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.