Conrad “Connie” White, 80, Stage Manager, Colleague, Friend

Excerpts from the Boston Globe

conrad_white_1-9645-croppedAs the first African-American student admitted to the Cambridge School of Weston (MA), Virginia native Conrad White lived in two worlds.

A popular student at the private boarding school, he started the first campus radio station and was elected president of the class of 1954. “He was sort of the center of our class,” said his classmate and longtime friend Joan Walther.

Back home in Hampton, Va., however, Mr. White lived under Jim Crow laws and segregated public schools. When friends from boarding school gave him a ride home for winter break, they had to plot their trip carefully as an integrated group riding through the South.

“Once they got past a certain area, they couldn’t stop,” Walther recalled. The students made sure they had plenty of gas and plenty of food in their big old car, a former hearse nicknamed “Mehitable,” a Hebrew variant word for “God rejoices.”

At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John MacKnight
At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John McKnight

Mr. White, who often credited his experience at the Cambridge School as the foundation for his confidence and multimedia skills, worked at WGBH on popular public TV shows including Julia Child’s “The French Chef” and spent 27 years at Harvard University, where he retired from the Media Production Center.

A former longtime Cambridge resident, Mr. White died Nov. 9 in Miriam Hospital in Providence following a heart attack. He was 80 and lived in Providence….

Mr. White was in the studio audience for a WGBH show called “Folk Music USA” when he inquired about volunteer opportunities at the station and wound up with a new career. “I walked up to someone I knew who worked there, explained my background in television, and asked if they took volunteers,” he told Harvard Community Resource. “It was one of those ‘and the rest is history’ kind of jobs.”

He worked for WGBH for 15 years, holding various positions in production for shows including “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” “Say Brother,” and “The 10 O’Clock News.”

At the 2015 WGBH Reunion
At the 2015 WGBH Reunion, with Nancy Schuetz

 

After “The French Chef” ended, Mr. White gave a piece of Julia Child’s cutting board to his longtime friend Lou Greenstein, a culinary consultant and chef who appeared on the Boston television show “Good Day” for many years.

Mr. White and Greenstein first became acquainted as young men on the docks at Community Boating in Boston, where Mr. White was a longtime member.

“He was wonderful with people. He was a gentleman, as everybody should be a gentleman,” Greenstein said. He recalled that Mr. White was a favorite guest at the Greenstein family’s Thanksgiving table for several decades. Mr. White always brought deviled eggs to the party.

Sailing was one of Mr. White’s passions. He enjoyed skippering and sailing on what are known as Shields class boats in Newport, R.I., which he initially visited for the folk and jazz festivals…

“I wish I had 90 more years to do all the things I still want to do,” he said in the 1997 interview.

The Spirit of the Spirit: A WGBH remembrance

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series The Don Hallock Collection

By Don Hallock — 8/8/2015

In 2000 I was hired by Montana Public Television to direct a PBS production of the Montana Summer Symphony. It was a sizable piece (outdoors, 13 cameras, and seven regional symphony orchestras – yes 7, in Montana!).

DH - CUThe Montana program manager/producer and I hit it off from the get-go. I had directed nothing for 24 years previously, and it had been a whole 37 years since leaving ‘GBH. I was immediately forthcoming about that, but probably because they’d had good experiences with David Atwood the previous two years, added to the superlative reputation of WGBH, the Montana PM was game to collaborate with this broadcasting antique.

The folks in Montana and I (in Hawaii) worked on the production plans for two or three months by phone, Internet and email. Luckily the scheduling worked out so that I could hire Bill Frances as TD. (I tried to get Chas Norton for lighting as well but, unfortunately, the timing was wrong.) Still, as I expected, Bill was superb, and the Montana people were hugely impressed by his easy way and mastery of the production.

On site, the Montana PBS staff, it turned out, were very professional, capable, immensely cooperative, cordial and wonderfully easy to work with. There was a warm atmosphere of smooth camaraderie among their staff. Working with these folks felt in some subliminal way like ‘coming home.’ And eventually I came to understand that the whole experience was wonderfully, and touchingly for me, reminiscent of my years at ‘GBH.

But here’s the thing: The day after I arrived in Bozeman, several of the local staff and I met for lunch, and got to know each other in person. We spoke about our plans, our histories in broadcasting, and our philosophies. I reminisced on the family atmosphere I remembered at ‘GBH, and how much I valued that. In response, the Montana people remarked on having earlier attended an NAB convention, specifically noting that, in contrast to most of the other Public Broadcasting groups, the ‘GBH people seemed remarkably amiable, close-knit, and mutually supportive.

———

Once upon a moment of magic (during the ‘Golden Age of Television’ – 1957) there was a lower middle class kid with only a high school education, and a burning passion for the medium, who was taken on at ‘GBH as a scenic carpenter, soon brought into the studio as cameraman and, eventually, promoted to producer/director (for all of which he’s still hugely grateful). There were organizational restrictions in place at the station which should have made that trajectory formally impossible. But bending those rules in favor of who people actually were, and in respect of each individual’s intrinsic value, was actually the unspoken rule of the house.

People, and the talents they brought to the workplace, were always ‘coin of the realm.’

I don’t remember anyone really worrying about losing their job; ability and team effort seemed the most important measures of a person’s worth.

During my time at the station many folks came and went but, by way of testimonial, many stayed for very, very long times. And, though my memory may be faulty, I can recall, during that period at least, only one person who ever earned dismissal.

Certainly there were some frictions – all organizations suffer at least a few of those. There were also, however, times of wonderful fun, impressive loyalties, abundant kindnesses, and very genuine friendships. Internecine politics — while not entirely absent — never seemed to compromise commitment to the greater endeavor. That commitment was a quality within, and between, the people who worked there. It was palpable inside the station and, I believe, made itself felt through ‘GBH’s output, not only outside in the Boston community, but at distances which could only be imagined.

Being part of Educational Television was an education in itself; we were daily rubbing elbows with the finest the world’s cultures had to offer. And I believe we all knew, at one level or another, that we were involved in something noble and admirable. It was that spirit which undergirded the beginnings of ‘Educational Television,’ and with time would build the enormous force for good that is now Public Broadcasting. The philosophy which grounded the functioning of the station was omnipresent. A whole litany of words would be needed to describe what the station stood for: integrity, insight, intelligence, ingenuity, honesty, sensitivity, inventiveness, professionalism, scholarship, idealism, co-cooperativeness, community, creativity, perseverance and team spirit …. just for starters. Of course we didn’t always make it to the tops of those mountains.

Financially, technically and practically the obstacles were often daunting. But pride in overcoming was frequent, and shortfalls were not due to a lack of desire or commitment. These qualities were embodied, day to day, by the people who were WGBH.

Apparently, they still are.

In the early days, one of our Boston University interns coined the phrase, “We don’t say much, but we don’t offend anyone.” If that was ever true, much certainly has changed. A glance at the line-up of the station’s output (particularly in the realm of documentary) shows a great deal of grown-up risk-taking. The maturing of WGBH is something to be proud of, and it must be observed that, if one is proud to be (or have been) part of WGBH, it is automatically true that one is also proud of everyone else who has given their talents to make the station what it is.

Past, present, future, WGBH is us …. all of us. The continuity of the alumni web site and the recurring alumni reunions attest to this fact.

So, pardon me for gushing (just a bit more), but there has always been something magical about the ‘GBH cachet, growing I believe from the station’s spoken, unspoken, and lived, philosophy, and from those who have striven to express it. The WGBH logo inspires, immediately, well deserved respect, not only throughout the industry, but among audiences worldwide.

———

The kid I referenced earlier is now almost 80. He’s run through quite a few personal and professional incarnations since his 6 years tenure at ‘GBH, but each of those eras have been informed and influenced by what he learned there — not only about broadcasting, but about the spirit at the heart of intelligent living.

He’s invariably moved when, during its station breaks, our local PBS station here in Honolulu intones its two slogans, “It’s not just TV. It’s a relationship,” and “Home is here.”

Morash to receive Lifetime Achievement Emmy

Russ MorashFrom NATAS via BuzzworthyRadioCast.com

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) announced that Russ Morash, the producer and director of the historic, “The French Chef,” with Julia Child and the creator of “This Old House” and many other iconic public television programs will be honored at the 41st Annual Daytime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Fifty-four years of combined programming, 13 Emmy® Awards, and one groundbreaking career later, the father of how-to TV most emphatically deserves a lifetime achievement award,” said Malachy Wienges, Chairman, NATAS. “I am thrilled that Russ has been chosen as this year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree,” said David Michaels, Senior Executive Producer of the Daytime Emmy® Awards. “This is part of our conscious effort to acknowledge the career contribution of those people who work in the Creative Arts. We couldn’t be happier for him and we’re very excited to be presenting this honor at the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy® Award gala surrounded by all his peers!

“When I first moved from New Zealand to the US almost 30 years ago, the Daytime TV shows that caught my attention were created by Russ Morash,” said Brent Stanton, Executive Director, Daytime Emmy® Awards. “His innovation of using specialists in the role of hosts on such shows as “This Old House,” “The Victory Garden” and “The New Yankee Workshop” helped to pave the way for the proliferation of the Lifestyle genres on television and the internet.”

“As a brilliant creator/producer/director, Russ Morash used his personal passion and love for well prepared food, gardening, home improvement/repair and woodworking to develop a whole new genre of television programs,” said Norm Abram, Master Carpenter, This Old House and Host, The New Yankee Workshop. “Russ always wanted to learn more himself, but more importantly he wanted to share knowledge with others. The experts and craftsmen he featured on the shows he created did just 2 that. Generations have been and will continue learning “how to” thanks to Russ who started it all over 50 years ago with Julia Child.”

Russ Morash

Russ Morash was fresh out of college when he entered the young world of television in 1957. At the time, his employer, Boston’s WGBH, had been on the air for only two years. He immediately put the theater training he’d received at Boston University to work mounting productions and dealing with talent. He knew talent when he saw it, and when he began working with a “strange woman with this strange accent” named, Julia Child, “The French Chef” — and “how-to television” — were born. Over time, Russ’s personal enthusiasms — cooking, gardening, home repair, woodworking — would become, through his choice of talent, tone, and content, America’s first foray into “reality television.”

In 1975, he dragged two huge studio cameras outside to record the first episode of “Crockett’s Victory Garden” in raised beds set up in the station’s parking lot. Three years later, he convinced his bosses to buy a dilapidated Victorian home so that he could document its rehabilitation under the hammer of Norm Abram and the showmanship of Bob Vila. “This Old House” has been running for 35 years and counting!

Part of Russ’s “mad genius,” according to his Emmy® Award-winning cameraman Dick Holden, was to free the TV-making process from as many technical encumbrances as possible, pushing portable cameras and wireless microphones into new areas. “For electronic field camera use, everything we were used to seeing before changed with those shows,” says Holden, “and most of what we see today began then.”

His remarkable success continued with the launch of “The New Yankee Workshop” in 1989 and “Ask This Old House” in 2002. All of Russ’s programs are all based on a simple and revolutionary idea: authentic information, presently clearly by experts themselves. Often, through sheer force of will, he brought these programs into being. He taught and inspired a generation of TV producers who follow in his footsteps. Ultimately, his legacy is generations of TV viewers who value the expertise, work ethic, and skill of craftsmen and women and who know the true value of a job well done.

Doug DeVitt, 62, audio engineer

From Joyce Funeral Home

Weston – Mr. Douglas J. DeVitt, of Weston, died Sunday, November 25, 2012 at Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge. He was 62.

Doug was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on July 5, 1950, a son of the late Robert D. and Dorothy J. (Dow) DeVitt. He was raised in Erie and attended the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. After that he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Doug had been a Weston resident for more than thirty years.

After college Doug began a forty year career as an audio engineer, first at WICU and WQLN, both in Erie. After a move to Boston he continued working in the same capacity for Boston public television’s WGBH station and later at WCVB, Channel 5 where he won an Emmy award for excellence in his field. Doug also founded Voyager Sound and Recordatory Recording Studio and had a lifelong interest in photography.

Doug’s wife, Barbara J. Donovan-DeVitt died July 7, 2005.

He leaves his daughter, Alexandra J. DeVitt of Weston; his brothers, Michael DeVitt of Demming, New Mexico and Donald DeVitt and his wife, Barbara Nadeau, of Marblehead; his brother and sisters-in-law, Paul F. Donovan and his wife, Carol, and Joanne, Nancy and Mary-Jane Donovan and his nieces and nephews.

Family and friends will honor and remember Doug’s life by gathering for calling hours in The Joyce Funeral Home, 245 Main Street (Rte. 20), Waltham on Friday, November 30th from 4 to 8 p.m. and again at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning in the First Parish Church in Weston, 349 Boston Post Road, Weston where his funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Burial will follow in Linwood Cemetery, Weston.

Memorial donations may be made to the National Marfan Foundation, 22 Manhasset Avenue, Port Washington, NY 11050.

Larry Heileman, 66, public broadcasting fundraiser

The WGBH Alumni wish to express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Larry Heileman, who passed on August 17, 2011, at the age of 66.

Larry was a fundraiser for public broadcasting for over 20 years. We would like to reassure the Heileman family and all of PBS community that the work Larry has done to support and nurture WGBH and public broadcasting will not be forgotten.

Larry tirelessly gave of his time and made a substantial impact on the Public Broadcasting industry through his work at WGBH, PBS Development, and as Director of Membership at WHYY. He made major contributions as mentor in the PBS Membership Academy and as an researcher for TV Pledge Programs.

Larry was best known for his sense of humor, research approach and strong belief in the mission of public broadcasting. He made a substantial impact on public television industry through his pursuit of innovative fundraising techniques and his willingness to share his expertise and knowledge with all his colleagues through out the public broadcasting system. Larry never hesitated to test and evaluate new fundraising ideas and thoroughly enjoyed calling his colleagues about his latest fundraising results or dropping into your office to give you a new idea.

Larry can never be replaced, but his work ethic and commitment to public broadcasting he loved so much will carry on through those who worked side by side with him. Larry will always be in our heart.

Don Fouser, Executive Producer

Emmy Award winning TV producer and a long-time resident of Ipswich Donald B. “Don” Fouser died July 3rd after a gallant battle with melanoma. He was 83 years old.

Don’s career was varied and his interests universal and passionate. He built harpsichords and reported for three major New England newspapers but is most noted for a number of public affairs programs produced for WGBH that addressed significant emerging issues.

His programs had an edge. For example, his program on Vietnam, made in 1961 as part of a series on Foreign Aid, was the first to be critical of the growing American involvement. Another on the “New Conservatives” featured interviews with people such as Milton Friedman and others when they were still relatively unknown.

He made his most famous program, V-D Blues, for Channel 13, New York, in 1971. Don’s approach was revolutionary. The program aimed at reversing the pandemic of venereal diseases then raging. It didn’t follow the usual, dull, sex-education approach larded with interludes of heavy-handed preaching. It was mostly a comedy program with Dick Cavett serving as MC and with songs and skits around the diseases. One skit featured Zero Mostel, made up to look like a germ, enjoying the comfortable environment of the human body until hit with an antibiotic.

The program was groundbreaking in that Don had arranged with TV stations as well as federal and state health agencies to be standing by all over the country with open lines and operators prepared to provide information about all aspects of venereal diseases to callers, no questions asked. On top of that, Don had thousands of copies of the program printed in comic book format for distribution at places that young people and other vulnerable groups were apt to gather.

The response was overwhelming and demonstrated that the impact of TV programs upon behavior could be dramatically enhanced when viewers were able to quickly contact local agencies that provided follow-up services. The success of VD Blues begs the question as to why the same approach was not tried in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

In connection with the 200th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Don produced a number of programs titled “Ourstory” for use in schools. Again, Don innovated. Instead of yet another set of “audio-visual aids” that told students the story of America, the programs provided students with evidence that illuminated key episodes in our nation’s history and then asked them to create their versions of “Ourstory.”

Ever active, Don, in his later years turned his hand to building and refurbishing homes. His most notable accomplishment as a builder is what he did with his own property in Ipswich. When he purchased it in the 1960’s, it consisted of a run down Federalist period house on a piece of land that was more dumping ground than yard. Don set about restoring the house with authentic moldings and a curved veranda overlooking the garden. He then built a barn in keeping with the style of the house. A tasteful three-unit town-house complex and a sculpture garden connecting all the buildings rounded out his vision. Over the years he transformed a neglected wasteland into an island of beauty gracing the heart of town. Like everything else that Don did it exemplifies high standards and good taste.

Don often said that his work called for him to be a “nay sayer” to people who questioned his vision. When it came to living, however, he was a “yea sayer.” He had a passion for the things in life that extend and enhance our humanity and he pursued them with great gusto. He read constantly and greedily (often three or four books at a time) and amassed a library that speaks to his many and varied interests and enthusiasms. He loved music and listened to it as seriously as he read books. His extensive collection of records, tapes, and CD’s like his library, is far ranging and extends from ragtime and Cole Porter to his favorite, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Don was a master cook. He spared no effort to prepare dishes the right way even if it meant sending to Canada to obtain the specified variety of oyster. But the true reason he cooked was to share his accomplishments with friends at dinner parties over which he presided. Don would nudge the discussions that ranged over the arts, politics, and public affairs but always allowed for gales of laughter that he hoped, “…would knock the paint off the ceiling.”

Having grown up on the shore of Long Island Sound, Don loved the sea and sailing. He bought a large Skipjack, the Daisy B. It was a working Chesapeake Bay oyster boat. Don sailed her to Ipswich. The next season, when the 55-foot mast broke, he went to Vermont, selected a tree, and had it cut down. After getting it to Ipswich, he handcrafted it into a perfect replica of the original mast. For a number of summers the Daisy B plied the water off Ipswich.

Don served in the Navy in World War II and upon discharge enrolled at Brown University where he graduated with honors in English in 1951. He immediately returned to the navy to serve during the Korean War. After his second navy stint, he studied for a year at Boston University Law School.

He enjoyed another university experience while working for public television in New York. He was awarded a prestigious journalism fellowship at Columbia University that gave him access to seminars and lectures, with leading national and world scholars as well as to meetings with noted figures from the worlds of politics, business and the media.

He was a man who threw himself into life with gusto, forever seeking and accepting new challenges. He was working on a novel and his memoirs at the time of his death. He was a true Renaissance man.

Don is survived by his wife, Judith; his two sons Joshua and Jason, both of Ipswich, and his daughter, Rebekah, of Florida and by eight grandchildren. Don was the son of the late George J. and Margaret Whitaker Fouser of Branford, Connecticut and is also survived by his older brother George, of Branford, his sister-in-law, Rosie and six nephews and nieces. A private memorial service will be held at his home at a later date.

Don was the exec producer of “The Nader Report” and other seminal shows in the late ’60s and early ’70s.  I believe he went on to be the exec producer of the early CBS Cable series which interviewed artists and celebs without an interviewer on camera; it received lots of critical attention while not enough audience.

I hooked up with Don Fouser as his director on one of the early docu shows called Dollar Diplomacy. It was a 6-part series on America’s Vietnam experience. This is when we had “advisors only” in the country. Don traveled with a 16 mil. Bolex film camera and shot all the material himself. There was no sound recordings. We later created all the sounds to cover the silent footage. The editor was Danny Williams who later went on to work with Andy Warhol. Danny took his life. A very sad story. His sister has written a book about this event.

Anyway, Don, Danny and myself would work on the series in the back film editing rooms (where the 125 Conference room existed) until the wee hours of the morning. There was a rule not allowing alcohol into the building because of an earlier instance that caused some trouble. However, since we were there so late no exec’s were around so we ate pizza and drank beers to keep us going.

What to do with the empties? Well, they had these ceilings where you could move a panel aside. And that is where the beer cans went. When the station moved the editing rooms so they could create the Cahners Conference room, the construction workers tore out the ceiling and down came crashing beer cans and all.

Don as producer declared in the docu series that the USA could not possibly win a war with the Vietnamese. This infuriated the people in Washington who had arrange for Don to travel to Vietnam. Don never stepped away from a fight.

Don’s fight with Michael Rice over the Nader show actually caused the creation of the WGBH union. Fouser would not change the show demanded by Rice. Nader refused also. The only solution was to take Don off the show. He fought a good battle but so irritated Rice that he was fired. Don wrote a letter to the staff of WGBH. They all gathered in Studio B and I read the letter. It was clear we had to protect ourselves and our programs. It was just two weeks after Don left that the union was created.

There was one night when Don had put in his money to get a sandwich from our then vending machines. The sandwich would not come out. So Don smashed the glass and took his sandwich. Unfortunately he broke his hand.

Don eventually went to work for WNET. And then on to CBS Cable, the arts-orientated experiment. He produced a show that was shot in the WGBH studio called “Calamity Jane’s Diary” starring Jane Alexander. I was the co director and was able to get CBS to pay WGBH studio costs. This was just before Jane became head of the NEA.

Don’s wife is a great painter. They have lived in Ipswich for most of their married life. Don was a delight to be around. Argumentative but with a great sense of humor. I will miss him greatly.

With 1972’s decline in bold-spirited shows, VD Blues qualified as the aberration of the year. From its opening moments—a funky rock band strolling the Sausalito waterfront while belting out the lyrics to “Don’t Give a Dose to the One You Love Most”—Don Fouser’s candid and forthright look at venereal disease turned the conventions of television upside down. He planned to target teenagers, who formed the center of a resurgent epidemic of venereal disease, and yet resisted the blandishments of public TV. Fouser’s strategy was to bring outrageous humor and irreverence to the discussion of a topic normally treated only in hushed tones. Its message was simple and direct: VD is detectable and curable. NET liked the idea and format and agreed to let Fouser produce it. More surprisingly, the 3M Corporation courageously agreed to underwrite the show’s production costs. But that was before they saw the script. (How they saw the script remains a mystery; corporate underwriters are ostensibly barred from becoming involved in program content.) While reading the script, the eyes of the 3M executives fell on a mildly funny sketch by Jules Feiffer in which a woman patient, infected by VD and forced by her doctor to reveal her sexual liaisons, names the doctor as her sole contact. A call came immediately from 3M’s offices in St. Paul to tell me that the sketch had to be deleted. The PR people were apparently concerned lest 3M’s name be associated with a program that implied that doctors committed indiscretions with their patients. (And doctors, I later learned, are big 3M customers.) Reluctant to allow an underwriter to have a voice in the producer’s plans, I politely declined. They just as politely declined to have 3M’s name on the show.

Once the show was completed, VD Blues was previewed for station programmers on a closed-circuit system a week prior to its scheduled airing. We were surprised to learn that 3M executives, accompanied by several doctors and a public-health official, were present for the preview in the St. Paul station. We were even more surprised when they called me to ask if the 3M name could be restored to the show. It could. Fearful, however, that “a great many reasonable viewers would feel that this program openly condones promiscuity,” 3M requested that the show open and close with an announcement that NET was “solely responsible for the content and method of presentation.”

VD Blues aired on October 9, 1972. Only two stations refused it: one in Jackson, Mississippi, and one in Little Rock, Arkansas. Most not only ran it but mounted local follow-up shows with experts responding to viewers’ inquiries. The New York station’s follow-up show, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, had to be extended from one to three-and-a-half hours to accommodate more than 15,000 telephone calls. Other cities experienced similar results. The VD Blues story had an O. Henry-style finish: 3M was presented later in the year with the American Medical Association’s 1972 Journalism Award for its courage in underwriting such a high-risk show. The story of the award, wrote Variety ‘s Bill Greeley, was “one of those marvelous ironies which only a gimp of a medium public television could supply.”

A Boy from Milwaukee

This entry is part 12 of 22 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection

Rambling Reflections on Life by a 74-year-old TV director
By Fred Barzyk

Part 1: The Early Years

You see, I was this kid growing up on the South Side of Milwaukee. The Polish South Side.

It was the 1940s and things were going just great. I mean, we had just won a War.

My Mom and Dad took me to downtown Milwaukee to celebrate. It was either VE or VJ Day.

Anyway, the people were goin’ crazy, dancing, singing, jumpin’ around. One woman kissed me. That was way too much.


America in the 1940s

  • Population: 132,122,000
  • Unemployed in 1940: 8,120,000
  • National Debt: $43 Billion
  • Average Salary: $1,299. Teacher’s salary: $1,441
  • Minimum Wage: $.43 per hour
  • 55% of U.S. homes have indoor plumbing
  • Antarctica is discovered to be a continent
  • Life expectancy: 68.2 female, 60.8 male
  • Auto deaths: 34,500
  • Supreme Court decides blacks do have a right to vote
  • World War II changed the order of world power; the United States and the USSR become super powers
  • Cold War begins

Now that the War was over, my Uncle Ed would come home from Germany. My Aunt Frances was going to be so, so happy.

She had this colicky little baby, Edward, and she needed some help. He would cry and cry. You could hear it all over the neighborhood. He was my cousin and I felt sorry for the little kid. For my Aunt, too.

Our neighborhood

They lived across the street from us. Good old South 7th Street, that was where we lived. We were renters.

On one side of our rented house lived the Getarec’s. Their son, Lawrence, had just formed a Polka band; his friends would come over on weekends to rehearse. They were terrible. Three weeks later, they disbanded. Larry never got to do one of those weddings gigs he wanted to do so badly. Poor Larry.

On the other side of us lived the Nowicki’s. One of their clan was a hunter. Bow and arrow. He and a friend actually took down a 500 lb. Black Bear. They strung it up in their garage. The Milwaukee Journal came and took a picture. He was famous in our neighborhood.

Two young girls lived there, too. Joan and Barbara.


BARBARA  (1938-1941)

Barbara, lived next door, upstairs.
little kids, we played, making mud pies
under back porches,
digging dirt, all tiny pails and shovels.
Her sister, Joan, older by 4 years, taunted us
“Look! Boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Angrily we denied,
not understanding what it meant anyway,
but knowing nothing good
could come from being
boyfriend
girlfriend.

We played movies,
acting out all the parts
in grassy backyards
and concrete alleys
of the Polish South Side.
We had a secret hideout
dark dense bushes
one street over.
Here we could hide.
ours,
no one else allowed.

Then suddenly,
grade school.
She to Catholic, I to Public.
We saw each other
everyday,
but all was changing
We, evolving, living new adventures,
far from secret hideouts,
mud pies under back porches.
Becoming new people,
Wiser, distant.
Why do we have to grow anew?

Left then with only distant memories
Of a little girl who lived next door,
upstairs?


Show business

My Mom had this vision for me. She thought it would be wonderful if I could be in show business.

I mean, her very own cousin, Johnny Davis, had a big dance band that played all the big venues in Milwaukee. His band looked something like this.

She was very proud to be his cousin. Johnny’s band had these two young guys, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. They went to Hollywood and became movie stars! One of their movies was called “Two Guys from Milwaukee.” Movie critic, Leonard Maltin, gave it 2 and half stars. Not bad.

Two Guys From Milwaukee Trailer

And my Aunt Frances, well, she was very good friends with a Polish musician from the South Side of Milwaukee. He played piano at all the fancy dinner restaurants in town. His name was Liberace.

My family was just surrounded by all these talented people.

My mother thought, “Why Not Freddy?”

Dance lessons

So, when I was seven, she signed me up for dance lessons.

I think she imagined me to be in a show, dressed in costumes, applauded by the masses.


THE LESSONS (1943)

We climbed 101 wooden steps up
Up, to the very tip top
of the 5th Street viaduct,
Mom and I, my tiny tap shoes in hand.

We paid a nickel each and rode the Hinky Dinky,
Milwaukee’s super small streetcar.
Rattling across the South Side,
past smoke stacks,
heady smells from the yeast factory,
we emerged from the rackety ride
and hurried down Wisconsin Avenue
to the School of Dance!

We climbed 31 wooden steps up
Up, to the very tip top
of the old brick building
Mom and I, my tiny tap shoes in hand.

In the hot, sweaty dance studio,
crammed tight with little kids
tap, tap, tap dancing,
steel cleats clanging wooden floors.
the tall thin dance teacher
trying to train little feet
Click, tap. tap, pat, click. click

Mom, sat, silently, secretly,
dreaming Dreams,
Dreams of Show Business,
Dreams through me.
Click, tap, pat, pat, click, click
My feet stomped, banged, kicked,
Hoping to create
rhythm grace
energy  Beauty!

Click, tap. Tap, tap, pat, click
Me, a 7 year old kid,
who bought his clothes in
the Sears husky department

Click, pat, tap, click, click, click
those tap shoes took a beating.
Me, too.
Click, pat, tap, click.

After the fourth tap dance lesson,
riding back on the
Jiggling, clankingly, Hinky Dinky,
it happened.
Breakfast, lunch, snacks
all made a nasty return.
Raining everywhere,
over the hard train seats.

Mom knew the dream was gone.
She put away the tiny tap shoes
way back, in a dark hall closet,
Never to be worn again.
No more click, clack, tap.
Not for those tiny tap shoes.
For that is how dreams die… sometimes.
Without a click or tap,
tap,
tap.


But I didn’t give up on her dream. I announced that I would become a piano player! Only problem was we didn’t have a piano.

Piano lessons

I started taking lessons practicing on a piece of fold out cardboard designed to look like piano keys. They knew eventually, I would need a real piano. I don’t think they could afford one, but somehow they managed to buy a small spinet piano. I still have it today.

I really never could play the piano, even after years of lessons. However, it was known in my neighborhood that I had a piano. This fact alone brought me face to face with a dilemma.

I had forgotten about this incident until I started writing this personal history. I learned a lesson that day: Do not judge a book by its cover.


POEM (1948)
“I can’t even remember his name”

Like a lingering shadow in my memory bank
Hanging there in the void, frozen, pale, fragile —
Almost brushed aside by other fading images
His freckled face —
His sandy hair —
His wet hazel eyes —
His grimy glasses —
So often I ignored him, thinking nothing of him
And now, I can’t even remember his name

It was the end of summer, hot and dry
He came to my porch and knocked on the door
He had never come to my house before
My God, we hardly even talked
But there he stood —
clutching papers,
hoping
How could I have ignored him, thinking nothing of him?
And now, I can’t even remember his name

He heard that I played the piano, that I knew music
He was just a 14 year old Polish kid from the South Side
Not polished or trained in music, awkward and shy
He told me his dream and thrust the papers into my hands
Can you play it?
I wrote it myself.
I can’t play the piano, you know —
Can you play my concerto?
He stood, waiting, hoping
And I can’t even remember his name.

Where did he get the blank music paper?
How did he know about D minor?
Allegro molto?
Andante?
I stared hard at his hand written notes, bewildered —
How could this be?

But there it was
It looked real,
Musically correct
difficult,
way too difficult —
I stuttered, swallowed hard, and admitted my failings
It’s too tough,
I’ve only begun to play the piano
Maybe someone else —
He said nothing, smiled and nodded his head
took his papers back, and left
I watched as he walked away down my street

We saw each other on the playground near St. Helen’s
We played basketball and hung around a little
Summers are like that
He never mentioned our meeting
Neither did I
My piano lessons went on and on
Never mounting to much
I stopped thinking of him
until now.
I wonder if he ever heard his concerto?
I hope so.
So sad that I can’t even remember his name.
Just a lingering shadow in my memory bank


The playground

Ohio Street playground.

Concrete, stark, a battle field where kids become ensnared in the thoughts of winning and losing, fighting through fears and hoping to win, you know, throwing in the winning basket just before the final bell goes off!  It doesn’t usually work out that way.

Fred's Playground

Steve Izzi, 63, sound engineer

Steve Izzi

Stephen Richard Izzi, 63, of Spirit Lake, Idaho, passed away suddenly in his home on Tuesday, May 10, 2011.  He was the beloved husband of Terri A. (Hagelin) Izzi. Steve was born in Brookline, MA., the son of Nicolette (DeAngelis) Izzi of N. Providence and the late Dante Izzi. Besides his wife and mother, he is survived by his sister Ruth Izzi-Goode of Chepachet, RI.

Steve was a graduate of Rhode Island School of Radio and Electronics which started his career in media, broadcasting and audio.  He did live remote recordings for WGBH-FM in 60’s & 70’s and was the principal film mixer and sound engineer for WGBH-TV in Boston in the 70’s  & 80’s.

When Steve first joined WGBH he immediately became interested in sound production/engineering. He displayed a fine ability to transform live orchestral and all ensemble sound via microphone equalization and reverberation techniques that produced and created a truly transparent sound.  Later, in the 80’s & 90’s, at the Chedd-Angier Production Co. in Watertown, MA, Steve mixed many TV programs, museum interactives and most notably Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda documentaries.

He engineered sound for the Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall in Boston.  Steve’s masterful audio work will live on forever and be enjoyed by all.

Steve recently opened an audio mastering facility in Spirit Lake, ID, specializing in ¼ inch & older analog restorations, digital remixing, mastering, and complete CD & DVD preparation, from audio to artwork. He was an accomplished graphic artist producing many CD covers.  Steve was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam conflict.  Steve was a true Red Sox Fan.

Steve will always be remembered for his kindness and “Gentle Spirit.”

His funeral will be held Friday, May 20, 2011 at 8:30am from the  Tucker-Quinn Funeral Chapel, 643 Putnam Ave. (Rte.44) Greenville, RI, with a Funeral Service at 10am in Chepachet Union Church, 1138 Putnam Pike, Chepachet. Burial with military honors will be in Acotes Hill Cemetery, Chepachet, RI. Visitation is Thursday 4-7pm.

Eric Jackson marks 30 years at WGBH

If you had your radio dialed to 89.7 FM most any weeknight over the past three decades, you probably heard the mellifluous baritone of Eric Jackson intone that signature phrase. This week Jackson, 61, celebrates 30 years hosting his jazz program, “Eric in the Evening” (changed a couple of years ago to “Jazz on WGBH With Eric Jackson’’), with events tomorrow and Friday at Scullers and Arlington’s Regent Theatre, respectively.

Time calls Rebecca Eaton one of world’s most influential people

Rebecca Eaton has been the executive producer of Masterpiece for 25 of its 40 years. She has a passion for great drama, for great stories, beautifully told, that showcase extraordinary actors.

Under her watch, Masterpiece has brought the American public some of television’s most popular and enduring dramas, including Prime Suspect, Bleak House, Sherlock and the new Upstairs Downstairs

As Masterpiece, still on a publicly funded network, celebrates this remarkable anniversary, we Americans are fortunate to have Rebecca at the helm: someone committed to bringing great television drama to the widest possible audience, week after week.