Real people: Longtime Waleska fixture recalls local radio glory days
H.M. Cauley for the AJC
Former Cherokee County school superintendent and 7-time Waleska mayor Marguerite Cline has written three books, including her latest, "The Glory Days of WCHK" that she'll discuss at the Cherokee County Historical Society on Tuesday.
By H.M. Cauley
For the AJC
Decades before texting, instant messaging and the Internet, the communities in Cherokee County had their own local network for spreading the news. Whether it was sharing the name of the newest baby in the hospital or an update of a police chase, radio station WCHK kept residents up-to-the-minute with area happenings.
To Marguerite Cline, those were the glory days of hyperlocal radio. The former Cherokee schools superintendent and 7-time Waleska mayor had retold so many humorous and sometimes incredible stories about the station and the community that she finally decided to compile them into book chock full of remembrances from area residents. Even though “The Glory Days of WCHK” was published eight months ago, she still hears from neighbors and strangers who want to share their radio reminiscences.
“They say they wish they’d known I was doing it because they’ve got a story,” said Cline. “As it was, when people in the community heard I was writing the book, they began calling and writing to tell me their memories of the station - like the time the police were chasing a car and listeners phoned in to say, ‘They just passed my house.’ “
Cline’s radio memoir traces the story of the station from its inception in 1957 through the 40 years when her friend Byron Dobbs ran the show (and earned the honor of Broadcaster of the Year in 1997 from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters). The timeline dovetails with Cline’s own story in the county. She arrived there from Sparta, Ga., in 1956 to attend Reinhardt University in Waleska and has been in the town ever since.
“I had never heard of Waleska or Reinhardt before, and I had no idea what I wanted to do when I got here,” she said with a laugh. “After two years, I married my husband who was from Waleska and got a job teaching in Cherokee. I kept going back to school and got Master’s and went into administration.”
Cline raised three children, retired from teaching, was twice elected to the county’s school superintendent post and was Waleska’s mayor for 14 years. Now retired from public life, she focuses her energies on her six grandchildren and a weekly column she writes for the Cherokee Tribune, in which she details her own funny and poignant encounters as well as those from some of the area’s most interesting characters. She took that same storytelling approach in two other books she’s written, “What I’m Thinking One” and “What I’m Thinking Two.” A third volume of essays is in the works.
“I consider myself a collector of stories,” said Cline, who gathered so many stories for “WCHK” that she wrote it in just six months. Proceeds of the work go to the Cherokee County Historical Society, where she’ll be talking about her writing and the radio on Tuesday.
“I’ll start off talking about how the book came to be, and then I’m going to invite people to share their memories,” said Cline. “People may remember than the station ran from sunup to sundown, and that they were very careful not to play country music - they didn’t want it to be a hick station, so there were a lot of pop tunes and local happenings. It was very clean in those days. We’ll have plenty to talk about.”
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