Saturday, November 30, 2013

Something New at Jimmies


My old friend Frank Clontz, CHS class of '55, keeps me up to date on what's going on with those young whippersnappers of 1955.

And by golly, they're doing pretty good.  According to Frank's newsletter (which you can find each month at their main website (www.chs55.net.) Their December lunch meeting will be the 100th
class meeting since their 2005 reunion!  And rumor has it they have over $1,000 bucks in their treasury!

Marcus Hamilton
And...at our December LDL get together you will see something new at Jimmie's restaurant: Some of you may have already seen it:  an original drawing of Dennis the Menace by the great cartoonist and official creator of the current Dennis the Menace series, Marcus Hamilton. John Lomax put a frame on it and it will soon have a permanent home in Jimmie's restaurant.

I think Joan King (Hargett) is the one who discovered that Marcus lives in Mint Hill and got him to draw the picture for the 55 Class.
Jay North   THEN     and     NOW
Jay North and Friend
in Washington 1966
I understand that Joan, along with many other members of the 55 class bring items for the Matthews Help Center, a relief center that helps people in need within a five mile radius of Matthews. Joan and other movers and shakers of the 55 class like Tizzy Polk and Libby McIntyre help out a lot at the center.

TV's Dennis, Jay North is now 62 years old.
 WTOP TV's "Lookout Lee" (the forest ranger's "Lookout") is now 77 years old.

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  I realise that there's too much "Ed Myers/Lee Shephard" on this website, but this is the ONE chance in his lifetime to ever use that picture of him with Dennis Menace. Please understand.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Getting Old Ain't ALL Bad

For example, you get to go to your children's house for Thanksgiving Dinner instead of you and your spouse having to cope with all the hassle of cooking, etc. You served your "time," now let others handle it.

This allows me to play the part that grandfathers were born to play; pontificate, dispense wisdom (gained from experience) and tell stories.

Well, in my case, one out of three ain't bad. I can tell stories.

"Hey, Grandaddy, remember when you used to tell us those wild tales you made up?," said grandson #1.

Practice Field next to Elizabeth School
"Yeah, like seeing the Detroit Lions playing football on the Elizabeth School playground during recess
one day?  By the way, Detroit is playing Green Bay on TV today!" chimed in grandson #2 ...(followed by laughter.)

Yes, of course I remember, but what you kids don't understand is that all of those stories are true. but you guys don't hang around long enough to hear "the fine print," or as Paul Harvey used to say, "The Rest of the Story."

For example, around 1967 or so I was about to begin the first round of a boxing match.....

"Oh, no, let us guess,  you were boxing the World Heavyweight Champion, right?

Well, as a matter of fact I was. I'll never forget it. I was bouncing on my toes, in my best fighting stance, swinging imaginary punches...and snorting...you know, like boxers do when getting ready for the fight to begin.

Muhammad Ali
My opponent, Muhammad Ali was doing the same.

(More laughter as both boys exited to the Den to watch the football game on TV)

Now, for the fine print:

As the host of one of only a couple of  local interview shows on the four Television stations in Washington back then, I basically had my choice of celebrities who were in town for one reason or other.  Ali was here in connection with his controversial decision not to be drafted for the Vietnam war.
We videotaped the interview the night before the show and Ali was in a jovial mood. The serious part of the interview didn't last long as Ali began reminiscing about his childhood growing up in Kentucky and what got him interested in boxing (when he was 12 years old, he said a boy stole his bicycle.)

Ali/Liston Fight
I got him talking about the Sonny Liston fight and how his insults seemed to get under Liston's skin.
Some reporters thought Ali's taunts were really the result of his fear of Liston.  Ali called Liston a "big ugly bear," and declared that he was going to donate him to the zoo. He also uttered his famous, "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" comment before that fight.
Ali's win was probably the biggest upset in boxing history.

He was obviously enjoying the interview and so was I.  I don't remember exactly what all was said, but we started throwing good humored verbal jabs back and forth toward the end and with a lot of laughter he pretended to be insulted and promised the audience that he and I were going to settle our differences "outside" after the interview.

Float like a Butterfly...
And that's how I found myself "shadow boxing" with the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Before the "first round" was over, he dropped his hands to his sides and gave up. "Don't hit me again,  You win...... I know when I've been whupped," he said.

"However, I out talked you!"

Of all the interviews I've done in my many years in the radio and TV biz, none were more memorable or more fun than that one.

The Rich and Famous

And yes, meeting famous people was one of the "perks" of my chosen profession. I never got tired of that, although a few were real jerks. Steve McQueen was the first to get on my list when way back in my WSOC-TV days, he refused to be interviewed because the car we had sent to Douglas Airport to pick him up was not a Cadillac!  There were others along the way, but I've been very successful in erasing them from my memory.

At my age, I have to save what brain cells I have left and not clutter my mind with negative stuff.
Sometime in the mid 80's I believe it was, my little company was hired to produce the radio and TV coverage of some special Presidential Initiative honoring the greatest sports stars of our time. It was a big deal. Everybody you ever heard of was to be there and we were selected to provide interviews for the electronic (Radio and TV) media. I recall that Joe Paterno, who was one of those selected was the nicest to me of all the stars I interviewed.

Anyway, a lot of planning was involved and the day before the actual event, when the President would be introducing the stars, my team and I were in the lobby of the Mayflower hotel discussing final arrangements with the crews, when I noticed an old man shuffling toward the check in counter. Many of the celebrities had been arriving at the hotel all day, usually with flurry of fans and "hanger-ons" not far behind.

I guess that's what got my attention. Just one chubby old man doing the best he could to get a hotel room. No one was paying any attention to him including the clerk behind the counter. I felt sorry for the fellow, because not only was he barely able to walk, apparently he was having difficulty being understood. But he finally got checked in and slowly made his way to the elevator.

All of a sudden it hit me. I was the only one in that big hotel lobby that day who eventually realized who that man was.

 It was Muhammad Ali.

Still fighting, but in the early rounds of a bout he won't win; his opponent; Parkinson's Disease, brought on, no doubt, by too many blows to the head,

Now I'm glad my grandboys didn't hang around. They don't like unhappy endings either.

-Ed


Friday, November 22, 2013

50 years ago

JFK was gunned down in Dallas. It was the crime of the century. The most important and prestigious leaders of America, headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren were chosen to form a commission to find out who did it and why.

Their release of twenty six volumes of testimony and more than ten million words was said to be the most comprehensive criminal investigation ever undertaken in all of history.

Lee Harvey Oswald
Yet, many Americans doubted their conclusion that one lone nut, Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK.

There were still enough poorly answered questions and illogical pieces of evidence that weren't resolved.

The most obvious was the Zapruder film showing JFK's head being slammed backwards by one of the shots (supposedly fired from behind! )

The Pristine Bullet
And then there was the "pristine" bullet that was claimed to have penetrated both JFK and Governor Connely...without having even a scratch on it.

McKnight's book
A later Congress had its doubts too. They held a second investigation in 1976 and concluded that Kennedy was very likely assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.

A recent book by the highly respected author and professor of history at Hood College in Maryland, Gerald D. McKnight titled Breach of Trust  explains very convincingly how and why the Warren Commission hid the truth: they were convinced the American people might demand that missiles start flying unless the public was assured that only one individual was the culprit. He goes on to say that had Oswald lived to go to trial, it's unlikely he would have been found guilty. McKnight believes that he never fired a shot.




It's unlikely that we'll ever know the truth. After all, it has taken 50 years for a majority of us to be convinced that it was a conspiracy. And the shot that actually killed Kennedy was probably fired from.....

the grassy knoll.

-Ed




Thursday, November 21, 2013

What if...

(This is a repeat of a story I wrote 2 years ago)

AN AMERICAN DREAM
He was an Irish farmer's son with only a 10th grade education, who immigrated to America in 1929 and worked as a chauffeur and later joined the US Navy during World War Two. In 1945 he applied for a job with the government and wound up driving for this country's Presidents beginning with Harry Truman, and ending that day in Dallas in 1963.





I met William Robert Greer in 1964, when, as I understand it, I was the only reporter he had allowed to interview him since that awful day the year before.





Total BS
I could certainly sympathize with Greer's reluctance to talk to the press, which even then was not above twisting stories to fit their own agenda. The latest totally insane conspiracy going around the Internet today is that Greer shot Kennedy.

 Satire



I was hoping to do a soft news feature for CBS radio's “Weekend Dimension.”...which broadcast five minute audio vignettes on the half hour throughout the weekend.

Imagine my surprise when Greer agreed to my request. (He told me later that it was his wife, who watched me regularly on local TV, who convinced him to invite me over.)

Norelco cassette recorder 1964
I arrived at his home in nearby suburban Maryland carrying one of the latest (at the time) technological wonders in modern recording devices called a “cassette recorder.”  My particular machine was made by Norelco, which allowed radio reporters to record good quality “on the scene” reports without the aid of a engineer and cumbersome recording equipment. This was a major breakthrough.

William Greer
Rare photo of JFK wearing hat
William Greer was very gracious and invited me into his home in suburban Maryland where we talked for about an hour....with my amazing small recorder doing its thing. He seemed to light up when talking about the happy times he spent driving Kennedy from place to place. He was especially pleased on several occasions when the President unexpectedly had him stop in front of a church and ask to borrow his hat before going inside.


Greer was technically a Secret Service Agent. But, realistically, he was what he'd always been; a chauffeur. He was not trained as a “protector” of the President, he was simply a driver. The Secret Service procedures in place at the time did not allow Greer to take action without orders from a senior agent.
Roy Kellerman, was the senior agent who sat to Greer's right that fateful day.

Kenneth O'Donnell (special assistant to Kennedy) who was riding in the motorcade, later wrote: "If the Secret Service men in the front had reacted quicker to the first two shots at the President's car, if the driver had stepped on the gas before instead of after the fatal third shot was fired, would President Kennedy be alive today?"

He also stated that after the death of the president  "Greer had been remorseful all day, feeling that he could have saved President Kennedy's life by swerving the car or speeding suddenly after the first shots."

Author William Manchester reported in Death of a President, that at Parkland Hospital, 

“Those who had been in the motorcade were racking their brains with... if only this, if only that. One of them, Bill Greer, came to her [Jackie Kennedy] his face streaked with tears, took her head between his hands and squeezed until she thought he was going to squeeze her skull flat. He cried, ‘Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, oh my God, oh my God. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t hear, I should have swerved the car, I couldn’t help it. Oh, Mrs. Kennedy, as soon as I saw it I swerved. If only I’d seen in time! Oh!’ Then he released her head and put his arms around her and wept on her shoulder.” [Death of a President, p.290]

It was reported that Mrs. Kennedy felt so sorry for Greer that she requested that he drive the naval ambulance containing the casket to the naval hospital.

I believe that Greer admired the young President as much as most Americans did. Perhaps more so.

CBS Radio aired my story, but if my interview were to be graded by any modern journalism professor, it would receive a big fat F.  I didn't ask any of the questions that a reporter these days is taught to ask, such as “how did you feel?”  “What was it like....., describe the scene.." etc.

But, for what it's worth, I'll tell you how I felt:

To me, William Greer was like the typical kindly uncle; humble, thoughtful, and  honest. I could still detect a hint of an Irish accent in his voice. His home was modest and warm, but just below the surface, there was a sadness that was almost palpable. He retired on disability from the Secret Service in 1966 because of a stomach ulcer that rapidly grew worse following the Kennedy Assassination. He died in 1985.

I like to believe that I was able to offer him a few short moments of relief by getting him talking about some of the good times in his American Dream....that so suddenly had turned into a nightmare.   -Ed

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Do You Know What Time 'Hit Is?


Judy Cooley was kind enough to send me Mark Washburn's excellent article from the Charlotte Observer about the Wilder Building and the original home of radio station WBT.


Of course you do.

 'hit's Briarhopper time!

That's the way the show opened every afternoon. You may even remember how each show closed,

"Well the old clock on the wall says it's time to go......"

But unless you read Mark Washburn's excellent article in the Charlotte Observer last week you probably didn't know where the wall that clock was hanging on was.

In your mind, you say?

Don't be a smart alec!  I'm trying to write a serious feature.

As I was saying, that famous clock was on the wall of WBT studios in the Wilder Building. All three are gone now. the clock, the wall and the building; replaced by 25 words engraved on an historical marker at 239 South Tryon Street.

Now, here comes the "in your mind part."

Words alone are inadequate to describe the relationship Charlotte had with WBT. I began listening to the station when I was about 5 years old and somehow figured out when it was time for my favorite programs by the approximate position of the shadow of my house in my backyard. (Unfortunately that gave my parents the false hope that their "little Eddie" might turn out to be kind of smart. That only lasted until my report cards began arriving from Elizabeth school.

But little Eddie's love of radio never wavered.

I don't believe anyone younger than 65 or 70 can really appreciate how important radio, and particularly WBT was to us. It was an emotional experience. Radio itself was only 10 or 15 years old in the mid 30's so not enough time had elapsed for our parents or anyone to take it for granted. Meanwhile, it was rapidly becoming a part of our family.  Grady Cole, the Morning Man, thought like we did and talked like we did.   When he said the weather was "hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk,"  He went out and did it.

The station brought us the serious news as well; daily reports of the fighting in Europe and the far East during WW2 and like all other stations brought this nation together as it has never been before or since. It gave us kids Jack Armstrong, the all American Boy, Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, the Green Hornet, and the Shadow, to name only a few programs we never wanted to miss.
It was (like the cliche it later became) a part of our family.  Really.

The Briarhoppers and Charles Crutchfield left of mic
But what most media historians agree made WBT radio the broadcast giant that it became was....a hillbilly band named after a rabbit an announcer and a friend spotted one day while hunting.
"Look at that briarhopper go," said the friend. The announcer, Charlie Crutchfield, thought that would be a clever name for the "country pickers and singers" his station had promised a prospective sponsor they would hire.

Every little boy growing up in Charlotte in the 40's and 50's who had dreams of someday becoming a radio announcer wanted to work for WBT. Those were the days of the "Deep Voices."  It was widely believed back then that voices like that were more easily understood over the airwaves than higher pitched ones.  That's one reason females were so rare on early radio.

A Young Charles Kuralt
Crutchfield who was the first announcer for the Briarhoppers had such a voice. Later, when he became station manager, he continued the deep voice policy. If you remember Charles Kuralt's  (CBS-TV) voice, that's exactly the kind I'm talking about.

That's why, even if, as Mark Washburn's story says, the David Brinkley tale of being turned down for a job at WBT is not true, it certainly could have been. His voice was not the kind that Crutchfield would have hired.

Incidentally, Kuralt once worked for WBT as a summer replacement announcer when he was 14 years old!

I was one of those little boys who dreamed of someday becoming a radio announcer.

So was Julian Barber. However, neither one of us ever got to work directly for WBT.
Walter Cronkite and Julian Barber

Nevertheless, by the 1960's Julian had become the number one news anchor in Washington, DC broadcasting daily on WTOP-TV.

By then, I was also hosting a daily TV show on Washington's channel 9 as well as a weekly radio show that Glenn Miller began for the US Air Force called SERENADE IN BLUE that aired on at least 2,000 or more stations in this country and worldwide.

In those days the CBS Washington bureau shared studios with WTOP.  As announcers and newsmen, we also were regularly called upon to broadcast over the network, which included all the CBS stations in the country. (One of which was WBT)

Ed Hosting the US Air Force's
Serenade in Blue


Julian told me that the first time he did that...he thought to himself, "I finally made 'BT...the hard way!"

That's exactly how I felt too.

-Ed












Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

The War to end all Wars


PILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
            I am the grass; I cover all.
  
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.         5
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
            What place is this?
            Where are we now?
  
            I am the grass.  10
            Let me work.        -Carl Sandberg





A Veterans Day Meditation
By Glenn Fairman


(Excerpt from THE AMERICAN THINKER)

But we who can rejoice in our ecstatic blessings following the return of our beloved warriors know well in the vault of our beings that it could easily have been otherwise, and it seems that for nearly every tear-stained reunion filled with beaming smiles, there has been a darkened house with pulled shades where men and women wrestle with the lonely blistering repercussions that tragically accompany that mailed fist of duty -- as it forever freezes and torments in its glacial embrace. For such as these, the yearly exhumation of beautiful ribbons and the eloquent prose of poppy strewn fields grows threadbare as aching arms strain to remember the fallen who remain forever young. These are the harried lives left behind on the windward shore of a Great Sea to nurse afresh wounds that are excised annually -- that no Gold Star will ever redeem. For such as these, the time we have accorded as Veteran's Day stands as a dual-edged knife of precious and grievous memory.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Smell Test


Is it November already?

The calendar says it is, but it doesn't smell like it.  In fact it hasn't smelled like November since the Global Warming Hoax took hold among the Ruling Class in this country and they began banning as many things as they could think of...like burning leaves. Lordy, Lordy, how I miss that wonderful fragrance.!

I miss the smell of DDT being pumped into the Charlotte street drains shortly after WW2. It sent a signal to my young brain that somebody (the Government) in addition to my parents cared about me.

I also miss that wonderful aroma of the perfume those beautiful Central High girls used to wear. Also, the lingering fragrance of the shampoo that was popular back then (Aqua Marine, I believe).

I'm not the only one who misses those smells of the past.  I understand that scientists are even now working on re-creating "smells of the past" in order to bring the here-to-fore olefactorially benign tales of our past.

But I digress.

As I mentioned, it's November and TIME FOR OUR NOVEMBER LDL!!

Jerry Gaudet sent out the official notice:

This month's "LDL" (Let's do lunch) will be held on
Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 11:30 AM
at "Jimmies" in Mint Hill.
You are invited to join us. Spread the word! Invite other classmates to come! Even better, bring someone with you! Be sure YOU, come!

Plan to join us. You'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

War Stories


One of the highlights of the Fall season for me is when a bunch of us old WTOP/CBS radio and TV staffers get together and tell each other how young and beautiful and important we all were back in the 1960s.

We meet and have these "Lie" sessions every year at the COZY INN in Thurmont, Maryland.  That's where CAMP DAVID (the President's retreat) is, and the reason it's held there is because our engineering and production crews spent a lot of time there covering the Presidents. It's about an hour outside of Washington in the Cotoctin Mountains of Maryland, which is a beautiful place to enjoy Nature's Fall show.

I'm honored to MC these events each year, the highlight of which is the entertainment provided by the
members themselves. each standing and telling a personal rememberance of those "glory days."

Long time announcer, Don Richards always has a story that is hard to top.  I think you will enjoy his telling about the time he introduced a Nationwide speech over CBS by President Eisenhour.




Saturday, November 02, 2013

50th

By Lee Shephard


Ed and Linda, Oct.28, 1963
Linda and I celebrated our Golden Anniversary a few days ago.  Oct 28th was the magic day, back in 1963.

Since then there have been magic days galore for us. Three great children, 5 terrific grandchildren...and we're still in love.

It doesn't get any better than that!

Linda's Mom and Dad (George and Sydney Hartford) hosted an elaborate party for us a few weeks later at Columbia Country Club in Bethesda Maryland. And by elaborate, I mean elaborate (expensive). It was a "Party to be Remembered."

And it was; but for the wrong reason.

It was held on Saturday night, November 23, 1963.

The night after President Kennedy had been assassinated.

Some "party."

Friday, November 01, 2013

Sea Vista Motel: Still Standing

(The old expression, "Once a reporter, Always a reporter," is certainly true with our official roving "Foreign Correspondent" and ex Rambler staffer and writer extraordinaire Warren Sparrow.  Unfortunately, his budding newspaper career was interrupted by an interest in the more profitable legal profession...eventually becoming one of the leading lawyers in North Carolina.  We are fortunate to him as a regular contributor to this website. -Ed)

By Warren Sparrow


Warren Sparrow
Vance Packard introduced me to the notion of “impulse buying.”  He associated it with grocery shopping.  This week Becky and I took it a step further:  Acting on little more than impulse, we drove 265 miles to the beach.  We made the decision four days prior to departure, securing a reservation at the old Sea Vista Motel near the southwestern tip of Topsail Island, North Carolina. 

If Sea Vista could talk, no doubt she could tell some great stories.  When she was “born,” probably not long after World War II, she was a stately three-story, beach-front motel topped by a single, fourth-floor “honeymoon suite.”  Every room had a balcony and an unobstructed view of the smooth, sandy beach and the roiling Atlantic Ocean. 

But, Sea Vista did not age well.  In fact, it is a wonder that she still stands.  Like most places along the North Carolina coast, Sea Vista fell victim to the wrath of storms and tides.  Many homes, even roads, along the coast were dumped into the ocean. 

Miraculously, Sea Vista survived but not without paying a hefty price:  All her first-floor rooms were rendered uninhabitable, having been flooded and filled with sand.  The owners of Sea Vista elected to abandon the first-floor units in an effort to salvage floors two and three and the honeymoon suite.  In an attempt to minimize the damage, the owners took out the first-floor walls in order to make it look like the building was on stilts. 
Sea Vista Motel
The plan worked but it left Sea Vista badly “disfigured.”  Despite having the worst “curb appeal” of any motel we have ever visited, Sea Vista remains a jewel in our eyes.

Therefore, we set sail Sunday morning to see our old friend by the sea, knowing she has been seriously hurt but also knowing what a wonderful heart she has.

En route we stopped at the Garner/Fuquay-Varina exit on I-40, which is about halfway between our house and Sea Vista.  There is a McDonald’s right off the exit ramp.   It was a perfect stop.  The rest rooms were clean.  We did not have to wait very long for our order.  I had, you guessed it, a No. 1 combo, a Big Mac et al.  Becky had a quarter-pounder with cheese.  For dessert we each had a chocolate-chip cookie.

About three hours later we arrived at Sea Vista, checked in and got two keys to Room 307, an “efficiency.”  It had been a year since we had been there and the place looked the same.  The first floor was covered with sand just as it was the last time we were there.  We were pleasantly surprised to find our unit had been “upfitted.”  It had been freshly painted. The appliances looked fairly new.  The d├ęcor was a cut above what we had seen in previous stays. 

The king-size bed was in excellent shape.  The screen door to the balcony was in good working order.  We were delighted.  We had these unexpected frills to go along with the big deal:  Direct, close access to the beach and ocean.

For three days we lapped it up, cooking every meal in 307.  It was overcast most of the time.  For some that might not be so hot.  For us, it was perfect.  Bright sun is something we must avoid. 

We headed home the morning of the fourth day, stopping again at the Garner/Fuquay-Varina exit.  This time we had lunch at Cracker Barrel, a chain we avoided for many years until we went to one in Morehead, KY, on our way to Kansas for granddaughter Lydia's wedding  earlier this year.  Once again, we were not disappointed.

Refreshed, we returned to I-40 and continued West until we arrived home at the end of the 265-mile drive.  There you have it.  We have old, battle-worn Sea Vista to thank for a lovely time at the coast.  She has been through a lot.  We are proud to know her.

-WS