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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday Scrapple

The Washington Nationals reaching the World Series is a great story.

I was never a Pink Floyd guy, but "Comfortably Numb" is a masterpiece, and the volume on my car radio goes up any time it comes on.

NBC News seems to be in the crisis management mode, and it's not working.

I would be lost without Post It notes.

The return of jacket weather thrills me.  Now, I have a place to carry my phone.

Recent dilemma-- get a new phone or merely replace the battery.  I went with the second option and it appears to be working well.

I'm really looking forward to next month's election, but I say that before every election.

"Match Game 101" is an entertaining read.  I'll post a review when I finish.

Do you realize the Scranton Santa Parade is only five weeks away?

It's been a long time between photographic expeditions, and I've been itching to get out.  Unfortunately, time is at a premium these days.

My taste in comedy emphasizes the clever over slapstick/silly, even though I love the Three Stooges.  However, I really liked Rip Taylor, who passed recently. 

Being a news anchor, reporter and producer requires knowing at least a little bit about many different things.  I do keep an eye on the NFL.  The Rams, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles seem average.  Can anyone stop New England?  The Saints are surprisingly decent, even with their star quarterback injured.  The success of the 49ers is one of the league's big stories so far this season.

It appears Sears/KMart chopping its way to profitability isn't working.  Does that surprise anyone?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Heartbreak Highway

I do a fair amount of driving, and it's always a little tougher at this time of year.

The sides of roads and highways are littered with deer carcasses, and you can see the live ones in the woods, just off the shoulders, waiting to dart out in to traffic.

I know the animals are active at this time of year, and the population is up.  The yearly thinning of the population, at least with guns, is still more than a month away.  Yes, I know they can do a fair amount of damage.

It breaks my heart.  They're such beautiful animals, and I hate to see them meet their end on a highway.

There really is no major moral to the story today, other than to say be careful.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Better Living Through Television



I was flipping around the other morning and came across a half hour infomercial for a George Carlin DVD set.

George Carlin was my favorite comedian.  He was funny (of course) and clever.  I loved how he used facial expressions and his voice to get laughs.  His targets included the business world and the advertising community, courts, police, the media, religion, politics...  The list is endless.

No one made me laugh harder. He was appointment viewing.  If he was a Carson guest, or even a guest host, you knew I'd be in front of a television at 11:30 PM.  His specials put HBO on the map.

As I watched the infomercial, I was surprised at how many of the routines I knew by heart.  I still laughed.

Non fans might know Carlin as the "Seven Dirty Words" guy, and that was a big part of who he was.  I suspect George Carlin would have a great career even without that routine that prompted court cases and appeals for years.  His talk show appearances proved he could still get laughs, even with "G" rated material.

The infomercial took me back to a happier place.  You need that once in a while.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Saved by Zero

I never played organized sports, but I did cover high school football for quite a while "down the street."  I found it to be a fun and rewarding experience.

Even though sports is not my thing, I do watch intently as the high school football scores scroll by at the bottom of the screen during Newswatch 16 Saturday Morning.  This weekend, I noticed more zeroes than usual-- shutouts.

I just kept thinking about all those kids, taking to the field every week, knowing their team isn't the greatest, but still willing to try their best.  And, after a loss, they'll practice this week and give it their best shot again on Friday night.

It's not easy, and I admire their persistence.

They are learning a valuable lesson at a young age.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Blogger: Bringing Up the Rear

There's always been something about a caboose.  Kids love them, and as an adult stuck at rail crossings, the caboose sighting means the gates will soon be rising and you can be on your way.

There is no use for the caboose any more and that's unfortunate, so it's always a treat when you see one somewhere.  This D&H car is parked near the Dickson City freight station on Boulevard Avenue.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Andy's Angles: Nothing is Forever

Forever 21 late last month declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The plan is to close about one-quarter of the chain's 800 stores.  The list of stores to be closed has yet to be released.

Forever 21 occupies some prime real estate inside the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City-- right near one of the main entrances, close to anchor Macy's and the food court.

If this one goes, it's bound to have a ripple effect in the rest of the mall.

I don't like crowds, so if I have to go to the mall, I always went right around opening time.  With malls so passe, any time is a good time during the week because it's rarely crowded.

As I noted before, I grew up in a time when malls were cool and visiting one was a treat.  It's sad that those days are over.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Marathon Weekend

I remember covering the first few Steamtown Marathons, and thinking it's a cute little race.  We'll have it for a few years and it will fade away.

I was wrong, and I'm happy about it.

The Steamtown Marathon has grown in to one of our area's signature events.

What makes is special is it's so "local."  Locals run (along with a lot of out of towners).  It pumps money in to the local economy, and it benefits a local charity, St. Joseph's Center-- an organization that can really use the money.

It's more than 26 miles from Forest City to downtown Scranton.  It's all those local volunteers, and the people who stand along the streets, cheering the runners along the way.

Plus, there's a lack of pretense.  This is simply a lot of fun for everyone involved.

The marathon is set for Sunday morning.  As I write this, the forecast looks iffy.  It could be rainy.

Regardless, let's support something that means so much to our area.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Bernie

Call me old school, but I like to see campaigns end the old fashioned way-- because the candidate didn't get enough votes.

No one is coming right out to say it, but it appears the Bernie Sanders run for the White House is over.  Sanders recently suffered a heart attack.  There are two stents keeping arteries open.  He is 78 years old.  His fund raising is sputtering.

Health, not popularity doomed the campaign.  Sanders is curtailing appearances.  You know how this is going to end.

Whether or not you agree with his positions, you have to admit Sanders brought some new ideas to the debate.  People liked him.  It can be argued he was hosed out of the nomination in 2016.  I met several of his supporters during the last campaign.  A disorganized, but a loyal bunch.

I don't think America has elected a president with health problems since the reelection of Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.  I can't see it happening again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Routine

So many people view the word "routine" as negative.

Au contraire.

The universe was thrown out of whack late in the summer.  It was a double whammy.

First, my favorite mini mart closed for two months of renovation.  Then, my gym got ripped apart for an upgrade.  It was open for all except two weeks, but the showers were out of commission for a couple of months.  No locker room.  No shower..  Yuk.

Employees from the mini mart were scattered among other stores in the chain, and it was nice to run in to them once in a while.  I'm happy to report the renovated store is open.  Everyone is back where they are supposed to be and the diet soda tastes just as good.  It sounds silly, but a friendly face and some light conversation lift my spirits more than that cold drink.

As for the gym, I was hitting others in the chain.  It wasn't the same.  One was just plane weird.  The other was a wonderful 40 degrees.  I was always cold and unable to get a good sweat. 

It was good to get back to the old/new place this week.  The familiar faces all returned, and I love the smell of new flooring in the morning.  The crummy Fiberglas shower stalls have been replaced with some really nice tile, and the water is just as hot.

I love my routine.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Business Tuesday

It's yet another example of why "brick and mortar" retailing is failing.

I was in a big box book store the other day, my first visit to this particular location in a few months.  It was nice to see it busy, and it was especially nice to see a lot of young people in the store.  We are a better society if more people read.

Anyway, I saw a book that intrigued me and leafed through it.  $35 marked down to $29.  I nearly bought it, but I still have a few other books I want to read first.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I went on line to check it out.  $17.  I hit the "buy now" button and it came in the mail the next day.  The "E" version was even cheaper, and that's instantaneous.

It's nice to pick up something before you buy it, but the advantage is negated if you can find it somewhere else a whole lot cheaper.

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Rest of the Story

...with apologies to Paul Harvey.
I opened the door to this with last week's piece on the passing of Harry West, so I might as well finish the story.  It deals with my stint as one of the news people on Harry's WARM morning show.  Glance through it again to get you up to speed.  So much of this stuff has been private-- until now.

I started part time at WARM in 1981.  I went full time on January 1, 1984.  Several years later, I became restless.  WARM was meandering, in search of direction and AM radio was on the decline.  I took a part time TV job in March of 1990.  So, that meant I was working radio six days a week, and TV on the seventh, plus the occasional extra TV shift during the week, after my radio work was done for the day.

The TV station offered a full time job in the fall of 1990.  I thought about it long and hard, and turned it down.  I thought the WARM horse still had a few laps around the track left.  I had the best job in radio.  I took home a company car and gear.  I set out every morning around 9, in search of adventure.  I'd cover three or four stories a day, bouncing all over Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, occasionally Harrisburg.  It was great fun.  I had my giant microphone with the giant logo at the top.  You couldn't ask for anything more.

Let's move on to the early spring of 1991.  The station wanted a fresher sound in the morning.  I was taken off the road to be one of the morning news anchors.  Long time morning anchor Jerry Heller was moved to afternoons.  I shared news duties with Rod Raeger, who also had the task of guiding Harry West in to a news/talk format, and away from being music-centric.

As I said before, I was fine.  The station was fine.  But, this wasn't good fit.  I wasn't the right person for the morning job-- AT THE TIME.  I was intimidated and there was friction with some others on the staff, but I showed up for work every morning and did my best.  I think I'd hit the job out of the park now.  That ship, however, has sailed.  I'm very happy in my current job, and there aren't a lot of radio news jobs out there.

After a couple of months, Rod left and was replaced by Rob Neyhard.  Rob still does some fill-in work on WILK.  Great guy.  Rob spent the bulk of his time with Harry, so more of the news duties fell to me.  I'd get to the station around 2:45 AM and start banging out copy on busted up electric typewriters.

I was working 7 days a week.  Don't cry for me.  It was my choice.  The hours took their toll, especially those early wake ups.  The TV station offered another full time job in September of 1991, and I jumped at the offer.

Let's address the friction thing.  I reconciled with Jerry earlier this year.  He deserved better from the station, and from me.  My first boss, Ron Allen, and I had a falling out shortly after I left.  We never did bury the hatchet and it still bothers me.  He walked right past me at a mini mart one morning, and it hurt.  The legendary Terry McNulty, probably the most creative and funny person ever heard in this area, had me on his "you know what" list.  I declined to testify at his age discrimination trial.  I just wasn't comfortable.  I wasn't working at WARM when Terry had his issues with management.  This wasn't my problem.  It bothered me nonetheless.  I loved Terry.  We all did.  Terry really did teach me a lot about the use of sound and I will forever be grateful.  I did attend his memorial service several years ago.

I have tried to reconcile with a couple of others.  One success.  One failure, and you can't say I didn't try.  I don't know what more I can do.

Please don't get the wrong idea.  Everything wasn't my fault.  I am reminded of the words of the late great Tom Snyder, and I'll paraphrase here.  There comes a time to open the penalty box.

As for the hours I hated back then, well, I've been working those same hours for 21+ years at WNEP and 11 months at another station before that.  It seems to be much easier now.  I suspect it's because of better working conditions and I'm involved in a team effort.  It's not all on my shoulders.  I don't think I'd know how to function in a 9 to 5 job.

It's still a kick when people remember my radio work, even though it was a long, long time ago.  In spite of some bumps on the road, I consider myself very lucky.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Andy's Angles: A Warning



I don't know who is in charge of the old freight station along Boulevard Avenue in Dickson City, but they had better keep an eye on it.  Peeling paint, broken windows, and overall shabbiness.  Declines have a tendency to snowball.


It's a great community asset, and it's too bad it seems to get used once a year, when the Santa train rolls through the borough.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

About the Cover

I know I had a train header here month before last, but this one just screamed "header" to me.

The shot was totally serendipitous.  I wanted to go to the Marketplace at Steamtown, but it was several minutes before 10 and it wasn't open yet.  I decided to kill some time looking trains at Steamtown next door.  The Reading engine was shining in the early fall sun, and I pulled out my phone for the photo.
It's among the favorite photos I've ever taken at Steamtown.  It might not look all that special but the sun angle and the setting really worked for me.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Times Have Changed

I was watching NBC coverage of a 1981 San Diego vs Miami game on the NFL Network the other morning.

Don Criqui was the play by play announcer.  I've always been a huge Criqui fan.  Great voice.  Exciting delivery.  He was just a fun listen.

John Brodie, on the other hand, brought noting to the table.  Zero.  Criqui tried to set him up to deliver interesting observations by asking pertinent questions.  Brodie wouldn't take the bait.  He just didn't deliver.

Brodie was one of those "star hires."  NBC picked him up after a great career as quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.   Sometimes, it works out.  Sometimes, it doesn't.  The broadcasting highway is littered with the carcasses of those who had stellar sports careers, but couldn't get it done in front of a microphone.

I'm being unfair here by using 2019 standards as judgement.  We now expect our "color" broadcasters to be colorful, to deliver insight and opinion, to make headlines.

Tim McCarver was excellent on ABC, CBS, and FOX baseball broadcasts.  Former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is the current media darling.  His contract is coming up for renewal, and it looks like someone will pay him a fortune.  ESPN still struggles bringing star talent to Monday Night Football.  Cris Collinsworth. love him or hate him, delivers for NBC every Sunday night.  Troy Aikman on FOX has been turning solid performances for years.

Other than that, there really isn't much "ear grabbing" talent out there.  I dislike the ones who are controversial just for the sake of being controversial.  Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News said this week that only two broadcasters had a positive impact on television ratings-- John Madden and Howard Cosell.  I agree.

Can't we find more people who have style and substance?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Sad

It makes me sad.

I love newspapers.

I cut my teeth as a radio pup watching local newspaper legends prowl the hallways of courthouses in our area.  I was in awe of their connections, their knowledge, and their attention to detail.

One of America's great newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post~Gazette, this week, started publishing only three days a week.  The company is putting its oomph into digital and its web site.

Sorry, but I love that thump of the newspaper on the front porch in the morning, and as a kid, I really looked forward to when the afternoon newspaper would arrive.

I hope it works and the PPG will be around for a long time to come.  Unfortunately, the phrase that no one ever cut their way to survival comes to mind.

When you publish only three days a week, you are getting people used to not having that daily newspaper on the doorstep, and they might learn to live without you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Geezer Moment

Legendary radio DJ Doung "Greaseman" Tracht used to call reminisces like this "geezer moments," and here is today's edition.

I am of an age when I remember when cigarette commercials were OK on TV, and hard liquor ads were banned.  Now, it's the other way around.

I do a fair amount of listening to sports talk radio.  It's a nice diversion from the troubles around the globe.  Sportstalk radio is now dominated by ads for legal gambling.  The big radio and TV networks even have entire shows dedicated to sports betting, and a gambling parlor just opened in the casino in Plains Township.

Betting on sports was always a "wink and nod" activity.  It was under the table, and even though the point spreads were in the morning paper, it really wasn't talked about much.

Clearly, it's all changed.  It's out in the open now, and dare I say, respectable.  This geezer will need a little time getting used to it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Uncle Harry

Harry West might have been the worst DJ I ever worked with, and we were at the same place for nearly eleven years.  His mechanics left a lot to be desired.  He always had a problem with show elements and timings.  There would be entire breaks where he would repeat his own name several times, yet not mention the station call letters.  His comedy was hokey and corny.  Harry could be very resistant to change.  There are times I watched as Harry went over a program director's head, to his friend, the company president, at the home office in York.

On the other hand, Harry had warmth, charm and charisma.  People loved him.  You can't teach that.  You can't bottle that.  I've never seen someone enter a building with such boundless enthusiasm at pre dawn hours.  During his WARM hey day, Harry loved what he did, and it showed.   He couldn't wait to get on the air every morning.

The days were long.  Harry did his morning show six days a week.  Most Saturdays, after he got off the air, he did what we in the business call "remotes," or live broadcasts from a sponsor's place of business.  Harry was a radio machine.

Harry made stars out of AccuWeather's Elliot Abrams, and Elliot Katuna of Jean King fame.  If you wanted to get noticed, you had to advertise on Harry's show.  There was always a big demand for commercial time, and I'm sure he made the station a fortune over the years.

It would be impossible to talk about Harry without his work on behalf of people with disabilities.  He lent a famous face, and voice to the cause, and his contributions were legendary.

In his later WARM years, Harry was given the assistance of board operators (people who ran the controls) and producers (who kept track of the format, commercials, and guests).    Most of these helpers were kids, and Harry could not have been more gracious and patient.  They were equals.  I never saw Harry talk down to any of them.

I did the news on Harry's morning show for my last six months at WARM, ending in September 1991.  I'll level with you.  It was an uncomfortable situation.  The long-time news director was bumped to afternoons to make way for me because management wanted a more contemporary sound in the morning.  I was pulled off the road to take the anchor job, and I wasn't thrilled with that.  I felt out of place.  Dare I say, intimidated.  At that point in my career, I just wasn't a radio morning news anchor.  The station in general was going in a bad direction-- too many changes, too fast, with no sense of purpose.  Through it all, Harry was great to me, and I'm glad we worked together.

In my early WARM days, I was working the overnight shift, back when the station was still playing music and had live talent around the clock.  If you notice now on WNEP, I play around with the way I read the lottery numbers.  Here's the reason.  I was reading the lottery numbers on WARM in the middle of the night, and there were fewer games back then.  Harry heard me on the way in and told me I was monotone.  Constructive criticism.  I valued the input and the lesson stuck with me, nearly forty years later.

After I left, the station didn't do right by Harry.  Changes in the morning show clearly weren't working.  His contract ran out and he left.  I ran in to him in later years, during stops at WILK, WDLS, WEJL, and WICK.  It wasn't the same.  Harry's joy was gone.

In fact, the Harry situation led to a falling out between WARM's Ron Allen and myself.  Ron was program director when I started in 1981.  He hired me, my first boss.  I ran in to Ron at a Red Barons game as the Harry debacle was unfolding.  Ron was one of the elder statesmen, with some influence at the Avoca studio.  I gave him a little grief over the way Harry was being treated.  Ron wasn't happy, and I get that.  I didn't have a dog in that fight, but I still felt I had to speak up, even though I had moved on to another job, outside of radio.    Why?  For a kid who wanted to be in radio, Harry was the man.  He was the guy who told you if school was snowed out.  He played the best music and told you what he thought.  He was the weather source, and he could make you laugh..  I can still remember brushing my teeth, listening to my bathroom radio, and Harry talking about the death of Pope Paul, and then John Paul I.  Harry knew how to set the stage for the newscasts.  Harry deserved better from management.

Harry died last week in Pittsburgh.  The man was a star.

The word "legend" is tossed around too frequently.  Not here.  Not now.  Harry West was a legend.