Sic transit gloria (1959)

WGBH was to launch a new (live, of course) science show, and was looking for an opening that was a bit more dramatic than a 35mm slide of Madame Curie. It was decided that we would place a globe over a pan of water (you can’t make this stuff up, folks) and insert some “dry ice” into the water to create great spumes of “smoke” that would swirl like clouds around the “earth.”

After hours of intense rehearsal trying to get the right amount of ice into the right amount of water to produce the exact amount of “smoke,” we succeeded.

A moment before air time, the stage manager’s hand spun the orb. We all watched in awe as it became engulfed in “atmospheric matter.” What a shot! What an opening! There were cheers and pats on the back all ’round.

The next day the station got a call from the wizards at MIT informing us that the show was great, but that the globe had been turning in the wrong direction.

Sic transit gloria.

Class of ’58 (circa 1985)


From Vic Washkevich

Here’s a shot of the entire BU class of 58 (those who completed the year, there were a couple who didn’t) at our next to last reunion, back about 15 years ago.

Back – Left to Right: Bob Moscone, Bill Heitz, Don Mallinson and Bob Hall (guest visitor).

Front – Left to Right: Vic Washkevich, John Musilli, Stew White, Jean Brady (now Jolly), Paul Noble, Ed Donlon.

Christmas Shows (1957-58)

Each year, the entire station crew taped a Christmas Show sending up anything and everything, anyone and everyone. The tapes were shown at the WGBH Christmas parties.

This shot of Frank Vento was taken when our class had to put on a Christmas show in 1957.

With Frank is someone named Jerry Michaels. He was part of our class, but left before the year was out.

The guy standing was one of the original ten from the 1958 BU group, but dropped out. He’s not Stew White (so who is he?).

Sitting front row: Vic Washkevich, Paul Noble and Ed Donlon.

Back row: The station’s after hours receptionist (left), an unidentified friend/performer and last, Jerry Michaels.

Who was this girl? She was at the station every evening acting as receptionist for any talent that might chance to come in. She was a neat girl who wanted to be close to show biz, and she became a friend of our group. Here’s a picture of her performing at our Christmas show.

Do you recall her name?

The BU Scholars program (1957-58)

From Vic Washkevich

From on high

The Boston Symphony Orchestra was one of the highlights of WGBH programming back in 1957–58. Hey, anything was better than Words, the one-camera show on which I earned my credit as a director.

If you recall, symphony rehearsal performances were open to the public. We shot that show with three cameras, #1 on the left, #3 on the right, and #2 at high center — the nose-bleed portion of the balcony.

The orchestra played, shots were rehearsed, and finally, the music stopped. As the #2 cameraman was shutting down his camera, he encountered an elderly gent sitting up there in the higher regions of the theater.

Being friendly, our cameraman asked the old man, “How’d you like the performance?”

“It was great,” the man shot back, “but where’s your beam of light.”

We had a more demanding audience back then.

(This incident really did happen, in Sanders Theatre at Harvard; but does anyone remember who the mystery cameraman was?)

… When I’m finished

Speaking of anecdotes, remember this.

One of the break-in shows for the new WGBH scholars was to work the Louis Lyons news show. He sat behind a desk, reading his commentary to a tabletop mike in his glass enclosed soundproof room (the FM studio, actually). The camera, outside the room, shot through a glass partition, but there was a “stage manager,” lying on the floor, out of camera range next to Louie to tell him when he was on the air.

Being neophytes, we did everything we were told. And on this particular night, when the director told the state manager to give Louie the sign to wrap up his news report, Louie turned to the trembling scholar and, in a testy voice said, “Young man, don’t tell me to get off the air. I’ll get off when I’m finished and not before, understand?” That one got a howl from everyone — except the kid on the floor, who wished for nothing more than to be able to tunnel his way out of the building.

Jazz contamination

A story from yore. One night we were rehearsing a violin and piano duo who frequently played the high classics on Performance. Fuchs and Balsam were a somewhat self-impressed pair who had become known fondly around the studio as ‘Screws and Hemlock.’

Joseph Fuchs and Artur Balsam with recital series host Jules Wolffers

After rehearsing their pieces, they and the crew took a break, about 20 minutes before going live. During the break, one of the crew (who’s name we can’t recall) sat down at the piano and played a few contemporary songs.

When the concert musicians returned from their break, Fuchs, the violin virtuoso, ran some cat gut across the strings without incident. And Balsam, the pianist, danced his fingers across the ivories to limber up. After a few seconds, though, Balsam rose from his bench, aghast, and declared, ashen faced…. ‘Someone has been playing jazz on my piano!’

Uncanny!

The Scholars Did It All (1957)

From Vic Washkevich

Doing a mental replay of our group’s year at the Dream Factory from ’57 to ’58, I was reminded again of the station’s truly humble beginnings.

WGBH was born directly over a luncheonette in what once was must have been a roller skating rink, and baptized by the water sprinkled on God knows how many gardening shows that somehow managed to convey cogent information before there was a Martha Stewart.

Each of us “scholars” scurried from back-to-back live shows from Louie Lyons to the Star Spangled Banner.

We built sets, taught typing to the music of the Blue Tango, jerked slides to exactly the right mark on the screen for Lew Barlow’s art shows, used the back of a station wagon as the control room for the Boston Arts Festival, videoed George Shearing playing jazz and dozed as talking heads prevailed once again.

We raced from directing to stage managing to the boom mike without missing a beat and, most importantly, each of us gave 100% of our energy, ability and cooperation to the task at hand every day for one glorious year.

No one complained. How could we? We were in love with every moment spent there. A lot of the success of WGBH goes to the “scholars,” those eager, young bodies and minds who made every day a wonderful spiritual adventure.

So, I present three of them here in the exact time frame of the class of ’58’s year at WGBH. Left to right, there’s Don Mallinson, Stew White, and Bill Heitz at Lynn Beach during the summer of ’57. They roomed together directly over the Zebra Lounge. Ah, have they got stories to tell.

The ’58 Scholars Are At It Yet Again

The WGBH Scholars class of ’58 is having yet another reunion.

Gray haired and gimpy, we’re all going up to Newport, RI where classmate Don Mallinson and his lovely wife Eileen will host the group. Of the ten who started out in ’57, eight stayed the course. Sadly, since then we’ve lost two, John Musilli and Bill Heitz. They will be remembered.

Who’s coming … well even Bob Moscone, our mentor, isn’t missing it. Vic and Olga Washkevich will drive up from NJ; Paul and Paulette Noble are settling into their Fire Island digs, but making a small detour north; Jean Jolly, just back from French Guiana doing medical work, will fly in from Tennessee on gossamer wings; Stu White’s dropping everything to zip in from Ann Arbor, MI; Ed and Betsy Donlon will drive south from their chateau in Vermont to warm up a bit; Don and Eileen will put up with the same old Louis Lyons stories while serving up lobster.

Update from Vic — 6/29/2005

Don Mallinson, our man in Newport, and his wife Eileen outdid themselves.

Tuesday night they served up a New England dinner for all, including home made clam chowder and a 1-1/2 lb. lobster for each of us. As we were leaving, we each got a souvenir of the reunion … a bottle wine. The label featured a piece of art that Eileen painted and a list of all the attendees plus recognition of our two deceased members, John Musilli and Bill Heitz. Outstanding!

The next day featured a 90-minute harbor cruise on a 70-ft sailboat followed by dinner in a charming restaurant well off the beaten tourist path. You had to live there to find this one. Laughs galore. Great memories. And plans to keep the good times rolling.

And here they are: This “League of Extraordinary Gentlepersons,” who met at WGBH in 1958 and found such deep camaraderie that they have never lost contact, or their affection for each other, in the nearly 50 years since.

In Vic’s own words: Aboard a sailboat in Newport, RI harbor.

From left to right back row: Vic Washkevich, Olga Washkevich, Paulette Noble, Paul Noble, Jean Jolly, Betsy Donlon, Stu White, Eileen Mallinson (our hostess), Ed Donlon.

Front Row: Bob ‘The King’ Moscone, Don Mallinson (our host).

Class of ’58 Continues Their Reunion Tradition

After 45 years, I wonder why we keep this up, but I wouldn’t miss it. Amazing how friendships that are not refreshed regularly keep renewing themselves.

This could really be called Mooshine in Vermont. We had a great time at the Donlon’s. Ed actually owns this 1947 tractor and it works (unlike some of us).

From left: Ed Donlon, Jean Brady Jolly, Don Mallinson, Stu White,Vic Washkevich. (Paul Noble couldn't make it.)

“Here’s the kitchen help. The Donlon house is a work in progress, as you can see by the color of the wall. Hope nobody called the health department. Oh, what thehell. Vodka kills everything anyhow.

From left: Don, Jean, Ed, Vic, Stu

“It’s amazing that we always have a good time seeing each other only about every two years, but the thread of conversation is picked up at once and it’s like being with family. Amazing, and nice.

The Party XXII – Class of ’58

Those irrepressible and beloved BU scholars who tore through the station in 1958, like a strong dose of Intest-o-cleanse, returned for the Reunion, bringing with them their particular brand of irreverent chutzpah (and hats especially designed for the occasion by Vic Washkevich).

For the uninitiated, they are (from the left) Bill Heitz, Vic Washkevich, Don Mallinson, Jean (“The Queen”) Brady Moscone Jolly, Ed Donlon, Bob (“The King”) Moscone (uncharacteristically obscured), Paul Noble and Stew White.

With the enthusiastic assistance of Bob Moscone (appearing in the top picture dressed in robin’s-egg blue), they made good on a promise to reprise their original theme song, having specially updated it with several new lines. The melody’s that of the Kingston Trio number “Charlie on the MTA.” The words, set down by Ed Donlon, are the scholars’ own. For the curious, the whole rousing song, as performed at the 2000 Reunion, can be heard in this audio clip. Introductory remarks are by Paul Noble.

From Vic Washkevich

(At that 40th reunion in 1998: left to right, Bob Moscone, Stew White, Vic Washkevich (me), Ed Donlon, author of our anthem. As can be seen from the tabletop, we lived on beer, popcorn and anecdotes.)

Sing along now, remove caps, and place your hand over your heart. You know the tune. Hummm… Here goes.

Before we leave we would like to tell a story
‘Bout a group who’s fame’s well earned.
They’re known around here As the Lowell Scholars
The gang that never returned.

Oh, they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
They just never came back to walk the streets of Boston.
The gang that never returned.

It was in the year of 1957 That they first hit old Bean Town
Nine assorted males and a Tennessee Lady
A stranger group couldn’t be found.

But they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
They are banned forever from the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

They had communications courses And the GBH resources.
And they put on some startling shows, Like ZOOM shots of the ceiling
And the boom man always reeling And Louie Lyons blowing his nose.

That’s why they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
So they’re banned forever from the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

They had a baby grand piano And lots of fat sopranos
That they used to push around the set.
But Whitney Thompson started screaming That the scholars are all scheming
To sabotage his chances for the Met.

So they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
They are banished forever from the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

They did some shows about religions And a lady who raised pigeons
Plus the concerts at the BSO. But by far the most exciting
Was the Science show on lightning When it blew out ten lights or so.

So they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
They are banned forever from the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

In the annals of that station Now known widely ‘cross the nation
Here’s a secret that no one reveals.
Of those wild and crazy scholars Who worked for zero dollars
They were pioneering ETV schlemiels.

So they never returned No they never returned
And their fate is still unlearned.
They are banned forever from the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

And though the years just kept on passing There were friendships everlasting
Built on memories of long ago.
Of that little TV station With it’s hot-bed of gestation
for the most creative television shows.

Still they never return No they’ll never return
But their fate has now been learned.
They have just come back to walk the streets of Boston
The gang that never returned.

But it was not the holy grail It was Internet e-mail
That brought about this gathering.
With a great “Rewired” sound page And a chance to see this sound stage
Who could pass this opportunity?

So we finally returned Yes, we finally returned
And our fate has now been learned.
We have all come home to walk the streets of Boston
The gang that finally returned.

Thanks folks.

For pure, good spirit, there’s nothing quite like you.

Hat photos: Don Hallock, Crew ’58 Photos: Courtesy of Vic Washkevich