Dodging Turntables On The Turnpike

I’ve written before about my days as a radio DJ (HERE’s one example) but I was recently reminded of a strange road trip that occurred during my earliest days in radio. It all started with turntables for a new radio station that I was helping my boss get started.

Big, heavy-duty turntables were a necessity for radio stations of that era. I’m talking massive, heavy, console-sized cabinet models, the kind that could run day and night for years. Of course, that kind of quality and construction was not cheap, and that’s why my boss made one of his notorious barter deals to get a pair for the radio station. He was an experienced electrical engineer who specialized in consulting work, and often traded his expertise for equipment. In this case, he’d bartered for a pair of very good used turntables, and all we had to do was make a 1500-mile round trip to Pennsylvania to get them.

He’d recently bought a VW mini-bus, which at that time was still relatively uncommon but would eventually be ubiquitous — especially once hippies began turning them into rainbow-colored parties on wheels. It also wasn’t exactly the most powerful vehicle around, as we found out when climbing long grades while driving East. But it was on the way back that our adventure occurred.

Before we left Indiana we had taken the rear seats out of the VW, and we loaded the turntables into the space provided, making sure to lock the casters. (You know what’s coming, don’t you?) I don’t remember the exact details of when or where, but at some point on our return journey we were going up a long grade, and one of the big turntables began to roll toward the back of the VW. It soon crashed into the second one and both then slammed against the rear of the van. Meanwhile, my boss was pushing on the brakes, which made both turntables reverse course and eventually collide with the back of our seat, jarring our teeth. Finally he managed to pull off to the side, but we were still on the grade so gravity took over and the turntables rolled back and slammed the rear one more time for good measure.

After shaking our heads at the damage to the VW — and tying down the turntables securely — we managed to make it the rest of the way home without problems.

Woody Guthrie – “Hard Travelin'”


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