Chapter 35 - Endings and Possibilities

“Hi Dr. Max, welcome back!”  

Ken Records reached across to grasp the hand of Doctor Straw, back in town for the first time since the Meat Allergy alarmed folks in Roseville and medical centers around the state a few months ago.

Ken invited Max into the station’s break room for a beverage before the show while he shared the topics he hoped to cover during their hour on air.  

Records recalled how good Max was answering listener’s questions, so he hoped he’d agree to do it again.  WRSE listeners don’t get a lot of experts available like this, so opportunities like this one always boosted the ratings.

“Congratulations, Max.  All of us in Roseville are real happy for you and the recognition you’ve received from the state and the American Medical Association, it’s very impressive!”

Max smiled, “Thank you, Ken.  I think I need to share those honors with Roseville.  If it weren’t for the way this community responded to the potential medical emergency, our office couldn’t have found the answers as quickly as we did.  Those quick actions saved time and saved people some pain.  Maybe even saved some lives.”

Ken hadn’t heard this before.  “Really?  This is news to me, and I think to most folks in Roseville.”

“Ken, it is.”  Straw continued, “that’s one reason I was happy to drive over for the show today.  The community needs to know that we were in this together.  Researchers in my lab just uncovered  data showing the quick response helped control the break-out.  

“If you have time and he’s around, you might want to let Pete know about this.  I’m guessing he might want to do something with it for one of his newscasts.”

“You’re right doc.  Seems like you’ve figured out quite a bit about broadcasting as well.”

The two men laughed as they finished their mugs and headed into the studio.

Pete was in his office down the hall talking with Kathy Jones.  “Kathy, I want to thank you for all your work with Sports Tonight this fall.  You and the coaches captured a new audience for the station and did quite a bit to set us apart from our competition.  I’m looking forward to the station building on your early success.”

“Thank you, Pete.  I had a blast and the coaches seemed to have a pretty good time, too.”  Kathy was still excited about the conclusion of the football season and had high hopes for the winter season’s coverage of boys and girls basketball.

“Kathy, I don’t like changing things when they’re on a roll, but there is an opportunity I want to share with you.”

“Really?”  Jones wondered what it might be.  She heard something was up with Steve’s job, but hadn’t heard any details.

“Right.  Steve is leaving the station for a job in Milwaukee.  He was up front with me about it and frankly, it’s a great opportunity for him.  He can’t let it pass.  So, we have holes to fill.  I hope you’ll consider becoming the lead play by play voice for WRSE and WMJM.

“What we’re picturing is you doing all the primary games, sports during morning drive, interviews, appearances, and continue to guide Sports Tonight and our local sports programming.”

Kathy was stunned by the announcement.  “Well, Pete, I, ah, yes, of course.  Thank you.  What about Sports Tonight, I don’t think I can do that and the games.”

Pete laughed.  “Yes, excuse me.  Jeff and I will take turns hosting the show from Gus & Tom’s and we hope to develop a couple of the coaches so they might be able to host the show on their own by next fall.  And, if I didn’t say so, this is a full-time gig.  There will be weeks you are working a lot of hours and other weeks when we get you some breaks and push your hours back to 25 or 30.  Some of that we’ll figure out as go… What?”   Pete turned to the door which was starting to open.

“Pete, sorry.”  Ken Records took a half-step into the office. “Dr. Max Straw is coming on the air at the top of the hour.  You should listen, he’s going to reveal some details about Roseville that played into the whole Meat Allergy thing.  You might be able to grab some sound from the show and then get him for your own interview after.”

“Great, thanks, Ken.”  Pete turned back to Kathy, “So, Kath, how does this sound to you?  Are you ready to be the first woman sports voice in south Wisconsin?”

“You betcha!”  Kathy replied.  Already the excitement was turning to energy as she considered the possibilities.

Pete made sure the news room’s digital recorder was set to record this morning’s “On the Records” program.  As he heard the Doctor describe Roseville’s role in solving a potential medical disaster Moss was reminded about the special place which became his home.

“What I’m saying, Ken,”  Max Straw explained on air, “is the work of the medical staff at the Rose County Hospital and even the willingness for citizens to self-identify and report strange symptoms all worked together with our researchers in Madison in terms of making a quick and correct diagnosis. Those factors kept the situation from being worse than it was.”

Ken was smiling.  He liked having guests make news on his show.  “Dr. Straw, I’m glad to share some news of my own this morning.

“Some of this has been in the works for a few weeks now, but when we heard about the much deserved recognition you and your team received from the University and State Government for solving the allergen and the national honor from the American Medical Association, we wanted to act.

“It’s nothing to compare with some of the awards you’re to receive, but Dr. Straw, Roseville is proud of your work and has unanimously chosen you as our Man of the Year and declared you a favorite son of the community.  It’s official now and you’re invited to join us in the spring when we celebrate with a large civic event to honor you and other worthy individuals in and around Roseville.”

Dr. Straw stared at Ken, speechless for a moment.  “Ken and the fine people of Roseville.  I’d consider it an honor to be thought of as a fellow resident of this wonderful community and privileged to attend.”

Hearing what he wanted, Pete saw by the clock over the office door he had twenty minutes before he could interview Max.  That’s enough time to talk to Vicki.  He picked up his phone to shoot a quick text asking her for a few minutes as soon as she could come to his office.

Moss had a soft spot in his heart for Vicki James.  She grew up outside of Roseville in a home near the cross-road of State Road 27 and County Road MJ.  Her mom died when she was little and her dad raised her and five siblings.  Dad’s family pitched in and helped the best they could and it was well-known the James’ neighbors made sure each kid had what they needed for school.

When Vicki was in middle school she started working for neighbors as a baby-sitter or helping with any odd job or farm chore she already knew or could easily learn.  By high school, James was working ten hours a week at WRSE as a production assistant in the studio and ran the board during ball games. 

The station’s full-timers frequently said Vicki James knew more about the Milwaukee Brewers than anyone else in town because she listened carefully to every broadcast.  After high school, Vicki kept working at least one shift a week at the station during college and after graduation cobbled three part-time jobs to make ends meet while pursuing her dream.

When she saw the text on her phone from Pete Moss, she quickly paid for her items at the store and headed for the station.  She found Pete at his desk less than five minutes later.

“Hi, Vicki, come in!”  Pete waved her over to a chair to the side of his desk.

“Hi, Pete – sounds like a good day on air today!  I liked what I heard from Dr. Straw.  He sure made a difference in my life.”  Vicki knew her fast recovery was due to Dr. Straw and she hasn’t had a problem since he treated her.

“I nearly forgot about that, Vicki.  That was a pretty scary time.

“The reason I asked you to come in was to ask you something, Vicki.  Steve is taking a job in Milwaukee.  It’s a great opportunity for him.  Now I have an opportunity for you.  I need a program director and host for his afternoon drive program.  I think you are the person for the job, on one condition.”

Vicki’s heart jumped into her throat.  “Condition?  What condition, I’ll do whatever you want, Pete.”

Pete smiled, “Vicki, this is a full-time job with more than full-time hours, so I’d need to have you just work here not, three different places.”  Moss leaned back to gauge her reaction.

A smile was moving fast across her face as she processed the information. “Yes, sir. I can do that.  This is exciting.  I will need some guidance and help with the show and programming, but I am more than excited to accept.”

“Great, Vicki,” said Pete, “I was hoping you would.  I have a few things I need to do right now.  If you can come back this afternoon, we’ll figure out the details of the job and your new salary, OK?”

Vicki stood, “Sounds good to me, Pete. Sounds good.”

As "On the Records" came to a close, Pete and Dr. Straw sat down in the newsroom for a short interview on the Man of the Year award, the role Roseville played in the allergy fight, and the national recognition.

Then it was time for a quick meeting with Jeff to discuss the first Sports Tonight broadcast during basketball season.  The two planned to host the first one with Coach Suter, who had coached football and basketball during his coaching career, and a couple of other coaches preparing for their WRSE debuts.

Coaches Amanda Tulberg and Don Wagner were each taking a year off coaching and liked the idea of keeping a hand in the game with a radio show.  Both were brand new to the mechanics of being on the air, but they knew the game and the teams in the broadcast area.  For Pete and Kathy, that was more important than knowing how to get a broadcast on the radio.

Gus & Tom were going to be featured prominently during the first hour of the broadcast as the duo announced their promotions lined up for each game during the season.  Folks dining in the restaurant were eligible to win special prizes and carry-out customers had a drawing every week as well.  The Grand Prize was tickets to a home Badger men's basketball game in February.

Kathy joined Pete and Jeff for the meeting so she could pass along some of the do's and don'ts learned during the football season.  A change from the football season was the station's plan to broadcast multiple games each week and alternate the Friday featured game between boys' and girls' teams.

Pete heard from the Sales Manager this morning that other than ad slots during the games themselves, held for local sponsors of the individual teams, every other bit of advertising time was sold out for the year! 

Meeting over, and 15 minutes before his noon newscast, Moss sat in his desk chair to look out the window.  The cold day with bright sunshine made a dazzling display outside.  Pete thought about how little time he actually spends outdoors while living in one of the greatest places in the country.

"That," he told himself, "is going to change."

Since her meeting with Pete a couple of hours ago, Vicki ran back home to pick up her futures file.  It was her list of things she wanted to do if she ever was in charge, and now she was going to be.  It might be a small station in a small town, but it was something.

Vicki wanted to build on Jeff and Steve's listener driven weekend programming and introduce it to the afternoon, evening, and over-night time slots.  Her research discovered an inexpensive program that took requests and broke them down into genres and styles.  It meant if someone requested "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant, the station could identify hundreds of other songs that would be close in sound.

WRSE should be locally focused and eclectic, according to Vicki James.  She was curious to get Pete's reaction to her idea.

After the newscast, Pete met up with Kevin for a regular sit down management meeting.

Kevin was already in the corner booth at Gus & Tom's when Pete walked in.

"Hi, Pete, I ordered your Mt. Dew - Diet Dew combination, it'll be here soon.  How are you, today?"

"Hi Kev, Pretty good, thanks.  It's been a productive day and we even broke a little news this morning."  Moss slid into the side of the booth with its back to the window and grabbed the menu before deciding on the house salad and half a BLT sandwich.  While they waited for the order, Kevin dove into some of the details of the station.

"Well, Pete," Kevin began, "things are looking pretty good.  We are up in ad sales for November over the year before and we are ahead of last December with sales continuing to grow.  From what the Sales team tells me, the local focus is making a difference to listeners and advertisers.

"On the other hand, we are seeing some increased cost in personnel.  A little will change with Steve's departure, but we've added a person in news and sports, plus Steve's replacement, so we're up two people.  We can handle it and bank some profits now which will help during the dead of winter, but we need to stay on our toes."

"Thanks, Kevin.  How do we do that?  Stay on our toes, I mean."

For the next ten minutes and the rest of the meal, Kevin walked Moss through a variety of ideas and plans for the next six months and books he might want to read which can help him grow as a manager.

As they wrapped up their meeting and were ready to head back to the station, Pete told Kevin he wanted to continue their arrangement with Kevin handling many of the administrative functions for at least six months.  Kevin and he shook hands on it, they decided they didn't need a contract of their own.

Back at the station, Pete finds Vicki James in the break room where she has set up charts and a laptop with a PowerPoint presentation on her programming ideas.  "Impressive!" Pete thought as he sat down.

"Hi, Pete.  I hope you don't mind, but if we have some time I'd like to share some ideas I have for the station."

"That's good, Vicki, I like your initiative.  First, let's get things figured out for your salary.  You don't have the experience Steve had, but other than that, I want to offer you what we paid him.  I can offer you $30,000 a year, 2 weeks vacation, and 5 personal days which could be used if you're sick or just sick and tired.  Since you won't be hourly anymore there will be weeks I might need you for more than 40 hours or you might have some project that keeps you here longer than that.  We try to balance that as best we can over time, but in general it goes with the bump in pay."

Vicki smiled, realizing she could drop her two other part-time jobs now and maybe help her family and her parents get on their feet.  "I'll take it, Pete and I plan to show you by next year that you got yourself a whale of a bargain."

The two shook hands and Pete sat back down at the news desk.

The station was hosting a quiet going away party for Steve Jackson on the top floor of Gus & Tom's tonight and Pete is supposed to speak.  He was sad to lose a friend, but happy for his next step along the way and how Jackson's move is launching two careers behind him.

Thinking about the party reminded Pete he needed to pick up Jean for the party.  A glance at the clock and his calendar indicated he could get out a little early today to take care of a few personal errands.

Before he left, he called Roseville Jewelers and let them know he was coming in and needed some help choosing a ring.

As he headed out for the day, Moss stopped in the studio.  "Hey, Vicki, don't forget, we have John coming in at 5:30 so you can get off early to attend Steve's party.  I'll look for you at Gus & Tom's around 6, OK?"

"You got it, Pete, thanks." said Vicki as she spun around to face the command console.

After 45 minutes of perusing and learning about the different kind of rings available, Pete pulled out the details Emjay gave him with her mom's favorite color (purple) and ring size.

Pete sealed the deal with the jeweler and placed the small box in his coat pocket.  They could come back later to make sure it fit, but for tonight all Pete worried about is if she'll let him slide it on her finger.

There was just enough time to place the rest of his plan into place before he'd be late.  He stopped by a charming house along the Rose River that became a Bed and Breakfast two years ago.

He spoke to Dr. James Noel earlier in the week and the doctor said it was better to talk to his wife April to take care of the details.  Pete and April conferred on a likely time of arrival and she agreed to have the fire going in the fireplace with champagne on ice and crystal glasses nearby. 

Pete fished his I pod Shuffle out of his pocket and asked if it could be playing when they arrived. April reacted to the final detail, "Pete, you seem to have it all figured out, so I hope you've figured out the answer as well!"

"I won't go that far, April.  Thanks for letting me use your magnificent living room - unlike your regular guests we won't need breakfast since we aren't staying over.  Hopefully I can talk to you about those arrangements sometime in the near future."

"I've got my fingers crossed.  Good night."  April closed the door behind him. 

There was about fifteen minutes before he was due at her door, which timed out perfectly.  He noticed a familiar face looking out the porch window as he drove up.

Moss left the car running to keep it warm and bounced up the porch stairs and knocked on the door.  

"Ready to go?  You sure look great, tonight."

"Hey, I know you and how you live on Lombardi time, I've been waiting for you."

The two walked down the stairs. He opened the passenger door for his guest then closed it to get in the other side.

Pete's mind flashed with thoughts of the evening and decided it was better to wait until after the party to ask the question.  He hoped the butterflies would soon quiet down.