By Donna O'Neil, Managing Editor
Chances are that if something happened Williamson County in the last 45 years Charles Dibrell has covered it – first for WIZO and then for WAKM. But his radio days started long before that in a bedroom when he and his cousin first hit the airwaves with a “not quite licensed” station. Fortunately for Williamson Countians, the FCC shutdown of that first station did not deter the news hound. Her persevered and area residents are better for it.
On Friday, Dibrell, 67, a statuesque man and familiar face behind the microphone, will sign off for a final time as he takes his leave from the responsibilities of chasing the news in the county. When asked what he will do with all his free time, he said, “Anything I am able to do.”
He and wife Cathy are looking forward to spending more time together. She’s looking forward to having home and he’s looking forward to establishing some hobbies. “I haven’t had time to do else while in this business,” he said.
Cathy is a former counselor with the Franklin Special School District, having retired a couple years ago.
The couple met in Sarasota, Fla. 45 years ago. It was definitely love at first sight as they were married after only three dates before moving to Franklin.
Locally, Dibrell’s voice was heard through radio speakers from WIZO, located at 118 Fourth Ave. in Franklin and owned by Bob Sewell. It was Dibrell’s first job in the industry. “It was an FM station, but back then folks didn’t know what FM was,” Dibrell said.
He and others purchased WAKM from Tom T. Hall when Sewell decided he would not take Dibrell on as a partner.
In discussing his upcoming retirement, Dibrell reflected on the events that not only marked his career, but changes in Franklin. On such memory he recalled was the Main Street election results.
“Traditionally city officials would close off Main Street on Election Day from Five Points to Fourth Avenue,” he said. “A crowd would gather in the street and watch as the results were broadcast on bed sheets hung across Main Street where the Bob Parks Realty office is now.”
This, he said, lasted until he started broadcasting the results for the radio station, “and people found out they could stay home, stay warm, and get the results from the radio.”
One tool that is a must-have for a reporter – radio, television or newspaper – is a police/fire scanner. Dibrell has lived with the constant din of one such tool for years.
“The one thing I learned early on – it is not cool to get to a crime scene ahead of the police.” He referred to his in-you-face style of reporting the news, wanting to get the scoop and the story before the competition. Officers are there to do a job, he said, conceding that he too lived by the same credo.
Dibrell reflected on his experiences with now-retired Williamson County Sheriff Flemming Williams. “It was back before the yellow tape mentality,” he said, agreeing that boundaries at crime scenes are there to protect the crime scene and the public onlookers. “It was not better then, just different.”
It was during those times when the police department had only three official vehicles, the sheriff took his own car to work as did several others.
Waxing nostalgic, Dibrell said what he will miss most is the constant contact with Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore, Franklin Police Public Information Officer Lt. Charles Warner, City of Franklin Communications Manager Milissa Reierson and others on a daily basis.
Dibrell said, “Franklin is an outstanding small town, where the economy is good. It wasn’t that way when I came to town.”
He recalled when Franklin’s City Hall was located where Stites & Harbison Law Offices is now on West Main Street. The building housed the police department, a jail and the court. “I remember that the judge used to have to duck his head when he took his seat, because of the ceiling,” he said. Dibrell recalled that the firefighters ran the police radio and a couple of firefighters actually lived on the second floor of the building. There were four bays for two fire trucks adjacent to the building. One of the bays housed the fire chief’s car – his personal car – so that he could dip his fishing pole into the Harpeth on the way home occasionally.
With grandparents who lived in Sparta, Tenn., he visited the area frequently and when it came to settling down he decided being a big fish in a little pond was a better option. Thus, he chose Franklin over Nashville to settle in.
Dibrell said, “I am grateful to the people of his area for welcoming me and for their assistance during my career. It has been a good run. I will miss the activity.”
A reception is planned to honor Charles and Cathy Dibrell at the Factory at Franklin, Thursday, Nov. 29, 4-7 p.m. in Building 11, Suite 11A. Enter the building by Rusty, the giant sculpture for the easiest access.
Posted on: 11/29/2012