We grow where we are planted
When Paul Beliveau was transferred to Robins Air Force Base in 1967, his orders had the base located in Macon, the closest metropolitan area.
Paul, a young man of 20, did not bother to look at a map. He went to Macon to look for a place to live. He found an upstairs apartment on Magnolia Street, signed a lease and was ready to report for work.
In the days before GPS, there was GAS. He stopped at a gas station on Broadway to ask for directions.
“How do I get to the base?” he inquired to the fellow at the pumps.
“Over in Warner Robins,’’ said the man.
“You mean it’s not in Macon?” Paul asked.
Paul Beliveau explains how he accidentally moved to Macon as an Airman stationed at Robins AFB.
He was pointed in the direction of Highway 247, then a two-lane road. Paul had a “sinking feeling.’’ He wondered if his logistical mistake had left him with a long, daily commute.
He can now look back with grateful humor on the day he “accidentally moved to Macon.’’ It changed his life.
He fell in love with Macon. And Macon fell in love with him.
One week from today, Paul will be inducted into the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia, along with veteran Atlanta news anchor John Pruitt and Bill Cathcart, of WTOC in Savannah. They will join an illustrious list of 66 broadcast legends (since 1984), including Tom Brokaw, Larry Munson, Ludlow Porch, Skip Caray and Monica Kaufman Pearson.
Paul has been in broadcasting for more than 50 years. He was a familiar voice over the AM airwaves at Macon’s WNEX, WBML and WMAZ radio.
On Feb. 7, he retired as director of advertising, public relations and broadcast services at the Georgia Farm Bureau, where he served as executive producer and co-host of the weekly nationally televised “The Georgia Farm Monitor.’’
It’s serendipitous that a guy from Rhode Island, who spoke French until he was 5 years old, would one day find himself reporting on peanuts and soy beans in south Georgia.
But we grow where we are planted.
Paul was raised in Woonsocket, R.I., now the corporate headquarters for CVS Pharmacy. His father was a French Canadian, and French was the only language spoken at home until Paul was 5. His mother took him to a nearby Catholic school and asked the nuns to teach him English.
It turned out to be a blessing, since the nuns were from the Midwest. His accent reflected more purity than the distinctive New England dialect that surrounded him.
When he was 10, Paul would ride his bicycle to WNRI to watch the DJs through the window. There was a speaker outside, so he could listen, too.
“If I didn’t come home, my mother would call the station and ask if there was a little boy hanging out by the window,’’ he said.The station’s employees would sometimes invite him inside. He would practice his “radio voice’’ while reading the UPI wire. By the time he was 15, he was hired for a shift on Sunday mornings. It was mostly pre-recorded, so his on-air experience was limited to announcing the time at the top of every hour.
Eventually, he had his own afternoon show. He received permission to leave school 20 minutes early every day. After graduating from high school, he joined the Air Force and touched down in Macon, albeit 19 miles off target.
He called WNEX one day and informed them that they could “use some help.’’ It got him a job spinning Top 40 records. He once met Little Richard. And he was on the air on the Sunday afternoon of Dec. 10, 1967, when the bell clanged in the wire room. It was a bulletin. Otis Redding had been killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin. Paul announced it on the air. “The phones went crazy,’’ he said. ABC News called him for a comment.
Hear Paul Beliveau interview Bob Hope during Hope's 1972 visit to Macon.
He left WNEX for a reporter’s job at WBML, where a star-studded news team covered every fender bender and brush fire in the city. The station’s management promised to hold open his job after he was transferred to Puerto Rico.
When he completed his military tour of duty, Paul returned in January 1970. He could have gone anywhere. He chose Macon.
“I felt a connection, a sense of place,’’ he said.
He would later meet and marry his wife, Kay, who worked at Capricorn Records in the early 1970s. Bill Powell lured him away from WBML with a lucrative offer from WMAZ, where Paul spent 15 years, eventually becoming radio director of news and operations.
He interviewed three Presidents — Carter, Ford and Nixon. He once talked to Bob Hope, who came to Macon for a benefit for the Grand Opera House.
By 1985, Paul said he was “burned out.’’ He was sleeping with a walkie-talkie by his bed. He left for the Georgia Farm Bureau, where he directed corporate media relations, published two statewide magazines (with a combined circulation of 400,000), and managed the bureau’s television and radio operation, web sites and social media.
“The Georgia Farm Monitor” television show is aired on RFD-TV Network (available in 50 million U.S. homes) and a dozen stations in Georgia, including WMAZ-TV. He helped create and manage the Georgia Farm Radio Network, with seven daily programs in 55 radio markets.
Even in retirement, he will stay busy. He may want to write his memoirs, too.
After all, not many folks move somewhere by accident. Paul has not only made a living, but built a life.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org