Bob Venn, Station Manager at WGBS, hired me to do teenage radio programs.
There was no pay for each Saturday's "hail, hail, the gang's all here" shows which filled the radio studio, atop the Mayfair Theatre on Biscayne Boulevard at 16th St. (if there had been a street). Today the same area plays home base to Miami International University of Art and Design.
I had a low voice with still a touch of Ardsley, N.Y. in my accent, and radio loved deep sonorous sounds. Venn had heard my voice when one of his announcers played host to the 4H Club. Other gals had squeaky, high pitched voices, so men got announcing roles because of their huskiness.
After doing free Saturday 10 a.m. shows for a few years, we got a sponsor, Burdine's. With a sponsor, we got the munificent sum of $10 a show. Marty Leibling became Jack Dines and I was Joan Bur. When Burdine's got the overpass and added another floor, they built an auditorium and Saturday's action took over their top floor. (I wore saddle oxfords long after high school. Funny, how conscious we were of our ages as teens.)
When Bob Venn started WTVJ at Wometco headquarters, 300 N. Miami Ave., he started rounding up talent. Bob called me into his office and asked how I would like to become women's editor at the first television station in Miami? This time I didn't play his freebie game.
I asked, "How much is the pay?" He told me there was no money but I had my whole life ahead of me and look how famous I would become. When I graduated from high school, I had to start paying $10 a week to our family "treasurer" -- my mom, Lilly Nielsen. In those days everyone contributed to the family "pot" because times were poor. (No time out for a violin solo...)
I never have regretted that Jackie Pierce got the job instead of me. She would meet John Behney that way and they wed-locked their life. She had her own show. It never occurred to me to give myself a swift kick.
As God would have it, I worked as a counselor at Camp Carlyle in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the summer after my freshman year at University of Miami. How lucky I was to get a Panhellenic scholarship. I could never have raised enough dinero to register otherwise.
I had been at the camp for three weeks when I started feeling sick. I don't remember being taken by a hearse (the ambulance was tied up) to Asheville Orthopedic Hospital. A week later, a headline appeared in the late (blue streak edition) Miami Daily News which said "Miami girl critical in N.C.". That's how my parents found out I had been in a coma with a 105 degree fever for a week. They flew up and I don't remember them visiting me.
What I do remember is that I caught mumps and the hospital shooed me out to Saluda, N.C. hospital where I first saw my parents when my fever faded. After the mumps abated, we flew home, where I slowly recovered from polio. Taught myself to play a ukulele to get mobility in my arms again.
Now looking back it seems like high drama. But it was good every day to be me. I got a typing job at Pan Am's PR division, run by S. Roger Wolin and became a teenage disc jockey on WKAT radio, where I hosted the Radio Queen contest, sang "I'm In the Mood for Love" as a contestant, met the Cat Mountain Four, who asked me to join their tour through the southern states sponsored by International Harvester (Farmall) and we played every town and hamlet that had a farm machinery distributor. Got $25 a show so I made money that year. I roomed with the producer's wife, also a singer. That's enough for now...