After having left a note on the BDN website guestbook we contacted former BDN employee Alan MacQuoid and asked him to tell us a bit about his time with the BDN and if it would be OK with him, if we published a special feature about him on our site.
Not only was he willing in but also dropped us a very impressive mail about the time before, during and after BDN. We think that any modification of this mail would be unedaquate and hence we are happy to let him tell his story…
I was drafted into the US Army in July, 1954 and was sent to Austria in early December of that year. I was scheduled to be a medical assistant, but while waiting for rail transportation from Leghorn, Italy I heard of a job opening at BDN. I asked myself whether I would prefer to clean bed-pans or work with the radio network. It was not a difficult decision.
Prior to being drafted into the Army I was a university student in Southern California, earning money by producing and hosting a weekly program on a local radio station. Using that experience (and some newspaper clippings) I was able to be assigned to BDN Salzburg.
Life at “the Schloss” was certainly far superior to what I would have experienced cleaning bed pans at the hospital at Camp Truscott. The leadership was certainly military, but the Department of Defense civilian professionals set the professional standards. Our military duties were virtually non-existent.
During the time that I was there the bulk of the network on-air broadcasting was delivered by the 33 enlisted Army personnel. By “enlisted” personnel I mean that they were not officers, not that they had voluntarily joined the Army. Most had been drafted for a two year term. Most, if not all, had prior radio experience. Most had much more radio experience than I.
We enjoyed a great deal of personal freedom. Once we completed our assigned radio duties we were free to leave the building and do as we pleased, not to return until our next duty period. We all carried signed passes that other military personnel in Austria envied. I spent my time visiting Salzburg and making friends. I am proud to say that I still am friends with many of those I met at that time. Some military personnel in Salzburg were critical at our policy regarding our pass policy, but we were focused on our jobs and devoted many hours to prepare and execute in a professional manner.
At BDN Salzburg we could take meals from our own kitchen, a local gasthaus, Camp Roeder or sneaking into the “K-haus” The Salzburg facility was located in a two story building about 250 meters west of the actual Schloss. The military office was on the ground floor, as were the living quarters for the announcers and technicians. We slept four to a room. The radio studios (“A” and “B”) were upstairs, as was the record library, control room and offices for civilians Bud Miller and Bob Abbott.
We wore military uniforms while broadcasting programs only when needed.(or when Colonel Tidwell was in a bad mood). Unlike with television, radio did not let the listening audience see what we were wearing. Some of the clothing (or lack there of) was colorful, to say the least.
In January 1955 I was transferred to the BDN repeater station in St. Johann i.Pongau. As an avid skier I was looking forward to that assignment. The station consisted of a Gates 250 Watt transmitter. I was the sole military person to be in charge of the station.
(BDN Station / Transmitter as used in St. Johann im Pongau and Zell am See)
There were two Austrian radio technicians who did all of the work. I lived and slept in the small station, promising not to get in the way of Josef and Christian. The two guys alternated days and did a great job. I became great friends with Josef Mairhofer, who lived in Bischofshofen. I had purchased a 1954 Opel which allowed us to spend time at many of the local towns, chasing girls. Josef started dating a girl from Schwarzach, We often visited and camped at Goldegg.
I enjoyed my time at St. Johann i. Pongau, and was virtually alone and separated from BDN Salzburg. Skied just about every day that I wanted.
One Spring afternoon in 1955 I heard the report that the USSR had agreed to terms that would end the occupation of Austria. I was issued orders to dismantle the radio equipment by the first of July and ship everything back to Salzburg.
This was not good news for me. Josef, Christian and I had developed a nice little business of repairing radios for the local military community and more important, the Austrian community. That was a nice source of extra income for the three of us.
We packed up all of the BDN equipment as well as we could with limited packing materials. Moving day arrived and an army truck arrived for the trip back to Salzburg. It was a sad day for me, as well as for a number of the local Austrians. I did not smoke cigarettes but I did purchase my allowance (or more) to share with friends.
In addition to the the shipment from St. Johann i. P, equipment was arriving from Vienna and Linz. Those two stations were operated as “stand alone” stations with radio broadcasting personnel. Both Vienna and Linz had remote transmitting stations which were similar to that in St. Johann i. P.
As the various stations went off the air the personnel started arriving at BDN Salzburg.
Some of the radio announcers and technicians were sent to AFN in Germany and some were sent home to the USA.
BDN Salzburg remained on the air during the period of packing all of the equipment that had been arriving from the outlying stations.
We gave some equipment to Rot Weiss Rot and sent a complete station to the U.S. military base in Leghorn, Italy.
The Summer of 1955 was busy at BDN Salzburg. I was assigned to cover the Salzburg Music Festival. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and interview interesting music and theater personalities. The “Irish Legend” had it’s initial performance. Among the radio interviews that I remember was one with George Zell, who was making his first return to Austria since his hasty departure in 1938.
I had already fallen in love with Salzburg, it’s culture, food, wine and people. That Summer I spent all of my free time with my Austrian friends.
The military had constructed a nine-hole golf course on the grounds of Schloss Klessheim. A friend of mine, Private Ken Venturi, was the golf instructor. Ken had been the US Amateur Golf Champion prior to his being drafted into military service. I played a lot of golf that Summer.
The last day of radio broadcasting was fast approaching. We were told to destroy all of the record libraries. AFN had it’s own library and did not want any records. By legal agreements the records could not be given to any persons and entities other than the military. We did as ordered and smashed the records. There were a few records that somehow survived destruction. Kurt Bayer, the bartender at the Hotel Goldener Hirsh, was a great fan of jazz music. Somehow Kurt did obtain a few records. They were 16 inch discs and had to be cut down to 12 inches before he could play them.
A couple of days prior to the deadline we pulled the plug and went off the air. The record library was gone. Bud Miller and Bob Abbott had emptied their offices and headed for Germany. As we dismantled the remaining equipment, the building was transformed from hustle and bustle into a ghostly and empty structure.
(Dismantling of BDN Salzburg – KCZA studio equipment)
The remaining announcers and technicians received their orders for the next assignments. Some to AFN and others back to the USA for reassignment or discharge from the military. My orders were to report to AFN Frankfurt.
I was among the few that swept the floor on that last day and locked the door. “This is BDN Salzburg, signing off the air.”
Austria and Austrians had affected me and I knew that I would be back.
I reported for duty at AFN Frankfurt and was assigned for duty as an announced at AFN Bremerhaven, and later at a remote station at the 97th General Hospital, in Frankfurt.
I returned to the USA in late May, 1956 and was honorably discharged from military service and returned to the university to further my education.
I graduated with a Juris Doctor degree and an MBA. Part of my legal education included studies at the University of Salzburg School of Law.
I return to Austria often and have been involved in assisting Austrians with business problems and solutions.
Austria became a part of my life when I was a young man and I am proud to say that Austria is still a large part of my life and that of my children.
I arrived in Austria speaking not one word of German. I now have fun trying to get along in Pongau, Pinzgau and Tirol.