You’re going to think this is a quirky column, and I honestly agree, but I thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the famous people I’ve been privileged to meet, shaken hands with and interviewed while I was a radio station news director — or came in fairly close contact with them at an event.
No doubt this column will date me. I’ll go ahead and tell you I’m 64, so you might be able to understand the era we’re talking about.
Well, let’s start with when I was 10. My dad was president of the local Chamber of Commerce, and I don’t know how he pulled it off, but the special guest at the chamber banquet that year in Throckmorton, Texas, was Mickey Mantle.
I got his autograph on the printed program from the banquet. I found that program when I was older and thought I might have a gold mine, but my mom stapled something to it and the value tanked.
Next, when I was about 12, my mom and dad traveled to Abilene to attend the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
The guest speaker was none other than my hero, Chet Huntley, co-anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”
I was so surprised to see him cool, calm and collected on television, then to notice before a crowd of at least a thousand, he was nervous.
The local NBC affiliate televised the speech “live.” It was fun because we had seats about six to seven rows from the front.
I guess it’s not a big deal when you grow up in the same town as Dallas Cowboy legend Bob Lilly. Remember him? He received the first ever alumnus of the year award presented by Throckmorton High School. He signed a football for my son, Jonathan.
When I was a freshman in high school, I attended the dedication of a colosseum on the campus of Abilene Christian University. Anybody heard of Pat Boone? How about the song “April Love?”
I was on the very top row of this building that held about 5,000 people when it was full, but I saw his little figure on the stage. He led singing at this building dedication. Wish I’d had a pair of binoculars.
When I moved to Lubbock, I began to meet the heavyweights.
Radio news afforded me a lot of opportunities to talk with some famous folks. There was Bob Hope. I shook his hand as he climbed out of a private plane and asked him a couple of questions.
Then there was Mickey Rooney. He was there in Lubbock for an appearance of some kind. He was much bigger than I had expected — I’m talking about weight.
How Billy Sol Estes. I was scared to death. There I was alone with him in that recording booth. I’m glad there was plenty of glass around that room. I believe he was promoting a book that he had written.
My final list is composed of those whom I saw at a distance, shook their hands or just saw them in person.
Those were former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and Chuck Connors.
Chuck who? The Rifleman!
Bob Massey is a Herald correspondent.