Radio Daze Flashbacks

Stand By Me - movie - boys on railroad tracks

By Judy Berman

As I head home for dinner, a song comes on the radio, and it transports me into the way-back machine.

Some tunes have that power. They bring to mind people and places that you miss.

When I hear Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” I recall the coming-of-age movie. It took me back to more innocent times: roller-skating car hops, drive-in movies, and time spent with my family and friends.

But I also remember driving thru Syracuse’s north side and cranking that tune up when it played on the radio. Workers, leaving the Crouse-Hinds plant, pass by and smile. One gives me a sign of approval.

What is there about certain tunes? Some are a flashback to my teen years. Others, to my days working in radio.

Just a few notes from “Use Ta Be My Girl,” and I smile. It’s 1978. I’m in the news booth at WOLF-AM radio. Across the hall, I see “Big John” Gabriel in the DJ’s studio.

“Oh My. Oh Gee. Oh Wow. O’Jays,” Big John intones in his inimitable baritone just as the song is about to begin.

Then, my thoughts bounce back to my bumpy beginnings at WOLF. (Story here) Folks like Ron Bee, my first news director who hired me, John Gabriel and Peter King were among those who helped me overcome the rough spots.

Ron Bee, my former news director at WOLF-AM radio

Ron Bee, my former news director at WOLF-AM radio

Whether it was technical advice or just a sympathetic ear, it was appreciated. Ron Bee helped me shape my writing and interview skills. On the flip side, I also learned a lot thru Peter King’s knowledge of music trivia when I worked with him at WOLF and later at WHEN-AM.

I’m soaking all this in. Later, these early lessons prove useful when I add music beds and sound to my radio news stories.

What will enhance the story? In my head, I hear their advice and I pay attention.

The music and the DJs’ banter were comfortable friends to have alongside, whether it was on a long ride home alone at night or a raucous wake-up call on my radio from Rick and Ron in the morning.

That wild and crazy irreverent duo made me giggle as they urged their listeners to get their “crack out of the sack.”

What a great way to begin the day.

John Travolta dancing - Saturday Night Fever

Then, the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” comes on, and it has me dancing.

It’s not rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s all music and memories to me.

A year ago, I wrote about Ron Bee who gave me my first job in radio at WOLF-AM in Syracuse, New York. Sad news. He passed away March 18, 2015. Ron was a wonderful mentor, and he is missed.

What song brings back memories for you?


Main Photo: “Stand By Me” – movie – boys on railroad tracks

Photo: Ron Bee – on air – The news director at WOLF-AM in Syracuse, New York, who first hired me.

Photo:  Photo: John Travolta (as Tony Manero) dancing with Karen Gorney (Stephanie) in “Saturday Night Fever”

Music Video: Ben E. King – “Stand By Me” – (1961) This song is featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film, “Stand By Me”

Music Video: The O’Jays singing “Use Ta Be My Girl” (1978)

Music Video: Bee Gees – “Night Fever” (1977)


Gators Are Just Misunderstood

alligator - ready to cross path in the Everglades - 2005

By Judy Berman

When our daughter, Danielle, went to Florida State University, I worried about gators.

No, not those Gators – FSU’s main rival, the University of Florida. But, alligators.

OK, I worried about many things with her being hundreds of miles away from home. But, gators were high on that list of concerns.

Danielle just joked that the landlord used the gators for speed bumps in their Tallahassee apartment complex’s parking lot.

Truth be told. She and her husband never saw an alligator UNTIL we moved to Florida. Then, those reptiles seemed to be everywhere.

alligator - knocks at door - Island Packet - 2006

I should have known when I spotted a photo of a gator ringing a doorbell at a home in Hilton Head, South Carolina, that they were quite intrusive.

This poor chap’s excuse, apparently, was that he was drawn to their home by the smell of teriyaki chicken that the homeowners were grilling on their back porch.

The homeowners wisely moved inside once they spotted the gator in a nearby lagoon.

So what brings these creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago to our neck of the woods?

alligator - marshmallow

“Oh,” they drawl with that big toothy grin, “the swimming hole is just fine, there’s plenty of wildlife to share a meal with, and we’d love to be invited in to chat with your guests and cats.”

Uh, no.

An adult alligator is about 13 feet long and weighs up to 800 pounds. The largest ever recorded was found in Louisiana and measured 19 feet, 2 inches, according to Animal Corner.

Dave and I can’t seem to get away from them. We went to the Everglades, and, of course, the gators were there – in abundance.

One came out of the pond and crossed a path that we had naively walked around just a few hours earlier.

Then, a tourist stepped off the platform we were on to get a closer – too close for my comfort – photo of the alligator.

I was camera-ready for the money-shot. The gator just nonchalantly walked on by.

alligator - Myakka Golf Course - Englewood, Florida

Just imagine that alligator acting like a boss on the golf course.

Not sure if golfers at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood decided to run in a straight line or to zigzag to avoid a confrontation with that huge beast. Either way works, or so they say.

I’d be on the first golf cart out of there. And, the song I’d be singing on my way to the 19th hole: “See ya’ later, alligator … ”


What wildlife is intriguing or too close for comfort in your neck of the woods? 


Music Video: Bill Haley sings “See You Later, Alligator” – that’s the tune I’ll be singing when I see one.  


Main Photo: Alligator ready to cross a path in the Everglades where a tourist is standing about 20 feet away and taking photos. Too close for comfort. Photo: Judy Berman, 2005

Photo: Alligator rings doorbell at home in Hilton Head, South Carolina –Taken by Richard Holinski/Special to the Island Packet – 2006

Photo: Alligator with marshmallow in its mouth.

Photo: Alligator on Golf Course – Photographed at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Florida –

Alligator facts – Animal Corner –

Link to ‘Living Among Alligators’ – provides an alligator safety guide – tips on how to avoid an attack by an alligator.

Just Watch Me

Kaitlyn's Enchanted Wardrobe 001 - Copy

By Judy Berman

How do you see yourself? From childhood on, that image changes.

We might be transformed by the role-playing and clothes we wear, from frilly, princess frocks and tiaras to the ones we take on as adults.

When our granddaughter was 4, I wrote a story, “Kaitlyn’s Enchanted Wardrobe,” about her using photos from her party. The one that most caught my eye was of Kaitlyn standing in front of a mirror and her mother directly behind her.

What was Kaitlyn thinking as she wore that dress? I’d love to go back to that place and time in my own childhood. But, for me, it was probably some version of cowboys and Indians – I adored the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

In the story, Kaitlyn made a wish as she blew out the candles on her cake: “Oh, to meet a real princess.”

Kaitlyn's Enchanted Wardrobe 012 - Copy

Her Mom, just smiled knowingly and said, “Any time you want to see a real princess, all you have to do is go to the looking glass.”

And, so Kaitlyn did.

In real life, it’s more of a challenge to see our potential when we do look in the mirror. Especially when other’s don’t share our view.

I tell my students to never let anyone tell them they can’t achieve their dream. Then, I tell them about a high school English teacher I had who nearly crushed mine.

When I asked if she’d give me a recommendation to college, she gave me an enthusiastic “yes.” But after I was turned down by three colleges, my Mom called the colleges and asked why.

It wasn’t my grades – which were not stellar. It was my high school English teacher’s “recommendation.” She’d written that I “didn’t have the stick-to-itiveness to make it through college.”

For some, that would have crushed their dreams. I told them, “My response is just watch me.”

One of my students asked: “What did you want to be?”

Well, I confessed, “in the long run, the teacher did me a favor.”

I had wanted to go to nursing school because Mom thought that was a good fit for me given how I’d cared for her and others when they were ill. Also, a few of my friends were already in or about to enter a nursing school.

Kaitlyn's Enchanted Wardrobe - Copy

I found, however, that I really loved to write and began taking classes in college that led to a career in radio and newspaper reporting. Later, I became an English teacher.

It took me 10 years – part time as I couldn’t afford to go to college full time – to get my associate’s degree at Onondaga Community College. Later, I got a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and a master’s degree from University of Central Florida.

I’d loved to have bumped into that teacher and said: “How’s that for stick-to-itiveness?”

If you want an education, nothing can stop you. The same goes for pursuing your goals.

Never give up on your dreams.


Did you have a time when you were discouraged? How did you turn things around?


Photos from: Kaitlyn’s Enchanted Wardrobe – a story I wrote for our granddaughter when she was 4 years old. The photos are from her birthday party.

The Gift O’ Blarney

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Dublin - 2007 -_Lord_Mayors_State_Coach

By Judy Berman

Tiny droplets cling to a blade of grass on a gorgeous spring morning. The timing is perfect.

As a teen, I would rush out and grab the dew from our lawn and spread it over the freckles on my face.

Mom told me this is the way to get rid of freckles.

Dew on green plant

Flash forward. There was no scientific merit to that Irish superstition.

I had better luck searching through our lawn for four-leaf clovers.

This is just part of the Irish folklore I grew up with. My Mom and my Dad are both part-Irish. Her ancestors hail from the south, my Dad’s from the north.

It was one of many contradictions in my DNA.

Some years on St. Paddy’s Days, I wore green. Some I wore orange (to represent Northern Ireland). Others, I wore a black armband to mourn the troubles in Ireland that have created a huge rift that is yet to be healed in this beautiful country.

But Ireland’s stronghold on my imagination and heritage drew me to it years ago.  We made the trek to Blarney. There, we kissed the stone to acquire the gift of eloquence. (story is here)

A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.

A woman leans backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone.

One well-known for the gift of gab is a leprechaun. But a chance encounter could be risky.

How do you avoid a mischievous leprechaun? Mom said you should go out a different door than you entered because a leprechaun might be lying in wait for you to pull a trick on you.

Some websites on Irish lore disagree. Their theory is to enter and leave by the same door.

But Mom’s made sense.

Dad, an electronics engineer, might have raised a skeptical eyebrow at some of these stories. He had a very logical mind. Think: Mr. Spock, with a wonderfully warped sense of humor.

Still, Dad went along with the gag

These superstitions, folklore and traditions also became part of the fabric of my family’s life when our daughters were growing up.

Green mashed potatoes? Yep, we did that. I also tried green dye in the milk. Our girls loved it.

But corned beef and cabbage? Never. Our staple was ham and cabbage. Or, mustard-roasted chicken with spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Irish dinner - Mustard Roasted Chicken and Spring Cabbage - 3-16-14

Check the crowds at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. You might see me waving at you across the way.

Before I leave, I’d like to share an Irish blessing: “May the best day of your life be the worst day of your future.”

 “Erin go Bragh” … Long live Ireland.


What traditions, folklore or superstitions were part of your growing up years?



Photo: St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Dublin – Lord Mayor’s State Coach – taken March 17, 2007 by William Murphy

Photo: Dew on green plant – Taken: August 2003. Author: Luke Elstad.

Photo: Blarney Stone – woman kissing the Blarney Stone (Blarney   Castle, Ireland) – August 2002

Photo: An Irish meal we made to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: mustard-roasted chicken, spring cabbage, carrots and potatoes. 

Gentle Sea Cows Rescued

manatee - Malcolm Dennemark - 2-23-15

By Judy Berman

Manatees and hurricanes were among my first exposure to Florida.

This week, the plight of 19 manatees riveted the nation’s eyes on Satellite Beach, as rescuers tried to get them out of a storm drain they had retreated to in search of warm water.

As I watched the news, I thought back to my first encounter with the gentle sea cows.

It was 1999, and we’d moved to Florida just a few months before Hurricane Floyd was threatening to barrel down our way.

Unaware of how much of a problem the hurricane would pose, I decide to spend my day off at Palm Bay’s Turkey Creek Sanctuary.

I was alone in the then 107-acre sanctuary. No radio. No phone. I just wanted to get away from it all.

For 1 ½ hours, I sat on a bench in a covered bridge scanning the water for just one thing. Then, I saw the form of a golden-brown manatee just beneath the surface of the coffee-colored creek.

Once before, on a visit here with my husband, we heard what sounded like a whoosh through the mammal’s blow hole. It was coming from the creek below us where there was algae and leaves.

This time, it just glided by. Such a calming creature. It’s affectionately referred to as the “gentle sea cow.” The adults are 10 to 12 feet long, and weigh between 1,500 to 1,800 pounds.

So, when I heard that the manatees were in danger this week, I anxiously watched the news. There were 19 of them trapped in a storm drain. They’d gone into that spot in Satellite Beach in search of warm, fresh water.

manatee - rescue effort - Malcolm Dennemark - 2-23-15

When the temperatures dip below 50, Floridians crab about the bone-chilling cold. But it’s far more serious for the manatees.

If it stays cold too long, that poses a serious health threat to the manatees. Water temperatures in the lagoon were pegged as low as 56 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Manatees can’t tolerate water less than 68 degrees for a prolonged period of time,” according to a report in Florida Today, a Gannett publication, based in Melbourne, Florida.

Usually, the manatees hang out near warm water from power plants.

This time, they crowded into a storm drain. Their plight drew national media attention.

What seemed ominous at first had a happy ending.

It took a village – literally – to rescue all 19 manatees, thanks to the efforts of workers from Satellite Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld, police and fire crews.

The next time it’s cold, manatees will have to look elsewhere for warmth. That storm drain now has a new grate covering the opening to keep manatees from scooting in there for refuge from the cold.


Have you ever seen a manatee in real life? What wildlife have you seen up close and personal?

Video: Rescue workers trying to free 19 manatees stuck in a storm drain in Satellite Beach, Florida – Florida Today –


Photo: Rescuers free 19 manatees from a storm drain in Satellite Beach. Photo by Malcolm Denemark of “Florida Today,” a Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne, Florida.

Photo: SeaWorld, FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission), and animal experts work with police, fire and public works in Satellite Beach to free the manatees. Photo by Malcolm Denemark of Florida Today.

Link: Florida Manatees – Basic Facts –


Mirage - Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck

By Judy Berman

What if everything you thought was true turned out to be a lie?

You didn’t know who to turn to or who to trust. Some times, life feels like that. But we emerge from the shadows and are warmed by the light and reality.

That is not what David Stillwell (Gregory Peck) finds when he is confronted by a past he wants to forget in the 1965 film noir “Mirage.”

After a power outage in a skyscraper, Stillwell winds his way down 27 flights of stairs. He’s joined by a woman, Shela (Diane Baker). They are unable to see one another, but she says she knows him.

Stillwell has no idea who she is.

At street level, Shela realizes it is Stillwell. She is angry with him for deceiving her and runs off. He chases after her down four flights of sub-basement stairs. But she’s gone.

Back on the street, he learns that a man had jumped or was pushed out the window to his death.

That man, Charles Calvin, was the head of Unidyne, a humanitarian organization that works for world peace. His name means nothing to Stillwell, and he moves on.

Mirage - movie poster

When Stillwell returns to the building he works in, he heads down the stairs in search of the sub-basement levels.

There are none.

Perplexed, he returns to his apartment. A man (Jack Weston) riding with him in the elevator orders Stillwell at gunpoint to let him in his apartment. Weston tells Stillwell that “the Major wants to see you.”

Another name that means nothing to Stillwell. He manages to get the upper hand on Weston and gets rid of him. Then, he begins his search to discover why he has no recollection of events over the past two years.

At the same time, he has flashbacks to a time, place and people he can’t remember.

A visit to a psychiatrist was frustrating. The shrink does not buy that Stillwell is a “cost accountant” as Stillwell says or that he has had amnesia for the past two years. He tells Stillwell that “unconscious amnesia” lasts – at most – two days.

Stillwell hires a detective, Ted Caselle, (Walter Matthau) to find out who “David Stillwell” is and why someone is trying to kill him. Caselle confesses that this is his first case.

Nothing adds up. They go to Stillwell’s office – down the hall from where Charles Calvin’s office was – only to find it doesn’t exist.

When the detective asks Stillwell what he did as a “cost accountant,” Stillwell doesn’t know. Caselle also can’t see Stillwell in that line of work but he believes Stillwell’s story.

The convincer? He spotted a man (George Kennedy) following them. He turns out to be one of the menacing men who is trying to kill Stillwell.

Mirage - Gregory Peck in tunnel

“I’m kind of curious about Charles Calvin and why he went thru that window.”

Stillwell is puzzled why as he didn’t know Calvin.

“Your nightmare began at almost the exact moment his ended,” Caselle says.

Everything leads to a dead end … as do some of the people closest to Stillwell.

Bit by nightmarish bit, Stillwell discovers who Shela is and what role she played in his life. Each flashback fills in more of the memory gaps, Stillwell realizes who he really was and what he is trying to forget.


This film noir, psychological drama is one of my favorites. Please share one of yours in the comments below.


Music Video: Film Noir and Jazz – Nicholas Payton’s cover of “Chinatown” set to classic film noir images.  

Photo: Mirage – movie poster

Photo: Mirage – Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck –

Photo: Mirage – Gregory Peck in tunnel

What Would You Do?

Homeless man with dog in the cold - Copy

By Judy Berman

Public shaming seems to be in vogue, and the homeless are being used to make the point.

In one story making the rounds on social media, an unshaven man in a raggedy coat enters a church. He definitely stands out among the well-dressed folks who gather for worship.

Those who bother to look his way, shun him. Then they turn their attention to a speaker at the lectern who announces that their new pastor is at this service. The speaker invites the pastor to come up and introduce himself.

People gasp when the unshaven man stands and walks down the aisle. He chastises the congreation for not living their faith when they saw someone who appeared to be homeless.

They, of course, are remorseful for their behavior.

I thought of this when I read two other bloggers’ stories about how folks respond when someone falls in a public place.

Jim McKeever’s blog, Irish Investigations, focuses on a video by Modern Pranksers. In it, there are two men on crutches – one well-dressed and the other one appearing to look homeless.

When the well-dressed man falls, people rush to assist him. Not so with the “homeless” man. The only one who helps him is another homeless man. The story is here.

Such pranks, that are played for entertainment on YouTube and on TV shows, “may reinforce people’s aversion to helping someone who looks ‘homeless’ or different in any respect,” Jim says.

I agree. There are better ways to increase awareness about helping others.

Homeless - U. S. Army soldiers - Stand Down for Homelessness

Diana Schwenk’s experience was different. On her blog, Talk to Diana, she wrote about the time that she was the one who fell in the street and no one came to help her. She was confounded and surprised. Her story is here.

“I imagine most homeless folks have felt this way at one time or another,” Diana says. “This is what it must be like to feel invisible.”

Homeless man on Mission St

There have been a few times when I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone to help a stranger. One of them was many years ago, when I first moved to Syracuse, New York.

It was evening. As I strolled along James Street toward State Street, I saw a man fall. His crutches lay next to him.

My first thought was that he had just come from the bar that I had passed.

As I drew closer, I suspected that he was in no condition to cross that heavily traveled four-lane intersection.

So, I helped him up. He staggered as we walked across the street. I supported him as he climbed the steep steps to the entrance of his apartment building. He thanked me, and we parted ways.

I never saw him again, but I think about him often and hope that he’s doing well.

Such acts might be considered foolhardy, given the existence of monsters like Ted Bundy who preyed on kind-hearted women. The serial murderer lured them to help him by feigning an injury.

Looking back, I realize things could have turned out differently.

Still, I’m glad I came to his rescue then.

Would I do the same today? I don’t know.

But, if I do, I want my actions to be driven by a desire to do the right thing and not because I’d be concerned someone might be watching and taping the encounter for a prank video.


Do these types of videos and actions help or hurt the homeless?


Music Video: Angel in Disguise – Songs for the Homeless – The people in this video reveal that homelessness can happen to anyone. There are plenty of worthwhile agencies where you can help.   

Thanks to my angel in disguise, my husband, for taking part in delivering food to homeless shelters and helping at a food kitchen for the homeless. Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.

Link: Jim McKeever’s blog “Irish Investigations” – “Hidden Camera Test of Kindness: Good Idea, but Unfair Prank”

Link: Diana Schwenk’s blog “Talk to Diana” – “What it Must Feel Like to be Invisible”

Photo: Homeless man and dog in the cold

Photo: Homeless – James Brown, a student nurse at Jacksonville University School of Nursing, takes a homeless veteran’s blood pressure during the annual Stand Down for Homelessness in Savannah. Sept. 15, 2009. Source: U.S. Army

Photo: Homeless man on Mission Street, San Francisco, California Taken Dec. 27, 2009. Source: Franco Folini