Monday, September 13, 2010

Pop Music In Sacrament Meeting (by Accident)

My Dad started his career as an electrician’s apprentice in Germany and ended his career as an electrical engineer in the U.S. His specialty was electrical substations. He was one of a rare handful of individuals in the country that had understanding of the theory and practice behind some of the most complex substation elements and systems.

Dad loved to work on and tinker with stuff. It didn’t matter whether it was electrical or mechanical. I used to think that Dad had an innate understanding of how things worked. But I now think it was more like he had an intense interest in such things. This interest led him to work with all kinds of technical items until he understood how they worked and how to fix them.

One of my brothers seems to have inherited Dad’s interest. I did not. When it comes to working on mechanical items, home repairs and renovations, electrical, plumbing, etc, I want to get as far away from it as fast as I can. My experience with home improvement projects is that it ultimately takes me longer, costs more money, and produces less satisfactory results than if I just hire a contractor to do the job. Ditto for automotive matters.

Dad was known in the neighborhood for being able to fix anything. When I was a kid, Dad was always the go-to guy at church whenever something electrical didn’t function as expected. It was because of this that I learned in the mid-1970s that our chapel’s sound system was a short-range FM band transmitter/receiver system.

The microphone in the chapel led to a box under the podium that was an FM transmitter. Under the clerk’s desk about 15 feet away was an FM receiver that fed the speaker system. Although the cabinet could be locked, it frequently was left unlocked. This is probably due to the fact that it was a large cabinet that was used to store a variety of items besides the receiver.

The FM receiver in our chapel seemed to be quite temperamental. The slightest jostling of the thing seemed to upset the receiver setting. Sometimes the contraption could go months without a problem. Other times it seemed like it needed to be adjusted almost every week to synchronize it with the transmitter.

One Sunday, the fellow standing at the podium talking into the microphone was having a devil of a time. His voice kept cutting in and out. Sometimes it was choppy. Other times it was a slow fade. He was intermittently interrupted by static and phantom sounds. It got to be quite distracting.

Finally, Dad got up from the bench where we were sitting and walked up to the clerk’s desk. He opened the cabinet, got on his knees, and started tweaking the setting. At first it got worse. Then the sound cut out completely. Then suddenly we heard the voices of England Dan and John Ford Coley singing, “But there's a warm wind blowing, The stars are out…” quite loudly throughout the chapel.

Right at that moment, Dad got the setting right. The song cut off and the speaker’s voice came in loud and clear. But the whole congregation was laughing and Dad’s face was red. Part of the reason for this is that my Dad always came across as very serious about matters and very precise in his work. It was funny to see him make a mistake.

As soon as everything settled down, the meeting continued as normal. But as a youth, that was one of the more memorable Sacrament meetings of my life.

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