22, No. 4, Aug. 15, 2002
can sometimes serve as the creative outlets for unfulfilled vocational
aspirations. Deane Geiken, director of Illinois Radio Reader, combines
his passions for history and outdoor activities with his zeal for teaching
through medieval and American colonial re-enactments and by serving
as a cubmaster for Paxtons Cub Scout pack.
It was while taking an introductory radio broadcasting course at Parkland
College that Geiken fell in love with the medium. He later went on to
earn a bachelors degree in mass communications from Illinois State
University. An Illinois Radio Reader volunteer while attending Parkland,
Geiken returned as its director about eight years ago, which he says
is the best job on campus.
Tell me about your job.
I put on the air everything from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Being the only person
here, I have to be a jack-of-all-trades. I do the equipment maintenance
and am a parking attendant, making sure none of our volunteers gets
ticketed or towed. I even do the recordings myself when we have a hole
in the volunteer schedule.
We also have occasional fund-raisers, like the Book Fair, garage sales
and pledge drives. I also attend low-vision fairs and try to get the
word out about the service.
On a day-to-day basis, I get the local newspapers prepared for the volunteers
who come in and read. I go through them page by page and mark off those
articles that are considered local, meaning theyre pertinent to
the influence area of that particular newspaper or they are within our
broadcast range as a whole. We primarily focus on the Champaign-Urbana
area but we pull in articles from papers in Bloomington, Springfield,
Tuscola and other towns for local editions of their news.
The volunteers read the articles and record themselves on audiocassettes.
After a little production work, I broadcast those tapes over a subcarrier
frequency of WILL radio. Those who are visually impaired in East Central
Illinois who have our radio sets can pick up our service and get their
local news read to them over the radio.
What does your broadcasting comprise?
Our local newspaper programming starts at 2 oclock in the afternoon
Monday through Friday. Our listeners are getting a full hour of news,
so theyre probably better informed than most of their neighbors,
who are getting their news in 30-second sound bites on TV.
We also read books and The New Yorker magazine. It really runs the gamut:
news, entertainment and updates on developments in medicine related
to visual impairment like macular degeneration.
We also simulcast the descriptive versions of PBS programs along with
WILLs broadcast of the program so that listeners can in effect
"watch" their favorite PBS programs. Were one of the
few, if not the only station in Illinois that does that.
How big is your listening audience?
We have a listenership of about 350. Were trying to increase that
but our expansion is limited because we have to buy the radios, and
theyre $100 apiece. Our fund raising primarily goes toward buying
new radios and keeping the equipment running. Listeners apply for the
radios through their eye doctors or independent living centers and then
we send the radio out to them for free. They have to agree to pay for
any repairs. You have to have a subcarrier converter radio to pick up
our programming because we piggyback on WILLs signal.
What type of costumes do you wear for the living
For the medieval group, I portray a long bowman, an archer, and wear
padded and metal armor from head to toe. For the Revolutionary War group,
I am an American soldier. I wear a wool vest, a wool coat or a green
overcoat, knee breeches and period shoes. Then I also have my rifle
and my bow and arrows. Its really a lot of fun.
How did you get involved in these groups?
Ive always been a dyed-in-the-wool, red-white-and-blue patriot
and wanted to do the Revolutionary War. I find the Revolutionary War
stuff really rewarding because people think they know their American
history, but they really dont. Since Sept. 11, that patriotic
pride is very important, and we get a great response from the public.
What do you talk about at the demonstrations
Primarily everyday life, which was very different then. You couldnt
just pop your mutton in the microwave! My wife demonstrates cooking
at a lot of these events, and were eating rabbit, squirrel or
deer and people are shocked at the time it takes to prepare foods. I
like to demonstrate everyday activities, like putting feathers on an
arrow shaft, which prompts people to come in a little closer and ask
questions. From that I can branch off and talk about other things, such
as how you shoot the bow or how the arrow is made.
What types of questions do you get from your
The most frequent question I get is, Is that a real sword?
I think theyre asking if its from the Middle Ages. Its
not but it is sharp and yes, it can cut you. Ive actually heard
someone ask, Is that a real fire? I was stunned.
The kids, of course, love stories about battles and weapons. Ill
take in swords and axes for presentations to schoolkids, and the girls
as well as the boys are asking, Can you chop a head off with that?
In October, Im going to be involved in a medieval education program
through the Champaign Public Library, and Ill be talking about
the medieval weaponry. Ive always wanted to be a teacher and still
have dreams of that. The closest I can come right now is being a re-enactor
showing other people a little bit about history.
Where do you get your costumes?
I make most of the clothing for myself and our two kids. My wife always
says the smartest thing she ever did is teach me how to sew a straight
line. Now I do all the sewing. I choose stuff that I think will be comfortable,
will look good and be within my realm of ability to make. Im always
on the Internet doing research or reading history books so I can make
my re-enactment easier or more authentic.
On the Job: Deane Geiken
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com