Dick Bertel: One of my favorite recollections was an interview I did on the 12
O’clock Report (on Channel 3) with a noted professor whose specialty was werewolves.
It was Halloween and Bob Steele played the noted professor. He assured me, in a two shot,
through his thick, German accent that there was no such thing as werewolves. The camera
then dollied in to a close-up of me while I expressed relief at his revelation.
Of course, while the camera was in tight, Bob put on a rubber werewolf falseface.
The camera then pulled out to reveal the transformation as I thanked him for appearing on
the show. I can’t imagine doing anything like that on the news today.
Announcer Bob Arel and I had common vibes when it came to breaking up. He lost it
on the 6 o’clock radio news one time when he reported some Soviet dignitary traveling
from Minsk to Pinsk. It was simply the rhyme that sounded funny. He made the fatal mistake
of looking up at me to see if I had heard it and we both collapsed. J Back
Joe Crowley: Bob Dwyer and I were on our way to an assignment somewhere in Hartford. I was
driving the white WTIC jeep and Bob was in the passenger seat. Some how the passenger door
must not have been closed tightly and as we came around Bushnell Park, the door opened and
Bob exited the vehicle. I didn’t notice for a few seconds and when I looked toward
Bob, there he was hanging on to the door like a monkey and swinging back and forth as we
went around a curve. I slowed; the door swung back in and Bob just plopped down on the
seat again as if nothing had happened.
During the Bobby Seale, Black Panther murder
trials in New Haven in the early 70’s, News Director Paul Kuntz had rented a suite of
offices on the fifth floor of a building across the street from the New Haven Court
building. It was to be our remote headquarters and we had both radio and TV gear in it.The
building was vacant except for us.(That’s probably why Paul got it so cheap)The trial
went on during the day and at night there were street disturbances.
Paul left explicit instructions that someone was to be in the suite at all times.
Well ,one evening, Bill Mill, Randy Scalise (I think Sherm Tarr) and Bob
Butterworth and I decided we could slip out for a nice steak dinner on the company. We
were gone for about an hour. As we walked back through what had almost become an all out
riot, we saw smoke coming from the area of the court house. We hurried along to get
Butterworth’s camera and get the action. As we got closer, we saw that the smoke was
coming from our building. Someone had set on fire.
We had to get all that expensive equipment out or face Paul if it burned up. But
the police would not let us in. We finally explained the situation to Lt. Steve Ahern, who
later became New Haven police chief and a nationally known figure in police education
circles, and Steve said we could go in to get the gear. However he would not allow us to
use the elevator. So, we trekked up and down the five flights until we had all the
We never told Paul what had happened. He thought someone had been standing by and
that’s how we got everything out. The meal was great and Paul o.k’ed the expense
That night the rioting was especially bad and
when we finally knocked off to get some sleep after the 11 p.m. news had aired, it was
very difficult to make our way back to the hotel. We were on foot and were detoured
several times and also ate a considerable amount of tear gas.
When we reached the hotel and were riding upstairs in the elevator, I asked Randy
Scalise if he had remembered to pack the shotgun mike. However, I just said, "Have
you got the shotgun?" A poor woman, who was in the elevator with us, let out a scream
and almost fainted. We managed to calm her down finally.
Another time we were covering rioting in
Hartford’s northend. Paul Kuntz had rented us a van so that we could move about
without the WTIC logos on the vehicle. As we drove north on Main St near Albany Ave, I was
leaning up against the passenger door when I felt a thud against my back. We later saw a
dent in the door and determined that some sort of projectile had been fired at us and had
lodged in the door. Fortunately, it did not penetrate and I was fine.
Another time I was covering a state police
stake out on a super market in Suffield that they had been tipped would be burglarized.
The burglars showed up and a shoot out followed in which one suspect was wounded. After it
was all over, the local police chief was holstering his pistol (He wore it cross-draw
style on his left hip). I was standing to his left. Suddenly, I heard a bang and felt a
breeze stir my pant leg. Yep, the gun had gone off and the bullet buzzed by my leg.
On a very hot and humid August day, Dick
Heinze and I were covering a scene where a man was holed up with an arsenal in his
Barkhamsted home He was a career military man and had beaucoup weapons. He was firing at
anything that moved.
Dick and I were flat on our stomachs along with police about 100 feet from the house. We
could hear the ping of bullets as they whizzed by over our heads.
At one point the man came out and started to walk toward the street. State Police
Commissioner Leo Mulcahy and another trooper advanced toward him but were shielded by a
tree. Mulcahy told the trooper, who had a shotgun, that they could not let the suspect get
to the street under any circumstances. The man refused repeated orders to stop and put
down his weapon. Finally, Mulcahy told the trooper, "Take him down." The trooper
fired and hit him in the knee. He fell and was subdued.
What Mulcahy didn’t know was that Heinze and I were right behind him and Dick
got the whole thing on film. When he saw us, Mulcahy shouted, "What the hell are you
two idiots doing here? Wait till I see Eaton." Well Mulcahy wasn’t really that
angry and even if he was and had complained to Tom Eaton, once Tom saw that film we knew
we wouldn’t be in any trouble.
As I said, it was an extremely hot day and on
the way back to Hartford, I suggested to Dick that we should stop by his house on Steele
Rd. and take a dip in his newly installed in-ground pool. His response was a curt, "I
inwite(CQ) no one."
I said, tongue in cheek, "Dick, we just faced death together." He replied,
"I said I inwite no one and that includes you."
Bill Mill and I were working an early morning radio
shift and Bill had prepared the 7:15 hilights for Bob Steele. One of them involved a story
about the then president of Korea Park Chung He. Bob, as he often did, disagreed and told
Bill that the man’s name was Chung He Park. Bill assured him that it was not and a
discussion followed which eventually became rather heated.
Not to give up easily, Bill placed a call to the South Korean Embassy in Washington
at about 6:45 a.m. to find out who was correct. It turned out that they both were. The
Korean style was Park Chung He and when Anglicized it was Chung He Park. J Back
Art Masthay: It must have been 30 Years ago. Herb Hankin and I were on duty late
in the evening at the transmitter when the newsroom called and said this is no joke. A
stewardess has fallen out of an airplane and the towers was given as the location. We were
asked to go out with a flashlight and look around. We did, hoping not to find anything.
Shortly after a group from the Avon fire department came and took over the search.
However, it wasn't until the next morning that she was found near the railroad tracks near
She had tried to stuff a pillow in the door air leak and lost her life.
There were plenty of significant transmitter outages but with our emergency
procedures and redundancies the yearly total outages were usually measured in minutes.
In 1961 there were not many channels available and there was a huge audience for
the game that Rodger Maris was to hit the home run that would beat Babe Ruth's record.
During the game we lost commercial power and the diesel gave its reassuring roar but
nothing came back on. Ignoring most of the insistent phone calls, we lost about eight
frantic minutes before we realized that the generator field switch was open and there was
no power being generated. The switch was later replaced despite never having been a
Lou Holcombe: A Yale/Harvard Regatta brings to memory a funny incident.
I believe it was the third regatta. It was decided to place a camera and equipment
on an island, in the center of the Thames River, downstream at some distance from the Sub
Base. The Navy was to supply a small craft to ferry the gear to the island. They were late
in arriving, so all the gear was loaded on to a rowboat. The bow was front loaded, and
began to sink after shoving off. Yes, the rowboat sank with all the gear. Navy Seals were
brought in to retrieve the equipment. Some people laughed, others well......
One day in 1957, Bill Marks and I were assigned to the Jean Colbert
Quite often, Jean would bring her small dog, "Puka," to the studios. her
first stop was Master Control. She had made arrangements with Jack Murphy, who was in
charge of MC each day, during her show. This arrangement went on for quite sometime. One
day she came by, as usual, and left the dog. As she entered the studio, Jack picked up
"Puka" and deposited her into the waste basket under the console. When she
finished the show, Jean hurried into MC to retrieve "Puka".
Not seeing her, she asked, "Jack, where is "Puka"? Jack responded,
"I believe she went down the hall looking for you." Jean was very upset, and
went down the hall calling for "Puka". Meanwhile, Jack released
"Puka," and sent her down the hall after Jean.
Jack never sat "Puka" again. Back
Barbara Cope Lounder: When Charles Fitzgerald was engineer for "Bob Steele
Show", I would visit him in the control room until work started at 8 am. One morning
Charlie was looking at me talking and he missed Bob Steele's cue to put on a commercial.
Bob became very upset when we both looked at him. We knew what had happened.
The next morning a memo came around prohibiting visiting in the control room. I
knew that was meant for me.
The day the announcement was made that we were getting TV at
the station, it was a big surprise for all. When the meeting was over, we all came out and
Frank Atwood just stood there, looked at me and said, "Now our troubles begin."
He spoke slowly, emphasizing every word. I will never forget that. Back
Bob Steele: When we dedicated Broadcast House on Constitution Plaza, I
was assigned to do a program showing the construction and introduce the
notables attending. But being in a huge studio with a hundred prominent people was a
tougher spot than I thought. The teleprompter went haywire and I couldn't follow it. They
showed a film of workers digging a ditch or something and I commented, "I wish I were
in that ditch myself right now." That drew a little laugh.
WTIC played a major role once with a Willie Pep fight I was
broadcasting from the Hartford Auditorium. During the war we broadcast fights on FM and
recorded for delay broadcast at midnight on AM. With all the war workers, we had quite an
audience at that time.
Willie was an exceptional fighter, but the challenger dropped Willie near the end
of a round and Willie got up just before the bell. The challenger's handlers accused the
Hartford officials of delaying the bell to save the round for Willie. They raised quite a
stink in the media and New York papers played it big because Pep was a big deal and at the
peak of his career.
We took our recording of the round to Connecticut Boxing Commissioner Frank Coskey
and replayed it. It timed exactly three minutes. Both New York and Connecticut boxing
commissions fined the challenger and his manager for making false accusations.
John Lardner, son of Ring Lardner and sports editor of Newsweek at the time, wrote
a whole column on this fight calling me "another Thomas Edison," or something
like that. Lardner wrote to me and said if I ever had another big story to let him know.
Much later, engineer Fred Edwards and I went to Sandy Sadler's camp when Sadler was
prepping for a bout with Pep. I met Lardner and he remembered that story. J Back
Jim Strongin: In February, 1951, after a year and a half at WTIC. I was called
up for military service. This put me, at the ripe old age of 21, into the maelstrom of
infantry combat training at Ft. Dix, NJ. (I had hoped against hope that they'd have
recognized my superior talents in communication and put me in the Signal Corps, but no
such luck.) To a relatively naive innocent, this switch in careers could be compared to
going from the "heaven" of my life in Hartford and WTIC into "hell" in
just a three hour train ride to Trenton. My view of the new career can be summed up by the
sign that greeted us recruits into the "Charlie" Company, 39th Infantry
Regiment's area: "Our Mission Is To Close With The Enemy and Destroy Him."
The company first sergeant gave a short welcoming speech: "Give your soul to
God because your ass is mine!" Things went downhill pretty quickly after that.
We were immediately plunged into a 18 hour-a-day training schedule, hosted by newly
returned Korean veteran cadre, who spared no effort to make us lose our identities as
individuals, while honing us into a semblance of the "grunts" that were needed
on the front lines. Couple this with an outbreak of the flu which put half of our company
into the hospital and the other half into hacking, coughing, sneezing, feverish lumps of
cannon fodder. Then, add a shortage of winter clothing, including blankets and boots, and
some food basics, like fresh milk, all of which, we were told, was being sent, "to
the front." To put it mildly, we were a miserable bunch of homesick strays. Mail call
was one of the few diversions that rescued us from our misery.
About four weeks into this, when I was convinced that the army was planning to kill
me before I even saw combat, I received a letter from Bob Steele. However, there was
something peculiar about it. Every letter was in a different color.
Bob rambled on about the goings on at WTIC and mentioned the people I'd worked
with, including Paul Lucas, Fred Wade, Bob Tyrol, Ed Anderson, Ross Miller, Floyd
Richards, Bruce Kern, George Bowe, organist Hal Kolb, my special friends, Marge Stavola
and Katie Dimlow, and the announcer's, "shrink," Mary Cargill, who listened to
our collective tales of woe, night after night, (As low man on the totem pole, I worked
three nights and two days, over weekends.) with the sympathy and patience of a surrogate
mother. He talked about the changes that were predicted by the promise of that elusive
Channel 3 being awarded to WTIC and speculated about of the effects of TV on our
The letter went on for four pages, in small script, with every letter written in a
different color. It wasn't until the closing that I was to discover the secret behind
Bob's attempt to cheer me up in my dark days. His postscript read: "By the way, Jim,
how do you like my new 15-color pen?"
Over all these years, the memory of that letter and the knowledge that someone out
there was willing to take what must have been an excruciatingly long time to write it,
summed up the kind of funny, corny, lovable thoughtful guy that was Bob Steele. Thanks for
the memory, Bob. J
Franz Laubert: My memories at WTIC date way back. I remember
participating in a Connecticut River swim for charity. I had to swim through mounds of
toilet paper. Not too Pleasurable.
One of my other "happenings" was
reading by candlelight, poetry at night as a music host. The sound track was actually
recorded in a restaurant. After a while I received letters telling me to change the track
because people would hear the same sound of tinkling glass and a hub-bub conversation.
My first ever televised newscast came with a phone book in the chair so I could
measure up to things. J Back
Bob Ellsworth: I was hired by WTIC in August 1956. Shortly thereafter,
Vice President Richard M. Nixon came to Hartford on a political
campaign mission. He was slated to speak to a live crowd in Bushnell Park on a statewide
radio hookup anchored by WTIC. Yours truly was selected to announce the open and close of
his appearance -- the first major assignment of my career with 'TIC. I secured the
"crowd count" from the Hartford Police Chief and noted it on introduction.
The time of Nixon's arrival descended quickly upon us. We were given the signal to
introduce him as he ascended the platform. I began on cue from Bob DuFour, "Good
afternoon everyone. You are about to hear an address by the Vice President of the United
States, Richard Millhouse Nixon, speaking to a crowd of eight thousand people gathered
here in Bushnell Park, and over our WTIC statewide radio network. Here is Mr. Nixon."
The first words out of his mouth were: "I think the announcer is wrong - I'm
sure there are many more than eight thousand people here today…"
Well, everyone looked at me. I knew Mr. Morency was listening. Bob DuFour asked me
what I was going to say at the close. I went back to the police chief and checked on the
estimate again. He saw what happened. As I was introducing the Vice President, Little
Aetna across the park had let out all of their employees who came running through the park
as Nixon started his greeting.
When I was cued to sign-off, I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, you have just
heard an address by the Vice President of the United States, Richard Millhouse Nixon,
before a crowd of eight thousand people here in Bushnell Park in Hartford, that grew to
over ten thousand as the vice president greeted the crowd and radio audience."
Bob smiled along with the engineer and allow as how I probably saved my job, or at
least improved my chances for a future at WTIC.
Where were you when JFK was assassinated?
Floyd Richards and I were hosts on Mikeline that
fateful day in November. A lady was on the phone with Floyd about a special chocolate cake
recipe. While she launched into the ingredients, Dick O'Brien came into our studio from
the newsroom. He handed me a bulletin as he stared intently into my face before releasing
it -- as if to remind me to look at it and understand the content, thoroughly.
I looked and was properly taken aback. I then signaled Floyd that I needed to
interrupt him. He caught on quickly and I gave the bulletin -- followed by another final
bulletin from Dick that JFK had expired.
At that point, I gave it back to Floyd and the lady. By this time, she had the wind
knocked out of her sails and she hesitated and said she would rather not continue with
details of the cake recipe at this time. So, we said a few words and further information
prompted us to turn the proceedings over to the NBC Network as everything was collapsing
around the tragic event. J Back
Dick Zwirko: It was a hot evening, July 14, 1965, when WTIC again went into the
history books. The event of this historic broadcast was the fly by of Mariner IV past the
planet Mars. The spacecraft's mission was to obtain the first ever close-up photographs of
the landscape of the red planet as well as collecting data on it's magnetic field,
radiation fields and it's atmosphere.
As the spacecraft approached the red planet, passing within 6,118 miles of it's
surface, Dick Bertel conducted interviews with a number of guests including a then young
scientist/astronomer Richard Hoagland and a much older J. Allen Hynek. The location of the
broadcast was the auditorium of the Springfield Science Museum in Springfield, MA. An
equalized telephone line had been ordered from the museum to relay the broadcast audio to
a mountain top location, on Mt. Tom in Agawam, MA. From there another line was run to the
WTIC Master Control room in Hartford. In addition to feeding the broadcast audio from the
museum down the TELCO line, it also fed a special laser transmitter, made by the
Perkin-Elmer Company. This light transmitter on the museum's roof was aimed at a special
receiver atop Mt. Tom in Agawam, MA, which picked up the light beam being modulated by the
remote broadcast audio. I believe that Bob Scherago was at the Mt. Tom end of the path.
The plan was that at some time during the multi-hour broadcast, the laser link
would be switched in place of the wire line. Well, as it turned out, July 14, 1965 was an
unusually hot day. The laser light transmitter was switched into the circuit a number of
times in place of the wire part of the circuit. But since the light beam had to pass
across a hot Springfield on it's way to the mountain receiver, the heat produced a
scintillating light signal which garbled the audio quite badly. This distorted audio was
aired long enough to say that WTIC had made history as the first commercial radio station
to transmit a remote broadcast via a laser light beam. J Back
Monica M. McKenna: In 1970, I had been working in TV Traffic for a few months, but I
really wanted to get into the newsroom, writing copy. I prepared myself and my resume for
an appointment with Leonard J. Patricelli, then Boss of all Bosses before it turned into
WFSB, named for Frederick S. Beebe, a prominent Washington Post editor.
A month earlier, Patricelli had approved our wearing those radical new pantsuits to
work. Deborah Poehnert White, then in Radio Traffic, had convinced him in her beautifully
tailored gray flannel ensemble, complete with Peter Pan collar, that women could wear
pants and still do their jobs. Men wear pants, and they do their jobs. Why can't we?
Surprisingly, LJP said yes. Now, I thought. It's time to make my move:
"I'm here to apply for a job in the newsroom, writing copy," I said.
"Oh, my goodness. That would never do. The engineers' wives would be all over
me," Mr. Patricelli answered.
"What do they have to do with my background to write news? I have a BA with
majors in English and history. My languages are French and Spanish. Why can't I work in
Pat explained, "I could never do that to them! They would definitely not want
to have a girl (I was 22) working with their husbands late at night. It just wouldn't do.
Besides, (he said reaching up to pat me on my head), you're Irish Catholic and so is your
husband of six months. We can't spend all that money training you for a job that you'll
just have to leave when you start having babies..."
I blurted out, "But NO! We've decided to put off babies until he gets a job as
a principal. He's going to school now. It will be a few years." (This disclosure was
on a subject I had not even voiced to my sister or my mother!)
But Pat was firm. "I can't help you. You'll just have to stay in TV Traffic. I
hear you are working out well down there."
End of conversation.
UPDATE: I'm still Irish but sit on the Vestry at the local
Episcopalian church. I got tired of waiting for the Vatican to recognize the worth of half
the human population. I have worked at five or six newspapers as a reporter and editor. I
dumped the Irish husband, later met and married Bob, the best guy ever. and our son is 14
and in the throes of adolescence.
After a mid-life career change, I am working on my master's in criminal justice at
Curry College's Worcester campus. LJP kept me out of news for about a year before I
drifted over to the Hartford Courant and my newspaper career. If he could see me now!