Wednesday, July 28, 2010

College Radio Project - Posters

I've been searching through my own personal archives to see if I still have any interesting curios or artifacts from my college radio days. Stuffed away in a file labeled "Nostalgia," I found a few 8.5" X 11" posters that I had used to promote my radio show. I would typically give names to my radio shows in the tradition of John Peel's "The Perfumed Garden" and other underground radio shows of the past, and put up posters around campus to promote the show. One semester I named my show "666 Minutes" (a nod both to MTV's "120 Minutes" program and the Dark One), other names included "The Crypt Of Terror" and "The Tina Yothers Experience" (in tribute to the Family Ties actress).

I used to hang these up around the campus HUB building, and they would tend to get torn down fairly quickly. It seemed some at the college did not appreciate my way of promoting my radio program. Eventually a rule was passed that anything hung on the walls of the HUB had to first get a stamp of approval from the Director of Residence Life. I never sought the stamp of approval (as I doubt it would have been granted, and I didn't want some official stamp mucking up my posters). So my posters would get torn down even faster than before, and I would see how quickly I could put more up. It became like a game to me.

At one point during my Junior year I was called into a Dean's office to hear complaints from three of college's more socially conservative students about my posters. Someone who was not a fan of my work had kept a file of some of my more lurid promotional efforts. I must admit, the complaining students were actually very nice and extremely sincere in their criticisms. They let me know that they were concerned I was promoting suicide and possibly satanism with these posters. I remember one of them earnestly telling me she was very disturbed to see the number of the beast being used at her college. The Dean was careful to let me know that no one wanted to "censor" me, but that she did want me to hear how what I was doing was making some students feel.

I thanked the students for bringing their concerns to me, then told them in the nicest way I could that I thought they were sheltered and if they bothered to walk five blocks off campus they would see a hundred things more disturbing than my posters. I also told them that part of being an adult was learning to deal with viewpoints different from their own. I remember also telling the Dean that while I appreciated these students concerns, I did not believe they were a representative cross sample of students at the college and represented an extreme minority viewpoint. That was the last I heard about it.

My friend Mike who was then Station Manager (I was Music Director at the time) had been required to attend the meeting with me, though he let me do most of the talking. He told me afterward that he was amazed at my ability to keep my cool and advance rational arguments in my defense without backing down. Frankly, I was a little surprised by my ability to do this myself. I think before the meeting Mike considered me a bit of a goofball, but I earned his respect that day. He had been grooming someone else to become Station Manager when he stepped down because he didn't think I was "serious" enough to do the job. But when he did step down at the end of that semester he insisted that I take over the job.

For the most part, these yellowed-with-age posters look incredibly juvenile to me today. The "666 Minutes" one strikes me as particularly sophomoric, but then I was a sophomore in college when I created it, so I have an excuse. In retrospect, I must admit that I was just as sheltered as my more conservative classmates, albeit perhaps in a different way. Some of the students at my college came from extremely conservative, religious backgrounds and it was hard for me to see these posters through their eyes. It still is. But today I am better able to sympathize with those who see the world differently than me, and respect those who hold beliefs different from my own. I spoke the truth when I told my classmates that part of being an adult was "learning to deal with perspectives different from your own," but it was a lesson I had yet to fully absorb myself. I didn't appreciate having to meet with those students at the time, but in retrospect I consider it an important part of my education, and I think the Dean was quite wise to have called the meeting.

I'm looking to collect recollections and artifacts from others relating to college radio. If you have any artifacts, curios or stories relating to college radio you can send submissions to me at wpbilderback [at]


World of Julie said...

You know what I like? I like when your file marked "Nostalgia" proves to be nostalgic for me too. I remember The Tina Yothers Experience, but not the others -- I was too young for those, I think.

I have a few cassette tapes of the radio show I did with Ed Smith. Somewhere there's a tape of the show I did with Cate Mellen ("The Long-Haired Hippie Chicks Who Play Good Music Anyway").

Mark N. said...

Hi Pete, I dabbled in college radio for a brief period (never made it on the air, unfortunately. At my school's radio station, who you knew went a long way in determining who made it on the air). Anyway, I wrote a brief history of student radio at Michigan State (unpublished) and have a full archive of MSU college radio going back to the late '60s (through 1989).

Pete Bilderback said...


I suspect college radio would be quite different at a really large university. My school had around 3,000 students, so the barriers to entry were quite low. Let me know if you have anything you'd like to share here, what you have sounds interesting.


Yes, you are lucky to be too young to have experienced "666 Minutes" or "The Crypt Of Terror."

Mark N. said...

I'll see what I have (I don't know if there's anything too exciting) and if there's anything interesting, I'll send some scans your way. (Your post has made me think it's high time I finally returned this stuff to Michigan State student radio, or the MSU archives--where it rightfully belongs).

Chris DiOrio said...

Ahhhh...the Tina Yothers Experience. I remember this so well...makes me cry. I want to say I remember the Crypt of Terror as well, but that may just be SST fliers forever embedded in my memory. Obviously, as with Julie, your "Nostalgia" proves to be nostalgic for us all...