Monthly Archives: June 2009

When the talking heads start talking, I tune out

Michael Jackson was huge in the world of music. The impact of his death Thursday has been compared to those of Elvis and Sinatra. The iconic man is also being remembered for his sometimes strange behavior and legal and financial problems. That’s appropriate. They were big parts of his life’s story.

I first watched news coverage of his death Thursday on WQAD’s 5 p.m. newscast, then on ABC News with Charlie Gibson at 5:30.

Later I took in some of the special report on CBS with Harry Smith.

Today, Friday, I’ll probably be trying to avoid the coverage.

No disrespect to Michael Jackson, but some of the media have now shifted into “overdo it” mode. The entire “Today” this morning was dedicated to coverage of MJ’s life and death. But I turned it off after watching some talking heads, supposedly legal experts, discussing questions they had no hope of answering: Who are the biological parents of his children? What will happen to the children? How much money, if any, is left in the estate? And on and on and on.

When the “real” news coverage stops and the talking heads’ speculation begins, I tune out.

There are bigger fish to fry: Government violence in the aftermath of the election in Iran, ramped-up attacks in Iraq as our troops prepare to leave the cities there and North Korean missiles purportedly aimed at Hawaii.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.


Posted by on June 26, 2009 in Uncategorized


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I’m now on Facebook

I joined Twitter a while back. But I canceled my account the same day.

I decided that my “tweets” — the short accounts of what’s going on in my life — generally aren’t that interesting to me so they probably wouldn’t be that interesting to others, either.

Who wants to read, “I shook the cobwebs out of my sleepy head, sat at the breakfast table and discovered that my beloved wife had prepared French toast for me”?

That may be of some interest to someone who owns stock in the companies that make Wonder Bread, Land O’ Lakes butter and Log Cabin syrup. But that’s about it.

Facebook sounded like a better fit for me. But I procrastinated when it came to joining. Even though several of my buddies have been encouraging me for months to open a free Facebook account, I resisted, thinking that dealing with Facebook might be a bit beyond my limited computer abilities.

Then came an invitation to join Facebook from my friend Jon Book. And that got the wheels in my gray matter turning.

Jon is a fine broadcast engineer — there is none better — but I didn’t think he knew that much about computers. In other words, when I had a computer problem at the radio station, Jon wasn’t my first call. Or my second.

But then I get this e-mail saying Jon is on Facebook, and he wants me to join. Wow, did I feel behind the times! After almost passing out from the shock, I thought, ‘if Jon can do it, I can do it.’

And I did. Last night, right after supper. I joined Facebook.

Looking back, it wasn’t difficult at all. They walk you through it. And I’m happy with the results.

By joining I learned that I have scores of friends, relatives and former classmates on Facebook, and I’ve already connected briefly with many of them. From this point on, I can read what they have written and respond to it only if I want to.

If I want to write about my life, I will. But if I don’t have anything to share beyond the breakfast menu, I won’t post anything. Thanks, Jon Book, for nudging me electronically forward.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on June 25, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Lee Reedy remembers Paul Liebbe

Phil the reporter and Paul the announcer together in June 1979 at the former Hawkeye Raceway near Blue Grass, Iowa.

Phil the reporter and Paul the announcer together in June 1979 at the former Hawkeye Raceway near Blue Grass, Iowa.


Paul and Phil chat during a break in the action.

Paul and Phil chat during a break in the action.

My wife Sherry and I attended friends Ken and Annette Tank’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration Saturday night at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds. We congratulated the happy couple on this milestone and enjoyed the PowerPoint photo display of their family history, as assembled by their children.

We saw many friends at the gathering, and we enjoyed a fine meal, catered by Riefe’s, one of our favorite places.

On our arrival, as we got out of our car in the parking lot, I recognized the man exiting the car next to us as Lee Reedy and re-introduced myself to him as it has been years since we’ve seen one another.

Lee was a scorekeeper for many years at Davenport Speedway and other area tracks, and I’d see him regularly back then as I attended races to report on them for my “Around the Track” show on radio.

Knowing that I eventually became a racing announcer, Lee mentioned my mentor and friend, the late Paul Liebbe.

(Incidentally, Paul, whose race announcing career started in 1960, started “Around the Track” in 1965 and hosted the show through 1972 on the former KWNT in Davenport. I hosted it from 1973 through 1990 on KWNT and some other stations — KWPC, WZZC and WMRZ. Paul was semi-retired and living in Florida when he suffered a stroke during a visit back to Iowa. He had spent the evening with me at Tipton Speedway and had even guest-announced some races that night. He survived the stroke but, after a stint in the hospital, he spent his remaining years in a nursing home. He died in December 1992.)

Paul was a knowledgeable, interesting announcer with a memorable Paul Harvey-type voice. The words literally dripped from his mouth like honey. (He kept those great pipes and speaking ability, too, despite the stroke.)

Lee shared a story about Paul Saturday that I can easily visualize taking place.

Lee says they were working together at a speedway — Lee scoring and Paul announcing — when an out-of-control race car took down a barrier protecting the judge’s stand and was headed right for it. Since Lee is still around to tell the story, apparently the car stopped short of hitting the stand. Or if it did hit the stand, Lee escaped injury.

But Lee says while all of this was taking place, Paul jumped clear of the stand and scurried to a safer location.

A consummate professional, the announcer never missed a beat, giving the audience a play-by-play call of the action as it was taking place.

That is, until Lee brought a problem to Paul’s attention.

Lee says he reached down and picked up the end of Paul’s microphone cable, which had become unplugged during Paul’s leap to safety.

No one but Paul had heard brilliant commentary!

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Long-lost friends trigger great memories



Here I am -- younger, slimmer and with no gray hair -- in my associate member days at Durant Ambulance Service. Like they say, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken been care of myself!"

Here I am -- younger, slimmer and with no gray hair -- in my associate member days at Durant Ambulance Service. Like they say, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken been care of myself!"


One of the joys of getting out and about is the chance that you’ll run into some long-lost friends. And one of the benefits of seeing them again is triggering your memories of the great times and good stories you share with them from the past.

I recently crossed paths in Muscatine with Durant’s Barb Price and her husband of 55 years, Darrell.

It had been years since we’d seen each other. I used to see Barb a lot, sometimes under less-than-pleasant conditions, like at car accidents, when I was a Walcott Fire Department volunteer and she was a member of Durant Ambulance Service, which is also staffed by volunteers.

In addition to emergency medical service calls in the Walcott area, I’d see Barb at ambulance business meetings and training sessions.

That’s because fellow Walcott firefighters Larry Keller and Kevin Coughlin and I also were associate members of the ambulance service.

We stayed in Durant to help staff the ambulances during busy times, like during the Durant Polka Fest. And we’d assist in other ways. For that we were permitted to attend ambulance training sessions so we could get our emergency medical technician recertification hours close to home.

I retired from Walcott Fire Department in 2003 after 27 years of service. I hung up my helmet because the second-shift job I had at the time was preventing me from attending WFD business meetings and training sessions. Also, I’d come to the conclusion that the fire service, and all that it involves, is better suited for someone in their 20s through 40s than someone in his 50s, as I was then.

Barb told me she also is retired now from Durant Ambulance. It wouldn’t be polite to give her age, but she jokes that she retired after going on a traffic accident call on the interstate and being mistaken by someone for one of the patients.

Seeing Barb reminded me of a couple of stories. One involved the old blue bicycle she used to pedal from Price Oil Co., the family business, to the ambulance building nearby to answer calls and attend meetings.

Once, when Barb left the ambulance building, her bike wasn’t where she had left it. Then someone pointed out that practical jokers had hoisted it onto the roof of the building.

Barb’s a good-natured person. She just laughed and waited patiently while some folks got a ladder and brought the bike back down.

I wasn’t involved in that prank, but I admit I did participate in another one that comes to mind.

Before the Durant Ambulance Service’s building next to the fire station was constructed, the meetings and training sessions took place in a small building that had formerly been home to Durant’s library and, at that time in the early ’80s, was being used as the police station.

One night during a training session, we were learning how to properly package a patient for transport on a backboard. One of the ambulance service members, kind-hearted Emogene Sorgenfrey, reluctantly consented to be our “patient.” That was a decision she’d soon regret.

We carefully applied a cervical collar to Em and placed her on the backboard, completely immobilized and strapped in place with her arms at her sides. She wasn’t going anywhere. Well, that’s not quite true. Though she couldn’t leave the backboard, she was, in fact, about to go somewhere.

Someone suggested carrying the backboard, with Em on it, across the street to the Dew Drop Inn. We did just that, despite her protests, and we deposited our patient on the bar.

Patrons were amused. This had to be a first in the history of Durant.

Em was red with embarrassment but took it all in good stride. Actually, since she was immobilized, she had little choice. Moments later we carried her back across the street and freed her.

I don’t remember Em ever again volunteering to be our patient.

Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on June 5, 2009 in Uncategorized


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