Wednesday, April 30, 2008

For everyone who did NOT work at KAAY

If you worked at KAAY you know the legendary Felix McDonald, the chief engineer. For all of you who didn't have the opportunity to work there, pay very close attention to the following story from Dave Montgomery:

Felix was the chief engineer for KAAY before my arrival, and he took care of the transmitter plant for many years after my departure. He and Pat Walsh were my two mentors, and responsible for aiming me on my career path in broadcasting.

Felix was soft spoken and would never say anything bad about anyone. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry. He was patient, methodical, and hard working. He knew the transmitter plant better than anyone, including the RF service engineers at RCA. Pat Walsh respected Felix like no other employee – they had their occasional differences, but Pat knew to take good care of Felix and to listen to what he had to say.

One time Felix was out of town, and the transmitter just stopped. We were off the air, and no one could make it come back on!

All of the KAAY engineers, myself included were at the transmitter trying this and that, and no one could figure out what went wrong. Before long a couple of chief engineers from other stations showed up, including a couple of TV transmitter engineers. No one, in a room full of transmitter engineers could figure out what had gone wrong. This eventually turned out to be the longest single span of time that we were ever off the air (that I know of). Felix was out of town but on the telephone advising people to first try this and then try that.

Nothing was working. Felix was called and ordered to take the next available flight home, and “hang” the ticket price. We were off the air and he was needed urgently.

When Felix finally walked into the transmitter building all eyes were on him. He walked around the transmitter, getting a good look and listening to reports of everything that had been tried. He was reading meters, checking settings on circuit breakers and warning indicators, and it was so quiet in the building you could hear a pin drop. After a few short minutes he finally spoke – “Someone get me a broom.”

A common broom was produced in a flash. Felix took the handle of the broom and jammed it into one of the main power contactors, lifted it into its ready position, and told someone to “Press the button”. Immediately the transmitter sprang to life! There was a cheer and applause. Then he said, “We’ll fix this properly this weekend when we shut it down for maintenance”.

The transmitter never even whimpered for the rest of the week, even though it had a broom handle jammed into one of its high power contactors. I think it knew that Felix “the boss” was back in town.

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