By JOE LoTEMPLIO Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Is it just me, or is Ducky Drake really retiring?
Yup, he is.
After 45 years in the radio business, the versatile Drake is hanging up his microphone. Today is his last day at WIRY 1340 radio station.
“I don’t think I will miss the day-to-day stuff, but I will miss the people,” he said during a break this week. “The people I work with and the people I see on a daily basis.”
LOST IN PLATTSBURGH
Drake, 64, came to Plattsburgh in 1971 by accident.
The native of Barre, Vt., was on his way back home from an interview at a radio station in Auburn, near Syracuse, when he got lost in downtown Plattsburgh on the way to the ferry.
He noticed WEAV radio station on Margaret Street and decided to stop in to ask for directions and to see what that station was all about.
“A week later, they had an opening, and I got the job,” he said.
He worked at WEAV as the morning disc jockey until 1983, when he joined WIRY, also in the morning slot, awakening at 3:30 a.m. Monday through Friday to report for work.
“I’ve been getting up way too early for way too long,” he laughed.
In 1985, he deviated from his deejay duties when he was assigned to cover the murder trial of Michael Murphy, a high-profile local case involving the murder of a 10-year-old boy.
That’s when the news bug hit Drake.
He did news items sporadically over the years until he became the main reporter for WIRY in 1998.
“I had been around a while, and I knew a lot of people, and I just figured I could do it,” he said.
Perhaps Drake’s best contribution to the local news scene were his commentaries with the aforementioned “Is It Just Me?” title.
He started that piece in 2004 and has recorded 794 of them.
“I think all but two of them were on local issues, which is a lot harder to do than you would think,” he said.
Drake’s commentary is a blend of wit, humor, sarcasm and self-described curmudgeon.
He has targeted many local public figures and organizations over the years with observations and criticisms, sometimes quite harsh.
“I’ve struck a few nerves and been threatened with lawsuits a few times, and people have said they were going to boycott our sponsors,” he said.
“But the lawyers never materialized, and WIRY is still very much on the air.”
Drake said the idea behind “Is It Just Me?” was to be a little provocative.
“I was either trying to tell people something they didn’t know or trying to get them to think a little differently,” he said.
“What fun is it if everybody agrees with you?”
No matter how hard he hit, Drake said, his comments were never personal.
“I had people tell me that they would never listen again, and two weeks later they would be calling to complain about something else I said, so obviously they were still listening.”
While some targets got angry, others had fun with it.
City of Plattsburgh Public Works Superintendent Mike Brodi took matters into his own hands a few years ago after Drake scorched his crews for something.
Brodi appeared at a Common Council meeting, and in good spirits, handed out bright yellow hats that said, “It’s Just Ducky,” on them.
“That was funny,” Drake said. “I still have the hat.”
While people have flooded the station with angry calls, at times, the most response he ever got from the public came when his wife, Delia, passed away last year and the public sent their sympathies.
“That was unbelievable,” he said. “It really does tell you something about this community.”
Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernard Bassett was, at times, a target of Drake’s.
While Bassett wished Drake well in his retirement, he admits he didn’t always like what he heard.
“I think sometimes he just misrepresented some things,” Bassett said.
“It’s great to spur discussion, but I didn’t agree with him a lot. But it never really bothered me that much because I didn’t always listen.”
Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he had no problem with Drake.
“His political insights, commentaries and sports announcing have been appreciated by many and will certainly be missed,” Kasprzak said.
“I wish Ducky well in a very well-deserved retirement.”
STILL DOING HOCKEY
While Drake has drawn attention for “Is It Just Me?,” he is perhaps best known as voice of Plattsburgh State Cardinal hockey for the past 39 years.
He will do one more year behind the mike in the 2013-14 season to make it an even 40 years.
“I still enjoy it, but it is becoming more of a job than fun,” he said.
“Those long bus road trips can be tiring.”
Cardinal Coach Bob Emery can’t say enough good things about Drake.
“He’s been very loyal to our hockey program for almost 40 years. He’s generated a lot of interest, and he’s been very loyal to me,” Emery said.
“I am not looking forward to the day he is no longer on the bus with us.”
Emery said Drake has built up a following not just among Cardinal fans, but with fans from Division III programs around the country.
“Many people speak very highly of him, and no matter where we go, the opposing coaches all know who he is and ask about him,” he said.
“I congratulate him on his retirement and wish him all the best.”
In retirement, Drake, an avid Boston Red Sox fan, might visit a few major-league ballparks, but other than that, he plans on doing not much of anything.
“I won’t be getting up at 3:30 a.m. every day anymore, and I am not going to do anything that I don’t want to do.”
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org