Saturday, January 28, 2012

Twilight Time

During the 60's and 70's I had the good fortune of working for the two largest, most powerful Radio and TV stations in Washington. I'm very proud of that.

Francis Fitzgerld and Ed

I'm also proud of the fact that I worked for two great stations in Charlotte, WGIV and WSOC-TV. Both of my bosses at those stations became my friends. Francis Fitzgerald, the founder of WGIV drove me to Furman (his alma mater) to look over the campus when I was considering which college to attend.

The Johnson Family and Larry Walker on piano

Larry Walker was one of the owners and the “big boss” at WSOC-TV when it first went on the air. I had many conversations with him, and usually wound up talking about his days as a pianist on WBT radio.

But the corporate scene at the stations in Washington was totally different. Perhaps it was because both of those stations also owned newspapers, and they took themselves more seriously. At any rate, I never even met the owners of the two stations I worked for there.

However, I once was summoned to the office of the second in command of the media conglomerate that hired me in 1970.

I had only been at that station for a few weeks, but I knew that it was rare for Mr. NUMBER TWO to communicate directly with a mere employee. His meetings were usually with people who were the “bosses” of people on my level.

My first thought was that I must have done something so awful that it was imperative that I be fired by a top corporate executive instead of a mere TV news or program director. Perhaps, like Sam Donaldson (who, like me, was local at the time) President Johnson didn't like something I had said and wanted me fired.

(Sam had broken the story that Lady Bird Johnson had gained ownership of a very profitable TV station in Dallas via political hanky panky...or something like that. But my old station didn't fire him as the President had requested, because Sam's story turned out to be true.)

However, I didn't think that I had been at my latest station long enough, and  wasn't enough of a big fish, to make too many people, especially the President, mad so it must be about something else.

Maybe even some unexpected opportunity or promotion?

I had no clue.

As I waited outside the luxurious fifth floor suite of executive offices, I did my best to mentally prepare myself for whatever was to happen by concentrating on past great personal challenges that I had managed to survive...such as Algebra class at CHS, and the time I had gotten caught participating in a food fight at Elizabeth school and was called into Miss Hattie's office. And then there was the time while hanging election posters when I tried to move the marble bench in the hall just outside of John Otts's office...and had to face his wrath after he heard the crash and stormed out of his office to observe the broken pieces of marble lying in the hall.

I convinced myself that I was a survivor!  Surely I would survive whatever was in store for me behind that thick corporate door.

But I was still nervous as I entered his office and took a seat facing “Mr. Big.”

“I want to show you something,” he said, opening the top drawer of his desk,... “for the past three months I've been keeping a record of this....”

At this point, he gestured that I come closer and examine what appeared to be some kind of mathematical chart full of dates followed by numbers and plus and minus symbols.

“I think you'll find this as fascinating as I do. It is an almost unbelievable technological achievement.
I've been keeping a daily record of the accuracy of this wristwatch that I purchased three months ago....and, as you can see, the figures show that it has only lost 18 seconds in all that time.

Amazing, isn't it,” he said.

“It sure is,” I replied.

And with that, I was excused.

I've never told this story before because it defies categorizing, not to mention all the rules of storytelling and common logic. It's just something that “happened.”

I'm a magnet for that kind of stuff.


PS......I recently learned about the most recent innovation in accurate wristwatches.

It is always 100% accurate!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mary Kratt to Speak Saturday at Museum

Mary Kratt
Our own Mary Kratt will be a featured speaker at the Charlotte Museum of History's latest Lecture Series.
The series of lectures is being offered by the Mecklenburg Historical Association Docents (Docent:  German, from Latin docere...meaning "to teach.")

From Wagon Roads to New South City

(A series of lectures offered by the Mecklenburg Historical Asssociation Docents in partnership with the Charlotte Museum of History and the Levine Museum of the New South)

The event is this coming Saturday
 January 28: 9:30am-12am

An Overview of Charlotte's History:
Mary Kratt, author of "Charlotte, North Carolina: A Brief History"

A Cultural History of the Catawba Nation:
Dr. Stephen Criswell, Director of Native American Studies, USC Lancaster

REGISTRATION FEE: $10 (includes entire lecture series)

To register, please call us at (704) 568-1774 or email us at
*Registration ends January 22, 2012*

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Webmaster's Report

Just a few "odds and ends" from the CHS54 ACTION CENTRAL WEBSITE HEADQUARTERS:

Our original INTERNET DOMAIN, CHS54.COM has finally gone "dark."  It no longer lets people who go to that site know that we've moved to a NEW  It just no longer exists. (It might return at some point in the future IF someone else buys that domain).

Frankly, DOT. COM domains are preferred over others because they are more common and well known, but in reality are no better than DOT NET....or DOT EDU.....or whatever. They're just easier for most people to remember.

However, your kindly, handsome, and modest webmaster felt strongly that he was getting ripped off paying more than twice the amount for what the DOT NET, etc. domains were going for.

And, being generally "jerked around.'

Other than that, they were very nice people and probably kind to animals.

Life continues to be good...and full of little surprises. I discovered that my picture appears in a new book called SHAGGING IN THE CAROLINAS.

At first, it scared the daylights out of me, until I was told that SHAGGING was a kind of a dance that our generation was doing back in high school.


Not being a dancer, I guess I missed that fad.  But apparently, that's what high school kids were doing to the kind of music Genial Gene, Chatty Hattie, Pete Toomey and I were playing on WGIV.  It was the kind of music that I first heard at Myrtle Beach and in fact, when I was interviewed for the book, I was told that it was about "Beach Music." Beach Music was another name for what was once called "Race Music," then "Rhythm and Blues," and finally settling on the name "Rock and Roll," which was taken from the lyric of the Dominoes' song "Rocket 69:"

"Rockin, Rolling,
All Night Long,
Rocket 69"

The author is a fellow named "Fessa John Hook" who undoubtedly knows more about the origin of Beach Music, Rock and Roll, the history of Beach music and the dance scenes in the Carolinas than anyone in the world.

I hesitate to tell you how to access his website because if you happen to click on one of his stories you may very well become addicted, even if you don't give a Hoot and a Holler about Beach Music.

You have been warned:

Finally, my old broadcaster friend and I still "play" TV on Fairfax Cable TV here in Virginia and we put these shows up on the internet.

Although, I personally am not crazy about watching video on the internet.I recently did a show about my neighbor friend who, for fun, built a working radio station in his basement.  I wrote about that here on the website a few months ago.

You can see it HERE.


James O'Neal - Out of the Past - 2012 from Chuck Langdon on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Wasn't Raining Inside!

By Jerry Gaudet

CHS’54 brought in the New Year 2011 2012 (is that the way you’ve been writing the new near?) with a storm. Well, it wasn’t actually storming, but it was a heavily overcast day…outside, but not inside. Mary Burnett gave us cheerful table decorations in addition to the nice atmosphere provided by Jimmies

Johnny Culp finally brought wife Pat to our 38th “LDL”. It was good to have her in our midst…and Johnny looked better with Pat by his side… 

 We were concerned for Jackie (Hart) Lookabill who we knew had been scheduled for shoulder surgery yesterday. Mary Burnett called Home Depot* (there’s a story here) and learned that Jackie had done quite well and will begin rehabilitation tomorrow. *Mary called Home Depot about a home matter that had no connection to Jackie’s procedure. A “Danny” answered her call. Danny turned out to be Danny Green, LaGena (Lookabill) Green’s husband. Recognizing the family connection, Mary inquired about Jackie and got the up to the moment information that she shared with us a lunch. (We told you there was a story here).

 And then there was something about a book… Apparently looking for something to fill his time (at 93) former Central High faculty member, Mr. Gilbert Balance, has written and published his first book. Mr. Ballance taught many of us in English, Radio Production and Orientation.

 Author’s note (in the book)… “Leah’ Journey Home is a work of fiction. However, some of the novel’s characters are inspired by real people. Leah and Cary were patterned after my own mother and father, and their children were patterned after my brothers and sisters. I also did extensive research to discover some of the pressing issues of the day and the personalities behind them. The governor and the state superintendent of public instruction were actual, historical figures of the period”

Our classmate Mary (Rand Norton) Kratt, in her review of the book wrote,

 “This uplifting, suspenseful, coastal Carolina tale of young Leah’s dramatic journey from despair to joy is richly told, evoking authentic town and rural life on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp and in Elizabeth City around 1900. A remarkable story of feminine awakening to love and to backcountry advocacy for schools, birth control, and mentoring, Leah will capture your heart.”

 Gil’s example of staying active should spur us to greater participation in life. More of us might even consider participating in “LDLs” as a New Year’s Resolution. Next month (Valentines Day) would be a good start.


Jackie Up Date

Jackie's Lookabill's daughter LaGena sends this up-date:

"Dear Friends, Thank you so much for your prayers! Mom got through surgery fine. Her rotator cuff was torn more than the MRI showed (40%), but the doctor felt a full repair would be too long and painful of a recovery, so he just cleaned it up and got rid of the 3 spurs. The real fun begins Thursday with physical therapy. It means so much to have heard from you. Thanks for continued prayers for her recovery. Love, LaGena xoxox"

Friday, January 06, 2012

Jackie Lookabill to Have Shoulder Surgery

By Jerry Gaudet

LaGena (Lookabill) Green sent me the following thoughtful note:

"My mom, Jackie is having shoulder surgery on the morning of Monday January 9th . The doctor is removing 3 spurs and cleaning up her rotator cuff. Would you pray for a smooth, uncomplicated surgery and a complete recovery. I would so appreciate your prayers for her. Thank you, LaGena"

Jackie's contact information is:
Jackie (and Gene) Lookabill
3601 Mountainbrook Rd.
Charlote NC 28210-4842


Thursday, January 05, 2012

We Meet Again!

It's 2012! Start the New Year with a CHS'54 Lunch!

By Jerry Gaudet

This month's "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on

Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 11:30 AM

at "Jimmies" in Mint Hill.
We'd like to share this opportunity with YOU in the New Year!

Spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! Even better, bring someone with you! Be sure YOU, come!

This link may help you find your way:

For answers to any conceivable lunch questions, please contact Mary (Sue Banks) Burnett,

Plan to join us...there's plenty of room.'ll be glad you did!

Happy New Year!


Sunday, January 01, 2012

‘Woh-who-ey! who-ey! who-eeeeeeeeeey!

My two oldest grand kids, Frank and Ed (twins) are in high school  in Warrenton, VA.....birthplace of Confederate hero John S. Mosby.

The boys are studying the Civil War in their history class this semester and
one of them happened to bring up the subject of the “Rebel Yell.”

 He said his teacher told the class that it was a powerful tool of the Confederates in battle, as well as at other times of overwhelming excitement, but no one knows exactly what it sounded like.

(I had the feeling that, without doing the math, he was wondering if perhaps I had been around back then and had heard it....)

I had to bite my tongue.

I didn't say anything, because with many of my stories, my grand kids have a tendency to hear the “headline”.....roll their eyes....and not hang around for the “fine print.”

But the fact is, I did hear it once.

It was about 1946 or so and all I knew about my Cousin Henry was that he was a relative on my mother's side of the family and he was very old, having fought in the Civil War.

And he was coming up from South Carolina to visit with us.

For a week.

Typical "tintype" from 1850's

He was a very nice, but quiet old man who, as I recall, sat around our house and “whittled” all day. He seemed perfectly happy doing this and needless to say I was fascinated watching a small piece of wood morph into.....something..... other than a small scrap of wood. To this day, whittling is known as "the soldier's art."

But my Mom felt that we had to do something special to entertain Cousin Henry. She was sure her prayers had been answered when she saw in the Observer that the ICE CAPADES were in town that week!

Just the thing to make his visit memorable.

It probably did. It was certainly something that my family...and, I venture to say, most of the people in Memorial Stadium that night never forgot.

Now, the show was good, but the memorable part of the evening was Cousin Henry.

Picture the scene:

The stadium lights dimmed........the orchestra began the overture......a few skaters dressed in Tuxedos slid gently onto the ice.........and the spotlight began to shine brightly and focused on about 30 gorgeous young girls in tights sailing in time with the music.............

When suddenly......there erupted the most blood-curdling, animalistic sound that some historians have described as “originating in the depths of Hell” (but which that night actually came from about midway up the stands around the 30 yard line.)

Everyone turned and stared.

It was Cousin Henry.

Sample of "Soldier's Art"
Not everyone appreciated the historical event that had just occurred. My Mom was mortified. Many in the audience thought that it was part of the show.....much like the radio comedy shows of the day that hired professional “laughers” to sit in the audience. In fact, I've often thought that if Cousin Henry hadn't been so busy whittling, he could have picked up some side money by being a professional “Rebel Yell er.”

But that might not have worked, because in addition to probably annihilating every crystal glass within a half mile of Memorial scared me, and about 10,000 others in the audience that night...half to death.

Which is why I have no doubt that what I heard that night was authentic.

Historian Shelby Foote quotes a number of Yankee soldiers as saying,

..."a peculiar corkscrew sensation would go up your spine when you heard it" along with a claim that
"if you think you heard it and weren't scared ...that means you never heard it".