Gary Gerould [BA '62] giggled as he recalled the story, knowing darn well it was a bunch of bull. The episode starts with him getting word over a police scanner chaos had broken out along the heart of Highway 99's run through Chico [California]. The primary news man for local KHSL radio at the time, Gerould immediately jumped into his cherry red Ford Falcon and arrived at the scene as the drama heightened. "There was a rodeo taking place at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, and one of the rodeo bulls had gotten loose," he said, retracing an event that pretty much defines the early stages of his career. "So there I am on 99, live on the air reporting back to the studio calling play-by-play on the car radio of this bull, and obviously we're talking about a huge animal here, weaving through traffic."
These days, of course, Gerould is more accustomed to portraying such spontaneous happenings to the public as they unfold.
Now in his 21st season as the flagship broadcaster for the Sacramento Kings, his voice is discernible to thousands throughout the north state. He also has remained an authority on the motor sports scene, currently covering nationally televised NHRA races after major network stints in Indy Car Racing that regularly placed him on pit road at the Indianapolis 500.
Long beforehand, however, he was an up-and-comer in Chico, feeling his way through the business at KHSL. The stint was the first full-time gig for Gerould, who was barely over 20 and yet did everything at the station, from producing the news he gathered to reporting it firsthand all the way down to playing the music that ran while he was in the middle of performing the two tasks.
Chasing bulls through an open highway was never part of the job description, though he never wavered when similar situations arose.
"That's the best training I could have asked for," Gerould said. "To improvise, ad-lib and be forced to concisely convey these types of things for listeners to get the most specific account possible at a second's notice, that's really the beast of (the broadcasting profession)."
Gerould honed those skills by calling Chico High and Chico State sporting events about as well as local listeners could have expected in a smaller radio market.
"He was so articulate; he used the English language so well," said George Rogers, one of Gerould's KHSL colleagues who shared the microphone with him during sports broadcasts. "I was the color guy and Gary always handled the play-by-play. He made it look effortless. Every once in a while we'd switch it up and about three minutes into the game, I'd struggle and give him back the reins. His command was just outstanding."
Gerould was considerably young, but he arrived in town with plenty of experience. Growing up in Midland, Michigan, he was deprived of a traditional family setting to fall back on as a child — his father had passed away not long after his mother grew gravely ill when he was only 11.
Virtually independent, he hung out at a nearby radio station during his time away from junior high school, observed the professionals at work and became fascinated with the idea of his voice being heard over the air.
"I had a paper route back then, and I can still recall making up basketball games in my head as I walked through the snow and doing the broadcasts as they progressed," Gerould said.
He began building his resume at Anderson University in Indiana, where he worked on campus doing various forms of media, even emceeing school events in the process. And it wasn't long before his fate in California would be sealed.
Adopting Marlene Chesterman, a Chico High grad, as his college sweetheart, Gerould knew he had found his bride to be, only needing to find permanent work in radio after graduation to cement their future.
The young couple struggled to make ends meet for months in the Midwest until Chesterman's father, Von, a minister at Chico's First Church of God, stumbled upon an opening at KHSL.
"He was recording the evening sign-off prayer in studio," Marlene said. "Don Borota, the programming director, came storming in and said, 'Preacher, I've had it with these people! Can you find me another news director?'"
Von Chesterman did so by arranging for Borota to get hold of Gerould's work up to that point. The hire went through, sending the couple on a drive out west with their 3-month-old daughter, Beth, to be married and begin setting up a permanent family.
Gerould hit the ground running in the new environment. His traditional shift called for working afternoons late into the evening, but the job soon became a 24-hour endeavor.
He kept a radio plectron capable of picking up voiced police and fire department signals in his bedroom. Often parked outside his house was the red Falcon, fondly known around town then as KHSL's "News Cruiser." This all led to several late-night, early-morning forays to the scenes of automobile accidents and structure fires as far out as Gridley.
The practice became so normal that even young Beth wanted in on the act.
"(Medically), her hearing was off the charts, and she could pick up a siren before Gary could," Marlene Gerould said. "Nothing made her more excited than to be able to tell him something was happening."
Among peers, Gerould became renowned for his work ethic, namely the preparation he put forth for any given assignment, and the passion he showed for the job.
"Whenever I think of Gary, I think of that News Cruiser," said Art Spaulding, longtime track photographer and historian for Silver Dollar Speedway. "I still have a picture of him smiling, standing in front of it. He loved that thing."
Added Rogers: "He was just one of those guys. You knew he wasn't going to be around long because it was only a matter of time before he was scooped up onto a bigger market."
The promotion came in 1963, with Gerould joining a long list of KSHL alumni to make the jump to KRCA-TV in Sacramento. Ultimately, his success during a 12-year stay there as a sportscaster launched his illustrious career that has spanned the radio, television and public relations fields.
At several junctures along the way, Gerould found himself back in Chico. Starting in the 1970s, he had been working as a track announcer for West Capital Speedway owner John Padjen, who included Gerould once he initially began putting on weekly sprint-car shows at Silver Dollar. Gerould's only son, Robbie, remains involved in the industry with Padjen.
Gary's strongest connection with the local area remains laced in the fact that he will always know it is where he began steering a near-lifelong journey — one that pretty much started right on the heels of that raucous bull.
"Without Chico," Gerould said, "Marlene and I would have never ended up in Sacramento. And we've been here ever since."
— Writer Patrick Kinmartin is a sports writer for the Enterprise-Record in Chico, California. Story and photo re-posted with permission.
— Photo Credit: Jason Halley/Chico Enterprise-Record. Story and photos re-posted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.