PIONEER TELEVISION DAYS by
town of El Dorado, Arkansas is pronounced El-Do-ray-duh by the people living there.
Texarkana is pronounced
Tex-uh-kan-uh by the locals. One time the two cities were playing each other in
a football game. The radio play-by-play announcer, who was not familiar with either
city, was saying El Dorado with the broad A in the middle ( El do-rah-do), and
he was pronouncing Texarkana stressing the second syllable, (Tex-ARE-kan-ah).
Those fans sitting directly in front of the open air booth could hear him clearly.
After a while one of the fans got enough of it and walked up and informed the
announcer that the names should be pronounced El-der-ray-der and Tex-er-kaner.
I bought a book of instructions for "the modern radio announcer". It
was really out of date by at least 15 years when I bought it. However, there was
one bit of information in that publication that proved invaluable to me in years
to come. The author gave detailed instructions on how to learn to speak extemporaneously.
This is very important in the broadcast business because you never know when you
will be in a situation where you don't have time to sit and think about what you
are going to say next. He suggested that the aspiring young radio announcer practice
constantly describing the things he saw around him. It was a bit awkward doing
this in front of others so I did my homework while driving down the highway.
You don't realize how many times you say "ugh" or use other speech crutches in
daily conversation while trying to organize your thoughts. To overcome this I
would motor along using a tour guide type spiel such as, "I am traveling east
on highway 82 heading into the twin-cities of Texarkana, Texas and Arkansas. The
sun is just now peeping over the trees and sending a blinding beam on my windshield.
Off to my right there are dozens of Holstein cattle grazing on the dewy Alfalfa.
They cast an eerie scene as their lower bodies disappear into the ground fog surrounding
these bovine beast". I'm sure the people in passing cars wondered why I was talking
to myself. To heck with them. I was learning my trade.
By the time I came
to work for the television station in El Dorado I had become quite proficient
in ad-lib speaking. It really came in handy quite often during technical goofs
on live broadcasts. In those days only the major networks had video tape recorders.
All local television stations had to do studio presentations live, including the
commercials. Many times one of the props wouldn't function properly or some other
distraction would occur and the announcer was expected to smile and keep on talking
as if nothing had happened. More than once I had to do a spot with no lighting
because the person responsible didn't make it in time. We went on the air with
nothing but the faint glow of the studio work light illuminating the set. It must
have resembled a scene from a Hitchcock movie.
The year was 1955 and only
the television stations in the largest cities had the luxury of color casting.
In fact, only a small fraction of the viewers had color televisions sets. There
must have been at least one owner in our viewing area. During the Rose Bowl Parade
we received a phone call from an irate viewer complaining about the poor quality
of his color picture. The engineer was delighted that he got any color at all.
We were sending out only black and white.
We would conclude our televised
day with me doing a sportscast. During that segment the crew would start stowing
away equipment for the night. One eager young fellow was rolling up microphone
cables. He inadvertently grabbed the cable that was attached to my microphone.
Right there on live television the microphone started sliding across my desk.
I smiled, pulled it back and continued with my sportscast. Then it started moving
again. I jerked it back again. This went on and on until I lost the battle. People
told me later that it looked like two dogs fighting over a bone. I finally lost
it. I lay my head on the desk and started laughing uncontrollably. That is the
way we signed off the sportscast that night.
All the announcers had to
operate a camera on occasions. That was my assignment one night as a local church
choir was singing in our studio. This was before the innovation of zoom lenses.
Our cameras had wide, medium and close up lenses and we would have to rotate to
them to get to the one we wanted for the shot. As one camera held a full shot
of the group the director instructed me to switch to the close up lens and slowly
pan each member of the choir. He would then switch back and forth from full shot
to close up.
As the faces flowed across my camera monitor I saw a young
girl who literally took my breath away. There, before my eyes, I saw an inner
spiritual beauty that seemed to radiate an aura all around her. When I took my
eyes from the monitor and searched for her face in the choir she was nowhere to
be found. No one stood out from the others the way the girl on the monitor had.
I went back to the monitor and found her again. Then I counted off the row and
her position. When I saw her with my naked eye it was unbelievable. She looked
very plain and average. The camera had evidently caught something the human eye
missed. I suppose that kind of beauty is there in a lot of people if you just
know how to look for it.