After 23 years in radio, Harry Wright will be on air with WCHO for his final time prior to retirement from noon to 2 p.m. today at the local Rent-2-Own and then as a board engineer for the Washington Court House versus Miami Trace boys and girls basketball games in the evening.
“It’s going to be a sad Saturday,” said Wright. “I finally understand what the word bittersweet means.”
Wright explained with his current health situation, he has decided now is a good time to retire because staying at work, not knowing when he will have to take off for health reasons, is unfair to his coworkers.
“I want to be fair to WCHO. They’ve been wonderful. They were great in the past and let me have all the time that I needed to recuperate,” he said.
According to Wright, he had never considered working on radio prior to actually doing so.
Initially, he was working in Springfield making containers for the military.
“It was a great job and I liked it,” explained Wright. “My sister worked for a lawyer and he owned a bar with another guy.”
The bar needed a new manager that could be trusted to do the work without stealing the supplies, according to Wright, and his sister asked him to manage it, which he did for a couple of years.
Once it was remodeled and doing well, Wright decided it was time for a change.
“A buddy of mine was working down at Deer Creek,” he said.
At the time, Deer Creek Lodge needed assistance with banquet bartenders.
“The guy who ran the Harding’s Lounge—which was the bar at Deer Creek—I’d never worked in the Harding’s Lounge at all,” said Wright. “But that morning the guy that ran it, who had never missed a day in 10 years, got in a car wreck on the way there. He was okay but the car was torn up and he couldn’t make it to work. They wanted to know if I could fill in.”
Wright filled in and at this time a couple was drinking at the bar. While working, Wright said he and the other staff joked and talked.
”If you’re going to be at work you might as well have fun. At the end of three hours, the guy and the girl talking there, he paid his tab and said, ‘You’re a funny guy—you need to be on the radio.’” said Wright. “I told him, ‘Well, I should be in movies too, but I’m in Mount Sterling—that ain’t going to happen.’”
At that point, Wright said the man handed him a business card that said “Tony Hays, general manager at WCHO.”
Upon meeting with Hays, an offer for an open spot was made and Wright took it, meaning he began working for WCHO in 1996.
The beginning of Wright’s career involved a great deal of learning the ropes, learning tips to succeed and making many mistakes. He was put on air before he expected and was told the best way to learn radio is by being on it.
Wright explained, “I left that day thinking, ‘Man, I suck and I wouldn’t listen to me.’ I expected to be fired everyday. With that in mind, I decided to do as much good as I could everyday, because it might be my last day.”
Wright credited a great deal of his knowledge to various people he has met throughout his life who took the time to teach him or allow him to converse with them.
Wright left WCHO in 2000 and went to WVNU from 2001-2007.
“I left WVNU in 2007 to run for city council,” said Wright. “I didn’t make it, but I couldn’t be on the air while I ran.”
Wright then worked at Horney’s Barbecue for approximately five years.
“That was fun, but I always kept with the radio. I did voice work for them,” he said.
Wright went back in 2012 to WCHO.
When asked what his favorite thing was to cover, he said county fairs.
“So many times kids do stupid stuff and get their 15 minutes of fame. At a county fair, the 4-H kids and the FFA kids—those are the role models for our children. I always wanted to highlight them. You show me a 10-year-old kid with a pitchfork, cleaning out a stall and that’s my next interview.”
Wright also likes to assist the Cattle Feeders at the fair, including assisting with grilling.
“Those cattle projects at the fair—those kids have 4 or 5,000 wrapped up in that steer, and they’re getting $1,700. They’re losing $3,300. So, the Cattle Feeders help ease that pain a little bit,” he explained. “That’s why there are so many kids taking pigs and rabbits or steers and rabbits. What you lose on the pig and the steer, you help gain on the rabbits. So, I like helping the Cattle Feeders.”
During his time working radio, Wright met the woman who would become his wife, Mary. She had seven kids from a previous relationship whom Harry now considers his own children.
Wright explained that he sees his path into radio as being set just so he and Mary could meet. They were married in 1996.
“October the 1st, 1963 at four o’clock in the morning I was spanked by Dr. Hiney and I took a breath of Fayette County air,” said Wright. “More than likely, my last breath will be Fayette County air. There I was in a radio station where I had the chance to make this a better place. And what a sin it would have been if I didn’t take that opportunity—literally a mortal sin. I never told anybody no.”
“I can’t tell you how many things I had planned with the kids that I had to cancel,” said Wright. “There were a lot of perks with the job—when you have seven kids, there aren’t a lot of funds left over for recreational stuff—but because of the radio station doing trade-outs for tickets and such things, I got to take the kids to some events that I normally wouldn’t have been able to take them to on our own.”
Part of his plans for retirement is to be able to make and keep those plans with his grandchildren.
“That’s why it’s important for me to retire now. I don’t want to do that to the grandkids. I want to be there for their sporting events, I want to be there for their school events—I just want to be there for them. I see them growing and it’s like just yesterday they were in diapers,” said Wright. “Time is flying on me. Mary’s passing taught me that every day is precious, because you’re not guaranteed tomorrow. So, make it count.”
Harry said the last few years without Mary have been rough, but this year he has pledged to make his holiday festive.
He explained he plans to continue helping the community in different ways, but he is also going to enjoy not having to be in certain locations at certain times and simply being with his grandkids.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.