Found Sound: Reeling in vintage audio from “Outdoor Line”

Nov 2, 2022, 11:04 AM | Updated: Nov 3, 2022, 8:10 am
Outdoor Line...
An old cassette of "Outdoor Line" from 1992, shared with KIRO Newsradio by Craig 'Windmill' Holman. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)
(Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)

Earlier this year, KIRO Newsradio put out the call for tapes from the station’s old “Outdoor Line” program – which was produced and hosted by the late Bill Davis – because Bill’s family didn’t have any recordings of the show themselves. Not long after the story aired, a Whidbey Island man came forward to share some vintage cassettes.

“Outdoor Line” was a two-hour Sunday night call-in show about fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation, which was heard on KIRO Newsradio for two decades, from 1977 to 1997. The host was local outdoorsman Bill Davis, who passed away 20 years ago in his early 60s. Bill’s grandson Josh Linke contacted the station because their family has no tapes of the old show, and Josh wanted to hear his grandfather again and wanted his kids – Bill Davis’s great-grandkids – to hear, too.

A link to the August story (which includes a call-out for old tapes) was shared on a Facebook page called Seattle Vintage. That’s where Craig Holman comes into the story. However, if you fish in the Puget Sound – particular up near Bush Point on Whidbey Island, where Craig Holman ran a fishing resort, and if you happened to have a CB radio on your fishing boat back in the day – you may know him better as ‘Windmill.’

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‘Windmill’ is the name of a popular fishing spot off Whidbey Island near Bush Point, where an old windmill for pumping well water stood for many years.

The nickname made sense for Craig, too.

“Since I’d been up there since I was knee-high to a Dungeness crab, a friend of mine said, ‘you’re the windmill,’” Holman told KIRO Newsradio. “And at that time, we were using CBs in our boats, and so we’d always call everybody by their nicknames – you know, or our CB handles.”

“There are people who’ve known me for years,” Holman said, “and they go, ‘I never knew your first name was Craig.’”

Craig – excuse me, ‘Windmill’ – clicked on the link to the story and then read about KIRO Newsradio’s search for “Outdoor Line” audio.

“When I read that, it was like, ‘whoa, I was on that show. I wonder if I still have the tape,’” Holman said. “And I had replied to [KIRO] saying, ‘yeah, I was on the show. I should have tapes. I’ll have to look for ‘em.’”

Fortunately, Holman says, the search didn’t take very long.

“I didn’t have to scrounge very far because where I’m keeping all my video tapes and cassette tapes are in a drawer,” Holman continued. “And I opened it up and there it was: ‘Outdoor Line.’”

The words ‘Outdoor Line’ had been scribbled on the label of several old audio tapes in Holman’s treasure trove of a drawer. The recordings had been made as a favor (in those pre-podcast days) by friends and neighbors who knew Holman was going to appear as a guest on ‘Outdoor Line,’ which is something Holman did several times roughly 30 years ago.

After getting in touch by email, Holman quickly mailed his old tapes to the radio station.

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Two had “Outdoor Line” audio from when he appeared talking with Bill Davis about Bush Point in March 1992 and September 1992. The tapes don’t contain complete shows and the audio quality isn’t great – they sound as if they were recorded with, perhaps, a boombox placed near a radio – but they’re good enough to give a sense of the folksy and soothing quality of Bill Davis’ voice and “Outdoor Line” – even if you didn’t hunt or fish.

For example, in the opening moments of the March 1992 recording, Davis jokes with Craig Holman about the Clinton ferry. When Holman responds and isn’t quite audible, Davis gently suggests that Holman move a little closer to the microphone. Then, at the show’s close, Davis gives a low-key promo for next week’s guests: a group of local anglers informally known as “The Walleye Gang.”

KIRO Newsradio carefully cleaned Holman’s tapes and then transferred them to digital, and the files were then subjected to a minor amount of digital audio cleanup. After that, they were shared with Bill Davis’s grandson Josh Linke.

Earlier this week, Josh Linke and Craig Holman spoke to each other by phone.

Josh said it made his mom and uncle cry to hear their father 20 years after he passed away. He said it was incredibly special to hear his grandfather’s voice again.

“It was like an instant feeling as soon as I turned it on, sort of listening like calming peacefulness, because he just had this way of speaking,” Josh Linke said. “It was of that calming sentiment.”

“Yeah,” Craig Holman said. “He was very soft-spoken.”

“And my children, I played it for them,” Linke continued. “My oldest is 14. So [my grandfather] had been long passed by the time he was born, and so for him to be able to hear that, [and] for my other children to hear him, that was really special for me and then for them to just give a connection to their great-grandfather.”

“Yeah. Very cool,” Holman said. “Very cool.”

Josh Linke expressed gratitude to KIRO Newsradio for doing the search and to Craig Holman for sharing his tapes. Linke says he is going to make a ‘digital scrapbook’ for the family to keep the audio around for his kids and for future generations.

Thanks to Windmill, those who remember Bill Davis and Outdoor Line can relive those long-ago Sunday evenings, and those too young to remember – or who didn’t live in the Pacific Northwest – can get a little audio glimpse at a very different time and a very different kind of live and local radio show.

Do you have old, local radio tapes?

KIRO Newsradio would love to get more “Outdoor Line” tapes, or any old KIRO Newsradio tapes our listeners might be willing to share. If you have tapes, please email KIRO Newsradio resident historian Feliks Banel via the contact info below.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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Found Sound: Reeling in vintage audio from “Outdoor Line”