Bill Tullis: In Memory of “Troll”
By Roger Wilson
Let’s begin with some brief background. I entered Woodward Academy in College Park, GA on August 28, 1967 at age 14. Although my mother had been an Atlanta native, and I had many close relatives in the Atlanta area, I had been born in New Jersey. My Mom had moved there for her job, met my Dad, and there I was. I had grown up in an environment in which everyone talked like The Sopranos, and if you ever made eye contact with a stranger, their response was usually, “what the f*k are you looking at!” I wanted to go to school in Georgia since I did have close relatives there, and I had found that when eye contact with a stranger was made, he or she would actually say “Hi”. This was pleasantly shocking to me. Anyway, after I entered W.A., somebody informed the band director that I played trumpet. At that moment, I was immediately recruited to close to the last chair, if not the last chair. I really sucked at trumpet, which is the reason I now make my living playing guitar. During the first few days of band rehearsals, I remember this funny looking guy sitting behind me in the last chair section of the trombone section. He was about as bad at trombone as I was at trumpet. His name was Bill Tullis, and seemed like a jolly fun-loving chap. I then remember that Major Hays, the band director, would either direct a comment to Tullis or me to straighten up and get with the program. He and I would look at each other, and he would laugh and make a hilarious face. The expressions were so funny, that after the band finished a song, I would turn around to see what kind of funny face he would come up with next. This guy was a riot! Later, we would talk and he told me that he was working at, WATV, the closed circuit school TV station. I was immediately interested, since TV and radio to me, as a kid, were just voices and pictures coming from somewhere in the great beyond. It had held a great fascination for me since I had spent my childhood in a small town, and was infatuated with the two forms of electronic media.
Bill Tullis and I became good friends. We hung out regularly, tolerated band practice, and actually made it through the Friday night football halftime shows marching on the field, hoping and praying that we would walk to the proper place in our formations. Bill was obsessed with radio, TV, and electronics. He already had an extensive collection of current 45 RPM singles, along with his department store turntable that his Mom bought him to bring to school. On the weekends, I would tag along with Bill to downtown Atlanta on the bus to visit TV and radio stations. He had a knowledge and interest in something like I had never seen exhibited by anyone. There is one Saturday afternoon I can remember well. We rode the bus from College Park to the downtown Atlanta Rich’s store, and would walk up Forsythe Street to Peachtree Street. Our first stop for these two fourteen year-old kids in prep school blazers and uniforms would be the World Electronics store at the Peachtree and West Peachtree split. It was there that Bill would pi ck up toggle switches, capacitors, transistors, switch boxes, and who knows what else. After grabbing some lunch at the Regency (for around 5 bucks then which seemed like a fortune), we headed into the Peachtree Center building to radio station WGKA. Bill, who resembled a gentle troll-like character then, knew exactly where he was going, and he his contact was.
Bill and the man operating the station that day engaged in radio talk that I could barely understand, but was wanting to so badly. They spoke of wattage, warm transmitters, and other terminology that I would later hear more of in my career. It may be that I saw all of this stuff again in the next two Third Class Radio license tests that I would fail, finally to pass it on the third try in 1973. It seemed that not too long after that, tests were no longer required by the FCC, and anybody could obtain a radio broadcast license if they could sign their name. On this beautiful Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, the gentleman at the radio station decided he wouldn’t mind showing us the actual WGKA transmitter… a top the 30 story Peachtree Center skyscraper! He escorted us to an open floor just beneath the roof, and we walked over to this huge piece of equipment. Tullis and this guy were still talking technical talk about this transmitter, while all the time I was trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at. I might add that it took me longer to reach the equipment since I am deathly afraid of heights. Although we were in the middle of this unfinished skyscraper floor, there were no windows. The wind was blowing so fiercely through the 30th or so story, that I was hugging each column as I slowly made my way across. Once I had my bearings, it was a beautiful clear view of the city, along with Stone Mountain in the distance. I still carry that view in my mind to this day. That Saturday evening back at school, I told my folks about the experience during my weekly long distance collect call. Whether I knew it or not, Troll was setting me up for what I would later do in life. There were more cool experiences and excursions like this that I will touch on later. TO BE CONTINUED...
Roger “Hurricane” Wilson
Presented by Watch & Learn
Roger "Hurricane" Wilson
P O Box 1212
Kennesaw, GA 30156
Web Site: www.hurricanewilson.com