ROLFEMAN REMINISCES: SNOW DRIFTER — STUCK UP ON A ROOF (2020-04-18)
Remember the Drifters, that American doo-wop and R&B / soul vocal group?
They're one of my all-time favorites, as is their 1962 Billboard chart-climbing hit "Up on a Roof" — composed by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Never did I expect that tune would come into play during my nightly sports routine.
Yet, it did one snowy night. The night Rolfeman got stuck "up on a roof" — atop The Evening Times.
The scenario played out like this.
A snowstorm earlier in the week had dumped about 10 inches of snow on the Twin Tiers.
A powerful high pressure system followed, settling in over the Great Lakes and Finger Lakes region. Balmy winter temperatures — right around the freezing mark — were the ideal recipe for a snow phenomenon known as Lake Effect.
For those who don't know, snow on the satellite dish anchored atop The Evening Times beehive on North Thomas Avenue could raise havoc, blocking the signal for Associated Press wire service.
So, our nightly task in the sports department was to make sure the dish receiver was cleaned off to ensure AP reception. Wire service usually kicked on about midnight and ran periodically until early morning.
The Lake Effect squall began in earnest in the early evening hours. Huge, moist flakes, about the size of a Titleist golf ball. Some I swear made a "thud" when they landed.
The dish was broomed clean several times that evening. At midnight, the wire service kicked on. All was well.
By 1 a.m., everyone had gone home but me. Around 2 o'clock the AP ticker stopped. Dog-gone it, more snow on the receiver.
In haste to head home for a couple hours of shut-eye — wearing just a golf shirt, Wrangler jeans (and obviously underwear, duh!), socks and sneakers — I headed into the press room, grabbed the broom and scaled the wooden ladder to the hatch gateway to the roof.
The escape hatch, as we called it, was kind of tricky, kind of like that found in a submarine or battleship bulkhead. You cranked it open from inside.
Up on the roof, as I swept away the snowy buildup, I drifted — no pun intended — back in time to the snowball days, bonking cars from behind the billboard on Mile Hill in Athens with some of my classmates, who shall remain nameless.
Back to that night. Traffic was at a crawl on North Lehigh. I assume the last-call crowd at the Lehigh Tavern was heading home. Easy targets. What the heck? I made a couple snowballs and fired away. A couple near-misses.
I made more. And fired away. Lo and behold, BONK, I nailed one. Then another.
Exhilaration escalated when a slow-moving Sayre police car came into range. BULLSEYE! I'm not sure if patrolman Eric Keir, a part-time member of Times sports crew, was on duty that night.
But in celebration, I inadvertently bumped the hatch lid. It teetered, then shut. CLICK! That detectable sound meant it was locked — from the inside — and I was on the outside, facing a freezing dilemma.
I don't think cellphones had been invented yet. If they had, I didn't have one. And who in the world could I call at that time of the night anyway?
So, I made the best of it. Chilling beneath the satellite dish. Occasionally, I swept off the receiver. And I threw a couple more snowballs just for kicks.
Fortunately, the press crew arrived early on Saturday mornings. The first pressman rolled in around 5 o'clock. It was Bruce Clark. Seeing my predicament, he laughed so hard I thought he was going to tip over. Kiddingly, he threatened to leave me up there. The nice guy he was, he opened the hatch. Back down the ladder and into the office I went.
The bad news: I really had no time to go home. It was time to go to work.
The good news: We had complete, uninterrupted AP wire service.