Monthly Archives: April 2009

Breaking news: This just in, you’re fired


I've had a chance to meet some interesting people, some famous, like actor Hal Holbrook, shown in this 2004 photo at WOC, and some not so famous.

I've had a chance to meet some interesting people, some famous, like actor Hal Holbrook, shown in this 2004 photo at WOC, and some not so famous but still interesting.

The Clear Channel ax fell again yesterday, April 28, 2009. And I, along with some of my friends, got hit. I knew it was coming sooner or later. Of course, I would have preferred later. At age 60, five or six years later would have been great!

I’ve worked in commercial radio on a full- or part-time basis most years since I started as a country music deejay on my 19th birthday March 1, 1968, at the former KWNT-AM&FM in Davenport. This was while I attended St. Ambrose, where I got my radio start at the college stations, KSAR and KALA.

I originally worked weekends at KWNT. Then, later in ’68, I sold radio advertising (for a straight 10 percent commission) between college classes and spun records weeknights at KWNT. There have been other stations — and a switch to news reporter and anchor, a good fit for an older guy — between then and now.

I provided the following statement about my firing yesterday to the media who asked for my reaction to it:

“I am passionate about the news business and have truly enjoyed my association with WOC Radio, where I’ve had an opportunity to meet and work with a lot of fine people.

“Fellow newsmen Mark Minnick and Nick Linberg were not just co-workers, they’re good friends. 

“I have been affiliated with WOC since 1997 and a full-time employee there since 2002. But departures have always been part of broadcasting. I knew that when I was hired, and it’s my turn to move on.

“As for the future, the Quad-Cities area has always been my home, and that won’t change. I have a lot of varied interests and intend to pursue them here.

“I believe when one door closes, others open. I’ll be checking some of them out in coming weeks and months.”

First, though, I want to take some weeks or months off and assess things. Today, one day after being let go, I am trying to get used to my new schedule. My wife has helped by providing some assignments, such as “Now you’ll have time to sort through those boxes in your office.”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.


Posted by on April 29, 2009 in Uncategorized


What tea parties are really about

As a working broadcast and newspaper journalist, I don’t believe I should be donating money to a political candidate or party that I might later be reporting on. And I shouldn’t be taking part in a protest for or against some issue I may be assigned to cover. That doesn’t look good for someone whose goal is reporting stories fairly and accurately.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. We all do. And that doesn’t mean I don’t support or oppose certain candidates, elected officials or parties.

My close friends and family members know all too well how I feel about a variety of issues and public officials. The rest of you find out what’s going on in the deep, dark crevices of my gray matter now and then only through my occasional column in “The North Scott Press” or through this blog.

Today, I want to say a few words in support of the tea party protests that are going on.

Some critics say they’re being organized and attended by conservatives — Republicans who are unhappy with their loss of power and want the Obama administration to fail or at least look bad.

I don’t think that’s it at all. That may apply to some tea party advocates, but most of the tea parties’ support comes from both sides of the political aisle and from independents, too.

They’re not about political parties. They’re about good, working-class Americans who are fed up with high taxes and escalating fees at all levels of government and want to make a public statement about it.

They’re about people who are sick to death of excessive and wasteful government spending that’s putting future generations of Americans deeply in debt.

And tea parties are about calling for an end to bailouts for greedy people on Wall Street and mortgage lenders who are made some ill-advised loans and large companies so poorly managed they deserve to go bankrupt and fat cats who, while making big salaries and bonuses, are commanding sinking ships.

Tea parties are an indication that a growing number of people are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. These are people who ultimately are going to take back control of their government not by violence but by throwing the bums outs — using the ballot box to call home those wasteful spenders and tax-and-fee elected people in their cities, states and country.

Who is the government? It’s we the people.

Tea parties are about taking names now and taking action in November.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on April 18, 2009 in Uncategorized


Race drivers relate top advice they’ve received

Don Bohlander, shown in this 1966 photo, once gave some useful racing advice to Jim Gerger about getting around the turns at Peoria Speedway. Photo from the Phil Roberts collection.

Don Bohlander, shown in this 1966 photo, once gave some useful racing advice to Jim Gerber about getting around the turns at Peoria Speedway. Photo from the Phil Roberts Collection.


Advice. Whether you want it or not, you receive tons of it when you go through life.

Much of it’s common sense. It comes from folks who learned things the hard way and want to save you from doing the same thing. They advise things like, “Don’t spit in the wind.”

Some advice is humorous. Mark Twain says, “Be careful about reading health books. You might die of a misprint.”

People — including race drivers — tend to remember the good advice they get and forget the bad advice.

Take longtime eastern Iowa hotshoe Steve Johnson. He once said the best racing advice he ever received was, “If the radiator fits, go for it.”
Back in his early years of racing, Dale Fischlein of Fletcher, N.C., was told, “Don’t pretend to know everything; listen and learn. Try to learn something every day. Accept criticism to better yourself.”

An informal survey of other drivers, both past and present, yields some interesting results.

Mike Duvall, the famous “Flintstone Flyer,” began racing in 1968. He won 700 races in his Late Model career, including the prestigious World 100. These days he stays busy building race cars and operating a race driving school.

Duvall, of Cowpens, S.C., was brought up to believe “you are what you think you are,” and that’s been his motto.

But he has also received advice from others that has led to his on-track success.

“Back in the late ’60s, me and Freddy Smith was always one of the winners,” Duvall recalls.

At one particular race that Smith won because Duvall admittedly was “all over” the track, Smith’s father, Grassy Smith, told Duvall, “Son, if you’d quit runnin’ so hard through them corners and going over the bank, you would outrun us.

“You run us down and catch us, but then you run wide open after you pass us and go over the bank. You need to learn how to make that circle and use your foot instead of your hands.”

Duvall remembers replying to him, “What are you talkin’ about, old man?”

Grassy Smith continued, “Just think about it. You can run us down. You pass us. And then you keep running harder, harder and harder until you go over the bank, and we end up winning the race.”

Adds Duvall: “Freddy was standing beside him, and he said, ‘Daddy, you ought not tell him that!'”

“So I started doing that, and I started outrunning Freddy about everywhere I went,” Duvall says.

“You come up through building cars, and you have all kinds of tips and you try a lot of things to make cars faster. But going back, it just comes to my mind that that driving tip really helped me more than anything.”

Racers can be helpful that way. Duvall says Grassy Smith “was just that kind of guy; he’d help anybody.”

Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa, winner of the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national championship in 1987 and numerous other titles during his storied career, says he got a lot of advice over the years from a lot of people, including Cedar Rapids legend Darrell Dake.
Dolan guesses the many little pieces of advice Dake offered added up to some big results. An example?

Among the words of wisdom from Dake was, “You’ve got to race for the money.” Dolan notes that “none of us are wealthy enough to race without winning some money.”

Dolan also passes along this racing advice he has given to others over the years: “You have to learn by doing. The more laps you turn, the better off you are.”

Noting that racers sometimes tend to overdrive their ability, WORLD Dirt Racing League star John Kaanta of Elk Mound, Wis., says someone once told him, “Sometimes you have to slow up to go fast.”

That’s a good one.

Retired Iowa race driver and promoter Jim Gerber says he once got some good advice from fellow competitor Don Bohlander of Glasford, Ill. Gerber wanted to know how to get around the tight corners of the quarter-mile dirt Peoria Speedway, where Bohlander raced regularly, without hitting the imposing wall.

Bohlander told Gerber not to look at the wall as he made his way through the corners.

“Look at where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go,” Bohlander advised.

Leon Zeitner, an Omaha Late Model driver who started in 1982 and has some track championships to his credit, says someone — he can’t remember who — once told him, “If you want to make a small fortune, get into racing with a large fortune.”

A lot of racers would probably say “Amen” to that.

Hershel Roberts of East Moline, Illinois, has been racing most years since 1968.

His best racing advice came many years ago from the late Midwest racing legend, Ronnie Weedon.

“Ronnie told me, ‘Everybody wants to win a race. Go out there and do your best and run clean and fair, and it will come around,'” Roberts remembers.

Greg Walters of Bancks, Ore., has been racing Dirt Late Models since 1998 and has seven championships and nearly 100 main event wins to his credit.

Walters say he received some valuable advice from his father and mentor, Doug Walters, who died in August of 2008.

“Worry only about yourself and your own racing team instead of what others are doing,” his dad told him. “The more time you spend worrying about others, the less time you have to focus on your plan.”

Mert Williams of Rochester, Minn., who competed from 1952 to 1982, didn’t get much advice from others.

He says his experience was, drivers were tight-lipped about their “secrets” back then.

“There never was much racing advice given out by anybody,” Williams says. “You kind of learned everything the hard way. If you told somebody something, they’d probably beat you.”

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Late Model Illustrated.

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Posted by on April 15, 2009 in Uncategorized


Observations from an old reporter

Here we are by the Canadian Falls, also called the Horseshoe Falls. The water creates a mist in the air that, in cold weather, coats nearby trees with ice..

Here we are by the Canadian Falls, also called the Horseshoe Falls. The water creates a mist in the air that, in cold weather, coats nearby trees with ice.

Here some observations from all old reporter’s notebook:

* My wife Sherry and I recently took a trip during her spring break from teaching. We go somewhere new each year. We thought about not going at all this year because of the economy. Our investments and retirement accounts, like most other people’s, have taken a hit in recent months.

But staying home would be adding to America’s problem right now. Folks are so afraid to spend a buck it’s making things worse for everyone. The decreased cash flow means more workers are getting laid off as businesses try to keep their expenses in line with their income.

Finance expert, Christian, best-selling author and TV and radio talk show host Dave Ramsey ( suggests that Americans, if possible, refuse to participate in the recession.

We like that idea. So Sherry and I decided as long as we have our house, our jobs and the ability to pay our bills, we will go on with life as usual.

By the way, our trip this year was to Niagara Falls, which was awesome even in March, when portions of the Niagara River were still frozen.

* I only fly two or three times a year. But it’s amazing how many times in some distant airport I’ve run into someone I know who, like me, is waiting for a flight to the Quad-City International Airport and home.

Coming back from Niagara Falls, we flew out of Buffalo, N.Y., to Detroit, where we had a layover before getting on a smaller plane bound for Moline.

As Sherry and I waited at the gate for our flight, we spotted, then visited with our friend Char Knutsen, who was booked on the same flight. She and hubby Harry live in Walcott. Char was headed home after visiting a daughter in the Carolinas. It’s a small world.

* “I just want to be happy again.”

That’s what a friend of mine said a couple of months ago after finally finding a job. He’d been without one the better part of a year.

Through no fault of his own, he was fired from a company where he’d put in more than two decades as a faithful employee.

His termination came before the economy took a nosedive. He was downsized, as they say. At many large companies, employees are merely tools, like computers and fork trucks, to get the work done. If the companies can figure a way to get the job done with fewer people, some are shown the door.

Downsizing often means getting rid of the loyal, experienced employees who have worked their way up to a decent wage and replacing them with less-experienced workers, who earn lower wages, and often, decreased benefits.

Downsizing also can mean dumping U.S. jobs altogether and sending the work to Mexico or somewhere overseas, again at a fraction of the cost.

While downsizing can certainly boost a firm’s bottom line, the loss of his or her job can be devastating to the person fired.

Obviously, working provides a paycheck, and that pays the bills. But being employed also adds to one’s sense of self-worth.
A willing worker who can’t find work often gets to feeling he or she has no value to employers. That’s sad.

I suspect that’s how my friend was feeling earlier this year when he finally landed a job. I suspect that explains why he said, “I just want to be happy again.”

I hope he is now. In fact, I’m sure he is.

* I think we should change the name of General Motors to Government Motors.

* Some people say huge companies like GM and Chrysler are too big to let fail. But one of the talking heads on a TV news program said something I think makes some sense.

He suggests reorganizing those big firms into multiple smaller companies. Those that are run properly will succeed. The rest should be allowed to fail.

* Recent figures peg the population of our metro area at 377,000. When it comes to our amenities compared to other places the same size, I think the Quad-Cities stacks up quite well.

With some exceptions like the I-74 Bridge at times, it’s also fairly easy to get from Point A to Point B in this area if you know what roads to take and what roads not to take.

There is, however, one thing many big cities utilize that we generally don’t have. That’s frontage roads. They would sure make a difference if they ran the full length of major thoroughfares like Davenport’s Kimberly Road and 53rd Street and Moline’s Avenue of the Cities.

* What happened to normal names for singers? Names like Petula Clark, Lesley Gore, Gary Puckett, Garth Brooks, Aretha Franklin, Robert Goulet, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Tony Bennett to name a few?

A top song on the Billboard Top 100 is “Poker Face” by Lady GaGa. Yes, that’s Lady GaGa.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on April 8, 2009 in Uncategorized