The holidays and Christmas are generally thought of as happy times (Merry) or family times. What happens when things are not so merry and one is not with family or doesn’t have a family to be with?
I first thought about this when I was at college and working at a local radio station. I was low man on the totem pole and got the Christmas Eve shift, 6pm to 6am Christmas Day. I got time and a half, but by midnight I was regretting my part time occupation.
I felt pretty much alone, didn’t feel like Christmas even with the top 200 Christmas songs I was tasked to play. I was not shall we say in the Spirit of Christmas. No family, no friends, no candle light service, and no Christmas Hymns. This was even before Mannheim Steamroller was on the scene. Yes that long ago.
I was feeling pretty low, when right after midnight I got a call from a local gas station, the man running the place that night asked if he could request a song. I thought about a moment wondering if management would fire me for not playing their top 200, but I said; “Sure what do you want to hear?” “Silent Night”, he said. We were a Rock and Roll station so our religious songs were quite limited. “Any special artist?” I asked. “No just Silent Night. It reminds me of church.”
Well I found “Silent Night” by Elvis Presley, put that record on, it was a 33 lp, for those who might actually know what that is, and then it happened. Right after Elvis sang, the calls starting coming in, from highway patrolmen to nurses at the local hospital, clerk at the front desk at the Holiday Inn to a local fast food place who got the luck of the draw to be open that evening. Guess what kind of music they wanted to hear? Christmas hymns. The last six hours of my shift flew by as I inserted traditional Christmas hymns into the top 200 rotation. I really had to scramble to find them, I was in the radio station’s archives for most of the hymns, but guess what, I wasn’t lonely anymore.
After my shift, the guy who took over for me, told me the program director wanted to talk with me when I came back the next week. At this point I pretty much figure I was going to be fired. When I came in that evening prior to my shift, the program director and the station manager were there waiting.
“Who told you, you could play Christmas hymns on Christmas Eve?” This coming from the program director. I told them I got a call from a man who wanted me to play Silent Night and after that folks just kept calling in requesting Christmas hymns. It was now the manager’s turn; “You could be fired for this you know, you are just a college student and there are a lot of them who would love your job.” “Yes sir, I know, but they just kept calling and I tried to slip them into the rotation.” I tried to explain.
I was told to go do my shift and on Monday they would decide my fate. I was later summoned into the manager’s office, told to sit down and the manager held up a bunch of Christmas cards. “You know what these are? They were thank you cards from the hospital, the sheriff’s office, a gas station manager, a highway patrolman, the Pizza Hut and a few of our advertisers thanking us for playing traditional Christmas hymns. You know what this means, he didn’t even pause for my response, you are not getting fired, now get out of here and don’t ever play music not approved by the PD again! Is that clear?” “Yes sir I said!” And went to my car and back home. It was nice that Christmas came late that year and it wasn’t at all what I had expected!