Voice of DemocracySeptember 25th, 2012 at 8:24 pm by Bob Grip under FOX10 News, Uncategorized
We get a lot of e-mails addressed to our newsroom, but one in particular caught my eye and tugged at my heart.
It was from the VFW in northwest Florida, looking for some publicity about its “Voice of Democracy” and ‘The Patriot’s Pen” essay programs.
I can honestly say if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of my parents and some kind words from some folks at a local radio station, I might have done something completely different with my life.
My dad was a World War II veteran who served in the 94th Division and was a member of VFW Post 511 in my hometown. When he heard his Post was sponsoring its “Voice of Democracy” oratory contest for high school students, he encouraged me to enter, so I did.
Part of the competition involved the contestants making a professional recording of our speeches on an afternoon after school. For that, all of us visited a small radio station on the edge of town. In my case it was WRYM 840AM. It was in a tiny brick building set in a swamp. I remember going down into the basement, sitting in a soundproof booth and watching as an engineer gave me a cue to start talking. I recorded my short speech in one take as I remember, and when I came out, the engineer asked me if I had ever considered a career in radio. At that age, I hadn’t considered a career in anything, but it sounded like fun. He gave us a quick tour of the studios and I was fascinated by the AP Teletype machine, a kind of automated typewriter that banged out the news, letter by letter. As we were watching, bells started ringing from the machine, and I watched as it printed the news that a long retired baseball player had just died. I was watching news as it happened. I was hooked!
Recording the speeches allowed them to be judged on their merit, and while I didn’t win, let’s say I finished in the top 3, enough to receive a Savings Bond and a certificate presented by Senator Thomas Dodd (the father of former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd), who autographed the certificate for me. I remember him laughing at how much I was smiling on the way to the front of the auditorium.
Seeing that e-mail today brought back many pleasant memories of my first, big break, thanks to the VFW.