Bob Howell

My dad got me up especially early that Saturday morning back in 1962. It was going to be a remarkable day for me. But, little did I know it was going to set my career path forever. 

My dad and I had to be at Geneva Drug Company somewhere around 7 a.m. so he could lay out his local news program for WGEA — our hometown radio station. Along the way, someone had the good idea to establish local newscasts in Geneva and several towns surrounding it. It did just what it was designed to do — pull in the listeners by the score. 

They utilized remote "studios" — I use the term loosely — in Geneva, Hartford, Samson and Bonifay, Florida. Each had variations on a format of local news. 

When daddy and I arrived at the drug store (where my he had his optometry office), we slipped into a small, cluttered office space which appeared to me to double as a store room. 

I remember the office/studio as being rather dark — and a little spooky compared to the brightly lit drug store out front with its big plate glass windows. 

When we sat down in Daddy's studio, I noticed that he had a pile of scribbled notes, announcements, and the community birthday calendar where you could "buy" your family members' birthdays and have them printed on the calendar. The money raised went to the Geneva High School band. 

Kids in the band went out and canvassed their neighborhoods, getting people to put their birthdays and wedding anniversaries on the calendar. I think they charged 50 cents per listing. That's about $5 in today's dollars. Again, a terrifically simple but well thought-out fundraiser for the band boosters organization. 

Daddy's local newscasts also included death announcements from the local funeral homes and the latest condition updates on folks in the hospital. Imagine that happening today with all the privacy safeguards in place. 

There were the usual cemetery cleanings — usually set for a Saturday morning so as to attract folks who worked Monday through Friday. 

And there were the regular listings of times, dates and locations of the local surplus food distribution.

There might be time enough for Dr. Howell to share a current fish story or two.

But then came the last segment in the newscast — the moment I had waited for.  

My debut "on the air" with the score and highlights of the Friday night Geneva High School Panthers basketball match-up. I can remember getting the particulars from games with Samson, Geneva County High School (Hartford) and other area teams. I also remember being scared to death when daddy introduced me as an added feature to the newscast.

I don't remember how long the "sports" segments ran ...  other than to recall that when they ended they were mercifully short — for the sake of the listeners. 

But the bug had bitten me good. I knew broadcasting would be my career path. Little did I know the path would take me from radio to TV ... and over to anchoring television sports and eventually sitting at the news anchor desk. 

Somewhere the bumpy road to a job in sports also included serving as the announcer for numerous professional horse shows and tri-states stock car racing.

And if we had more time, I'd throw in how anchoring sports at Dothan's WTVY-TV included the ring announcing for live studio wrestling. Now that was a real adventure!

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