for a 2:00 p.m. appointment and do what he called a “voice test” — in which I was to read a few paragraphs of sports copy into a tape recorder.
Excited for the opportunity, I showed up at the radio station at 1:45 p.m. the next day, which was 15 minutes ahead of my scheduled appointment with Mr. Leonard.
After telling the receptionist, a very pleasant Judy Brescacin (now Judy Clement), that I was there for an appointment with Mr. Leonard, I took a seat in the lobby at CKCY, nervously awaiting my audition.
About 20 minutes passed when I heard Judy the receptionist on the phone, saying “yes he is here, I will tell him.” Then, with a smile on her face, Judy looked at me and said, “Randy, Mr. Leonard said he will meet you at the Algoma Hotel, across the street.”
Kind of taken aback, I thanked her and headed across the street to the Algoma, a dive bar which was known for its, um, rugged reputation.
Once inside, there at a corner table, I spotted Mr. Leonard, knowing who he was as a well known local media personality. Summoning up some courage from within, I managed a nervous smile and said: “Hi Mr. Leonard, I am Randy Russon.”
He immediately made me feel welcome, telling me to “have a seat” before asking, “would you like a beer?” I replied in the affirmative, eyeing the tray of draught beer on the table.
Thus, the Wednesday afternoon “job interview” extended from just after 2:00 p.m. to about 4:30 p.m. as Paul and I talked sports and drank one beer after the other, while I kept thinking to myself: “how am I going to do the voice test back at the radio station with all of these beers in me?”
Thankfully, it never came to that. Because, at about 4:30 p.m., Paul — my soon to be boss — looked at his watch and said: “Can you start work this Saturday doing the noon sports?”
Somewhat flabbergasted, I asked him if that meant I had the job. “Yes,” he replied, “you seem to know a lot about sports. And don’t worry about the voice test, you sound just fine.”
He then got up from the table, patted me on the shoulder, and told me that he would see me on Saturday at the radio station, prior to my noon debut as a CKCY sportscaster.
A few days later, on the Saturday in question, I arrived at the radio station, well in advance of the noon sports, nervous and anxious and waiting for a few words of advice and encouragement from Paul.
Except he never did show up.
So, armed with pages and pages of sports wire copy and a few local sports scores, I turned on the CKCY microphone at 12:10 p.m. on a Saturday and mumbled and stumbled my way through a 20 minute sportscast.
And so it began.
Forty five years later, I am still in the media business as both a writer and a broadcaster. There have been lumps and bumps and a few chumps along what has not always been a smooth road.
But it is a road that I am still on and a road that I am blessed by God and grateful to still be traveling.
And to think it all started 45 years ago over a tray of 25 cent draught beer at a honky tonk bar in the Sault’s downtown.