Paul Berg (aka Pat O’Day):
his brother’s perspective

By Dave Berg
 

There were two things that led Pat to a career in radio: his dad and sports. From ages 7 to 13 he watched and listened to his dad doing a 15 minute daily broadcast. He decided then that he wanted to be the one with a microphone in front of him. Pat was attracted to radio and loved sports. He was a pretty good young athlete. When he was a 9th grader he was the pitcher for his junior high baseball team. I watched him throw a no-hitter.

Our dad died that year. Pat was 14. We moved to a home close to the Tacoma Tiger baseball field. We would go an hour or more before the game. During batting practice Pat would shag fly balls in the outfield. I would be on the far side of the left field wall. We could keep any baseballs hit out of the park. I would pick them up and Pat would sell them at school.

But Pat also got to know the Tiger’s radio announcers – Rod Belcher and Clay Huntington. They would let him come into the radio booth during the games. In the 1950s, when the home team was away, sportscasters would receive a teletype report of statistics from each inning. Then from an empty stadium, they would re-create the game. Belcher and Huntington would save some of the teletype copies and give them to Pat. Pat would check out a tape recorder from the school library, bring it home, and practice re-creating baseball games.

The style he wanted to emulate was Leo Lassen,, the announcer for the Seattle Rainiers. He had a very unique approach. He became the eyes for his listeners. He brought them into the emotions of the game. There was no dead air time. He described everything he saw: the brightness of the green grass under the lights. The setting sun coloring Mount Rainier over the right field fence … Boys scrambling to retrieve a foul ball in the left field bleachers … A man lighting up his cigar in the grandstand …  The batter knocking the dirt out of his cleats with his bat.

When there was action he reported it in a rapid staccato, his voice rising to communicate the excitement and emotion of a true fan.

Pat decided that he wanted to be a sportscaster. He would finally get his opportunity when the hydroplane races came to Seattle. In his mind he was the Leo Lassen of the hydroplane experiences on Lake Washington.

Pat’s radio career began in Astoria, Oregon. He moved quickly to KLOG in Longview, and KUTI in Yakima. It was the beginning of the Rock and Roll era. When Pat came to Seattle, he began at KAYO. Rock and roll was the new trend. He began in SKAYO management decided that it wouldn’t last. They changed KAYO management decided to change back to more traditional programming. KJR wanted Pat and signed him to a contract.

It would not be sports that would contribute so much to Pat’s radio personality. It would be his dad and the things that originally attracted Pat to radio.

Pat and I were born in Nebraska. Our dad had a church in Lincoln, Nebraska and was occasionally on a radio program called Back to the Bible Broadcast. It would move toward national importance during the Second World War.
 
Dad’s church was doing well, but he felt drawn to the West Coast. He contacted our church’s Northwest Superintendent and was told there was a church in Tacoma that needed a pastor. He went to apply for the position. He gave the Sunday morning sermon on December 7, 1941. It was Pearl Harbor Sunday. After the sermon he learned about the Japanese attack. Returning to Lincoln he gave the church a month’s notice. They warned him and mom that they were taking us into the teeth of the Japanese invasion.

When we arrived in Tacoma, dad went directly to Tacoma’s only radio station, KMO. They gave him a time slot right after the morning news, six days a week during the Second World War. Tacoma was instantly becoming a city of displaced people. With McCord Air Force base, Fort Lewis, and a navy shipyard, Tacoma was a center for the Air Force, army and navy. Workers, recovering from the Great Depression years, were pouring into Tacoma.

The mood in Tacoma was fear. Japan’s air force was far superior to our own. Our navy had suffered severe losses of ships and men at Pearl Harbor. Heavily damaged ships were towed to Tacoma’s naval shipyard for repair or salvage. At Fort Lewis the army was preparing to invade islands in the South Pacific. They would be lacking sufficient naval and air support.

As he approached his teen years Pat was watching Dad reach out to his audience, bringing hope, a source of peace in the middle of confusion and terror, and God’s message of life after death confronting the daily news of the death toll. I remember servicemen coming to our home for dinner and support. Pat was learning the importance of communicating with people personally, in a way that touches their deepest needs.

Years later Pat would apply the principles that had been planted in his personality. When asked how he came across so personally on the radio, he said he would look into the microphone and picture one person and speak to them. He said that Billy Graham with his vast audiences would speak to the person in the top row at the back of the stadium.

Recently, on George Toles' Zoom meeting, Pat was asked how he was able to select such amazing talent when he hired radio personalities. He said, I told them, I’m going out to get a cup of coffee. When I come back you have one minute to make me laugh or make me cry. Pat wanted people who could touch the emotions of their listeners.

When Pat came into radio, rock and roll was a new beat and sound that appealed to young people. It was a form of music for communicating to their generation. Rock Around the Clock was the beginning of a teen dance movement. Love Me Tender touched their hormones. But the current of communications was being changed. The Vietnam War, racial conflict, and the Hippy movement used music to communicate their messages.

As we moved from the sixties to seventies Pat’s national tour organization was sending out messages of free love, sexuality without commitment, and drugs. Harvard professor Timothy Leary’s catch phrase, Turn on, tune in, drop out, went along with the promotion of hallucinogenic drugs. Pat chose to follow the influence of the culture. Alcoholism and cocaine became his personal problems. Friends insisted that as a drunk, he was destroying himself. They forced him to go to Schick Shadel Hospital, an alcohol rehabilitation center. He fought it. He thought that he was in control and could limit his drinking. The hospital cured him of his habit.

Pat found a new focus. He became a part owner of Schick Shadel and took over their advertising. He would promise, Give us ten days and we will give you back your life. He found a lot of solace in his new goal – helping people in their time of need. It was part of his roots. For three decades he has travelled to the hospital every ten days to assure new patients that they were making a great decision for themselves and their families. He would return 10 days later to congratulate them on what they had completed and the new freedom they had found. In the last weeks of his life he recorded his messages so they can continue to be used.

During the last year of his life, Pat began to struggle with a huge inner conflict. His dad, during the war, had been dealing with issues far greater than addictions. He was presenting the full solution to a purposeful life, impending death, and life after death, our relationship with our Creator. Pat was realizing that the principles of his success had come from his mom and dad. He had used borrowed principles but left out the Creator. He asked himself, Why am I fighting this? Then he took what he calls “a very easy step.” He said “Yes” to Jesus. He confessed his sins, which he said were many, and asked Jesus to take control of his life.

My brother changed. I have never seen him so filled with joy, and peace. He gained a purpose. He said that in the time he had left he wanted to bring one person to Jesus Christ, then he would pause and say, then one more and one more.

My family will miss him. But we also are experiencing the same joy and peace that unites us with him. Life is very, very brief. Our Creator makes death not the ending, but the beginning. Eternity is forever, it is everlasting.

It is amazing that death brings sorrow, but …for those who know Christ … there is a deep sense of peace, even joy that we will spend eternity together. This is not emotionally driven. The evidence of God’s truth is powerful.

Here is another thing we are experiencing. There is a sadness when we look at our culture and realize the opposition to God that nearly destroyed Pat - is destroying so many others.

Our hope is for those who felt related to Pat, a friend you grew up listening to - I’d like to say, please consider carefully his message to you, at the conclusion of his life.

For Pat I’ll say, Thank you for listening.