Henry was a 1973 Ford Galaxie 500 that my wife’s father bought her not too long after we were married, and he prided himself on finding a bargain. Henry was a bright yellow—a lemon yellow. If there ever was a more undependable set of wheels, I pity the fool who got stuck with it. Murphy himself must have owned Henry at one time, for if anything could go wrong with that car, it would—at the worst possible moment. He was notorious for refusing to start, no matter how many new batteries had been installed. A parade of mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but I think he was possessed.
Moron that I was, I drove Henry up to the recently-vacated KAAY studios one chilly evening in October of ’76 to do my show from Funmobile Number One on behalf of the Little Rock Jaycees Haunted House.
We had moved to the new facility at 2400 Cottondale Lane only days before and the Jaycees set about turning the old place into their annual Haunted House. They installed ramps and mazes and dead ends throughout the place and painted every exposed surface flat black. There were tattered curtains, cobwebs, fake coffins and skeletons everywhere. If memory serves, their main Torture Chamber was in the old control room. They spared no effort and apparently no expense, because they even installed a phone and an alarm system in the building.
I spent the evening merrily broadcasting, watching the throngs come and go until the Jaycees shut down for the night at 10:00. I had another hour to go, so I set myself on cruise control and enjoyed the relative peace and quiet. Little did I suspect.
11:00 rolled around and Beaker Street took over from the transmitter site in Wrightsville. I stowed the gear and locked the Funmobile. Time to drive home and kick back with a cold beer, right? Wrong! Henry wouldn’t start. Wouldn’t even turn over. The lights would come on, the radio would play, but his cursed engine wouldn’t lift a finger—except maybe the middle one. I was stranded miles from the studio (there wouldn’t have been anyone there anyway) and even more miles from home. In those days, there was no whipping out the ol’ cell phone to call for backup. Throughout the State Capitol neighborhood, not a creature was stirring, not even a low ride. I was alone in the middle of the night!
Desperation being the real mother of invention, I tried my key in the back door of the old building and—BEHOLD—it worked! All that remained was to find the phone and call Mrs T to come get me. Of course, it would have helped if I could have found the main power switch to get some lights on, but that was NFTH (not fixing to happen).
My first thought was to get up front and disarm the alarm system (couldn’t have the cops showing up and possibly giving me a ride home, oh nooooo) in THE DARK. Not just any dark, mind you. Complete, utter and total dark. Dark as the inside of a coal miner’s pocket at midnight. But what the heck. I knew that old building like the back of my hand (which I couldn’t see in the dark, but I digress) and all I had to do was feel my way along until I got to the lobby. Then I’d punch in the alarm code and find the phone. What could be simpler?
Imagine my surprise when I walked smack into a wall where the hall used to be! I turned ninety degrees and ran into another wall. There was just enough fuel in my trusty cigarette lighter to show me the opening I needed, so I made my way up front, barking my shins, stumbling over Lord-knows-what, getting tangled in cobwebs and turning the air purple with the most heartfelt of curses. Finally, I was at the alarm box and was able to disarm it, assisted by the very last flickers of my lighter.
I knew where the phone was—in the back of the building, of course—and I had a pretty good idea of the way back. When I finally made it to the phone, my lighter was dead. All it would do was throw sparks. Fortunately, there were enough of them so that I could phone home by a poor sort of strobe light and my long-suffering wife could come to my rescue. (Yes, we had a second car and it was reliable.)
It was maybe a week later when demolition began on that wonderful old building. At the time, I was not the least bit sorry to see it go. But now I’d give a thousand dollars to have it back the way it was when it was the home of The Mighty 1090.
David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
EPILOGUE: I’m sure the spirits (of which there were at least two) who haunted that building had a big ol’ time watching me struggle in the dark. You’d think they could have at least given me a hand…