I thought I was somehow taken back in time this morning when my alarm went off at 7:30 and blaring out of the radio was Terry McNulty doing the “Pineapple Feature.” Rich Connor was taking a piece of pineapple out of the can and passing it on to the next person while Angel Kulik, the new girl at the WARM building, kept everyone in line. All the while, Terry, kept pace with who was coming and going, reminding the participants to only take one piece and to keep in step with the music.
This delicate ballet of make believe was a staple of “The Big Fella’s Radio Program” on The Mighty 590, WARM, in Scranton PA. Every day, Terry would walk into the studio and entertain us with the make believe passing of the pineapple, where sponsors, listeners and local well-to-do’s had their names dropped during three minutes of good, clean fun. Listeners who tuned in often thought this ritual was really taking place and Terry really did have 30 or so people packed into the tiny control room dropping chunks of pineapple on the floor and dribbling pineapple juice on their shoes.
Alas, I wasn’t transported into another dimension of space and time, it was WILK‘s Kevin Lynn and Joe Thomas playing homage to “Wonderful W-A-R-M” which slipped into the history books yesterday when the station’s owners, Citadel Communications, pulled the plug on this heritage AM station so many of us grew up listening to.
Besides the legendary Terry McNulty, I remember tuning in each morning to the Harry West Show where school closings were still read on the air when it snowed, and Emerson “the maintenance man” made frequent visits into the studio to talk with “Larry.” (Now the only time I get to hear Emerson, is when I go through security at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and see the man behind the voice, Stan Nishel, working as a TSA agent.) After Harry West, I’d stay tuned to Norm Hill who had the best “pipes” in the business and wrapped up the day tuning into the Ron Allen Sportsline.
WARM was ahead of its time. It brought Top 40 to northeast Pennsylvania, introduced us to the Sensational Seven jocks who woke us up and rocked us to sleep, and gained national recognition for consistently hanging on to the number one slot for decades. Other radio stations existed, but none of them mattered, because we all listened to WARM.
When that alarm went off this morning and Bud Brown broke the news that WARM went silent, I felt like I lost a friend, even tho I haven’t listened to the station for at least 15 or 20 years. And apparently nobody else did either.
When FM was introduced, the spotlight was taken away from WARM as listeners moved to the new sound of stereo. No more crackling during thunderstorms, no more fading in and out when you’re driving around town, the bell was tolling for AM. The highly polished and well respected WARM started losing is luster as the station was sold multiple times through the years ending up in the hands of Citadel Communications. The suits there felt that AM wasn’t worth investing in and the transmitter site fell into disrepair. The station became almost un-listenable at times because of the poor signal and audio quality due to years of neglect.
Then on April 15, 2009, the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, WARM slipped beneath the waves taking with it decades of memories and volumes of history. Over the years we mourned the loss of Terry, Ron and so many of the jocks who beckoned for caller number 9, or rang our telephone asking for the amount in the Cash Call Jackpot. Today we mourn the loss of the vehicle that brought them into our homes and got us a check for five-dollars and ninety-cents when we called in the newstip of the week.
WARM may be gone, but the memories will last a lifetime. After all, “it’s only WARM for me.”
P.S. For those of you who want to be taken back in time, listen to the original Ballad of WARMLand