|Collection||CHC Oral History Collection|
Luther Masingill, age 88, interviewed by Marlene Payne at the Glenwood Community Center. He has worked at WDEF (Sunny 92.3 FM radio) since 1941 and is well known in the community.
Luther grew up in the Avondale community (near Glenwood) and worked at a service station, Penny Tire, when he was a young man, for $1.50 per day. He met Joe Engel while at the service station. He said that the station is gone but many of the houses in that community are still in existence. Most people in Avondale then worked for the city, the railroad, or service jobs. His father was a "drummer," which was a door-to-door salesman, selling candy, gum, cigarettes, etc., for the Robinson Wholesale House which is no longer in existence. It was across from the courthouse on Georgia Avenue.
Joe Engel opened a radio station, and offered to interview Luther for a job. He wanted a job answering request calls, but instead was offered a job as apprentice announcer. His radio career began at around the age of 17, after school. Luther considered Engel a character but also a very generous man, and excellent to work for. He credits Engel for his career choice.
Luther had that job until he was drafted into the service, even though he did not want to go. He served in Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, etc. He had been drafted to learn international code, and he almost became a quartermaster. He said he was one of few men in his group of draftees that could type, which is why he was able to get the training he did. But he wanted to work for the Signal Corps, and was granted the request. They serviced the 13th Air Force in Philipines.
After 3 years in the Army, Luther went back to work for WDEF, located on the 4th floor of the Volunteer Building. He came to live in Glenwood after he got married, and bought it for $1600 approximately. They had 2 children, Joanie and Jeffrey. The latter lives and works here in Chattanooga. He felt that raising a family in Chattanooga was good.
In 1954, Luther worked for the television sector of WDEF.
He talked about the major changes in radio technology over the years, since WWII. He also mentioned that the changes in format at WDEF (to "soft rock") were not to his liking.
Luther talked about worrying when the industry in Chattanooga began leaving to go overseas. They were in an area where little particles of rust coated cars, citing Combustion Engineering and Wheland Foundry. He said you could go to work in the morning on a foggy day with a shiny, clean car, and by the end of the day it was covered. He said if you didn't wash it off it would eat into the car's paint. Many people had to have their car repainted every 2 or 3 years. But since were famous for our industry, he felt it was sad when they went international.
He talked about Jack Lupton and how he used alot of his own money to fund the changes through the downtown Renaissance. He said that while he did not participate in the meetings for those projects, he said the station always asked for updates to put on the air, to create a greater interest and awareness.
Luther was able to see Charles Lindbergh when he landed at a place called Mars Field on Amnicola Highway, and look at his aircraft. This was before Lindbergh was really famous, and was here just to meet with the mayor about the airport.
He talked about one night, after he'd seen a movie at the Rivoli Theater (the Rivoli Theatre was open in the early-1930's. It seated 716. The theatre was located in east Chattanooga on Glass Street just east of Crutchfield. It closed in the late-1950's.), he heard a humming sound and saw a bluish beam of light and scared him - it turned out it was a balloon looking for the airport.
He talked about some of the practical jokes Buddy Howtz(?) used to play. Luther also spoke about what he currently does for the radio, a community calendar which is a series of announcements about local events.
Marlene asked what the biggest topic he talked about was, and he answered that it was Pearl Harbor. He was on duty when it happened. Shortly after that was when he was drafted. Luther mentioned knowing an Engel, from Chattanooga, who was killed in service. No relation to Joe Engel. Overall, he felt that Chattanoogans were very angry and ready for war at the time of WWII. He said there lines of people waiting to sign up for war service. Mentioned how "deep" in industry we were then.
Lastly, he offered to be interviewed again at a later time.
|Interview place||Glenwood Recreation Center|
|Recording media||Digital recording|
Click here to listen to the audio.
Click here to view the transcription.