I was born a poor Share-Croppers Son in Southern Alabama…..well…okay…maybe not.
I was born in Chicago in 1961, the youngest of 7 Kids in a Middle-Class Catholic Family. I moved to Marquette with an older Brother in the Fall of 1973, when I was 12.
So I grew up in the UP but was not born here….which I have found, interestingly enough, has given me a stronger “bond” to the UP then a lot of my friends who were born and raised here. I was raised by my Brother, who was a disabled Veteran of the Vietnam War (two Purple Hearts). While he was pretty mobile with only one leg, shortly after we moved here, a car accident made things worse and my Brother was paralyzed from the waist down.
This meant he could not teach me the “ways of the outdoors” in the UP, however, He made sure he “tapped” friends and neighbors to take me hunting, fishing, camping and snowmobiling.
While I was a fairly knowledgeable Fisherman already….it did not prepare me for going “smelting” on Lake Superior….nothing like biting the head off the first smelt you dip!
By age 14 I was already an active small-game hunter and about to learn all about chasing Whitetail in the woods. Back then we had both Hunters Safety and Snowmobile Safety right in Middle school. Thanks to Ken Bullock for teaching that and making it fun!
Between the crazy stories from Teachers Ken Bullock, Bruce Pesola and C. Fred Rydholm and spending time in the Woods and on Superior with my buddies, Da UP always seemed like a mythical place to me…and one that I never wanted to leave.
High school was high school…..and the best thing about Marquette Senior High School was the friends I had and that I learned Radio and TV there (thanks John Major!). MSHS I think was only one of two high schools in Michigan that had their own Radio and TV stations. Our TV station could be seen on the local Cable access channel and the radio station was piped through the school during lunch hours and on the cable access channel as well.
Not sure what the public thought about a bunch of high school kids playing 70’s pop and rock but it was fun and where I learned I loved being on the radio!
Luckily for me and several others, during our Junior year of high school, the “great DJ shortage” of 1978 struck! This landed a few of us non-paying DJ shifts at NMU’s student run campus FM station (then WBKX, now WUPX) and better yet, actual minimum wage paying jobs at stations like WDMJ in Marquette and WJPD in Ishpeming. It sure beat washing dishes at Sambos!
So my illustrious career in radio began at WJPD in Ishpeming in 1978 as a night-time rock-jock, weekend fill-in guy and later to bigger gigs as Production Director and more. In 1979 I was forced to graduate high school….and was fortunate enough to get into Michigan Technological University. I’m not sure how, since I had none of the classes needed for Freshman Engineering. Thanks to MSHS for all the great college prep….somehow, Radio & TV didn’t qualify for squat!
Anyway, while struggling through MTU, I worked at WMTU the campus student run station, WHUH Stereo 98FM, WCCY-AM “The Copper Country’s Great Entertainer” and back at WJPD in Ishpeming when I took a little time off from MTU for “good behavior” and playing just a little too much ice hockey. I guess I should mention my time at Q107 in Ishpeming when I got tired of being treated like dirt at WJPD…..Q107 did not like me using my real name and thus, “Al Davis” was born. It took that long for me to figure out that no one could remember the name “Al Augustyn”. The turnover at Q107 was so bad at that time, that when I left, the next guy they hired after me they named “Val Davis”, hoping no one would notice the difference….I’m not sure they did either!
Somehow I got back into school at Tech (God Bless you Dean Meese) and finally in 1985, MTU had enough of my money and time and sent me packin’…they gave me a degree if I agreed to leave and not tell anyone I was there….I showed them….I told everyone!
Now the bad news….I had to get a real job…worse yet….none were available in the UP!
I had two job offers before graduation….testing/blowing up things at Underwriters Laboratories near Chicago Illinois, or, learning how to build eavesdropping devices at the CIA in Washington.
Of course I could go back to Radio at minimum wage….or get another dishwashing gig?
Since I had enough radio abuse (“I’ll NEVER work in radio again”), knew what Dishwashers become and was not excited about living in Washington DC, FIP-Land here I come!
Eventually I learned never to say never…..but I do remember saying something to my Brother and friends that there was no way I was going to live in Chicago longer than five years and would be back home before long….
Thirteen years later, after a successful career that took me from Engineering Technician to Electronic Security Department Manager to Training Specialist to Marketing Manager and finally to National Sales Manager with a stop along the way to pick up a Bachelor’s degree in Business, I did make it back home.
In 1998, with my Brother’s health failing fast, I gave up the “good” life to come home to the “great” life. It was time to re-pay my Brother’s love and kindness and reclaim my title as “Mighty Nimrod of the North Country”.
Well, I think I did my Brother right, however, I’m still working on re-claiming that Nimrod title. No one told me they were going to take away all the Deer on me and hide all the fish in the great lakes on me!
That really ticked me off…although the ticks were certainly on me….what happened?
One Saturday morning I heard this crazy S-O-B on the AM radio talking about the DNR and what’s wrong in the land….what he said made sense!
Not too many years later, little did I know I would be back in Radio (remember the “never” part) and work in the very “den” of The Outspoken Sportsman.
The rest of the story you should know by now…but I may have failed to mention that somewhere along the way I was lucky enough to find the Best Damn Woman in the world and be blessed with four wonderful Children (most days), two Step-Daughters and a Posse’ of rambunctious Grandchildren.
I also have this neat T-Shirt that reads….”I now own an outdoor radio show but all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!”
Real Outdoor Radio….because it has to be said!