By Chuck Woodbury
Many of you have read my articles for 10, 20, even 30 years or more. But I bet none of you ever knew that one of my very first jobs was a television anchor. Do you think I am kidding? I am not.
I was a skinny kid of 17. The only job I had held in my adult life until then was a one-day assignment painting shelves on the brand-new cable TV office in my small town of Grass Valley, Calif., population 9,000 or so.
Somehow I became friends with Ken, the manager of the operation, which was owned by a San Jose television station. Shortly after my senior year of high school began I asked Ken if I could do a show on the new system. He said that sounded good. And so I started “Spotlight on Teens” where I was the host. My main job was to read the local “teen news.”
The studio was in a blockhouse, maybe 20×20 feet, beneath the giant antenna tower. One black-and-white camera operated 24 hours a day, moving left, then right, showing a clock, barometer and the temperature. And there were two hand-printed cardboard signs with local advertising. The camera could be stopped to reveal a small area that would be our studio.
THERE WAS NO VIDEO TAPE, so everything was live, so I never even saw the show. But I do remember a couple of funny instances.
The first was during a terrible rainstorm, when the “studio” flooded. Little did the viewers at home know (all 15 or 20 of them) that those of us on camera were standing in a foot of water. I am thankful now that we did not hold microphones: we probably would have electrocuted ourselves!
The second memorable occasion was when we interviewed a very tall classmate named Tom Adams. I have long forgotten the subject matter, but after the show a friend told me, “Chuck, did you know that Tom’s head was cut off the whole time? You could only see him from the neck down.” I’m telling you, this was big time television!
I’m sure there were other mishaps, but I can only remember those two.
So that was my start of my career in the media. It was also my last TV anchor job.
Similar story for me. My best friend in high school and I talked the local CATV company in a town of 6,000 in Hoopeston, IL to let us use an access channel. They had a similar weather set-up that you mention. We used my mother’s chenille bedspread for a backdrop in our “studio.” We taped delayed our shows on black and white Panasonic reel to reel recorders and transported them to the tower building to put on the system. We did a church service on Sundays and local high school and basketball games that way. My friend went on to a radio career for awhile and I retired from network television as a technical director.
The Tom Adams interview story is great. I’m still chuckling.
That block house TV tower, which was your news studio still stands on Upper Slate Creek Road today. I remember the occasional broadcast out of that place. I don’t believe it has any windows. Comcast owns the cable company now and we own the road. They’re not keen on paying to use the road since my dad used to let them use it in exchange for free cable. I’m having fun negotiating with their attorneys.