Jim Lewis Remembers: Julia Child’s Car Talk

From Jim Lewis

In 1985 Julia Child received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Smith College. One of WGBY’s supporters, cookbook editor Charlotte Turgeon, arranged for her old classmate to stay on the day after the ceremony to do a reception for our donors called Tea with Julia.

Julia_Child_at_KUHT2Charlotte asked me to pick Julia and Paul Child up at a hotel in Northampton and drive them to the WGBY studio in Springfield.

Julia and Charlotte hopped into the back seat of my car, while Paul sat next to me. I tried to engage him in conversation, but he didn’t want anything to do with me or the event, so just sat there sulking.

While we rode in silence, Charlotte and Julia, who sat immediately behind me, chirped back and forth as I drove south on I-91.

“And these food faddists,” Julia exclaimed, “always going off in some strange, new direction. These vegetarians! How can you have a lovely dinner party and not serve meat?”

Suddenly it got very quiet in the back seat. I could feel her staring at me. She reached forward and pounded me on the shoulder. “Oh, dear,” she said, “you’re not one of THOSE, are you?”

My Favorite Story: Child and Cosby

From David Sloss

Julia Child from WikipediaIn 1966, the people who produce the Emmy awards decided it was time to recognize Educational TV, as it was then called.  They created a couple of award categories for ETV, and nominated several people.  The only winner was Julia Child, who had risen to national prominence by then.  

Several of us from WGBH were at the award dinner at the Americana Hotel in New York.  The host of the Emmy broadcast that year was to be Bill Cosby, but he didn’t make his entrance until they went on the air.  In the meantime, before the broadcast, a number of the lesser awards were given out, including Julia’s.  

Julia collected her Emmy and returned to the table.  Then someone came over and asked her to come along to the next room for a publicity photo.  Julia walked in, and there was Cosby.  The plan was to take a picture of Cosby handing the Emmy to Julia.  So Julia walked up to Cosby and said in her breezy way, “Well, I’m Julia Child, and who are you?”

Cosby said, “I’m Sydney Poitier!”

Julia said, “Oh, Mr. Poitier, well, I’ve certainly heard that you’re a fine actor!”

At that moment they took the picture, and the quizzical look on Cosby’s face was priceless.  The photo was posted on the wall in the lobby of the building on Western Avenue, and it was still hanging there when I left the following year.  I looked for it at the reunion, and was terribly sorry to see it had gone.

When the broadcast began, Cosby was introduced with a big flourish.  Julia, now back at her table, looked very puzzled.  “I don’t understand,” she said.  “They’re calling him Cosby, but he distinctly told me that his name was Poitier!”  

We soon enough figured out what had happened, and explained to Julia that Cosby must have been kidding.  “Oh, but I have to apologize to him,” she said.  “I just have to explain that I don’t watch his kind of television!”  

We assured Julia that the explanation was unnecessary.

Jean Shepherd tells his first WGBH story

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Jean Shepherd (1970)

I first heard Jean on the radio in Boston. It was 1961. I was babysitting my young son and, while idly scanning radio stations, I heard this person, this intense personal voice, talking to me.

Whoa! Is it possible? Something clicked in me. Had I found a kindred soul?

Jean had grown up in the Midwest, in Hammond, Indiana, the industrial Midwest. Me, too, I grew up just an hour away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My father worked in a factory, International Harvester, and my mother worked in a factory during the war, Perfex. My neighborhood was surrounded by all kinds of factories. You could smell them in the air.

Jean was weaving a tale about The Steel Mill, running, delivering the mail. He recalled a horrible accident: a vat had turned over, killing one of the steel men. But he also talked about the beauty of the giant plant. He talked about tapping the heat.

He never played any music, he just talked! Come on! This was a Saturday afternoon, for God sake. Who the Hell is this guy? Right then and there I knew I had to work with him.

Fred Barzyk (2007)

I was a young television director (22) working at WGBH-TV, a little Educational Television station housed in a former roller skating rink, above a drugstore at 84 Massachusetts Avenue and right across the street from MIT. There were 45 employees running the TV and FM radio stations.

I was on contract to direct a series of French Language shows aimed at grade school students. But what I really wanted to do was dramas for TV. Maybe this Jean Shepherd person might be the storyteller I was looking for. Maybe.

“How the hell am I going to meet him, or get to work with him?”

Youth is great. I figured I would just write him a letter and offer him a half hour of airtime on our little station. I huddled with Mike Ambrosino (a fan; Mike was responsible for the development of the Eastern Educational Television Network and created NOVA) and John Henning (a fan; John had grown up in New York City listening to Jean on the radio. John became one of Boston’s most distinguished newsmen.)

Here was the problem: WGBH had no money. We were lucky to meet the weekly payroll. I was making $80 a week and trying to support a wife and baby, and I had no money. So we offered an artist the one thing they can’t resist. Free airtime to do anything he wanted to do.

I was directing a series of French Language shows, but what I really wanted to do was dramas for TV. Maybe this Jean Shepherd person might be the storyteller I was looking for.

We couldn’t afford his airfare. He would have to sign a release devised by our financial officer, Jack Hurley. Jack insisted that some hard cash pass between WGBH and the talent, so each person was to receive $1. The chances of Jean Shepherd even responding to this offer were very low. Probably, non-existent.

Boy, was I wrong. He wrote back and agreed! We talked on the phone and decided on a date. Now I had to tell management that I had made this offer and it had been accepted. (No, I never did get permission before I sent the letter. What the hell? I never thought he would respond.)

Bob Larson, programming manager, looked dubious. A comedian? No, I said, a great storyteller. How much will this cost? A one-dollar release. Somehow (don’t remember what I said) Bob agreed to let me go ahead with the show.

Bob had graduated from Harvard and was very erudite. He once told me I would never be a producer because of the school I had gone to, Marquette University in Milwaukee. I shrugged and said OK, time will tell. Bob took a chance on this one and, for me, it started a 30-year working relationship with Jean Shepherd.

There is an important event that I forgot to mention. That little TV station above the drug store — it had burned down to the ground several months before. With an amazing amount of public support from institutions and viewers, a campaign to build a new state of art studio was created. We were offered free space from many institutions while the new studio was being built. WGBH was spread out across the city in 7 different locations.

Museum of Science (2000) by Don Hallock

The TV studio was a small room in the basement of the Museum of Science. There was a window from which the paying visitors could watch us make TV shows: We were an exhibit. The producers, directors, and execs were housed in a small red wooden building behind the Museum, right on the waters of the Charles River.

Bob Larson laid out the rules of the game. I would have a single camera and the show would be a half hour live and recorded on tape. (That original tape exists in the WGBH archives: “JEAN SHEPHERD, AMERICAN HUMORIST.”) I decided we would shoot from the dock behind the building.

I would need a big light to cover the area since the show would air at 9:00 p.m.. The opening and closing credits would be created on a large piece of cardboard perched carefully on an easel. Camera starts on cardboard, pans to Jean, he talks for a half hour, pans back to the cardboard. Done.

The day arrived and so did Jean with a young woman, Leigh Brown. She was introduced as his secretary. She never said much but watched with great interest.

Jean was affable and eager to do his bit. I introduced him to the crew and we headed out to the dock. He had a crew cut, wore a summer jacket and tie. He was fit and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to do this for WGBH. I later found out that it was our connection to Harvard, MIT, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Brandeis, Tufts, and Boston University which made this gig really appealing. Jean was looking to forge his credentials in the world of academia.

Jean Shepherd
Jean Shepherd on the dock behind the Museum of Science for his first TV show with Fred Barzyk. With him is Margy Pacsu, a “GBH Staffer. By Dan Beach.

Jean had brought his theme music on audiotape. The time arrived and we were on the air, in living black and white, with the Charles River behind him. He proceeded to tell us two of his classic stories. First came the Ovaltine story and the magic decoder ring. He ended with the blind date story.

The stage manager gave him the one-minute cue, he concluded his bit, and we panned to the cardboard credits. The crew applauded. Egad, this wasn’t like our normal shows. I mean we were doing lectures, piano shows, educational courses for distant learners. And here was this guy entertaining us. Wow! This called for a celebration.

We were doing lectures, piano shows, educational courses for distant learners, and here was this guy entertaining us. Wow! This called for a celebration.

Jean, Leigh, myself, and most of the crew made off to one of our favorite watering holes; this night was going to be on me. (Might blow the family budget, but it was worth it.) I would pick up Jean and Leigh’s drinks. I had assumed that Jean was a beer drinker, like my Dad, but no. He ordered a martini! And just one. The rest of us bought the cheapest beer in the house. We laughed and talked.

And then something amazing happened. Jean asked how WGBH was doing. We said what do you mean? How are the ratings? We all laughed. We never knew if anyone was watching us. Jean asked what kind of shows did we do. At that moment, WGBH was doing a lot of Harvard extension courses for the Navy. Physics, calculus, trig, a series of shows for the crews of atomic subs that stayed submerged for months at a time. The crew could get academic credit for taking this course when they took an exam on returning to base.

Shepherd’s eyes twinkled. He smiled that crooked smile of his, and he created a story right in front of us in the seedy beer-smelling bar. Jean began:

I can see it now. Professor Schmidlap appears at a blackboard and begins to explain calculus to the TV audience. He is amazing, his voice flying out over Boston … talking MATH!

Suddenly, after just two weeks of his little show, the ratings are soaring. The local commercial stations take notice.

“Who the hell is this guy? What’s going on? Maybe it’s that theme music. I mean who the hell can understand calculus?”

Four weeks later, Professor Schmidlap is number one in Boston TV.

The news spreads to New York. They call up and get an air tape. These Big time execs gather in a large conference room and they watch!

The theme music comes up. (They lean forward.) Prof. Schmidlap appears and begins, writing a long equation on the blackboard. (They lean in further.) Professor smiles as he shows us the solution. (They are now standing.)

“Get this guy on the phone. Now!”

Professor Schmidlap is at home when the phone rings. It’s one of the big time New York agents.

“Professor Schmidlap?”

“Yes?”

“This is _________. Who’s your agent?”

“My insurance agent?”

By months end, the Professor has his own show on NBC. His show is broadcast over the entire nation. And the ratings take off. Before long he has won the coveted 9 p.m. slot NATION WIDE. The other networks respond. Soon there are shows on Physics, Metaphysics, Epistemology.

And what happens to WGBH and educational TV? They start running old Ed Sullivan shows.

It is worth noting that, in the year 2002, WGBH aired several episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show. After exactly 39 years, Jean Shepherd’s prediction came to pass.

Remembering the original WGBH

Art Singer is president of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Fifty years ago this past September, as I began an intensive one-year Masters of Communication Arts program at Boston University, I also was approved for a volunteer internship assignment at Channel 2. And for most of the academic year, on several late afternoons a week, I would take the twenty minute walk from BU across the Charles to the station’s studios on the MIT campus for a night’s work.

Who knew at the time it was to be the very best part of my graduate year and would direct a good part of my career?

84 Massachusetts Avenue

To enter the building that housed the WGBH studios was from the beginning a thrilling experience. The feeling was one of being part of grand experiment (this educational television) and also due in large measure to the fact that most of the programs I was assigned to as “crew” were produced and aired live.

As I recall, we’d begin with the children’s show, underwritten by Hood’s, at 5:30 pm and then jump to the inimitable Louis Lyons and the News at 6:00pm. A distinguished journalist for the Christian Science Monitor, Louis would unabashedly read from his notes with an occasional look up over his spectacles to remind himself and the viewer that was on camera.

At 7 p.m., one night a week, legendary theater critic Elliot Norton held forth for a half hour and his guests would be the elite of Broadway whose shows were trying out in town before opening in New York City. There in the guest chairs would be the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein or Julie Styne, or the directors, producers, and stars of the shows.

And scattered elsewhere on my assignments were tapings of other shows. These ranged from Brandeis President Abe Sachar’s “The Course of Our Times “series to Madame Anne Slack and her “Parlons Francais” French language instruction show (Madame Slack would say “Bonjour mon ami” then wait for the viewer to repeat the phrase while she mouthed the words in support). The same late afternoon or evening Eleanor Roosevelt and other luminaries might be taping shows as well.

Studio A, 84 Massachusetts Avenue

The studios were constantly in use. And with so much of it being live, everything was or seemed to be in continuous motion. The likes of Dave Davis and Greg Harney seemed to be everywhere. The man himself, Hartford Gunn would make an occasional appearance in the halls or on the set . And the atmosphere bubbled over with energy and knowledge, talent and creativity.

This was educational television and we were there at the infancy of what many of us sensed could be a new direction for broadcast television. I may have been learning broadcast history and production theory at BU, but here I was learning what actually was necessary to create a TV program, And to boot, I was getting a bonus education –in current events, theater, language, cooking, and journalism.

And music. My most favorite assignment was being on the crew for the live telecasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the time, the BSO performed with some regularity at Sanders Theater in Cambridge. And on a number of Tuesday evenings, we were there to capture and broadcast the event. I don’t believe that GBH had permanent cameras and mikes in the hall. I believe everything had to be trucked over and set up anew each time.

The producer responsible for these major productions was Jordan Whitelaw. And I can vividly recall attending, along with the director, the camera operators, the audio guys, the switcher, and others the rehearsals in Jordan’s office.

After personnel assignments were confirmed for each of us in the room (most often mine was as a lowly cameraman assistant), we would do a mock production of the evening’s program, each attendee having been given a “shot sheet” to note which shots were assigned to which camera.

Next to Jordan’s desk was either a phonograph or a tuner-turntable-and speaker arrangement. And ready for play was an LP recording by the BSO in most cases performing the very work(s) on the Sanders program that week. We’d all settle down, pencils and paper in hand and Jordan would begin:

“Camera One ready with wide shot of the orchestra. Take Camera One. Ready for opening credits. Roll credits. Camera Two ready to follow Munch as he enters stage right. Ready Two, take Two. Follow him to the podium. Camera Three on First Violin. Ready Camera Three, Take three.”

This continued through the playing of the entire piece. To me it seemed brilliant, but now I suspect that he was mimicking the pre production approach used by the NBC Symphony or the New York Philharmonic on network TV. Yet it could be that he was breaking new ground. Who knows?

Truth is we were all breaking new ground. That ‘GBH experience made a convert of me and I remained hooked for more than 35 years in what became the public broadcasting business.

Yet through all those years, no coverage of an event, development of a series, no dramatically successful nights of on air pitching, gave me more insight and purpose and pleasure than my intern days at this offbeat, eclectic, determined operation known as WGBH-TV Boston.

Recording Buckminster Fuller (1963)

This facilities request was found in a 2” videotape box as this program, featuring the renowned architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller, was being dubbed in 2010 to a modern tape format.

Click image to enlarge

It is rare to come across such a document. It denotes that the show was taped 47 years ago at Stearns Hall at the Museum of Science. This was one of the temporary homes to WGBH television productions after the 1961 fire and during the time the Allston facility was being built.

It appears that 2 VTRs were utilized: one as a master, the other a backup. It is likely they did this for 2 reasons. One is machine failure, the other is tape failure.

Notice this: “After recording, do NET evaluation. If master is good, then wipe the backup. If not, evaluate backup….” The tapes would be technically evaluated before delivery to the National Educational Television Network, for video dropouts and other servo/mechanical discrepancies, specific to the state of the art video recording equipment of that time. One or the other of the tapes were erased for later use.

This document provides a glimpse into production life at an extraordinary time in WGBH history.

Remembering “The Club”

“The Club” began on channel 44 as “Club 44.” I think it was around 1977-80.

Studio A was converted into a bar/club where each Friday night we would tape four, half-hour, back to back, “live” 30 minute segments. These featured local bands and musical acts, cooking segments, political editorials from Barney Frank, interviews with local celebs, and a variety of Boston based info segments. It was made more interesting by the audience who was served wine and beer. They roamed about standing, sometimes tripping on camera cables and generally being helpful. As the night wore on the fun increased.

Silvia Davis was the Executive Producer. She and her team did a great job coming up with fresh talent and ideas for the show. I recall Dick Cavett doing a guest host spot, as did Garrett Morris from SNL. We did segments on CB radio (all the rage at the time) and hot tubs (one night we had a 6′ wooden barrel that mostly didn’t leak all over.) There were movie, book and eatery reviews and even the odd pet segment.

Some might remember the unique innovation called “the stick”.  This was used to ID guests. During a segment, David Atwood who was the ringmaster and chief would call out, “Okay, give ’em the stick.” At which point a piece of foam core attached to a dowel would be thrust into the frame…usually in a mostly lower third position. The guest’s name was painted on the sign.  This all happened in the days before Chyron.  You will hardly ever see it done today.

I’m sure others have fond “Club” memories… Care to share?

Bruce Bordett: The place I wanted to be

From Bruce Bordett

Bruce Bordett (left) and Russ Morash at the 2000 Reunion

Sometime my senior year in college I decided that WGBH was the place I wanted to be. I started in the mailroom in 1971 and made it onto the crew about a year later. This I learned later was the time-honored path for many who had gone before me to find job happiness at the foundation. In truth, it was a great place to start… as I soon learned just who was who, where they sat, and what they did.

I loved working on the crew from day one. ‘GBH was such a great place to be in the ’70’s. Every day we worked on a different show. One day I was learning about strawberries from Jim Crockett, the next day speaking ubbie dubbie with the Zoomers. I learned about Itallian food from Franco and Margaret, and Ludvig B from Lenny Bernstein. Where in the world could you be surrounded by so much cool stuff and have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful characters?

When the Ronald Reagan put the squeeze on PBS and CPB in the early ’80’s things began to change. Money got tight, and a number of us were casualties. It worked out well for me as I landed a production spot at Digital Equipment. They were riding high in the ’80’s and seemed to have lots of dough for production. I had the opportunity to develop my craft learning to shoot, edit, direct, and design facilities.

For me, the ’90’s was the decade of Lotus Development. I was fortunate to have the chance to produce hundreds of projects for marketing, corporate communications, etc. In 2001, I started Bordett–MediaWorks, a small production company in Newton. I’m still involved in all kinds of projects for educational, corporate, non-profits, and private clients. My latest venture is making family documentaries to help people preserve their stories and histories. (milestonespictures.com)

I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for all the wonderful people and experiences that were my WGBH days. I was, we were, very lucky to have shared that place.

We’re in the “understanding business”

Vice President for Branding and Visual Design Chris Pullman retired in October 2008, after 35 years of skillfully defining and shaping the visual persona of WGBH across an expanding array of media platforms.

The chance invitation to work here at WGBH placed me in an environment that was a perfect fit for my temperament and aspirations as a professional and as just a plain person. Once here, I recognized, gradually, why it felt so right as a place to work and associate. I’d like to take this opportunity to share:

10 lessons I learned (or at least had confirmed) at WGBH

1. Work on things that matter

If you possibly can, use you skills and your time to make a difference.

Long before I came here I had developed a preference for non-profit projects. In my free lance work and in my years at the office of George Nelson, the projects that interested me most were the ones for non-profit, pro-social clients.

By the time the opportunity to work here, I had already made the decision that I wanted to work someplace that made a positive difference for people, and that affected a lot of people, not some boutique studio doing design for other designers.

Frankly, when the phone rang and it was Ivan Chermayeff saying that there was an opportunity to work at a TV station in Boston, my first reaction was “definitely not.” This was because my teachers and mentors at Yale had made it clear that the only way to squander a good education faster than going into advertising, was to go into television.

But I was vaguely curious to see what a TV studio was like, so after a while Esther and I decided to just go up and scope the place out. After about 20 minutes with the then General Manager, Michael Rice, it became clear to me that what WGBH was up to was very different from what television in general was up to. So I said “yes,” and have found myself for the past 35 years in the ideal environment to do the kind of work I had hoped to do.

In this first lesson I may be preaching to the choir, since here we all are. But I think it is particularly pertinent for the younger people at ‘GBH for whom this may be a first way-station on a longer professional journey. Given all the ways you could use your skills and your valuable time, pick something that serves the greater good.

2. Work with people you like and respect

Birds of a feather flock together. That is a natural thing. Most of the people here are here (or certainly stay here) because of our mission. Certainly, my long tenure has been largely because of the people in this room, who together and individually have shared with me such personal and heart-warming recollections of our time together.

Since April, when I first announced my intentions to leave WGBH, the private expression of these feelings has been so gratifying, both personally and professionally, that I recently suggested to Jon and Henry that maybe we should institute the policy of encouraging individuals to make periodic “mock retirement” announcements, with the goal of releasing more regularly the flow of kind remarks for the nourishment of the individual, since we are otherwise so reticent to praise or encourage others in our busy, self centered daily lives.

Which leads me to:

3. Be nice

And be positive. And be respectful of the work of others. Strive to understand each others professional contributions and then respect them (as you would want them to respect you) with your actions and your comments. Remember: we are all applying our own particular skills towards a shared objective.

4. Have high standards

High standards are something that has set this place apart. Even in hard times, it is important to keep hold of this core distinction

Don’t settle for “whatever.” The corrosive Dilbert mind-set is depressing and demeaning. Don’t give it a foothold here. I prefer the “see you and raise you one” escalation of good ideas, even crazy ideas.

High standards is something that has set this place apart. Even in hard times, it is important to keep hold of this core distinction, whatever it costs.

5. Have a sense of humor

Humor is the grease of communications. Wit not only engages your head, it engages the other guy’s. Be serious, but don’t take yourself too seriously. As an institution, don’t loose sight of the potential to use sly humor to make connections and put people at their ease.

6. Design is not the narrow application of formal skills, it is a way of thinking

I knew this before I came here, but my time here has reinforced this idea.

My position, first established in 1973, and unusually high up in the org chart, allowed me (and I should say: expected me) to attend to all aspects of the way this organization expressed itself.

My job, and that of scores of designers I have worked with in my area, has been to help define and then express through our work, a consistent, honest and engaging persona for WGBH. (Today’s name for this, by the way, is branding, but it is a process as old as the profession.)

This role has led me into a weird soup of assignments, many of which you have seen here today:

  • wacko projects like the 2-mobile and the Julia Child pre-stained dish towel
  • important projects like a capital campaign case statement or the first proposal for the American Experience
  • inspiring projects like the informational graphics for Vietnam: a Television History or four different title sequences over the years for Masterpiece, and
  • gnarly projects like how to help frame the long-term strategic goals for this company

Each of these projects was a puzzle to figure out within the constraints of budgets and timelines, and with respect for the unique context of that particular problem. Whether it was how to draw a dog with low self-esteem or how to convince a company to underwrite a project, all of it was design to me.

Ultimately this led to the biggest project of all: the design and construction of this new building. It was an honor and an incredible 5-year high to work on this project. It threw me into intense relationships: with our architects, who understood our mission and our culture and came up with a building that works for us; with our trustees, whose guidance and enthusiasm was so helpful; and with my partner-in-crime, Dave Norton, whose contribution to this project on so many levels has earned my greatest respect. This was the project that for the first time gave us an opportunity to apply the same high standards we insist on for our programming to the physical environment in which we all work and in which we welcome the public.

The practice of design — dare I call it “intelligent design”?? — has helped WGBH achieve a distinction among broadcasters and public media publishers. It is my hope that he next person to hold this responsi- bility for the foundation will have as much fun and have as expansive a mandate as I have had.

7. Variety is the spice of life

When I came here in the early 70’ s the trend was toward monolithic design programs governed by a thick and sacred style manual.

As I got to understand the business, this strategy seemed to me to make no sense for WGBH. With programming as diverse as The French Chef, NOVA and ZOOM, no one mode of visual expression could logically suite this range of content. It occurred to me that in fact variety itself can be a kind of consistency.

But when the visual expressions of a company are always and rightfully different, you have to have some other constant that binds the work together, something that lets individual expressions be different, but makes them recognizable as a family of related materials. The goal in this game is to strive for the smallest number of constants and the largest number of variables. And you have to turn to non-visual sources of consistency.

So, soon after I got here, I proposed to Doug and the rest of the designers that we adopt a set of non-visual criteria to define “good design.” Without resorting to the normal formal jargon, if you and your client could answer “yes” to the following questions then it probably is a good piece of design.

  • is it clear? (can I understand what it is, can I read it, can I sense it’s purpose)
  • is it accessible? (does it engage me, does it invite me in, is it easy and intuitive to use)
  • is it appropriate? (to its budget, to the amount of time available to make it, to the language style and level of the audience, to the medium, to the objectives of the project, and to the family of materials it will join, etc.)

“Of the highest quality” does not mean expensive. It means thoughtful and well-executed in its genre.

A final measure, and perhaps the key measure in a business where variety is the norm, is quality. “Of the highest quality” does not mean expensive. It means thoughtful and well-executed in its genre. If all these things are present in a project, then it is likely to be successful, from a design point of view, and otherwise.

8. Institutions have a character, just like people do

In fact it is impossible to NOT have an institutional character or image. It is the sum total of a person’s experience of our staff, our physical plant, our programming and services, our communications — everything we say and do. Every person out there experiences a different assortment of these expressions, but they average out to define our institutional character or persona.

This character cannot be contrived. If it is contrived it will only fool people for a little while. Like a person you know who says he is one thing but whose daily behavior suggests another.

But a person’s character inevitably shifts as they mature. The same thing happens to companies like ours. Over the years I have observed that our own institutional character has shifted as our own self-image has shifted.

  • In the 70’s: we identified ourselves as a local public broadcasting stationAnd we acted locally. We were know by our channel brand: Channel 2. We had two mascots: the digit, which Chermayeff and Geismar had proposed could be treated anthropomorphically, a device we delighted in taking to extremes (the 2-mobile being the most ridiculous variant); and our zany, self-deprecating President, David O. Ives. These devices, plus our size, and our self-image as an upstart local broadcaster willing to make a lot out of a little, encouraged a kind of smart-alecky attitude in our local persona.
  • In the 80’s: we identified ourselves as a national producerBy the early 80’s WGBH had grown out of its local-centric persona, having established its lineup of key national strands, producing “1/3 of all prime time on PBS,” a percentage that remains constant to today. Now the focus shifted our national, institutional, WGBH identity. Staff increased dramatically and we became more of a big business.
  • In the 90’s: we identified ourselves as an educational publisherAt the end of the 80’s and into the 90’s the media options began to proliferate. We were major publishers of program related books. We had a catalog and product division. The whole place became computerized. We began to dabble in new media, publishing video-discs and CD’s and producing content for new on-line services like Prodigy. In the early 90’s as “new media” opportunities emerged we created the Interactive Department, and then came the World Wide Web. In the 90’s we began to see ourselves as a “content company,” down-playing the “broadcaster” moniker and focusing on our role nationally and internationally as a high quality educational publisher.
  • In the 2000’s: we identify ourselves as a major public media producer and distributorWe began to do “deals” with the cable companies and produce programming for other channels. We established a Commercial Policies subcommittee of our board. We built a new and more sophisticated headquarters that could welcome the public.As we became the most reliable and most prolific producer for public television, we first struggled with PBS over policy and ownership issues and then, finally, found ourselves in a role of “most trusted supplier” and the key innovator (and partner) in issues like cable carriage, rights and aftermarket sales, that would affect all of pubic media. In this environment, we became more “business-like” and saw our need to be a major driver of public media policy in the future. We recognized that as technology and user behavior changed, we were now both a producer and a distributor in all media.

Each of these shifts in self-perception, required a slight shift in expression for our work, ideally without changing the underlying DNA of the place. We are now approaching the end of this decade. What will our self-perception be in 2010? How will we express it? How can we respond to these natural and gradual shifts while still maintaining our core character, a character that people, both locally and nationally, know and respect (and willingly support)?

9. We’re all in the “understanding business”

No matter what we call ourselves, what we all do here is ultimately about helping people understand the world and their own life.

This term was first coined by the architect Richard Saul Wurman to define the design profession but it strikes me that, no matter what we call ourselves, what we all do here is ultimately about helping people understand the world and their own life.

This is the idea that our mission statement (now part of our building so it will be harder to change!) reflects, and is at the heart of our institutional character. And it is what has attracted me to this work all this time.

10. You are what you eat

We are all the result of a lifetime of experiences, some good, some not so good. My 32 years of experiences before I came here prepared me to be useful to a place like this. My 35 years here have enriched me and allowed me to grow in ways I never would have imagined. Now I’m going to see how that diet has prepared me for my next life. I will miss you all.

Bye.

A tribute to Dave Davis

From Don Hallock

As I remember, a 30 year old Dave Davis came to us at WGBH-TV from the University of North Carolina campus TV in 1957. That was the same year I, at 19, began in the scene shop as assistant to Peter Prodan.

Dave was a musician and veteran television Producer-Director. He succeeded John “Rocky” Coe as Production Manager, as I recall, and first occupied a tiny cubicle at the far end of the upstairs TV production office area where there was, quite appropriately, a little window looking down into Studio-A.

I very much loved working as cameraman for Dave. His precision, expertise and intelligence were absolutely inspiring.

I didn’t see or know much of Dave for several months following his arrival. I think that was because David MacFarland Davis was Scottish to the core — a distinctly quiet and private person who in time, though, proved pivotal to the future development of my entire later life.

My very first acquaintance with Dave happened one morning when I nervously approached his desk to say that I might have to quit working at the station as I was having a terribly painful and difficult time working under Peter. I really don’t know how Dave had any knowledge of who I was, or what my talents or enthusiasms might be (I aspired at that time, more than anything else in the world, to be a television cameraman). His reply, however, nearly knocked me off my seat — and profoundly changed the course of my life — forever.

He told me that in June and November respectively the station was going to be hiring two full-time cameramen. Frank Vento, who was already assistant Studio Manager under Bob Moscone, was to be the first, and that, if I could stick it out in the shop until November, I could be the second one. In the mean time, he said, I could be the station’s title-slide photographer after hours, and run microphone boom on a weekend science series he was directing for NET.

I was nothing short of astounded because, although I had as a teen, done some unofficial assisting in the TV studios at WBZ-TV on weekends, and had several years of theater experience, I had never run a boom or camera before in my life. But I accepted, and with so much excitement I could barely get any words of appreciation out of my mouth. Obviously, I stuck it out.

Dave was as good as his word (he always was). And so, subsequently, I found myself working for him, I believe to our mutual satisfaction, and definitely to my great pleasure, for nearly seven years thereafter. I ran camera on most of his directing stints and after he became Assistant General Manager for Television and didn’t direct further, it was he who powerfully changed my life yet again, by agreeing — on the prompting of Greg Harney — to promote me to Producer-Director. And again I was awed by this show of faith on his part (I was also, I must admit, perfectly terrified).

You see, the station rule, formerly strictly adhered to, was that all Producer-Directors must have college degrees, and I was only a high school graduate. I wish I could say I knew it at the time, but it only gradually seeped into my consciousness that, though incredibly detail-conscious and formal, Dave’s softer jazz musician side would sometimes very quietly reveal itself, and that he actually navigated a surprising amount on intuition.

I very much loved working as cameraman for Dave. His precision, expertise and intelligence were absolutely inspiring. I respected his work greatly, and we probably disagreed, rather humorously in the long run, on only a couple of very minor issues. Actually, our differings stemmed from my having been an impassioned student of television since I got my first TV set at age 14, and by age 16 having read every book on television in the Boston Public Library.

The romance of the medium absolutely enchanted me from the beginning. I watched TV constantly through high school, and had probably seen every one of all the great network programs of the time (Wide Wide World, Studio One, Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft theater, Omnibus — all the shows that were breaking ground and breaking rules). I absolutely loved the excitement of “live TV,” the constant innovation in a very new medium, and especially the rule-breaking (I have always been something of a rule-breaker).

As a director, Dave went, I found, somewhat by-the-book. I was not at all disappointed in him for that. Dave just “had his ways,” and I respected him for those. They worked well for him, and for me also as a hands-on student of TV technique. I did find some of them amusing, though, and our accords as well as our divergences later helped me, of course, form my own styles of directing.

In the category of divergences, for instance, “Takes” were Dave’s rule of thumb for virtually all music shows, including the Boston Symphony broadcasts. I, on the other hand, have always loved dissolves. I don’t remember Dave ever using a dissolve, even on the slowest, softest and sweetest of music. While cameraman on Dave’s music shows, my heart yearned so much to have a dissolve or two that, after I started directing music programs myself, I probably used a few too many for a while. In those later times when I was directing, Dave was likely in frequent disagreement about my choices of transitions. But always the fair-minded Scotsman, he never once objected.

In those later times when I was directing, Dave was likely in frequent disagreement about my choices of transitions. But always the fair-minded Scotsman, he never once objected.

Dave also seemed to feel that the cyclorama, drapes or black curtains were the only proper backgrounds for music programs — and cameras were never to be seen. Being a jazz musician himself, and “THE jazz director” of the station, that was Dave’s convention for jazz as well. Lew Barlow dutifully continued that tradition when he became director of Jazz with Father O’Connor.

Well, about the time I inherited that program from Lew, I happened to see kinescopes of two CBS programs that Jack Sameth had recently done with Miles Davis, Gil Evans and combo. They blew my mind! Unlike the usual TV setting, Sameth had set the musicians in a loose horseshoe with Gil Evans conducting his arrangements from the horseshoe’s opening. All were thusly facing each other – more like a recording session. Furthermore, there was no set, only dimly lighted studio walls, and the cameras were allowed to dolly into and out of the backgrounds of each other’s shots. So powerfully beautiful was the music and the presentation (they both broke so many rules so elegantly) I thought immediately, THAT was the way jazz should be shot! And THAT’S the way I will do it!

Well, needless to say, I was distinctly nervous on the night of my first show as nobody but the people in the studio, the cameramen who just loved the impending freedom, and Father O’Connor, who not only couldn’t have cared less, but thought it was an interesting idea, knew my plan. We now got every shot we wanted, moved anywhere we wanted to move, saw lights, booms and cameras, and used takes, dissolves and supers as much as we felt was evocative of the real spirit of jazz.

All responses to the program were decidedly positive (thank you, Jack Sameth). And Dave, who’s opinion most worried me, never uttered a word of disparagement. I don’t know if he objected to the approach or not, but I do believe he felt it was creative (creativity was a concern of paramount importance to Dave), and that it was only right that he respect my aesthetic decisions as much as I had respected his. I gained much greater confidence as a director in this particular adventure (thank you, Dave).

One rather amusing note: After I left the station in 1963 I did see one Boston Symphony broadcast where Dave slowly and beautifully dissolved into and out of a very wide shot of the whole hall from the Symphony Hall balcony. I do believe that Jordan Whitelaw, the Boston Symphony producer who, when I directed music programs, had liked my choices of dissolves and takes — and was much more of an open romantic than Dave — finally got to him on that occasion. Nevertheless, it was Dave who taught us all how to properly televise music, and if that had been Dave’s only gift we would all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

There was really only one other, rather humorous, area I remember where Dave and I differed frequently, and that was where the choice of lenses was concerned. This may not mean very much technically to present day camera operators who use only zooms, and not fixed lenses as we had to do then, but Dave had an absolute phobia about (against) the use of any lens of a focal length shorter than the normal (50mm) — and that lens only for the widest of cover shots. He felt that, on anything closer than a waist-shot, even a normal lens introduced an intolerable depth of perspective, which Dave saw and denounced as “distortion.”

Therefore, on shows he was directing at least, he insisted on the use of a 90mm or longer for almost all shooting, including cover shots. This, of course, made smooth dollying, especially on 84 Mass. Ave’s. washboard studio floors simply impossible, and was absolutely infuriating to camera operators, as it made them feel terribly incompetent. In all fairness, I must observe that the wider lenses did make the use of a tele-prompter, which was then mounted below the lens turret, more obvious. But even when a prompter was not being used Dave had his fairly strict preferences, and held to them firmly.

To the best of my memory, he never ever used the station’s one 35mm lens, barely tolerated the 75mm when we got it, and, I believe, abhorred the 28mm lens we eventually bought (super-wide for the day) that I simply loved. He staunchly stood by the perspective flattening that the longest usable lens would give.

I, on the other hand, loved the feeling of depth, perspective and dynamic camera movement that the wider angle lenses gave. I knew that long lenses had their place, and never resisted their appropriate use. I always strove to use the right lens for the right shot, and tailor the use of lenses to the show and the director.

But I was also an avid enthusiast of John Frankenheimer’s television drama technique, namely that of invariably using the widest lens possible. He made abundant use of crane shots, and rarely used a lens shorter than 35mm (wide angle) even for close-ups. I found those image dynamics absolutely exhilarating — something like flying. So, I frequently tried to slip one over on Dave by using a wider angle lens than I knew he would want. Often he caught me at it, and a few times he didn’t. But he never did get rasty about it. He just invoked the dreaded “D” word, and we made the change to the lens he preferred. Because he very much liked me to add my contributions to what he was directing, and to “sell him shots,” I think he secretly enjoyed our little “lens-joustings.”

In truth, I believe the lens issue went deeper than the merely technical — to the level of personality. Longer focal length lenses give a subtle feeling of “viewing subjects from a safe distance,” which better suited Dave’s preference for interpersonal relating. The wide angle lenses, in contrast, made one feel “inside the action” — more of a participant in the drama — which, in my youth at least, felt very exciting.

It would probably be impossible to enumerate all that Dave Davis gave and meant to us while at WGBH. He constantly and insistently emphasized — and through that gift we all learned — “creativity” and “quality.”

One area where Dave and I were in perfect agreement was in shot calling. That directing technique was almost as important to cameramen as to switchers. Ask any old-time ‘GBH director (and probably some of the younger ones too) about “1-1-1-take!” and “ready 2…dissolve.” Dave brought those camera calls to us when he joined the station.

The method was both elegant and precise. The repeated number always meant to the switcher that a cut was next, while the “ready” always signified an impending dissolve. At first some directors found the new calls annoying, and preferred to stay with the old ones (they were the “ready 2….take 2” crew with whom you, as switcher, never knew if the “ready 2” preceded a cut or a dissolve. When switching, you therefore had to try — too often unsuccessfully — to be ready for both).

But eventually, when their almost fool-proof effectiveness in preventing “mis”-takes were appreciated, (and, it should be said, on Dave’s fully justified insistence) the new calls were universally adopted. In fact, I believe that those camera calls of Dave’s are still being used, at least by some. (Bill Francis knew them as TD when I employed them while directing the Summer Symphony in Montana in 2002.)

Dave’s shot call system only failed once that I know of. That was on a performance program where Dave Nohling was switching, and a novice Whitney Thompson was directing. Nohling was known for having a very peculiar sense of humor. So when Whitney became flustered, lost his place in the score, and called out 3……2……1……take! Dave simply accepted the call literally and punched those buttons one after the other in quick succession – 3,2,1. Needless to say that didn’t look any too good going out live.

It would probably be impossible to enumerate all that Dave Davis gave and meant to us while at WGBH. He constantly and insistently emphasized — and through that gift we all learned — “creativity” and “quality.”

Dave really taught us pretty much all we knew about good music work, in all genres — especially classical and jazz. He brought much significant childrens’ programming to the station. And, of even greater importance, he modernized and stabilized many of our key production methods, initiating many of the essential innovations that first carried us out of the more primitive realms of production technique and into national prominence (a work-in-progress that Greg Harney ably continued).

Directly or indirectly Dave Davis “fathered” all of us in TV in the very best of ways. He knew well that to have creativity, space must be made available for individuality …

Dave’s role in the station’s spectacular recovery from the fire at 84 Mass., in the emergency use of the Cathholic TV Center, in the successful move to the Museum of Science, and in the planning of 125 the Western Ave. plant, are un-erasable as memorials to his wonderful resilience, determination, dedication, and savvy. Dave was, as we all know (or should know), one of the major forces behind the preeminence that WGBH eventually achieved. Directly or indirectly Dave Davis “fathered” all of us in TV in the very best of ways. He knew well that to have creativity, space must be made available for individuality — he never expected us to go about like a bunch of “little Daves.”

In my experience, Dave was a remarkably complex, and even at times enigmatic, person. He was a rather terse, emotionally somewhat remote, always impressive, clearly ingenious, unswervingly purposeful, occasionally humorous, at times intimidating, but always a gentle, fair and kind human being, who should, I feel, remain a justifiably revered figure in the history of
WGBH.

Finally: and I wish to say this to you personally, Dave, wherever you may be: I have long suspected that the man who dramatically changed my young life in unforeseeably beautiful and lasting ways; who introduced me to an appreciation and knowledge of music which has stayed with me my whole life; who gave me chances I would almost certainly never have gotten from anyone else; who helped me to get a foothold doing what I dearly wanted to do and loved doing, with people I came to love, in Public Broadcasting — a field which you were steadfast in supporting, and which I continue hold in the highest esteem as indispensable to our society … that that man was still alive, somewhere in the Caribbean making the music he so loved making. I’m deeply happy to hear that that was indeed true. It’s what I would have wished for you, Dave.

And this knowledge ameliorates, just a tiny bit, the tears I can’t seem to hold back, right now, as I write this, in deep respect of your wonderfully admirable service, and in profound mourning of your passing … because, Dave, I have so very much to love you for.

WGBH Pioneers: Michael Ambrosino – Part 1 (1998)

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series The Michael Ambrosino Collection

Michael Ambrosino — the creator of NOVA — describes his early years at WGBH, an era of live and live-on-tape TV productions at the 84 Massachusetts Avenue studio in Cambridge.

This series presents authorized interviews with early producers and directors for Boston’s innovative public television and radio stations. He was interviewed on June 19, 1998 by Fred Barzyk.

Watch Video — Part 1 (56 minutes)

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Transcript — Part 1

INTERVIEWER: This is June 18, 1998 and I’m having a conversation with Michael Ambrosino. Thank you Michael for joining us.

Can you give us a little bit of your personal history, where you were born and where you went to school and how you came to television?

MICHAEL AMBROSINO: I was born in Brooklyn, spent half the year there, half the year in West Hampton Beach where Dad had another store.

[I] grew up being fascinated with science and did a lot of theater, music.

I was a jazz musician when I was 14, had the nicest set of drums on Long Island, and because the war was going on, I got mickey gigs and played every gin mill and polka palace on Long Island.

I changed majors the first day at the university.

I had been admitted as a BS in physics and changed to a BS in drama, because I didn’t want to wake up being an old man of 35 not having had given that creative side of me a chance.

It was a very romantic death wish because, in those days, there was one regional theater east of the Mississippi — it was called the Brattle Theater.

Of course in 1949, when I was a freshman it became a movie theater, so I was preparing myself for a profession that didn’t exist.

After the service I came back and did a Masters in television and that was very helpful because in those days commercial radio stations never thought they wanted to go into TV … it was 20, 30 times the capital.

At Syracuse, we produced [and] directed a whole bunch of programs that went on the commercial station.

As a graduate student I did a series of 13 half-hour shows myself.

A tremendous kind of experience that you can’t get today, but today you can pick up a little camera and make a video all by yourself and edit it on your Macintosh.

The second job was for the Ford Foundation doing a research project in Schenectady, New York.

It was one of the first high schools in the United States to use closed circuit television to expand teaching.

In those days, there was a tremendous teaching shortage: they had 27 physics classes and 1 physics teacher and we would try to multiply his use to see if we could work out, technically, question and answering sessions from multiple classrooms.

We did French with Madam Ann Slack and we did Social Studies and we did a bunch of things.

I was invited along with a bunch of other people from Ford cities to come to Harvard and give a speech and somebody from WGBH heard this speech and I was working here two weeks later.

INT: Had you heard of WGBH?

MA: Yes. While at my first job at the University of Connecticut, I’d actually taken the tour of the station.

I couldn’t find it, drove up Mass Avenue looking for a TV station, drove right past it, and didn’t realize that it was a defunct roller skating rink above a drug store.

I had to work my way all the way back from Harvard to finally find it.

INT: Who was the person that heard your speech?

MA: Hartford Gunn. He was then the Controller of WGBH. He was in charge of money, dispersing it — we never raised money in those days — and he asked me to come and start school broadcasting for the state of Massachusetts.

INT: So, you were in charge of developing school broadcasting for the station?

MA: Yes.

INT: Based upon your experience with your in-school experience?

MA: Based on six months experience, because I was an “expert”.

INT: I see. This was educational television….

MA: Yes it was. It was very educational.

In those days, programs consisted of a series of things. It was an extension of the educational system of Massachusetts.

If you remember, people came back from the Army — Navy and the Marines — and told Conant that Harvard should start a radio station.

Conant, being very wise, said that [it would] always be [just] a Harvard station, we shouldn’t do that.

So, he got Ralph Lowell to get a bunch of other institutions in Boston together and they formed the nascent Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council.

For the most part, they made radio series on poetry, on music, on everything except art, I guess, [since] it’s non-visual, and put those on commercial stations around town.

It quickly became a real pain in the neck to get bumped off every time the commercial station really sold something, or to be allotted Saturday mornings at 7:00 or 6:00 time.

In ’51, the LICBC put on its own FM station. In those days, there were no FM receivers.

Later on, [Jerry Weisner] became the provost of MIT, [and he] himself had recorded for Lomax, many of the recordings that are in the Library of Congress of folk singers in the South.

[Weisner] went to General Armstrong and had him give WGBH its first transmitter, which was the prototype Armstrong frequency modulation transmitter. I think it probably had a number one on it.

INT: LICBC, what is that?

MA: Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council. I think everyday on WGBH David Ives talks about it [when they] turn the station on at 6:00 am.

INT: What was it exactly? What was the function?

MA: It was a coop. First of all, they charged themselves money. I mean the major budget for the station came from Harvard, MIT, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and second from these groups came programs.

So that Edwin G. Boring would do a series of 15 programs on psychology. The Museum of Fine Arts would do programs about art.

There were no children’s programs, or news and current affairs. It was an extension of the educational process of adult education.

The Lowell Institute was created by the Lowells for those people who had interest, but no cash, to further their education.

They could take courses at night at Harvard and if they worked long enough get an Associate Arts degree.

If you go to the Harvard Commencement, at any year as I did this year, because a friend was getting a PhD., the loudest applause are for the Associate Arts because they know that these people worked long and hard to get their degrees.

INT: When you first came to WGBH, can you kind of describe the place? How many people were employed there and what was the place like?

MA: Dinky. You walked in the door with two dark columns on either side and strapped to one of them was a big bronze plaque, that is in the front of this building today, announcing the Lowell Institute Cooperative Broadcasting Council.

You went up a flight of dark green stairs, turned left, and realized that there was a telephone operator next to a big telephone answering machine.

It was one-half of a defunct roller skating rink. Under the balcony were the radio studios and what was .. Control A for A studio, there was only one studio. and a telecine room, engineering offices.

Above the balcony were the offices for the radio and television staff and audio editing for the radio producers.

The floor was made of wood. And one day all the males at WGBH were invited in on a Saturday to nail the studio floor down, because it squeaked and if you dollied a certain way the cameras kept bumping up and down and you couldn’t move.

There was in the other half of the roller skating rink an engineering company.

When it went out of business it donated to WGBH three brand new galvanized garbage cans full of old bread boards.

WGBH enjoyed that so much, the engineers unsoldered every resistor from those bread boards and straightened out the prongs and put them in the proper cabinet.

It was a different world.

It had two cameras. [with] old tubes that had been donated from commercial stations so that if you sat anywhere very long you burn in a shot.

You could do anything with two cameras that you could do with two cameras.

When we got the third camera everything was really great.

On Thursday night, we did a live half-hour program from the Museum of Fine Arts.

All three cameras went there which meant that any other program that night had to also originate from the Museum of Fine Arts.

Programs consisted of relatively small things.

We ran from something called “What’s Going on Around Boston” which was a drum on which were listed, on little three-by-four cards pinned to the drum, events coming up.

You played music and roll the drum and then pan left to the other card, and then they would roll the drum and then you pan right, and this was one of the first directing jobs that you had to do.

On the other hand, from the beginning days, the station did children’s programming.

Tony Saletan did music, natural history programs with Mary Lela Grimes, programs that dealt with world affairs, politics— but, for the most part, long series of programs on poetry, music, psychology, science. “Science Reporter” was one of the first programs.

But these were interview programs. Basically staged as we doing this little bit right now. Not inconsequential though.

In 1955, the first mention, in television that I know of, of the effect of tobacco and cigarettes on cancer was done by a doctor in a series called “The Facts of Medicine,” which is tremendous when you think of it and that’s what it was like.

INT: How many people Michael?

MA: I remember about 30 or 35.

I remember, I kept thinking I was the 35th or the 36th employee and we all had to cram into one office on the second floor.

INT: I take it money for shows was scarce and hard to come by?

MA: You didn’t get money for shows, you got things.

You got so many hours of studio time.

You got whatever the scenery people could build, whatever the art department could draw.

We all would rehearse our programs in the afternoon and then do them live.

One of the first jobs that you were taught was how to replace the director of the previous live programs.

There were film and kinescope and live and that was it, with one switcher and one control room. This was a juggling act.

INT: So when we started off we were almost like radio shows being put on camera.

[There were] two black and white [cameras] and then we got a third camera which then opened up the horizon.

All the shows were live at that particular moment.

MA: Yes, with the exception of those programs that had been made from other places, and kinescoped and sent to us, or actual half-hour or 15 minute films.

But not all just discussion. The children’s programs were quite active. Children in the studio, dancing, music, etc.

The natural history program was quite active itself. A young Harvard senior, however, complained to Mary Lela Grimes that she had no film.

Mary Leia said, stop bitching and do something about it.

And the senior went out and bought himself an Aeroflex in 1956 for $9,000, bought lenses and designed his own lenses and shot, free of charge for her, for an entire year, beavers and butterflies and all kinds of the most marvelous film.

Suddenly the second year of “Discovery” directed by Bob Larsen was an amazing program because it had the natural history captured, instead of bringing a beaver into a studio and hoping it didn’t eat up all the scenery.

Charlie went onto produce children’s programs here, got his PhD. and he now is in charge of Ornithology, Cornell University, which is the big job for anybody who knows anything about birds. He’s a specialist in bird navigation.

INT: And his full name is?

MA: Charles Wolcott. He was either the grandnephew or great-grandnephew or had some relation to — Ralph Lowell, himself.

So, Charlie, although he had many frayed shirts, had a Mercedes and could well afford to buy an Aeroflex, but he decided to do it. He was an amazing human being.

INT. You started mentioning some names, I think we should go into them a little bit from your prospective.

Robert Larsen, Bob Larson as we called him.

Can you tell us a little bit of what he did, what his influence was on the station, his contribution?

MA: I think he was the only person from Boston who worked at WGBH, he was the local boy.

He worked at the Christian Science Monitor, came to WGBH as a producer. In 1957, when there was a major shakeout, he became Program Manager of the station.

He moved up through the ranks as Program Manager, became, I think, Vice President, when Dave Ives took over as President in ’70.

He was a gentleman, a learned man, a person who, like many of the staff, would spend days attending courses at Harvard, looking for good talent to be on programs.

He had a profound effect on me, on the future of the station.

INT: What would you say was his most lasting –?

MA: The sense that WGBH did things in an honorable manner. That ideas mattered.

This is a great town for an idea. People don’t laugh at you if you’re serious.

And he allowed many of us to do things over the last forty years that had some fun about them because they went deeply into the substance of ideas.

INT: Dave Davis?

MA: Dave Davis came two or three days before I did in 1956.

He’d been teaching at Temple. He had a sense of expertise because he’d worked in commercial television.

He was one of the guys like yourself or Potter, Al Potter, Russ Morash, David Atwood, who can just do anything.

You go into a stadium and you say, “Okay we put the cameras here, there, there, get the lines, do this,” and be on the air in a couple of hours.

Dave had done sports and music and all kinds of stuff. He was a trumpet player and he had his own fake book. He played in jazz bands.

He did a lot of the music programs. He directed the first symphonies before Bill Cosel did. In the I guess you’d call it a putsch in… 1957, he was asked to take over television .

Bob was his Program Manager and they were the two people who formed the station from then until 1967.

They were the two minds that moved the station forward in terms of television.

INT. Hartford Gunn?

MA: Hartford Gunn. Probably the first real strategic mind in public broadcasting. Always thinking ahead.

The story I often use about him whenever giving a talk is that my first task at WGBH, in which I spent two weeks at a drafting board, was to design the University of New Hampshire Television Studio.

Because Hartford was trying to help stations start all over New England, because he knew that ‘GBH would never survive alone, and that public television had to become more than local, had to become regional, and then national.

We’re talking about a time when there was 12 public stations on the air, when the closest one was Pittsburgh and the next closest was Iowa or Georgia or Houston, Texas, or Denver.

There was no station in Los Angeles, none in Washington, none in New York … this was a different time of life.

Hartford wanted me to design that so he could bring that design to the University of New Hampshire’s President …

so that if and when they ever raised enough money to put up an educational TV station, the President, that week, could be persuaded to excavate the cellar of a student union that was under construction …

so that there would be a place that the money could go.

He was thinking seven steps — I hope he played chess, I never knew if he did play chess —but he had that kind of a mind.

Whereas the rest of us would possibly decry the ability of New Hampshire to set [up] a station for itself.

He was working all the angles, trying to figure out how to actual help them.

In the end WGBH offered all of its programming live to WENH to help them get on the air . They built that station in that basement much the way it was designed.

There was no stronger strategic voice for many years than Hartford Gunn. He hired me on a ruse to be his assistant controller, but really it was to start school broadcasting for the State of Massachusetts.

He knew that that was not in the cards, and so, this was the way — either persuading Mr. Lowell or the-then manager to do it.

INT: Now, Michael I know that not only were you planning, but you also had other responsibilities — with only 35 people there — to also produce and direct, correct?

Tell us about some of your shows, the early shows, that Michael Ambrosino did

MA: Well we did some talk shows, some that went out on radio and television simultaneously.

“Youth Speaks Its Mind” was a weekly program which kids would come in and talk about everything except sex, thank god, because the teachers would not want them to talk about such things as sex.

We did a series called “The Ends of the Earth,” which was an Antarctic research with Father Dan Linahan, who was called the “Arctic Priest.”

He was out at the Weston Observatory in Weston, he was a seismologist.

Dan — Father Dan I guess I should call him — would get thousands of dollars from companies to test their equipment on the South Pole.

He’d get some wire from some wire company and he would stretch out the wire and he’d work, do his seismology, and or when his time was up he’d come look for the wire, bend it to see if it was okay, and write a report for the company and that money could pay for his seismological work.

One day, he did not find the wire. All he found was a ball of copper.

It seems that the Skua gulls had eaten whatever neoprene lining was on the wire and he reported that, true it was very flexible after a month in the Arctic, but that they should find some less palatable substance to put around the wire.

We did a lot of plays. A wonderful woman named Adele Thane — who’s probably now known as the person who taught Julie Taymor of “Lion King” fame how to be a good child actress — she ran the Boston Children’s Theater.

and every time they would do a play, Adele and I would adapt it for television and bring it in to do a half-hour version of “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn” and a variety of things. Some of those guys are in Hollywood, [like] Michael Tiger .

In those days you could do whatever you wanted as long as you didn’t spend money. You were doing plays by Brecht … as long as you could get volunteers and paint the sets yourself and do all that other stuff. It was a different world.

People said, you know, wasn’t it the golden times, and the answer is no.

I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and let me tell you, I prefer having money to do research and proper television and film technique.

INT: You also did a lot of science shows even in the early days, didn’t you Michael?

MA: When school broadcasting started.

INT: When was that’?

MA: That was in March the 4th in 1958.

I had to make a couple of hundred speeches and persuaded about 35 school systems to voluntarily contribute money and we did a series with Gene Nichols called “Science Six.”

INT: Gene Gray.

MA: I’m sorry, right. Gene Gray, Gene Nichols directed.

We did a music program with Tony Saletan, a social studies program, and a French program with Anne Slack.

That was the first year.

Then we hired a larger staff and did programs that were complimentary to the curriculum to the schools, broadcasting to a significantly enlarged number of schools each year.

When I left in 1960 there were 135 school systems that had voluntarily come together.

That system is no more.

It’s now called Massachusetts Educational Television and they do satellite programs with their own facilities.

They don’t do that in cooperation with ‘GBH anymore.

INT: A major event took place at WGBH when videotape arrived.

Can you kind of tell us what was the difference at WGBH from the live black and white broadcast to that of when videotape arrived?

MA: Not much. Hartford Gunn would go to all the national meetings . He came back from an NAB meeting and he said to us all, two things.

“I have seen the future and it is videotape,” and the second thing he said was, “Buy Ampex.”

He was paying us our salaries out of public broadcasting salaries, none of us could buy Ampex except Henry Morgenthau and he bought Ampex.

INT: Basically tape meant that instead of rehearsing six or seven programs in an afternoon and doing six or seven programs in an evening, you would rehearse a program in the morning and tape it, and rehearse a program in the afternoon and tape it, and that evening there would be some live programs and some pretaped programs.

All school broadcast programs were pretaped and [that] allowed repeats.

The word editing was not something that we knew about. You made a half-hour program and you shot it all the way through and if there was a glitch you had to live with it.

Even much later there was no such thing as redoing.

I’m talking about ’58, ’59.

Hartford had persuaded someone to give WGBH its first Ampex and he was always the crusader and then demanded that public television, or educational television in those days, get off the kinescope routine and make videotape programs because the quality was so significantly better.

The Ford Foundation finally was persuaded to give all public television stations — not already equipped — a videotape recorder .

Hartford screamed bloody murder and eventually he won and so, WGBH was the first station that had two videotape recorders.

Both of them were badly hit by the famous fire.

INT: I do remember one show in which you were doing a science show and Gene Gray was taking some hydrochloric acid I believe, may be you might recall it….

MA: It wasn’t Gene Gray it was . …the Chief Scientist at the Museum of Science, who he was doing the program with, spilled acid on himself.

INT: It wasn’t that, I was thinking about there was a Styrofoam cup.

MA: Oh, oh, oh, no, that was not acid, I think that was carbon tetrachloride.

INT: Why don’t you give us a little background because that exists on tape.

MA: Oh it does?

INT: Yes.

MA: Oh wonderful. Cut it in …

Gene was pouring carbon tetrachloride in a Styrofoam cup that was on a scale to do some very special weighing — not knowing obviously that carbon tetrachloride dissolves Styrofoam cups — and it just all, you know, started….

INT: … In a live show…

MA: Yeah, in a live show … to spill all over the place.

But the famous stories of live television were there.

Mary Lela Grimes did let some bats loose in her 5:30 children’s program and they were still flying around the studio at 6:30 when Louie Lyons was doing his news program and they were going in and out of the shot.

We just did things like that. Things fell down or cameras fell over, or you heard strange noises and you just went right ahead.

INT: You want to recall the jingling johnny for me?

MA: You know the jingling johnny story better than I.

INT: You were doing a music show and I think it was a school show, it was about various instruments of various. ..

MA: 13 programs, one included a symphonic orchestra….

INT: And your stage manager was….

MA: … John Henning who is now the newsman, senior newsman at WBZ .

I instructed John to hand in the jingling johnny quietly.

This is a brass pole with about 9,000 bells on it that jingled.

It was an ancient instrument. We were doing a program on ancient instruments with the Museum of Fine Arts instruments, something called a … serpent, a very deep bass horn.

At the rehearsal, several nights before, someone was tightening .. the strings of a 14th century lute and the back broke in two.

I’m just glad that didn’t happen on camera.

It wasn’t that you were particularly attuned to things going awry, but you knew that they would and you dealt with them just like Johnny Carson does and all of the live talk shows do now.

INT: Do you remember the famous incident at the MFA when the scoop was placed a little bit too closely to the…

MA: Well ,WGBH had done previous research, quite literally, to see how much light would destroy a painting.

Some fakes and maybe even some paintings of lesser known artists were used for these tests.

We were talking about three and four hundred foot candles and then when color came in it was five-, six-, seven-hundred foot candles to get a shot and the paint would just slowly drip off the canvas.

INT: It was a Renoir.

MA: It was a Renoir. I don’t remember that…

I do remember — because the cameras had relatively long single lenses — the camera sort of panning across and hitting a priceless Egyptian statute, which ended up as a bunch of sandstone on the studio floor.

INT: The MFA had a department of television for awhile I think that ceased to exist.

MA: They did many wonderful programs. They’d bring a whole bunch of art into a studio and a variety of different MFA people — producer/writer/talent — would do “The Age of Cezanne” or “Van Gogh’s Early Days” and use all of the paintings to illustrate these things.

INT: My favorite story was Brian O’Doherty who was one of the very first of the on-camera hosts and actually in many ways public television’s first star, because it was his kinescopes that got shown on many stations.

He would have everything that he had to say on little pieces of paper hidden everywhere inside the Museum of Fine Arts, so as he walked from one to the next, his eyes would scan to read the next section.

Of course, those were all live.

And another thing that’s not known that the MFA is totally wired for television then and not a lot of people know that.

MA: The Museum of Fine Arts was wired for television.

Kresge Auditorium in back of WGBH was wired for television.

Sanders Theater was wired for television and had a microwave dish in its tower which burned down, I think, two nights after I came to WGBH.

We used to use these as adjunct studios.

There was no place big enough to do a symphony orchestra, so the first time I used a symphony orchestra I put it in Kresge and had Dave Davis direct it for me that day.

INT: So we had a Studio A and then when this other company went out there was actually a Studio B and then we had a bus which had the remote equipment in it.

MA: That was rather late in our life.

That was in 1961. It was a million-mile Greyhound Bus that [had] new brakes, new tires, and they were equipping it.

They put the cameras in on, I think, a Tuesday and put the two tape recorders in on a Wednesday and, I think, Thursday we burned to the ground.

INT; Yes.

MA: October 14, 1961.1 have charred papers in my archive file at home.

INT: Where were you?

MA: I was in Chicago. I was giving a speech for the Ford Foundation.

You may not remember, but in those days ,every year or so, there were national air alerts in which all flights would be suspended for 24 hours and the Air Force would play war games.

I got a call from Dave Davis saying that we burned to the ground.

This was about 11 o’clock and about 12 o’clock the air alert went on.

I had to sit for 24 hours in Chicago without being able to get home, worried to death whether or not the tapes from the 21-inch classroom had been saved or not. Indeed they had.

They were thrown out of a window by Bob Mascone and were caught by firemen and volunteers .

At least we could go on the air with school broadcasting.

INT: Before we go beyond the fire, let me go back to … What was the atmosphere like at WGBH in those days, before the fire?

What would you say … the 35 probably grew to what 75 by the time the fire happened? 50? 60?

MA: We thought we were doing pioneering work. I think we thought we were doing God’s work.

Nobody was watching us, but by god, we were doing good work. We were trying very hard.

Most of us had backgrounds that thought ideas were fun.

Most of us would rather attend a good lecture than a bad movie .

Maybe we were a little smug that the rest of the world who would think that was fun, too, because what we were basically doing was presenting lectures on television and radio.

We were trying to advance the medium, but we had such damn few aids to help us. The equipment was old and outmoded.

We were bound into the studio.

You could do anything you wanted as long as you brought it to the studio.

Garden programs were done with a huge vat of dirt You would plant in that and then you had to clean the studio.

You had to make sure you didn’t [mess] it up because there was a program coming later and the dirt would have to be picked up.

It was a nice place to be. We all would eat lunch together.

I had one of the few cars so we’d all pile in and go swimming on the North Shore.

After awhile I stopped inviting everybody except for one person.

INT: You mean there was a significant other in the early days at WGBH?

MA: Lillian Akel was a marvelous .. former journalist who was working as a radio producer at the station .

When I reorganized the office plan, I accidentally put her desk next to mine.

We, and many people at the station, did a lot of things together and we became fast friends and the next thing you know we became man and wife.

INT: Terrific. That’s a happy story.

MA: Yes it is. We had almost 40 wonderful years.

INT: I remember that it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between work and play in the early days at WGBH.

MA: It’s interesting because, after Lillian died, I went through a lot other diaries.

We were here on Saturdays and Sundays, we would be doing desk work and editing and rehearsing and doing all kinds of things.

We were all, for the most part, single and we had no children and we had nowhere else to go and we just were here.

Most of us lived fairly close-by. We lived on Marlborough Street. We just walked across the river and be here.

INT: There was some interesting people that wondered through WGBH at that time.

Bob Squire was one of them,. Maybe you can give us a little history of Mr. Squire?

MA: Bob was a torrent. He was a BU scholar.

He produced and directed, stayed on after that, did some programs.

He did some consulting in Saudi Arabia, [then] came back and did programs here.

He’s now one of the country’s best political consultants.

Just a torrent, he moved very quickly.

INT: Added a certain kind of significance to the editorial staff of WGBH.

I remember he was the one that really established the snappy, the snapping of the fingers.

Somebody else who had an impact I think in the directing part was Paul Noble.

MA: Yes, Paul did a lot of the Mrs. Roosevelt programs, did all of them with Henry Morgenthau.

INT: Paul was also part of the BU scholars, wasn’t he?

MA: In those days the crew — the people who ran camera and did the lights and stage managed — were graduate students at BU who were on a two year rather than a one year program.

They’d go to school a semester and come work for us a semester.

So ,there were two groups: those in school would then be replaced.

That lasted a number of years until the complexity of the programs made it necessary for us to have full time people, so that we were teaching them camera work while we were trying to do very complicated programs.

That’s when we went to a full crew, and then the second crew, and I remember the possibilities of a third crew, because everything was studio-based film.

WGBH was doing a film project in the earliest days and the first one was an absolute disaster in 1957 because — except for Paul Rader, who was brought in to do the project — all of us grew up in live-TV terms.

We knew that you did all of your research, and you did all your work, and you did it Thursday night and it either went on tape or it went out.

But with film, you could always play a little bit, a little bit, a little bit and you could never finish.

‘GBH got a contract — in hindsight, a very silly contract — to make programs about existing scientific projects going on around the world in the International Geophysical Year 1957.

You can’t make a film about something that’s going on, because you go out with a group of scientists, into the ocean, and you watch them drop things into the ocean, and that’s exciting, …

and then you watch them look at dials, and that’s very exciting.

Then they say to you, “We won’t know what the results were for about another six months. If you can come back and interview us then we can tell you some more.”

And so, WGBH had been given money for three programs, had finished one and the other two were relative shambles.

The money came for the second three and Hartford wisely at that point said, “We really don’t know the film business.”

He had a meeting with the entire film staff.

This was the first time that I’ve come across a situation in which honorable people can leave a meeting thinking that two different things occurred.

The head of the film department and his assistant came out and said to Jack Hurley,

“Hartford is such a thoughtful man He’s so concerned about our problems. He really appreciates the trouble we’re having.”

And Jack Hurley had to say to them, “Excuse me, don’t you realize that you’ve just been fired?

The film department is being closed. The money is being given back to the National Science Foundation and this place will never do another film.”

That’s not the story they took out of the meeting. It really was a “Rashomon”.

This building, that we’re sitting in, was built without any film facilities in it at all because we didn’t know film.

It was a long time before we did film again.

INT: We snuck it in. MA: We snuck it in.

INT: If there was one moment out of that early period before the fire which really kind of sticks in your mind as being one of the happier moments for you — be it at work and not Lillian— but is there one kind of moment that really kind of said to you, this is why I got involved in television in the first place?

MA: During one of these programs — “Music for Grade Six” that I was directing myself — the folk dancers were late and I couldn’t understand why they were late.

They finally all arrived and they told me that they had met the nicest man on the steps of MIT and folk danced with him for 20 or 30 minutes.

When they described him, it was clear that this was the world’s leading mathematician of the time, who frequented the steps of MIT and the soda joint downstairs — and I’m blanking on his name, Norbert Weiner — who lived in Belmont, I guess, with his mother….

INT: Lived in another world.

MA: Yeah, lived in another world, and was folk dancing with my students.

I guess that would be one of the joyful things. We were doing things with our hands. We were involved in everything that we did.

We produced, directed, wrote, whatever we did.

We built the scenery, determined where the basic lighting patterns would be. It was in our hands.

It was not as much fun as I think we all came to do later when we actually had huge resources at our command.

Then, we were working up to the level of our incompetency — where we were not curtailed by outside influences, but only our own knowledge, creativity, and persistence.

INT: Was there one major disappointment in those early years that you wished you could have changed or something that could have happened that would have made everything….

MA: Not in those… that came later.

INT: All right, so the fire, WGBH and Boston kind of got married pretty tight together at the time of the fire because we went off the air, we were on the air very shortly after that.

Maybe you might kind of recall, after you’ve returned from Chicago, what you found.

What was going on in Boston as WGBH had been burned to the ground?

MA: Well I walk up those stairs into my office and I suddenly realized…. INT: This is at 84 Mass Ave., after the fire….

MA: Yes, I suddenly realized I was not walking on the floor of my office, I was walking on what was left of the ceiling.

The roof of the station had collapsed. I, with a shovel, dug away enough stuff to find what was left of my desk.

The telephone had melted over an uncancelled check that had come in, good gracious, for school broadcasting, no, for the Eastern Educational Network that we were creating at the time.

I had left WGBH and was the founding director of the Eastern Educational Network with offices at WGBH.

I had in the back of my office a huge oak table that had been built into the wall — it was the former dressing green room table — and it had charred underneath and the water hit it and it bent over.

As I lifted it up, that portion was attached to the wall.

The entire wall of my office fell into what was the remaining of Studio B and I thought I’d better back up and get the hell out of here.

There were a few documents, but everything — all of the research that I had amassed on School of Broadcasting, all of the work that we had put together in developing the Eastern Educational Network — was gone.

The first thing I did was to sit down and try to reconstitute my telephone list because I had to call foundations and stations and tell them that we were still in business, that the development of the network would go ahead.

Two days after the fire Hartford Gund and I left Boston and drove to Maine to testify before the legislature of Maine as to whether or not they should start educational television.

Coming from a station whose fire had been in the front pages of every Maine paper, we had to tell them that we were still in business.

The third day after the fire, I flew to Washington D.C., to do the same thing to government agencies that we were looking for grants.

But we all survived — we are the station, the human beings involved. We’ll be back in business.

We were fairly soon in seven different locations around Boston.

A live TV studio was at the Museum of Science.

You paid a quarter and watch the animals make television.

The Roman Catholic Television Center had a little studio with a chandelier in the middle, so that if you pulled back too far the chandelier came in every shot.

The scenery was built for us at Northeastern University.

There was what was called the Red Shack or the Red Building at the Museum of Science where there was staff.

Management was in Kendall Square in the Eastern Educational Network, we moved the headquarters there.

Headquarters of the Eastern Education Network was two desks, two 1930s-style desks given to us by the Christian Science Monitor.

I think the Christian Science Monitor took every piece of old furniture they had — I think this looks like some of them — and gave it to us and that’s what we used.

Old Underwood typewriters, etc. And we survived like that.

I immediately started designing the place to use for fundraising. That design never got built, but later a group went up to Dartmouth and really designed this place.

This place I think was designed with nine or 10 live TV studios.

Not one film editing room, because the whole idea of live TV and needing many places to make it was still very much in our minds.

INT: That’s some change though and ended up I think with three studios. Studio A, Studio B and little Studio C.

MA: A little Studio C which is a radio studio that parroted the studio we had at 84 Mass Avenue.

A radio studio with glass sides in certain places so that Louie Lyons and the news could come out of there and we could shot through the glass.

INT: We were on the air, very shortly after the fire, broadcasting.

MA: Yes I think the School Broadcasting went on the next Monday. TV was off maybe a night or two.

The Junior League of Boston marshaled every woman with a car. Dave Davis got every commercial station in town, both of them — this was ’61, so maybe there were three…

INT: There were three.

MA: Channel 5 had gone on the air and the engineers brought the schedule of when they needed their own tape recorders for their own programs .

School Broadcasting went on the air with tapes being shuttled from station to station to station where a tape recorder was available at 8:30, at 9:00, at 9:30, at 10:00, etc., and Dave Davis organized all of that.

Sometimes tapes would have to be transferred back two or three times. The stations were wonderful.

An immediate cry went up as to how we would need a million or so dollars to put ‘GBH back on the air.

It’s necessary to talk about Ralph Lowell because I think his beautiful picture down in Cahners makes us think of him as a nice, cuddly man who had the money, and that’s what he gave to ‘GBH.

Ralph Lowell had guts.

I remember many occasions when WGBH was about to risk editorially, or with cash, and it was Ralph Lowell who always gave the support to Hartford to do it.

Many of us have been in many positions where we’ve had board of directors or presidents of corporations over us and it is not inconsiderable to have somebody who stands behind you and says,

“Yeah, do it. You’ve presented the case well. Go ahead and do it.”

And that’s what Ralph gave to this station.

Second, he had command of the names and the bodies of this town. So if he asked you to do something it was hard to say no. He had that much respect.

It was more than just raising money. It was ideas and people, a significant guy.

INT: I remember for a period of time, I was one of the BU scholars who was asked to go down to his bank on payday because Jack Hurley, who was then head of finance, was having trouble making the payroll and Daddy Lowell, as we called him, always able to come forward to make sure that we all got paid.

MA: We had a drawing account at the bank.

On the second day I was at WGBH in 1956 I, too, was asked to present myself to Ralph Lowell.

At the same time, I been reading John Marquand’s book — and I forget the title of it now — but he was about a Lowell type person.

He described how you walk in the bank and there was all the marble and then there were people behind the cages and then there were people behind the balustrade and some of them had desks and some didn’t.

And some had desks on rugs and some didn’t and then some had offices and then there was the office.

I walked into the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company, and I saw John P. Marquand’s bank and I was ushered into meet “The Mr. Lowell” in the office as he had so described.

I’m certain he had known Ralph Lowell and had been to the bank many times.

INT: Is there anybody else that was as significant to the ‘GBH and who it is now in those days?

MA: Dozens of people at the universities. The people who gave of their time.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ralph Lowell sat down and had a meeting with Petrillo and got us the permission to do the Boston Symphony Orchestra live .

If any money ever came about it would go to the pension funds, but we never paid them a penny to do concerts.

The idea of a live TV concert of this an entire symphony was just unknown in those days.

INT: The history that exists on those tapes downstairs in archives is quite amazing.

MA: Yeah, Charles Munch…Leinsdorf

I remember we did concerts … one of the last concerts Stravinsky came and conducted himself and now it is a history.

INT: MIT’s “Science Reporter,” just as we end off this hour, maybe you should give us just a little bit more history of that….

MA: It was a studio program that was basically a lot of talk and a little showing.

T hen it became a little talk and a lot of showing.

It then found resourcefulness in a man named Russ Morash, in which it became a lot of showing and on the road, so that you didn’t have to bring things into the studio.

It started out with Volta Torrey as the MIT on-camera host, and then John Fitch did that.

I think those programs were instrumental in reminding us that the studio was out there in the world. Russ and Al Potter and Pete Downey just took us everywhere that we could move.

It was one of the first programs that I distributed to the rest of the stations as the founding director of the Eastern Educational Network .

It was one of the proofs we used that programs that we made locally could be distributed by our network by videotape — because we were not interconnected in those days — and that the Eastern Educational Network had a useful thing to do in addition to the national network, which didn’t want “Science Reporter” at the time and later, of course, picked it up and it became a big national show.

INT: Thank you. End of first hour.