The Graduate was Hot – KOMA was King!
One more class to go on a Wednesday afternoon at Pampa High School in February 1968. I had a secret trip planned for the night, but really didn’t want to go it alone.
I’m standing by my locker when Phillip Long walks by. Phillip and I were friends, but in the pecking order of school cool Phillip was arguably in the top 10 and I wasn’t even in the top 10% . . . so I was a little intimidated by Phillip. I tried to never let it show.
“Hey Long,” I got his attention. “Wanna take a road trip tonight to Oklahoma City? We will be back in time for classes in the morning.
“What for?” he quizzed.
The Graduate” I explained “is showing at a theater there. Plus I talked last night to the midnight DJ at KOMA and he told me we could come out and he would show us the station.”
He responded with a line I became very fond of hearing from Phillip.
“Webster, You’re crazy!”
Arriving at Lloyd Center in Oklahoma City a little after nine there were tickets available for the late showing of “The Graduate”. For two high school juniors from small town Pampa, TX the seduction of Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) by Mrs. Robinson (Ann Bancroft) was nothing less than the hottest thing we had ever seen. Intertwined with songs by Simon and Garfunkel like Scarborough Affair and the ever present Sound of Silence was the constant “plastic” conflict of the forces between two generations and the values (or lack of) that bounce back and forth like a tetras ball.
Benjamin finally ends the affair he was seduced into, but when he starts dating Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, he discovers Mrs.Robinson’s treachery has no limits. The affair is finally made public when Ben tells Elaine in an effort cut off Mrs.Robinson’s threat to reveal the affair herself.
Throughout the movie the Sound of Silence soundtrack haunts each pivotal scene as Benjamin, Elaine and Mrs. Robinson work their way through the tangled web they have woven. In the end Ben goes on an 1,100 mile back and forth journey to rescue Elaine from committing herself to another man her wealthy parents have intervened and set her up to marry.
In the final scene, Elaine, still in her bridal gown, and Benjamin,grubby and unshaven, flag down a passing municipal bus while laughing at their triumphant victory. They rush to the rear seat and look out the rear glass window, amidst puzzling, stern and cold looks from the other elderly passengers of another generation. The Sound of Silence is reprised. They ride in the final image staring silently ahead,uncharacteristically silent toward each other and not even looking at each other. Do they actually love or really care for each other? They are very well aware that their futures are wide-open and very uncertain.
Phillip and I left the theater and headed for KOMA. I don’t remember us talking much about what we had just seen. Perhaps we were both hearing the Sound of Silence. Perhaps we were reflecting on our first lesson in Adultery 101.
Throughout our high school years, KOMA was our favorite radio station. We would eagerly await sunset when the mighty 1520 would come booming through with the newest hits of the day. We would sit in our cars, turn it up at parties, or fall asleep with the radio next to our beds as we listened to Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Beatles.
For me, an aspiring disk jockey, getting to go inside the studios of KOMA was a dream. The station was ten miles south of downtown. We arrived and pressed a button on the building to alert the midnight DJ we were at the front door. He soon let us in. I was totally awed . . . both by the station and the personality.
He showed us the transmitters that were putting out 50,000 watts of power (legal maximum for any AM station in US) on a clear channel that went all the way to the west coast at night. “Soldiers in Vietnam even report tuning in KOMA to give them a little feeling of being back home,” the DJ said, “when conditions are just right.”
Then we stepped into the control room. There were buttons everywhere on the control board. “Watch this,” he said as he pushed one of the buttons and the KOMA “Kissing Tone” played. I thought how somebody at Caldwell’s Drive In probably just made out and we were standing right there at control central watching it be orchestrated. Wow! KOMA was King!
Phillip and I soon headed back. It was nearing two in the morning. We had 250 miles to drive. I saw the blinking red lights of the KOMA towers in my rear view mirror as we left and said to myself “I’m going to work there someday.”
We rolled into Pampa with an hour to spare, but wondering how we were ever going to make it through the next seven hours of classes. “Drop me off at home,” Phillip decided without much thought.”I’m cutting today.”
“Me too,” I quickly agreed.
Even though we had chosen to cut school and crash we still had pulled it off. We had completed a 500 mile road trip in sixteen hours during the school week and gotten away with it. The thrill of the adventure would remain with us for the rest of our lives.
As I dropped him off I asked, “What was the best part?”
I meant the entire trip, but he thought I was just talking about the movie and said “the part where she was naked.” He smiled a big smile.
“And you?” he asked.
“KOMA” I replied.
“Webster, You’re crazy!”
- The Graduate was Hot! KOMA was King! <- You are Here
- In the Navy – We Want You as a New Recruit
- Basic Training – First Abandonment
- To the Girl Who Loved Me
- A Cantina in Mexico – Second Abandonment
- Vanished In Tijuana – Fear and Panic
- Phillip Needs Help – We Can’t Tell the Truth
- Thanksgiving Day – A Time for Healing
- The Captain’s Mast of Seaman Apprentice Webster
- Conclusion – Too Much Living to Do