Friday, August 23, 2019

Forbidden Territory

I assume it hasn't changed but for years the TV news policy in the Pleasant Valley School district could be summed up in one word:  NO!

We tried to do feature stories.  We tried to do serious stories.  No dice.  It's too bad.  There are stories in every school district that need to be told, kids doing good things, educators meeting challenges.

Pleasant Valley didn't want to play.

In a way, I get it.  They there to educate the kids.  They are there to protect the kids.  Things out of their control, like TV news, are the enemy.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Much to my shock, we were allowed in the high school Tuesday morning, when the owners of  a company that employs many people with special needs talked with the faculty and staff.  It turned out to be a pretty good piece, and the people at the school couldn't have been more friendly and accommodating.

Is the cold war over?  I raise a skeptical eyebrow.  No students were in the building Tuesday morning, and I'm sure the old policy will be in effect when the school year really starts.

Above is the high school auditorium, an impressive facility.  I just hope I get a chance to see it again, and I hope you're along for the ride.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Pair of Jacks

Former ABC and CBS Sports broadcaster Jack Whitaker died Saturday.  95.  He got his broadcasting start at the now defunct WPAM in Pottsville.  Whitaker did at all at CBS.  For the end of his time there, and later at ABC, he did commentaries and essays.  I really don't like people who have this whole reverential thing when it comes to sports.  If you don't know what I mean, listen to the Masters golf tournament on CBS for a few minutes every spring.  Tomm Looney, formerly of FOX Sports Radio used to call sports the "toy department of life."  As we have seen, especially some recent days, there are some awful people in sports-- from the owners on down.  Having said that, Jack Whitaker always struck the right tone.  He was an elegant writer and a classy broadcaster.

Jack Perkins died Monday.  85.  Perkins was an NBC News correspondent for many years.  He was also the face and voice of "Biography" on A&E.  Perkins could read the phone book aloud, and make it sound warm, charming, folksy and interesting.  I'm an old radio guy, so a good site of pipes and a strong delivery still blow me away.

We lost two major talents this week.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Time Shift

I've been working the overnight shift a long time.  A long, long time.  No complaints.  It's my choice.

Most nights follow a familiar routine.  Bar fights start at 1 AM, Drunk driving crashes start shortly after the bars close at 2 AM.  Domestics begin when the drunk drivers who haven't crashed make it home.

You can sprinkle in assorted other violence, including shootings, in that 2 AM hour.

Things are changing.  Recent experience has more mayhem in the 3 and 4 AM hours.

Why?  That's a good question.

More after hours clubs?  Maybe,

It is clear that the "9 to 5" society disappeared long ago.  Most of the things you can do at 4 PM you can now do at 4 AM-- and that includes making trouble.

Do us all a favor.  Get some sleep.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I've been doing this a long time, and it's one of the worst crimes I ever covered.

The Larry and Leona Cottam murder trial was 30 years ago this month in Luzerne County Court.  They lived in Nuangola.  Larry lost his job.  The family had at least $2,000, but Larry refused to spend it for food, because that money was tithe-- a religious offering.  As a result, the Cottam's 14 year old son, Eric, starved to death.  He weighed just 69 pounds.  The photo above is Eric Cottam's body, being wheeled out of the family home.

Larry, Leona, and their daughter wound up in the hospital to be treated for malnutrition.

Testimony at the trial was chilling.  Eric tried to make soup from chives growing in the back yard, in an effort to save his life.  It didn't work.  I could not get that image out of my mind.  The poor kid knew he was sick and likely dying.  He struggled.

I don't know how any parent can stand by and watch their children suffer.  I'm no expert on religion, but I think God would have understood if you actually kept a family member from suffering a slow and painful death.

Larry Cottam was found guilty of third degree murder.  Leona was found guilty of a lesser charge.

What struck me most during the trial was the lack of remorse.  One child starved to death and another almost died, and these people didn't think they did anything wrong.

Monday, August 19, 2019


It made me sad, a reminder that we're not getting any younger.

John Hancock, who does 3 to 6 PM on that blowtorch, WBT radio in Charlotte announced his retirement last week.  His last show is in October, but John said he will remain with the station, participating in public service efforts, doing commercials,  and maybe a little bit of commentary.

You might remember the name.  John spent a couple of years at WARM in the mid 80's.  He was best known for hanging from a platform, suspended by a crane, for 59 hours, to raise money for Easter Seals.  John performed his stunt in the parking lot of what was then Howard Johnson's in Pittston Township.  That's a much younger me on the left, John on the right.  The interview was done after John descended on a Sunday afternoon.

John came to us after serving as program director for an FM rocker in Boulder, Colorado.  I remember thinking, here was a guy who knew nothing about AM full service radio and he was going to bomb.

I was wrong.

John restored some stability to an absolute mess of a radio station.  He kept us hopping with live remotes from Kirby Park festivals, the Great American Race, the Comerford Theater (eventually the Kirby Center) etc.  It was a fun time, and I felt like I got kicked in the gut when John announced his resignation from WARM.  He took a job in Jacksonville, FL.

As you know by now, WARM was bungled into irrelevance.  I've been out of there since 1991, but it was my first "real" job and the Mighty 590 will always be special to me.  Great times.  Awful times.  Everything in between.

Thanks to the internet, I catch parts of John's show most days.  It's always a kick when he tells a WARM story and I get a mention.  Some photos of John's home office recently turned up on-line.  It was nice to see some things from his WARM years on one of the walls.  Yes, we've kept in touch over the years.  I value the friendship.

John is stepping away to battle some health problems and get some rest  29 years at WBT and he's in the station's hall of fame.

I'm lucky we crossed paths a long time ago.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Andy's Angles: About the Cover

This month's About the Cover is a little late, and I'm sorry.

The cover really has no raison d'etre, as if it really needed one.

I like trains, especially colorful diesels, and I snapped off a nice shot on a recent sunny morning.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Andy's Angles: Born Too Late

I recently saw this ad, laminated and stuck on the wall of a business I visited.

It's from the mid 1950's

Great choices.  Great choices.

I'm sorry I wasn't around to take advantage of the sale.  I would have looked great in a Hudson.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Snow Job

A government entity actually listened to people!

According to the Erie Times~News, the National Weather Service is bringing back lake effect snow warnings.  Why?  Because you asked for it!

The NWS eliminated the lake effect warnings last year, as it tried to streamline the watch and warning process.  Don't ask me why lake effect warnings were dumped.  Parts of Pennsylvania and New York really get hammered before the lakes freeze over, and lake effect is diminished.  Those warnings had real value.  And, yes, we do have the occasional lake effect issue in NEPA.

It's just amazing that some bureaucrats are spending time listening to citizens.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Burger Wars

It just defies analysis.

Market Force surveyed Americans to learn the top ten favorite hamburger restaurants.  McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy's failed to make the list.  Only two with stores in our area, Five Guys and Dairy Queen, are in the top ten.

Let's look a little deeper.

McDonald's seems to be doing well thanks to breakfast and drinks.  I'll see a drive through line wrapped around the building when I'm leaving for work late at night, and again when I'm coming home in the morning.

Wendy's seems to get a nice lunch crowd.  BK seems to be somewhere in the middle.

Still, I find it fascinating that places that built their foundations on ground beef score so poorly.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


There is an embryonic plan to build a movie theater in downtown Pittston, and I think that's fantastic.  It will add to the nightlife and clearly will be an asset to that small city.  In case you haven't been to Pittston lately, some of the decrepit old buildings are gone.  Other old buildings have been rehabbed and there's some new construction   Downtown Pittston is no longer the horror show show it used to be.

I am too young to remember the days when every small town had at least one movie theater, but I do remember the places before the shoe box mall theaters were built-- the Strand, Center,  Comerford, Roosevelt, and West Side in Scranton, Cinema North in Clarks Summit, the Irving in Carbondale, the American in Pittston.  Peckville even had a theater when I was a kid, until fire destroyed it.  I saw The Simpsons Movie at the Dietrich in Tunkhannock several years ago, and I loved the experience.

Look, let's be realistic.  The days of one or two screen urban theaters are over, and they're not coming back.  You can't compete with the choice, convenience, ample parking and comfort of those super mega plexes...  But, a theater like the one considered for Pittston can carve out a nice niche and be a community asset.  It will be interesting to see if they can make it work.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Old School

Invisible airwaves crackle with life...  Rush, "The Spirit of Radio"

Bucknell University sold its radio frequency to WVIA.  That's all well and good.  I'm sure Bucknell will put the money to good use.  WVIA's programming, popular in some circles, can now be heard in Union County.  The university and WVIA pledge to work together on projects and train young broadcasters.  Wonderful!

Bucknell's radio station now becomes an internet/streaming only affair.

And, there's the rub.

I chose to go to Marywood College (now University) because it was close and (at the time) inexpensive.  A big draw was the fact Marywood had a real, live radio station.  Back then, it was a puny ten watts at 91.5 FM, but it was still a chance to be "on the air."  A potential audience of thousands.  That was big to me.  There is nothing like the rush of opening a microphone, and having your voice, AM or FM, travel out in to the universe.  I still pause when I see a radio tower and antenna, and marvel at how it all works.  Thank you, Murgas and Marconi!

Times have changed.  There was once a stigma that cable was a child of an inferior creator to broadcast.  Not any more.

The stigma that internet and streaming are inferior to broadcast is also going away.

No matter where you are, make the most of what you have.

Before I graduated, WVMW's power was upped to 100 watts.  It's now 1800 watts at 91.7 FM, and has a nice coverage area.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sleeping In

I was disappointed.

Last year on this day, photographer Jason and I came in hours before the scheduled start of our shifts to drive to Williamsport.  That's where the high school football team was beginning a practice at midnight, the first permitted moment to do so under PIAA regulations.

It was fun.  The players were "in" to the moment.  The stands were filled with parents and classmates.  Cameras everywhere.  Jason and I shot a couple of really nice stories for the morning and noon editions of  Newswatch 16.  We gathered extra video and interviews to share with the sports department.  It was great to do a positive story and put something out of the ordinary on the air.

I called last week to see if the Williamsport Millionaires would be doing it again.  The answer was no.  It was explained to me that this year's squad is rather young, and it was a good idea to go the traditional route this year.  There is a chance for a repeat of "Midnight Madness" in 2020.

That's all well and good, and I totally understand the reasons behind the decision.  There was some negative feedback on Talkback 16, and I'm sure the school received some negative comments as well.  On top of that, there are liability issues in this litigious society in which we live.

I was there.  It was a fun and positive story, and the Williamsport area really could use another one.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Classic Andy's Angles: Inner Harbor

Above is another late 80;s photo from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, and for the life of me, I don't remember why I took this particular photo.  It shows a piece of sculpture and the water.  Some cranes in the distance showed something was going on here, and that's one of the reasons I enjoyed visiting.  It was always different-- new construction, new boats traveling in and out, new attractions.

A bizarre aside:  The building to the right is the World Trade Center.  23 stores, observatory at the top, great views if the weather is clear.  I took this on one of those famous 3000 per cent relative humidity Baltimore \soupy summer mornings.  As noted earlier, I was in Baltimore on 9/11/01.  I was listening to the radio, and I heard those initial reports of a small plane hitting the World Trade Center.  Because I was in Baltimore, I immediately thought of this building.  You know how it turned out.  Like most Americans, I couldn't wrap my head around the horror that was unfolding.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Classic Andy's Angles: Fish

I will admit that I haven't been to Baltimore in 17 years, but I always considered this to be the crown jewel of the Inner Harbor redevelopment.  It's the National Aquarium-- visually interesting and fascinating inside and out.

A check the other morning showed it cost $40 to get in, and that's a bargain.

This is a photo for the late 80's.

By the way, the debate over conditions in Baltimore was wiped off the front pages with amazing speed.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Jeremiah Munley and Poet's Corner

I used this space a while back to talk about an epiphany.  A former teacher and I were talking about teachers I liked and, more importantly, respected.  The vast, vast majority were in the junior high and high school English departments.

Jeremiah Munley died Tuesday.  He was my English teacher for half of 8th grade and all of 9th.  He wasn't the nuts and bolts English guy-- no diagramming sentences, or parts of speech.  Literature and reading were his thing, at least in my day.

There was an odd experiment back in the mid 70's.  Jim Emmel, who died too young, had us for grammar, construction, and the like in the first half of 8th grade.  Munley had us for the second.  By the way, one of the great joys of my career was doing a little radio time at WARM, with Jim.

Mr. Munley taught with a sense of humor and I will never forget that.  His classes were fun.  I learned.  He taught us to write, and to think, and to feel.

I have to spend a few moments talking about Poet's Corner.  In 9th grade, Mr. Munley's English class was my last one before lunch.  If you were overly rambunctious, if you slightly misbehaved, you were forced to attend Poet's Corner, which cut in to the lunch break.  It wasn't long. The purpose was to inconvenience you by shaving a few minutes off your lunch time, and Poet's Corner consisted of Munley reciting a ribald poem with the naughty parts edited out.  It might have been one of the best punishments ever.  It was worth getting in trouble.

After the above mentioned epiphany, I tried to reconnect.  I left a couple of phone messages.  They were not returned.  I reached out via Facebook.  Nothing.  To say the least, I was disappointed. Maybe he wasn't well.   He probably didn't remember me, and that's okay.  I remembered him, and what he meant to my education.

My sympathy to Jeremiah Munley's family.  I believe I said "thank you" to him on one of my answering machine messages.  You, and Poet's Corner, were unforgettable.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

There's One Born Every Minute

I saw these on Amazon, and I couldn't resist.  After all, they were reasonably priced.

I really fail to see how charcoal infused bristles can make a difference in my dental health, but you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take.

They're still in the package.  Expect an update in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Haunting Bag of Doritos

I've been at some horrible crime scenes over the years.  Gory.  Bodies.  Blood.  Those stay with you.  Forever.

One I encountered Monday morning is on the list, even though it was as clean as you could believe.

A woman was shot to death inside a Uni Mart in Williamsport Sunday night.
The victim worked across West Fourth Street, at a Dunkin.  She just came over to grab a bag of Doritos.  It was the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Uni Mart was being robbed.  The customer was shot to death.  A clerk was hurt.  The killer took off.  Police announced his arrest Tuesday morning.

As I looked in the store window, the bag of Doritos was still on the counter, at the cash register.  The transaction was never completed.  Murder got in the way.  It was eerie.

The abandoned Doritos bag was enough of a symbol that something horrible happened here.

I didn't have to see a body.  I didn't have to see the blood.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


I was looking at a Facebook thread the other day, where people listed their favorite teachers from my old high school.

Some of the names didn't surprise me.  They were good teachers.  Good people.

Some teachers didn't show up.  Again, no surprise.  Lazy.  Unmotivated.  Burned out.

There were several entries that shocked me.  Total disagreement on my part.  I didn't like them.  They didn't like me, and I probably deserved it.

It's funny how thinking about former teachers can trigger such strong memories, even after decades away.  Apparently, I am not alone.

It does make me sad that most of my favorites are no longer with us.

Thank them while you can.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Monday Scrapple

I haven't done a "Scrapple" entry in quite a while...

While I admire their grace and power, "Shark Week" just doesn't interest me.

You know fall is approaching when sports shows talking about baseball playoff possibilities.

Another massive data breach.  This time, it's Capital One.  I don't like it, but you have to realize that your personal information is never, ever safe.

Football throwback uniforms do nothing for me, but I do like when baseball does it.  I really enjoy seeing the Phillies in light blue.

The hoopla over the  Apollo 11 anniversary came and went far too quickly.

How's that soccer revolution coming along?

Friday was the 40th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Thurman Munson of the Yankees.  I remember watching Mike Gemei break the news on the old WDAU.

I flip around the TV dial every night at 11:35, and I do what I've been doing since Letterman retired-- turn on the radio.

The Wilkes-Barre Times~Leader has new owners.  I'm still thrilled the city has two competing newspapers.

I'm convinced that companies that put out disgusting food flavors, like mustard ice cream,  know they won't sell.  They just want the free publicity.

USA Today reports Samsung is getting rid of the smartphone headphone jack.  Please, don't.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Classic Andy's Angles: Baltimore Power Plant

Today, it's another photo from my late 1980's Baltimore collection.

This is the Pratt Street Power Plant.  Yes, it actually was a power plant and had a strong connection to Baltimore's one-time huge railroad industry.  It was redeveloped in to an entertainment venue, struggling at first.

It was home to the first ESPN Zone in the country.  It closed.  It's now a book store and art/performance/concert space.  A web search says it's doing OK.

It'a a great building and I'm happy the city saved it.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Classic Andy's Angles: Baltimore

The city of Baltimore has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks.  I have some definite thoughts on the controversy, but that's not what this blog is all about.

This is a photo of Baltimore City Hall I took in the late 80's.  It's a spectacular building, dating back to 1867.

A couple of quick personal notes.  I'm not a big traveler.  Baltimore was a yearly vacation destination for years.  It was far, without being too far.  Hotels were reasonable.  There was plenty to see and do, including the National Aquarium and the Science Museum.  I'd visit friends in York and Harrisburg on the way down, or on the way back home.

And yes, I liked going to malls in and around the city.  I grew up in a time when malls were new and cool, and the Baltimore area had some good ones.  I understand two of my favorites, Hunt Valley and Owings Mills were torn down.

I stopped going to Baltimore for a variety of reasons.  The city swallowed the quiet suburban area where I enjoyed staying.  I was in Baltimore 9/11/01.  I went back the next year and there were simply too many creepy memories, so I haven't been back since 2002.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Let's Review

Another vacation week is in the books.  Let's review.

I slept, read, got together with a former intern, hung out with a high school friend, rode my bike, went to the gym, and visited Sam's Club.

That's enough.  I'm happy.

There was one deviation from my other vacation weeks.  There is usually a 10 day vacation beard.  I actually shaved a few times during my time off!

I hope to see you tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


It's August, the last month of summer, and I'm okay with that.  Above normal temperatures are fine in fall, winter, and spring.  Summer is a much different story.  As I write this, we've had ten 90+ degree days, and that's too many in my book.

I simply don't enjoy the heat as much as I once did.  I want those "open window" days of spring and fall.  I want the sun to set at a reasonable hour.  I want to be comfortable again.

I will admit that summer has flown by.  Back to school sales are underway.  It won't be long before jackets come out of the closet, the air conditioner comes out of the window, football starts, baseball ends, and decisions include what to eat at La Festa Italiana, and who to vote for in November.

Summer lovers, there is still a good month left.  I'll be counting the hours until Labor Day.