October 1998 — Raymond Cooper was quickly learning running a newspaper took a lot more time than running a broadcast operation.
With the radio station, he could flip on a couple of switches at sunrise each day and "Turn Your Radio On" would fill the airwaves. Within minutes, recorded programming would fill the airwaves until "Renderings with Raymond" went on the air at noon.
Just down the road in Springfield, deejays were preparing for "morning drive time," the busiest hours of the day. They were hurriedly preparing news bulletins, weather advisories, and light comedy routines to cheer up their early morning audience.
Most days, Raymond left for breakfast about 15 minutes after flipping the last switch. During those 15 minutes, he was listening to the drive time broadcast of FM 95.7 in Springfield, getting the news and weather forecast to share with his listeners later in the morning.
Radio stations in small towns like ours were interesting places. Before radio gave way to streaming audio on the World Wide Web, stations were hubs of activity. Raymond liked to refer to his station, Talk 880, as "500 Watts of Valley Power."
Hearing him say those words brought chills down the spines of many Valley residents. We were proud to have such capacity to influence the world right there in our own community.
I suppose that changed for me one morning while drying my hair. I noticed a number on the handle of my blow dryer that said, "1200 watts."
It was hard to imagine my blow dryer held more horsepower than Raymond’s station. Truth be told, my hair dryer probably produced just as much reliable information as Talk 880, but not as much hot air.
Cooper quickly learned he wasn’t going to make a profit from his new journalistic endeavor. The initial edition was hailed by his fans. Most believed it was only a short matter of time before Raymond received his first Pulitzer Prize and The Hometown News was relegated to history books.
A major problem for Raymond’s paper was advertising. He had given most of the ads away to his friends to fill space. Farley Puckett sponsored the sports page, filled with news about the "Bowling match of the century" between Lennox Valley and Pleasant Hill, for free.
Those who did pay for ads paid very little. The first issue included three longtime advertisers from Hometown News. In exchange for agreeing to stop advertising in Iris Long’s "rag," they paid one-third the amount they paid previously.
Somebody had to write the news. Raymond spent weeks creating the dribble filling the pages of his first issue while he took time away from his radio duties. Now he was back on the air, something had to give.
Raymond quickly recruited his best friends to help write stories for the paper and cohost his daily radio show. This made for some interesting banter. Somehow, the Thursday topic steered toward "favorite Bible verses." Callers seemed to love the topic.
"What’s your favorite Bible verse?" a caller asked Marvin Walsh, who was manning the microphone.
Marvin paused for a moment to ponder his response.
"I believe," he murmured, "it would have to be either ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves’ or ‘Everything happens for a reason.’"
Listening to the broadcast over lunch at the Hauffbrau, Brother Jacob, associate pastor at the Lutheran church, barely escaped spitting his coffee across the booth onto Sarah Hyden-Smith.
"Good Lord," Jessie, their waitress, exclaimed. "Even I know those aren’t in the Bible and I haven’t been to a church in 20 years."
Back at the station, Marvin and his cohost, Raymond, smugly admired their scriptural prowess as well as broadcast skills.
"What about you, Raymond?" asked Marvin. "What’s yours?"
Cooper, realizing the spiritual influence he held over his listeners, gave serious thought to his response.
"I believe" he answered, "it would have to be ‘What comes around, goes around.’"
"Oh, that’s a good one!" Marvin shouted. "I don’t know why I didn’t think of that one."
Watch for Lennox Valley: The Book, coming spring 2017.