Sunday, August 2, 2009

More on the "Transmitter Tombstone"

I am delighted to have been asked by Dave Schmidt to contribute to this blog. Kudos to all of the folks assisting, especially Bud Stacey. The story by David B. Treadway about the tombstone at the KAAY transmitter site is a good one. Here's another take about an "encounter" with a KAAY disc jockey, Tommy Riggs (aka "Rock Robbins on the air) and the grave there. This story was told during one of my interviews with Dale Seidenschwarz ("Clyde Clifford"), when I was gathering material for my Ph.D. dissertation on "Beaker Street." The name on the tombstone and the dates/ages are different, so I'm unclear as to which story is accurate. Nevertheless, here is Dale's version of a KAAY disc jockey and the dead:

Seidenschwarz: It looks ominous as hell, ugh, ugh, did Pat (Walsh) tell you, or Felix (Macdonald) tell you anything about the fact that, it’s ugh, the whole thing, the whole emplacement there, all three towers, are over an old cemetery?

Robinson: No.

Seidenschwarz: There’s an old black cemetery there. And the graves were moved, all except one, which is out on the, at the base of the west tower. There is a headstone out there, “Glaspy P. Williams,” who ugh, died around 1945 or so, and I think little Glaspy was maybe, 12, and, ugh, his headstone is still out there. Apparently nobody obtained, apparently they couldn’t permission to move it from anybody, and ugh, it’s still there. Ugh, another thing was, if you know anything about, ugh, Tommy Riggs (who used the airname “Rock Robbins” when he worked for KAAY), he was about 350 pounds or so…he was a big boy.

Robinson: Huge. I used to see him perform at Cajun’s (Whart Restaurant) all the time…

Seidenschwarz: Yeah, he was a big boy. He came out one night, when he was, ugh, ah, a little lubricated, after he had gotten off the air. He and several other buddies, and they were all several sheets to the wind, and he had come out to commune with the radio gods, and so he walked out to the base of the west tower. And, he was just gonna sit out there and “groove” for awhile. And, it just so happened that there was a thunderstorm in the area, it was just kinda moving up from the southwest. And, it was during the summer, and during the summer, ugh, you know, we had big ball gaps on the base of the towers, and they were good sized ones, you know, I mean, there were about three inch brass balls at the base of the towers, and, gnats would gather around these damn things, for some reason. We, we never figured out, apparently, maybe there was enough RF there, between those capacitants, between those balls, or something, that is was warm, or, I, I don’t know what it was, but there’d be a big ball of gnats, around, the ugh, around the base of the tower, and, if you got a good flash of lightning in the distance, since the end towers were carrying twelve and a half kilowatts, and the center tower was carrying twenty five kilowatts, the ball gaps, ugh, the ball gap in the center was much wider than the, the ones on the end. The ones on the end would flash over first. So, if you had a good flash of lightning, you could introduce a pretty good current in those towers, 500 feet of towers, and they would “arc over.” And occasionally, the arc would “hang,” because you’d have all those damn gnats in the gap, and they would vaporize, and you’d have ugh, you know, nice little plasma going there and the arc would hang, and it would talk to you.

Robinson: Oh, wow.

Seidenschwarz: You know, you’d be out there, and it would be expanding and contracting at an audio rate, and, it would talk to you. Okay, so Riggs is out there, communing with the radio gods, there is this bright flash of lightning, he happened to be sitting so he’s facing where Glaspy’s headstone is. Glaspy’s headstone is kind of a, you know, a little grayish, but it’s got, ugh, aviation orange on it, on the headstone. And it starts talking to him! (laughing). It was about 450 feet out to the base of the tower, he made it back in about ten seconds flat, I, I’m amazed the boy didn’t die of heart failure right then. I mean he came back in and (talking hurriedly)…”He talked to me, he talked to me” and they were gone within about five minutes!

Richard C. Robinson, Martin, Tennessee

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