Reprinted with permission from the Wethersfield Post, February 22, 1973.

Famous Wethersfield Voices on the Air

Dick Bertel

by Cynthia Lang

   "Involvement in and with the community -- that's what it's all about today."
  "Bertelmann-the name is just too cumbersome to use on the air. It just doesn't come across." The speaker was Dick Bertel and he was recalling the day when he was hired by WTIC-AM-FM-TV Channel 3: "I had to use Dick Richards as my air name."
  When I joined the staff at WTIC they said, `You have to change your name. We have Floyd Richards on the staff.' Fred Wade, then Producer-Manager for Radio, said, `How about Bertel?' I was delighted to be hired. He could have come up with anything." That was almost 17 years ago.
  Dick was born on January 6th, 1931 in the Bronx. He moved to Darien, Connecticut with his family in 1944, attended Darien schools and later New York University from which he graduated in 1956 with a degree in broadcasting. He worked about three years in various radio stations before coming to Hartford.
  "The reason I came to Hartford was because I was being married. Hartford offered a larger market and I had my sights trained on this station."
  Here-in lies the tale of the lonely bachelors at WSTC, Stamford, Connecticut where Dick was a staff announcer from 1954 to the middle of 1955: "I was a D.J. on WSTC. Three of us were working the night shift. One of the bachelors was Don, "Dee, Caruso, a newswriter from Hartford who grew up in Hartford." (Dee, today, is a comedy writer and his film "The World's Greatest Athlete" opened at Radio City Music Hall on February 1.)
  "We didn't know anybody in Stamford. I didn't know any girls and Dee didn't but we found out that there was a nurses' resident in Stamford."
  One night, for a lark, the men called the nurses' residence. The House Mother asked what floor the caller wished to be connected with. Spokesman Dick decided in a hurry, "The fourth." Jean, the girl who is today his wife answered.
  :I told her that we were with a local radio station and that the station had a feature in the form os a salute to a local group and asked what recording `you' (the nurses) would like to hear." He remembers the request as "Stardust."
  The next question was: "Could we meet you for coffee after the program? Jean said yes with no intention of meeting us. We waited 15 minutes in front of the nurses' residence, until about 11:45." Finally the girls took pity and came down to the front door and told the men to go away. Dee went up to the door and convinced the girls that they were respectable and made a date for the next night.
  "And," said Dick, "I fell in love."
  Jean, from Dunkirk, New York, was hired by Stamford Hospital after completing training in Buffalo. She sometimes works weekends at Mount Sinai Hospital even though she and Dick have a family of four: ages 13 through two: Darcy, an eighth grader at Silas Deane Jr. High; Jimmy, in the fifth grade at Valley Crest where Susan is in Kindergarten, Dougie who two this month.
  Dick worked about eight months at WGTH (now WPOP) until he landed the job at WTIC ("My first objective in coming to Hartford.")
  He and Jean lived in East Hartford the first three years of their marriage. "We really made a concerted effort to move to Wethersfield, a gorgeous town, not just a matter of a house." In 1958 they lived in Timber Village, today the family makes its home on Randy Lane.


  "I was hired as a staff announcer. That means that you have to be able to read news, do music programs both popular and semi-classical and have a rather thorough knowledge of classic music at WTIC. I had all of this background and training. A staff announcer is a jack-of-all=trades; he's got to be very flexible."
  For example, on the day that the Post interviewed him Dick had put together a four-minute documentary on the just deceased Lyndon B. Johnson, a record of the late President's visit to Connecticut, using films from the studio morgue (files).
  This reminded him of May, '67 when a Presidential visit was made by Lyndon Johnson. "The coldest spring I think we've ever had. Mr. Johnson had come to speak with six New England governors. The meeting was held at Bradley. I was literally on top on a hanger with a secret service man and a TV engineer. My job was to describe the arrival of Air Force One and the motorcade. My hands were frozen. We had to wait for the meeting to adjourn and then do the whole thing in reverse.
  "It was fun because it was live. Live, it's unpredictable." A key man will say, "Now we'll switch to Dick Bertel who is covering the motorcade...and the motorcade doesn't move."
  In '70 when President Nixon was in Hartford Dick was on top of a sound truck parked on the corner of Main Street and Central Row: "I waited in vain should he come this way."


  Dick's day starts at 6:30 a.m. with a five-minute radio newscast, then again at 8:00 a.m.
  For an hour and a half 8:15-9:15 he does staff work which sometimes includes station breaks.
  At 9:15 it's TV news. After that, writing and rehearsing up until non when he takes a break for lunch.
   "I may be doing an interview for a feature story for the next day or video-taping a cooking show for the next five weeks or so. I
 could be out of the building with a film camera-man until 4:00 p.m." He has to be back at that time to prepare the stock reports

which he compiles and writes after the Stock Market closes at 3:30 and he tapes record at 5:00 for the 6:15 and 11:15 shows.
   About the radio-TV business: "I wouldn't do anything else. I love it."
  The day I visited Dick he had done a tape interview with Jack Douglas who was one of the writers for the Jack Parr Show, and a live show with Charles Ashman, author of "The Adventures of Super Kraut," the new book on Presidential advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger.
  His is a business where one meets a lot of interesting people. "I meet a lot of show business personalities like Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw."
  I asked how he goes about interviewing the many and varied personalities: "I try to get something about the person before I interview him (or her). If an author, I try to get the book and read it, and try to drop a little comment about something few people would know of the person. I also try to sit down with a guest a little beforehand. I don't believe in a cold interview (unless it's straight news)."
  Former Governor Raymond Baldwin was on Face the State (which Dick M.C.'s Sunday nights at 7:00) on New Year's Eve. "He opens up. He is responsive/ Most people give a fairly good interview. You can get most people to unbend if you can get them to relax ahead of time."
  Dick has permission to do some splicing on audio-tape machines that don't go on the air. "I do produce documentaries for radio in which I am the producer as well as the narrator."
  In 1972, one on the Ebony Businessmen League: "It's Hard to Make It Out There," another was about a unique drug program devised by the City of Waterbury, "Waterbury, City of Concern." There also was a show Dick did on the Connecticut Prison Association and for this he went inside the prison and recorded interviews.


  Telling it like it is, but tastefully, is part of responsibility of media men..
  On the fine series of programs which he monitored in which experts discussed the all too true spiraling incidence of venereal disease, he said, "This business (Radio-TV) has grown up, drugs. VD, you've got to tell the story, and tell it in the people's own words. It may be distasteful to hear but need not be presented in bad taste."
  A radio producer Chuck Renaud, came up with the idea for that series. It was involved with a documentary he produced. "A show like that is rarely done live. The finished product is given to the engineer."
  "Involvement in and with the community, that's what it's all about today, especially when it comes to 50-thousand watt radio TV stations. Years ago it was strictly entertainment. Since the middle 60's there has been more and more involvement with the community. And that's where it's at as far as I'm concerned. It's exciting."

Your Right To Know on radio at three minutes of twelve, just before the twelve o'clock news, is a service program: "The problems of the minorities are aired, explored. Hopefully there is some way we can make a change, make a dent. We hope to bring about an understanding." It is a program for everyone with a question of rights under the law, "search warrants, entering homes, etc." There is talk with the Chief of Police, an attorney, a judge about `How can I?' in reply to a citizens question. `A State Policeman was rude to e. Do I have some recourse>' Your Right To Know gets State Police Commissioner Fussenich on the air.."


  Maybe you have seen it, but only on Sundays. That is when the 1932 Buick gets an airing. And the whole gang goes along for the ride in "Daddy's funny car."
  The smallest members of Jean and Dick's family talk about the antique vehicle in such a disrespectful manner. But the rest know the car is a winner. In 1968 the completely restored Buick won the trophy at the Hartford Armory Auto Show for the best antique car since WWII.
  Yellow and beige with whitewalls, a mohair interior, even the engine has been restored to the original color. "It will do 45 very nicely. After that it's all over the road, there weren't mean for meed.," owner Bertel said. "t was an adventure in itself, trying to get the right people to restore it."
  Dick found the car in a used-car lot in Darien in 1964 and bought it. Jean, Darcy and Jimmy drove down in their conventional car so that Dick could drive the find home., up the old Merritt Parkway to Wethersfield. "The Buick was in terrible shape, but the body was good, under 25 different coats of paint from 32 years on the road. The engine had been mickey-moused and the interior of the car was not good, but the car was driveable and I decided to invest the money to have it restored."
  Someone in Springfield did the mechanical work on the car but he couldn't put it together again. Even though he couldn't put it together he was good at scouting out parts. That involved innumerable trips to the junk yards. "This car consists of parts from at least two other cars. It was important to restore it as it originally was."
  Well, the man in Springfield (the car was there from November 1964 to April 1967) couldn't put the car back together but a man in Wethersfield who had an auto body shop said, "I think I can restore the car for you, but don't press me." They didn't press him and in the end the car came up a winner.


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