WTIC Alumni Site
In Memory of and Designed by Bill Clede
David Wilkinson wrote and
produced “The Broadcaster at 40”. There was a three-hour program on
Wednesday night of the anniversary week and on Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday and Friday each night was scheduled a one-hour program, each
program exploring ten years of TIC history.
Notes from “The Broadcaster at 40” – Program 4.
The Fourth Decade – 1955-1965.
As 1955 got under way, WTIC microphones were in the hall of the State Capitol to broadcast the inaugural address of the state’s new Governor, Abraham Ribicoff. WTIC listeners also heard President Eisenhower deliver his State of the Union address.
The fifteenth annual Mile O’ Dimes collected $107,069.70. Over its fifteen years, the campaign collected a total of $1,131,939.39.
A special events crew was present in Newington for the felling of a giant white oak tree in February. Timbers cut from the oak were to be used with lumber from around the nation for the reconstruction of the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston, the steeple of Paul Revere fame.
On April 12, 1955 results of the Salk Vaccine test were announced nationally. On a special program that night, it was revealed that only three of eighteen-thousand Connecticut children who had received the vaccine the previous year, had contracted the polio virus and none of the three suffered paralysis.
When the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned at midnight on the evening of June 9th, WTIC was the only radio station on hand with a crew at the State Capitol to give the public the story of the hectic closing moments. So confused were the proceeding in the last minutes of the session that doubt existed as to the passage of at least one bill, a gasoline tax bill. The Senate has previously amended the bill, changing the start of the tax increase to July 1, 1955. Both the notes of House Stenographer Mrs. Alice Miller and House Clerk John Wassung showed no amendment had been acted on in the House. To confirm the official transcript and the clerk’s notes, both Mr. Wassung and Mrs. Miller came to the WTIC studios to listen to a tape recording of the final session. From the WTIC broadcast, it was confirmed that the tax increase that had passed in the Senate had not passed in the House.
And on November 15, 1955, WTIC listeners first heard probabilities broadcast for the weather – three in ten for snow, eight in ten for rain, and so on. (Note: I remember watching the forecasts on Channel 3, holding my breath that the probabilities for snow would be eight in ten or greater.)
About three months before the new system for weather probabilities was introduced, the Northeast suffered one of its worst disasters. On August 10, 1955, at 7:15 p. m., a special broadcast, “Connecticut on the Alert,” was presented, telling how the state was preparing for Hurricane Connie. The Governor and other State officials reported. Additional reports came from key points along the Connecticut shore. WTIC’s news director, Tom Eaton, vacationing on Cape Cod, reported on preparations there.
Hurricane Diane followed quickly on Connie’s heels, bearing down on the state just one week later. Beginning shortly after 4:45 a. m., on Friday, August 19th, and continuing until 1 a. m. Monday, August 22nd, WTIC Special Events crews kept listeners informed of tragic events in Connecticut and elsewhere in the Northeast.
Not many hours passed before it became evident that the state was in serious trouble. Governor Ribicoff opened emergency headquarters in the State Armory, and a WTIC man was constantly at the headquarters. Other reporters accompanied the Governor on his many trips into the disaster areas, while Bob Tyrol flew over the affected areas. Early in the storm, news director Tom Eaton spoke with Capt. Ed Polansky (sp?) of the Air National Guard, who was at the controls of a National Guard helicopter, one of the first into the heavily affected Farmington Valley.
Other reports began pouring into the station, bringing the story of the disaster to homes in Southern New England. Major Charles Hadfield, of the Conn. Air National Guard, was interviewed over the phone and described the magnitude of damage in the New Hartford area. The Civil Defense director in the town of Simsbury and the fire chief of the town of Granby reported on conditions in their areas. Medical authorities in Farmington urged person who had worked in the water or who would return to flooded homes, to be vaccinated for typhoid.
The station’s disaster coverage culminated in a 72-hour campaign for funds in behalf of the Red Cross. The marathon began at 11:30 p. m. Tuesday, August 23rd, less than two days after the station’s 68-hour coverage of the disaster. Almost immediately, the telephone switchboard was swamped with calls.
By morning, gifts totaling six-thousand dollars had been acknowledged. At the end of 24-hours, gift of $58,000 had been pledged. At the 48-hour mark, the total had soared to $144,000. And, when the program signed-off seventy-two hours later, $233,350 had been pledged – over $50 a minute, $3000 an hour for 72-hours. Long after the program signed-off, funds continued to flood the station.
The WTIC Flood Bank was officially closed on The Ross Miller Program on October 4th. In the studio were WTIC President Paul W. Morency, and Charles J. Cole, Vice-Chairman of the Hartford chapter of the American National Red Cross.
Replying to a comment by Ross Miller about the small piece of paper he held in his hand, Mr. Morency said, “It is very small for the power it contains. It’s a check, drawn on the Hartford National Bank and Trust Company, in the amount of $321,197.21, and it represents the total which is gathered in the Flood Bank Drive of WTIC. It represents the generosity of thousands of our Connecticut citizens, and also of thousands from Massachusetts and adjoining states. We here at WTIC are actually astounded at the amount that was raised because we have had quite a bit of experience in fund-raising drives, and this was an extraordinary thing in our experience. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to present to Mr. Cole here this check, which will be used in alleviating the suffering and the privations which have been endured by Connecticut citizens.”
On the world and national news scene in 1956, listeners heard the solution to the great Brinks robbery. Eight men were sentenced to life terms for the nearly three-million dollar heist in 1950.
Russian communists disavowed the Stalin line. Movie star Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco. And the United States made its first air drop of a hydrogen bomb over a remote Pacific island. President Eisenhower underwent surgery, and Egypt seized the Suez Canal.
The Hungarian revolt brought the free world to its feet and Dwight D. Eisenhower, recovered from surgery, was re-elected President of the United States.
In Hartford, the year’s leading story was the tragic destruction of St. Joseph’s Cathedral by fire. WTIC listeners heard Ed Anderson describe the devastating fire.
In January 1957, the Supreme Commander in Europe from World War 2 days, was inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States. The Russians astounded the world with Sputnik, and Governor Faubus of Arkansas astounded the country by forcing the government’s hand in segregating schools.
In Hartford, years of preparation were rewarded when the FCC gave WTIC permission to telecast on Channel 3 in September of 1957.
For WTIC, the advent of Channel 3 meant a tremendous expansion in staff and the need for larger physical facilities. On April 14, 1960, ground was broken for WTIC’s new home, Broadcast House, in the city’s first downtown urban renewal project. The chairman of Constitution Plaza, Inc., Gladden W. Baker, addressed the gathering.
The street to the east, he said, is Front Street. Years before, in a simpler time, it was a thriving community and the front door to Hartford. Later, it fell on hard times and the area deteriorated. Now, it would be renewed and once again become the city’s front door.
John F. Kennedy came to Hartford on November 7, 1960, the day before the 1960 Presidential election. Introduced by Governor Ribicoff, the Democratic candidate for the nation’s highest elective office, spoke to Connecticut voters about the historic and important choice they would make in less than twenty-four hours.
That election saw the greatest landslide in Connecticut history. Three months later, Sen. Kennedy stood on the portico of the Capitol in Washington DC, to be sworn in as the 35th President of the United States.
Alan Shepard became America’s first man in space, followed quickly by Virgil “Gus” Grissom, whose “Freedom 7” capsule went from the heights of Buck Rogers to the depths of Davy Jones’ locker.
Hartford’s Constitution Plaza was taking shape, and the first building occupied was Broadcast House, the new and specially designed home of WTIC. After more than thirty-five years in its original location, the sixth floor of The Travelers’ Grove Street building, WTIC-AM and its offspring WTIC-FM and TV moved into ultra-modern facilities. On the evening November 27, 1961, Paul W. Morency addressed the studio and listening and viewing audiences at the building’s official dedication.
On December 8, 1961, fire struck another community hospital. WTIC announcer Dick Bertel and newsman Dick O’Brien (sp?) were part of the Special Events crew that broadcast from the scene of a blaze, which damaged the ninth, tenth and eleventh floor of Harford Hospital. Bertel reported from street level, while O’Brien made his way up back stairways to the affected areas.
In 1962, John Glenn became the nation’s third man in space. Glenn made three orbits around the planet.
Hartford was cited as an all-American city when, for the second time, it was selected as the most outstanding city for its size and received nationwide acclaim. St. Joseph’s Cathedral was rebuilt, and its spires once again rose into the city’s skyline.
In outer space, a relatively small ball of electronics began orbiting the earth, acting as a relay for broadcasts between the United States and Europe. The first sound Americans heard from the communications satellite three thousand mile above the earth, was our National Anthem.
Off the coast of Florida, Cuban sword-rattling was augmented by Russian rockets.
An American astronaut chalked up a record when Gordon Cooper spent a record time in space.
Late in November, the phone lines to WTIC’s “Mike Line” program were crowded as usual. Bob Ellsworth and Floyd Richards were co-hosts that afternoon. Richards had just finished a call concerning the best time to prune trees, when Ellsworth told him he had an important bulletin from the WTIC newsroom.
“President Kennedy is reported to have been wounded by an assassin in Dallas, Texas. There are no further details available at this time. We repeat – President Kennedy has been wounded by an assassin in Dallas, Texas. We will have further details as received.”
The next caller, Roz Fishman (sp?), didn’t have the opportunity to give her recipe. In a few moments, Bob Ellsworth read another report.
“Here are further details from the WTIC newsroom: President Kennedy and Governor John B. Connally were cut down by an assassin’s bullets as they toured downtown Dallas in an open automobile today. The President, his limp body cradled in the arms of his wife, was rushed to Parkland Hospital.”
“We will give you further details as received.”
At WTIC, work began immediately, preparing special programs of music. Through NBC and the WTIC newsroom, listeners were able to witness the tragic events of November 22 and the weekend that followed.
In 1964, Hartford saw the dawn of a new era in the downtown area. On May 11, Constitution Plaza was formally dedicated. Herbert Cramer, Vice President of The Travelers Insurance Companies, was Master of Ceremonies.
The nation’s southland and, later, the north, were to witness violent clashes over civil rights. On July 2, 1964, the bill that John Kennedy fostered finally became the law.
Constitution Plaza became the centerpiece of a cultural endeavor, Plaza 7. The seven lively arts performed daily on the Plaza. On November 27th, the daughter of Hartford’s mayor, William Glynn, turned a special key which transformed the area into a wonderland of light: 100,000 tiny white lights, animated displays, wire sculptures and music in every corner of the Plaza.
WTIC was awarded the coveted Golden Mike on the Monday evening of the week of its 40th anniversary celebration. Paul W. Morency accepted the award, only the fifth presented as of that time, on February 8. At the gathering were the mayor of Hartford; Governor John Dempsey, FCC commissioners and other distinguished guests.
Mr. Morency quoted a portion of the speech of Mr. Walter G. Cowles’ address at the WTIC sign-on in February 1925. “‘We look upon ourselves as trustees of that portion of the air, which we shall from time-to-time occupy, and we mean to have due regard for that trusteeship.’ WTIC will continue to have due regard for that trusteeship, and this award will serve as a constant reminder.”
Also in attendance were several WTIC alumni, one of whom was Dr. Moshe Paranov, formerly Director of Music for the station. Dr. Paranov conducted a 40-piece orchestra as part of the entertainment.