March 7, 2003
began my career in television in 1970, when I became program
director at TV3 in Marion, Ohio. This was a local origination
channel operated by the local cable company. We produced
low-budget programs of local interest, hoping to support our efforts
by selling commercials.
to make a profit, the channel went out of business in 1974. I
found a similar position with another TV3 in Washington, Pennsylvania.
failing to make a profit, that operation went out of business
in 1980. But I didn't give up. I found a similar position
with yet another TV3, this one in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.
this third TV3 was different. It wasn't operated by the cable
company; it was operated by a local independent production company
called Total Communication Systems. And we were starting to
sell commercial time not only on our own local programs but also on
the new cable sports channel, ESPN.
parent company, TCS, had other interests including two local radio
stations and also syndicated Penn State football games in the form of
a weekly one-hour TV highlights show.
website has more details about all of these operations. Click
on any of the following:
New Kensington, or TCS.
New Kensington, I gradually started working less for TV3 and more
for the bigger TCS television productions, specializing in
graphics. That led to the second half of my TV career:
freelance graphics operator.
the first week of 1984, this transition from TV3 to TCS was mostly
complete. I had fewer TV3 responsibilities, so I had the time
to take a camera to work. The result was the 13 pictures that
you see below.
is Ellie Maher at her typewriter in the little second-floor office
boss, Nelson Goldberg, tried to rename TV3 with the more
professional-sounding "call letters" WEFB, in which the E
and the F and the B referred to his three sons. Both
designations appear on the yellow memo over Ellie's left shoulder,
but "WEFB" never caught on.
TV3 logs for the first week of 1984 called for just one program on
Sunday, January 1: a weekly Mass sent to us on tape by the
there were no programs on Monday, January 2, because it was a holiday.
at 9:00 every morning Tuesday through Friday, Ellie went into the
nearby studio to host TV3 Bingo.
here for more about Bingo on cable TV.)
redecorated, the studio included luxurious brown carpet in the
performing area, with a horizontal copper pipe affixed to the wall
eight feet above. Metal hangers, hooked over the pipe,
supported the 4' x 8' background "flats."
Tuesday, January 3, 1984, TV3 was covering a high school basketball
game, as Fox Chapel visited Highlands. I had no
responsibilities for this telecast. But since the Highlands gym
was less than a mile from my apartment, I showed up anyway, with my camera.
didn't have the equipment needed to televise these games live.
We could transmit live audio back to the studio over telephone
lines, but video couldn't be sent that way. Instead, we
had to videotape the game, then physically carry the tapes back to
the studio for playback on the air.
with a choice of live audio or delayed audio-plus-video, we decided
Rowe, here inspecting a broken headset plug, was the crew
chief. His "day job" was at another high school.
7:30 pm, we went on the air with live audio. Viewers heard the
game but saw our usual automated "message channel"
graphics. At the same time, we began videotaping.
halftime, we sent the first hour's tapes back to the studio, to
begin playing as soon as the live audio ended around 9:45.
the videotaping was complete, Bob and his crew returned to the
studio around 10:15 with the equipment and the tapes of the second
half. The equipment was needed in the studio for a live
scoreboard show following the replay at 11:30.
used only one camera. But, having learned that any piece of
equipment could break, we took along two of almost everything, so
there was a lower-quality backup camera out in the truck. We
also used two cameramen, so that one guy wouldn't have to be
"on" constantly for two hours. Here Rick Rhodes, on
the left, shows off Mike Weaver's profile. (Nineteen years
later, Rick is still a colleague of mine, working as a cameraman on
such telecasts as Pirates and Penguins home games. When TCS
spun off a satellite-uplink operation, Mike was spun off with it, and
he's still working as an uplink engineer.)
notice that Mike is wearing a headset. Our regular
camera headsets, even in the studio, had mostly stopped working and
no one was around to fix them, so I bought a set of Radio Shack
two-way radio communicators. Now Bob, for example, could tell
Mike when the tape was rolling and when to relax.
Highlands, Bob set up his equipment at a table under the stands.
addition to a VCR and a backup VCR (always make duplicate recordings
in case there's a problem with one of them), Bob has a Knox character
generator with which he can superimpose white lettering on the screen
one or two rows to identify a player, or eight rows for a
"title page." He's loading the roster here.
that was the only video enhancement to our single camera. We
didn't have the facilities to do replays, slow-motion or otherwise.
his position atop the stands, Rick shoots a pregame interview with
one of the coaches.
camera was a JVC industrial model, equipped for hand-held shooting
using an eyepiece viewfinder although we mounted it on a tripod.
Its case was orange, which happened to be TV3's logo color.
Tatrn (right) teamed with Joe Falsetti (left) to describe the
action, both on "live audio" and on the soundtrack of our
videotape coverage. See another angle in 3D here.
two of them were also the TV-3 salesmen, which meant that they had
an interest in selling commercials in the high school telecasts
so that they could stay on the air. And they were on
the air for several decades, before and after my time.
to George Guido, Bob and Joe broadcast their first game together on
WKPA radio in 1965. It was a WPIAL baseball championship at
Forbes Field in which Arnold upset Beaver Falls. The broadcast
partnership would last more than 40 years until Joe died in 2006.
early 1984, our only regular studio production besides Bingo
happened to be Total Fitness, a half-hour exercise show.
It aired Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 8:30 am, as well as 6:30
pm on Wednesdays.
forgotten the names of the star and her little guest.
Overly used the radio communicator to direct the taping of an
episode of Total Fitness from the control room. See
another angle in 3D here.
me, Betsy spent part of her time working for the big-time TCS shows
as a graphics operator. We used Chyron character generators
that were considerably more sophisticated than that Knox sitting in
the middle of this picture.
out in the Total Fitness studio, Ellie's Bingo table had been
moved off to the side.
Weaver stood there to operate the cassette player for music, while
Ron Bocchi operated the Ikegami camera.
another staffer, Rich Ryba, focusing the camera on a product shot
for a commercial.
rest of our rather skimpy program schedule for the first week of
January 1984 included a syndicated wrestling show at 7:00 pm
Wednesday, followed by a second replay of the basketball game at 8:00.
Thursday, Bingo was the only show.
Friday, there was another basketball game, Shaler at Highlands, but
we couldn't carry the live audio or even show the tape until 10:00 am
Saturday. The reason: the season premiere of another
program from another TCS division that claimed our channel on Friday nights.
program was Harness Racing '84, live from The Meadows in
Washington, Pa. Our production truck Video Voyager I (right)
and its support trailer (left) were set up outside the
clubhouse. The trailer had spent the previous autumn parked
outside Penn State's Beaver Stadium.
racing aired for 4½ hours that Friday night, January 6, from
7:00 to 11:30. TV3 inserted two minutes of local commercials,
with Mike Weaver in the control room to play the tapes and Rick
Panteleo at the cable system's head end to switch them into the
Meadows feed. Then Mike had to stick around for George Guido's
high school basketball scoreboard show at 11:30.
first week of 1984 concluded Saturday with a noon showing of a high
school girls basketball game taped earlier in the week, followed at
7:00 pm with another edition of Harness Racing '84. I
was at the track to provide the graphics.