A group of men and women are waiting in line at a convenience store. A man with a radio voice strikes up a conversation and says he’s “definitely not in step with most of today’s society and proud of it.”
I wonder what the men and women in the line would think?
That man is Bob Bittner. I’ve never met him or seen him in a line at a convenience store. When I’m at home, we listen to his radio station, WJTO. He calls it the “Memory Station” and I have a lot of sweet and funny memories from listening to the music when I’m at home with my parents. We listen to it in the house and we listen to it when we’re sitting in our lawn chairs underneath the beautiful trees in our backyard. A rare tune will come on and my father might say “I haven’t heard that song in a long time. Do you remember, Helen, dancing to it at Island Park? Paul and Nancy drove up in that big Cadillac, and…”
I listen closely and then I excuse myself and run in the house to jot all these things down in my reporter’s notebook.
The past has a sound and sometimes, if I listen closely, I can hear it.
When I was walking around Five Islands in the dark on Saturday night, I heard it. I came around a bend and I could see porch lights about a hundred yards in from the road. There was nothing unusual or nostalgic about the porch, but out of the darkness between the house and me came the sound of the McGuire Sisters singing “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.”
I pulled out my Tic Tac phone and typed the song title in my digital reporter’s notebook. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
It reminded me of many things, but mostly that Bob Bittner is having his annual WJTO fundraiser. Once a year, he decides how much money he needs to run the station and he asks people to send donations. When he raises enough money, he ends the fundraiser until the next year. Running WJTO is a hobby for Bob; he doesn’t use any of the money for a salary. He raises just enough to run the station, pay for the FCC licensing, and the electricity. Bob doesn’t play commercials, so the fundraiser is what keeps WJTO running.
Every little bit helps to keep this beautiful and memorable music alive on terrestrial radio.
It’s sort of like buying a farm share. Bob calls it “listener-supported radio” and I’ve sent in a donation in the past two years because I like the sentimental memories I’ve collected from listening with my parents.
I don’t know Bob Bittner personally. I invited him to my brother’s Moxie book signing and even sent him a copy of the book. He wasn’t able to attend. I hope he didn’t think I was looking for some free advertising for my brother’s book. What Bob says about himself is that he’s “not at all influenced by the big corporate machines that are trying to control all of us.”
I’m no big corporate machine. Today, I’m going to give Bob some free advertising because I enjoy hearing WJTO streaming out of the pine darkness of the Old Schoolhouse Road on Five Islands. Then, when I’m done posting my blog, I’m going to send him a check. The crackly sounds of the station just started streaming into The Coop. It’s Andy Williams singing “Moon River.”
I hate to leave you but I really must say “Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight.”
If you’d like to make a donation to support the Memory Station, send your check to WJTO, P.O. Box 308, Bath, ME, 04530. Contributions made to WJTO are NOT tax-deductible.