Interview by Sarah Holtz
Our Volunteer of the Month is Jim Lazare, who’s been reading at the station for over 30 years. I got the opportunity to talk to Jim about, among other things, his affinity for travel, beers, and cars from the European continent. Check out the full interview recording below ::
I understand you’ve been with us for a while.
Quite a while, yeah. Back in ’84 sometime I started – I don’t remember the exact date – but I got hooked and have been here ever since.
What’s your favorite part about the ritual of reading at WRBH?
Well, I don’t read the same thing all the time, so it’s always something new and interesting. I learn as much as I hope I impart on the listeners.
In what ways does your home reflect your personality?
It’s a mess [laughs]. I’m not the neatest person in the world. I’m not a total slob, but there are areas of my house that are just a total wreck. Organized chaos. I know where everything is, but nobody else can find anything in it, so I think I feel the same way. My life goes all over the place.
My quote office has sports memorabilia piled up, it’s got old articles, old magazines piled up. Not everything, but every once in a while I’ll find a magazine or a news article that I’m interested in and I’ll keep the whole thing, whereas I really only need two pages out of it. My plan was once day to have it all organized [laughs]. I know it will never happen, but…one day maybe.
I understand you worked for Delta for many years. Is there an aspect of airplane travel or aircraft mechanics that continues to fascinate you?
Well, I did everything but fuel ‘em and fly ‘em when I was working there, so I kind of made the rounds. The industry changed so much at the end, because it’s just not the same industry I went to work for. At the beginning, it was very much about service to individuals and passengers and stuff like that. Of course, airplanes were smaller and didn’t carry as many people as they do today. We were proud as a company to offer service to our passengers, but the industry, as I said, has changed – people are looking for the least expensive fare and don’t want service like they used to. They want to get from here to there with the minimum amount of money. It took a lot of the fun out of it at the end for me, that we weren’t able to be as interactive with the passengers as we used to be, because it was more of the herd-the-cattle-on-and-off and stuff. So I think I left at a good time. The industry had outgrown me; I would say that, than the other way around.
Back in the day, when we traveled as employees, we could ride on the airplanes, but we had a dress code. The ladies wore stockings, the guys wore collars and ties. Not anymore [laughs]. It was a big controversy when they said we could downgrade and actually wear jeans on the airplane. There were a lot of employees themselves who objected, because we wanted to project a certain image of sophistication, if you will, that jeans just didn’t do. But of course, people tolerated it, and you have to go with what the public wants because you’re selling a service to the public. But it was always nice to be able to go places, and see the world with as much effort as you wanted to. You could go a lot of places and I had a lot of great trips with the family and the kids.
What kind of places did you visit?
Europe was probably some of the best, because it’s so different from when you get here. We made Paris and London, but I think my favorite was Ireland, where we rented a car and drove until we ran out of land, and came back. The Irish people, they’re the best. You will not find, I don’t think anywhere, more hospitable people anywhere that will take care of you like the Irish did.
Did you meet any crazy characters while you were over there?
Everyone’s a character [laughs]. One day, we went to a church that was involved in The Troubles, as they call it, in 1916 in Ireland. It was one of the tour guide that drove out there, and there was an old priest who saw us in the church – we were reading the plaques and stuff – and he asked us what we were doing and we told him. He says, “You’ll be laying your head where tonight?” And we said, “we’re going to be driving back to the town.” And he said, “Much too late. Go see Mrs. O’Leary and she’ll put you up for the night.”
So we drove down the road and Mrs. O’Leary had no idea we were coming, but we were welcomed anyway. While we were putting our bags away for the evening, she said, “And you’ll be joining us for the singalong?”
What’s the singalong?
The singalong goes on at the pub, around 9 o’clock. There wasn’t a town, so she was in the middle of nowhere, the church was in the middle of nowhere, and the pub was in the middle of nowhere. But it was full of people! [laughs]. We got there about 9 o’clock and joined in. We didn’t know the words, we didn’t know the music, but we had a good time [laughs].
You were quoted in your last WRBH interview saying that you would read a milk carton if it was put in front of you. Is there anything you would refuse to read?
Probably a foreign language, because I’m not too good at that. I can probably read a few words in French and Spanish, but I’m not very good at it. So when we get a few words interspersed in these articles, I’ll read them, but…my foreign vocabulary’s a little weak.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Beer. I like beer, and I like different flavors. So I’m not stuck on Miller Lite, or Budweiser, or any particular brand. I like adventure in beer. I find certain beers go with certain meals – it’s almost like a wine type of thing. I’m not an aficionado and can tell you all the flavors. It’s very amateurish what I do but I like experimenting with different flavors. The Bulldog’s one of my favorite places in the town, because the tap master over there was telling me, you won’t drink them all because we change them, with the seasonal beers and stuff like that. There’s always something new to try there, and every time I get a chance to go there, it’s always an adventure off the charts.
That was one of the fun things about going to Ireland. You could try the Irish beers, and European beers in general are totally different from what you find here. They’re brewed totally differently, because they’re made to drink more at room temperature. We like beers here that will give you the ice cream brain freeze type of thing, whereas over there, they say room temperature, but it’s the room temperature of a medieval castle which is about 55 degrees [laughs]. It’s not warm, but the flavors are totally different and the brewing process is a little bit different too, because of the difference in the flavors.
Do you tour any breweries while you were in Europe?
Yep! I’ve been to the Heineken [brewery] in Amsterdam, and well, Guinness – everyone goes to see Guinness in Ireland…in one of the pubs that we went to in Ireland, I told the fella, “You know, I’ve already tried Guinness and the other names, so what would recommend for a beer?” And he said, “I prefer Smithwick’s, myself.” And I said, “Good, I’ll have Smithwick’s.”
If you had could have any car from any era, what would it be and how would you make it your own?
I’m driving it! [laughs] I bought a 2009 BMW with a 6-speed. And I love it! The car is very enjoyable to drive, and I don’t mean to be a snob or anything, but the car does whatever you want it to do. If you’d like to go for a little boulevard cruise and look at the Christmas lights, it’ll do that. If you want to take it on a twisty, windy road and turn it loose, it’ll do that too.
I’ve had a bunch of cars over my life because I like different things, and have driven everything from an AC Cobra to a Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce was probably the most surprising because I was very young when I drove it. Being used to getting into American cars, I pulled the door hard closed to slam it to make it lock, and all I got was a little click. And I said, “Oh, the damn thing doesn’t work.” So I opened it up and tried it again…click. I found out later, that’s all you can do. That’s the way they build Rolls Royces…
And for any automobile aficionados out there, I’ll make them jealous, I also drove a ’55 Mercedes Gullwing. It was a car that was brought in for service in a little place I was working in and the fella asked me, “When you finish, can you bring it back to me?” So it was a short test drive…I made it a little longer. I didn’t take it out on the highway or anything, but compared to the experience of American automobiles of the period, it handled totally different and it was just a real pleasure to drive.
Thank you so much for talking with me today, Jim, and congratulations on being our Volunteer of the Month.
Thank you very much. I appreciate the honor and recognition.