Friday, September 3, 2010
STAYIN' ALIVE - THE SAGA OF CHARLIE TUNA
Does the name “Charlie Tuna” ring a bell with any of you Southern California folks who listen to music on the radio? He’s been around for a long time, and in this blog I want to finally thank him for keeping me going during a very rough patch in my life.
Life changed on me in 1971 when my marriage broke up. Everything I assumed about my past and my future had no more truth to it than a mirage. At the time, part of me said “You can do it” and the other more immediate part said, “You are helpless, hopeless, worthless and useless.” These were the two parts of me battling each other as I took stock of where I was and where I might go. I had four teenagers ranging in age from 15 to 10. I had a job that paid $2.10 an hour with no benefits. I did have child support payments that kept my head above water but the rational part of me said that I’d better find a job with more future to it, that someday my kids would be out of the house, and I’d need to be able to support myself. I’d given up college for marriage; I had made my own bed, and now I had to lie in it.
This was, of course, depression in a big way, but I didn’t know it. I just knew that somehow I had to figure out how to live through it.
In 1972 I took a secretarial job in a nearby city. Advertised at $600 a month, I was hired at $475 with the stipulation that since I had never been a secretary and the company was “taking a chance” on me, I would be on probation for 6 months. At that time if I was deemed suitable, I would be raised to $600. I took it, of course, grateful that someone was giving me a chance.
To say that the job was easy is correct, because I was a smart person and a good typist. But was I smart enough and good enough to please the boss, a Vice President of Finance? I had absolutely no self-confidence left, and I just didn’t know. The first morning I got in my car, dreading the day, feeling totally terrorized, and flipped the radio on for the 20 minute drive to work.
My son had driven the car last and had set the radio to KIIS. Charlie Tuna, whom I had never heard of before, was the DJ. I had barely pulled out of my driveway when he made a comment that his bird read the newspaper every morning. I burst out laughing, because the image of the bird sitting on a perch with the newspaper that lined his cage ready for reading was simply too funny! I drove down the freeway, listening to Charlie spinning “Killing Me Softly” and “Horse With No Name” and listening to America and Bread and Chicago and Elton John and others.
For six months, Charlie Tuna and I met on the freeway between Ontario and Pomona. At the end of six months my evaluation at work came through as promised and my salary was increased. Charlie kept me in stitches every morning for the three years I worked in Pomona. Between him and the music of the early 70s I was able to slowly discover hope again. Charlie and his funny patter and this music became engraved on my soul.
Each morning I regaled a friend at work with what he had said that morning. When I got home my kids knew that they too would hear about Charlie’s latest! I am sure my kids thought I was crazy. During this period of time I’d tried my best to not let the kids know how very depressed I was; I was sure my craziness about Charlie Tuna would keep their focus off the darker side that I was battling. One day I came home and the girls were jumping up and down in excitement. It seems that Mr. Tuna himself had appeared at one of the local malls, and they had gone to get his autograph for me. Yes, it is that signature, written on the back side of an index card that is shown above. Needless to say, it became one of my treasures and has a permanent place in my “Bobby Personal” file.
I was only 37 when all this was going on. I am now 75. I’m pleased to tell you that Charlie Tuna is still around, making other people laugh, I’m sure. He is holding up as well as I am, and as well as the index card is. I’ll be forever grateful to him for his part in my life. Thanks, Charlie.
And of course if you want to know the end of the story, it was at that business in Pomona where I met Jerry. He turned out to be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and we married in 1975.