more WAMU memories

naxart-vintage-radio-microphoneSteve Keller ’69, Daytona Beach Shores, Florida

I was a student in the class of 1969 and in (I think) my junior year, I decided to see if I could be a news reader at the station. I wasn’t very good and after the audition I was reminded that the station name was “double-you A  M  you” and not “dubbya AMU.” I read the news a few times and was asked to cover the screening of a Nazi propaganda film that had been classified by the government and was just being declassified. The film was being screened in a lecture hall in Hurst Hall.

I took my battery operated reel to reel tape recorder in hope of capturing some of the soundtrack that could be used as a lead in to a news report about the movie. I got a seat near the back of the room. Minutes before the screening began about 10 large men in brown Nazi uniforms entered the room and took front row seats that had been reserved for them by associates. I moved to the side door nearest to them in case there was trouble. AU had a large Jewish enrollment at the time and I expected some form of taunting. You could feel the tension in the room.

In those days we filed our reports in person, by going to the station, and for really hot news we phoned it in and did a remote. I needed to be where I could get to a phone if needed.  Most of the way through the screening Nazi flags were lowered to the ground signifying the defeat of Germany after World War I and then they were quickly and dramatically raised to a chorus of “Heil Hitler” on the soundtrack signifying the rise of the Third Reich.

Just then, the contingent of American Nazi Party Troopers rose to their feet and saluted along with the movie. That’s when I realized that George Lincoln Rockwell, chairman of the American Nazi Party and candidate for president was among them.  At the end of the film the Nazis headed for the door and I was alongside of them. Immediately outside I caught up to Rockwell, who some months later was assassinated in front of his headquarters on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, and I had a chance to ask him just one question: “Mr. Rockwell, Steve Keller WAMU News, Why are you here?”  His response was, “to see the film just like you.” Then he was whisked away by his bodyguards. I tried to get more as he got into his waiting car, and I nearly climbed in. They sped away before I could ask another question.

I was disappointed, but I had one question more than the networks had gotten, so I ran to a pay phone and called in my report. After getting the scoop on the air, I delivered my tape to the station and never saw it again. AU was the center of everything in the 1960’s and as a political science major, that’s why I chose it.