For decades, from the 1950s into the late 1970s, there was a large (20 or so inches across) glass clock labeled WIBK 800 AM RADIO that spread its soft bluish-white light over the counter at Bills Restaurant on Kingston Pike. In the days before Interstates and convenience markets seemingly on every corner, Bill’s was located at the intersection of Kingston Pike and Carr Street.
After midnight, the restaurant became a regular meal stop for Knoxville Police, Knox County deputies, the fearless KUB night electric trouble truck crews, and many other night people. That often included this former WATE-TV news reporter.
In the 1970s, head waitress Ruby, and her daughter "Little Bit,” presided over the third trick at Bill’s. I once asked her if WIBK was a WIVK predecessor and how Bill Purdom, Bill’s owner, came by the clock. She told me that Purdom used to buy advertising on WIBK.
Back then, police cruiser radios were equipped only with an AM radio. Night people routinely carried battery-powered portable FM radios so they could tune in WIVK-FM and its country music programming. WIVK’s AM dusk sign-off announcements carried the statement, “For those of you with half a radio, we invite you to tune to…"
Bill’s, which is fondly remembered by many, is long gone. It stood vacant and rotting before being mercifully bulldozed for a faceless shopping block. Most of the officers and other night people who dined under the clock’s soft glow also are sadly no longer with us. And I wonder what happened to that glass clock.