Growing up in Central Jersey, my mornings were dedicated to “Rambling With Gambling” – the morning wake-up show on New York radio station WOR.
The show had three hosts in its 75-year history – a father, son, and grandson, but the “middle” Gambling - John A. who hosted from 1959 to 1991 - was mine.
You turned on the radio on the hour and heard 15 minutes of news and the weather report and the rest of the time the John Gambling family and their friends chatted about this-and-that. Nothing consequential, but they had a way that made you feel included.
They didn’t play much music, but they always played the morning march around the breakfast table. I guess the idea was that there were families who would actually stand up and march happily around the table, getting the blood moving before mom sent them out the front door to another day in the world. I didn’t know any of those families, but I had absolute faith that they were out there.
Even more important, they were one of the first shows that announced school closings – known as snow days. They read lists of closed schools from the tri-state area: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And to listen for your school’s name you had to be awake earlier than you would normally voluntarily wake up – maybe as early as 5 a.m. – because if you missed your school you had to wait for them to go through the entire list again.
Sometimes you would listen over-and-over, absolutely sure that you had missed your school the first time…or the second time…or the third time…or until you mother yelled at you to get up and get dressed.
How your school name got on the list was always a mystery that we thought we could break. Obviously there was a special telephone number that had to be called and a special code assigned to each school and if we could just figure it out and one of us could disguise our voice just right…well you can see what we could accomplish!
These days I can’t seem to find a station that connects with me the way WOR did, so I listen to one of the all-news stations. If "Rambling With Gambling" came on I still wouldn’t get up and march and nowadays I don’t have to get out of bed and go to school.
But somehow I can’t give up the belief that there really were families that marched around the breakfast table.