A Second Chance at Local Radio

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(By Gary F. Tollett) Nearly 20 years ago I called The Ohio Center for Broadcasting, now known as the Ohio Media School, to enroll in classes after seeing one of their commercials on television at 2AM. I thought, ‘that looks fun, I could be on the radio. I’m going to be the next Howard’…well you get my point.

I quit a union job, moved back home with my parents, enrolled in the school, and got my car repossessed. I was off and running in radio. I figured what’s the worst that could happen. I had failed at some things earlier in life, and was even told by an old sports coach I would end up a loser when he caught me smoking one time.

With only a GED Education at this point in life, I was pretty determined to prove a few people wrong. When classes started, it clicked. I knew I was born to be in radio. I loved every minute of it.

I was able to obtain an internship at a local, family owned station in Oberlin, Ohio, thanks to a man by the name of Jeff Vietzen. The station, WOBL 1320AM, was founded in 1971 by Harry Wilber and was now being run by his son, Doug Wilber, and his wife Lorie.

Upon graduation, and after a very short stint with another station, I showed back up at WOBL which had a sister station, ‘Kool Kat Oldies,’ 1380AM WDLW. After a conversation with Doug, he offered me the afternoon drive show on Kool Kat. There was a catch. Advertising was down and he couldn’t afford to pay me when I started. I took the job anyway. After a few months, revenue improved, and the station was able to pay me. I also joined the sales staff. I fell in love with the power of local radio.

Three short years later it all ended. I was out partying all night, and that makes it hard to properly do your job, especially when you think you’re on top of the world.

Then I met the woman of my dreams, we had two sons, and I got a well-paying job in corporate America, which I hated. I had my dream job in radio and threw it all away because I didn’t appreciate that opportunity. Sometimes when we’re young, we do that.

I was constantly daydreaming of being back in radio and wondered if I’d ever get a second chance to live that dream. In the time I’d been away from radio I also lost my father to cancer. My dad was always so proud to tell his friends I was on the radio.

Fast forward to January 3rd 2020. I met up with Doug and Lorie Wilber, the owners of WOBL/WDLW Radio for lunch. They both turned to me and, much to my surprise, they asked me if I would ever want to own their radio stations. I laughed and thought they were playing a prank on me. Doug and Lorie Wilber have met tens of thousands of people in this community over the years. Here they were, asking me, someone they met as an intern almost 20 years ago, if I wanted to take over the stations that have been in their family for 50 years.

Dreams do come true. I am proud to say that on March 1st of 2021, my wife Renee’ and I became the owners of WOBL/WDLW Radio in Oberlin, Ohio. And I am darn proud to be a local radio station owner that provides for our community.

Reach out to Gary and congratulate him on becoming a new radio station operator at [email protected]wdlw.com

 

 

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Gary congrats, I remember working at Wobl with Vietez and Brian on the morning show for my internship while at the Ohio center for broadcasting. Congrats and hope the station keeps running smoothly

  2. Great story Gary!
    Mine’s kind of similar, but with a different ending. It was 1990 and I was in college thinking that I wanted to be in law enforcement. One day a commercial came on TV for the Columbia School of Broadcasting. I still remember the tag line – “Whatever you’re doing now, wouldn’t you rather be doing this?” with a shot of a happy DJ smiling from the studio. I too thought, “I can do that!” and promptly enrolled.
    After graduating I landed a small market afternoon gig at KZ93 in Osage City, KS for $600 a month and a free apartment above the station. Two years later I moved to the company’s flagship station KZ100 in Central City, Nebraska for the 7 to midnight shift.
    For me it was a family situation that forced my exit from radio and a move back to Kansas City. At the time I thought it would be temporary, but after 3 years I moved on into corporate sales and never stepped back in a studio again. Even now, 26 years later, I still have dreams that I’m on the air – announcing the next song, giving the time, delivering the weather forecast, or just saying, “Nebraska’s biggest FM, KZ100!”.
    Thanks so much for sharing your story, Gary, it’s brought me back to some fond memories, if only for a few minutes as I right this.
    Rich

  3. I can’t tell you how much I love your story. It’s never too late to follow your dreams! I wish you all the best.
    Carolyn Cassidy
    General Manager
    Salem Media/ Columbus OHIO

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