I live in a town south of Nashville that is busting at the seams. The growth in the last twenty years is hard to keep up with. Yet we have a historic downtown area that reminds us of our roots. And we are fortunate enough to have a local radio station, to connect us with our past and with each other.
The station is located in a small house on a busy street near the area’s largest mall. But it is separated from all that by the open fields that surround it. The WAKM red letters and the large antenna let passers-by note that there’s a radio station here.
What you can’t tell by looking at this scene is that in the early days of this station Elvis used to stop by here for coffee. And you won’t know by looking that Sissy Spacek sang Coal Miner’s Daughter songs over the airwaves in this very spot. And you can’t see that years ago a local nurse, in uniform, with her high school aged daughter, Wynonna, would come by on Friday mornings to play their guitars and sing together here.
These days there aren’t so many would-be stars stopping in (or maybe we just don’t know that yet). But the radio station continues to broadcast community events, interview coaches and players of high school teams, announce ball games play-by-play, feature local people and their stories, send out happy birthday wishes, and give details of upcoming funerals.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, the program called “Trade Time Live” provides both business and entertainment services. For sixty years this program has allowed callers to promote items they have to sell, trade, or barter. Featured selections include refrigerators, baby chicks, electric wheelchairs, and nanny goats. The callers interact with the deejays in unexpected and humorous ways. Tom Lawrence, co-owner of WAKM, says, “It’s as much humor as a swap and shop. It provides a service to the community, but at the same time it’s just downright funny.”
I can remember on trips to Florida during my youth we would listen to local AM radio stations along the way until the signal became too fuzzy, and then we would turn the dial to find the next town’s offerings. Coming from the “big city” of Nashville, we would often laugh at the things we heard. I remember the monotone voice of this one woman caller distinctly: “Far wood fer sale – will delivery.”
But now I smile for a different reason. I am reminded of a simpler time, and I am happy to know that such transactions are still available in our otherwise online world. I am thankful that the owners of our local radio station continue to make our town stand out from the rest.