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Prince Albert in a can

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Adam Hoover completed his newspaper reporter costume with a note pad and Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. He is shown interviewing his brother Jonny, a dead ringer for rock star Slash from Guns N’ Roses.
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Adam Hoover completed his newspaper reporter costume with a note pad and Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. He is shown interviewing his brother Jonny, a dead ringer for rock star Slash from Guns N’ Roses.

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Dear readers,

I turned 64 on Halloween last Thursday. Thanks to all of you who remembered my birthday.

A special thanks to Adam Hoover. Adam is a young boy in the neighborhood who took my costume advice and dressed up as a newspaper reporter. His mother Nella told me that his middle name is West. With the name Adam West, he usually turns into Batman on Halloween.

My other costume suggestions this year were Balser and “The Helbing.” There were a couple kids spotted dressed as Brent Balser, but I don’t think there were any takers on “The Helbing.”

In past years, the Schwinn team has hosted a public birthday shindig for me at our headquarters, The Bookmark Coffee Shop. This year I decided to just quietly turn 64 without a party. The Schwinn team will plan a big party for me next year when I turn 65.

Turning 64 isn’t all that big of a deal. It’s not like turning 16 and being able to drive a car or 21 and being allowed to drink champagne. I always thought as I got older I would get wiser. Maybe, along with Medicare, the wisdom will kick in at 65. I still don’t know the answers to any of those age old questions such as; how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? or if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear, does it make a sound?

Similar to the way ice cream goes with cake, reminiscing goes with birthdays. This birthday, for some unknown reason, jogged a memory involving former local radio station DJ Mark Gravely and Dale Kesterman. Dale passed away earlier this year. His sister, Teresa, thought it was a funny story, so I’ll share.

It happened approximately 20 years ago. Tom Hession was managing the local radio station and Gravely was the morning radio disc jockey. The studio was located on the Public Square on the second floor of what I will always refer to as Todd Bennett Store for Men. It is the northeast corner of the intersection of the Public Square and East Washington St., now a Tax Preparing business.

I had known Gravely for years and would drop by to visit early in the morning before going to work. He was on duty by himself. During the time the record was playing, we would talk and drink coffee. The only person that we knew had their radio on that early was local attorney, Mark McNeely. McNeely would call in almost every morning and request a song. It was always the same song, “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In those days it was popular for some of the big city disc jockeys to do phone pranks. We thought it would be just as funny to do phone pranks in a small town. We didn’t want to risk making anyone mad, so we decided to prearrange a phone prank. This is where Kesterman enters the story. Dale was the produce manager at Mickey’s T Mart. I knew he was there working at that early hour so I recruited him to play the part of unsuspecting victim of our phone prank. Dale was a good sport and so he signed on as a co-conspirator.

I think our first telephone prank was one of the classics. It relies on the fact that there is a brand of pipe tobacco named Prince Albert and it comes in a can. Of course Prince Albert is also the name of a man. Our first telephone prank was as follows:

Ring Ring, Good morning, this is Mickey’s T Mart, how can I help you?

Gravely: Do you have Prince Albert in a can?

Kesterman: Yes we do.

Gravely: Well, you better let him out!

The radio listener would then hear myself and Gravely laughing hysterically. I know it was a very juvenile thing to do, but back then we were both blessed with a juvenile sense of humor.

So what could go wrong, you might ask? A week or so later, we decided to do another phone prank, but we neglected to call Dale ahead of time. Since he was the produce manager, I think the stupid question was about the current crop of caramel corn. I can’t really remember because the prank failed.

Dale was really busy that morning and he didn’t realize it was us. He also didn’t think it was very funny. He hung up almost immediately. Unfortunately, he uttered what some would call “a few choice words” before the line went dead. I don’t remember the exact words but they were certainly words that are not allowed to be said on the radio.

It was the radio version of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl halftime show. Mark was certain that Hession would fire him and that the FCC would fine the station.

Proving that it is sometimes better to be lucky than smart, nothing happened. No one complained. We will never know why. But I suspect it was like the tree falling in the forest when no one is around.