BRUCE KERN'S SILENT PARTNERS
Back in the 50's and 60's Bruce often had a silent partner accompany him back to
the station. Both partners were of the female persuasion, but differed greatly in their
looks. Does anyone remember the little girl in pipe curls who, on occasion, sat and
colored with Mary Cargill, and in later years cut short some newsroom arguments and/or off
color remarks by her presence, or a brief comment telling Bruce she was going to Sagans
for coffee, or, having just arrived from shopping downtown would greet everyone and go to
his desk to wait until the newscast was over?
The second partner had four legs. Does anyone remember the silver gray miniature
Poodle named Bon Bon, who was given to us by Brad Davis? Our family shared many laughs
over Dad's tales from newscasts where she accompanied him to work. Bon Bon would decide as
Dad left the house if she would join him or not. Once they arrived at the station (either
the 6th floor of the Traveler's Building or WTIC TV Channel 3 at Constitution Plaza) she
would again let him know if she wanted to accompany him, or wait in the car. When she
joined him, she remained at his feet, and off camera.
Though we have forgotten names, Mom and I fondly recall Dad's stories about how
directors, producers, floor men, and cameramen would try to entice Bonnie to bark, move,
or react to them in some way. She only responded to Dad, and lay or sat still like a
statue until he gave her the OK to move, or speak. They all tried to tempt her with toys,
food, and talk. She, in her way, just stared regally at them, or rebuffed them by turning
her back to them, lying down and sleeping. They knew that she thought they were nuts to
think that she would befriend them while her master was "on the air". At Dad's
signal when there were commercial breaks or when the newscast was over, Bonnie would be
playful and greet everyone responsible for the newscast before she accompanied him home.
To this day Mom and I know that Bon Bon idolized Dad. She was great with us, but
when Dad was around, we didn't exist in her eyes. (submitted by Janice K. Koleszar
Photo courtesy of Kenn Venit.
pic shows Bruce at the old Grove Street studio in the black-and-white
sign-on days of WTIC-TV. He delivered the 6 pm News in his very
deliberate and dignified demeanor. -Bill Hennessey
Patty McEnroe Reno: I started the tour guide business while working in the
promotion department. I was giving my usual tour of the TV studios, news set and the
weather set etc, and of course Ranger Andy’s set. I always showed the dressings rooms
(people liked that ) Well, one day I opened the door and while doing so, I would say this
is where Ranger Andy gets ready -- and there he was in his boxers! I said well, here is
Ranger Andy. He was a good sport!
My job included doing the audience warm up for the Ranger Show. I sent out the
tickets and lined up the kids each day. Well, I had sent out about 60 tickets with the
same date on it and didn’t realize it until all the children arrived. I told the
floor crew. They were prepared but you didn’t want to tell Andy about such things
(mistakes). He opened the door as he did every day...and would say..."let’s see
who is coming down the trail?" And down the trail all sixty kids came! And kept
coming, and coming, Again, he was a good sport. 20 kids a show was the norm.
The engineers would call me when they had coffee and donuts at a certain time each
am. Steve Myers would often do this. I would go down (I was working in TV contunity in
those days) to have a coffee. Of course John Reno was there. Well, after lots of coffee
and many donuts John asked me to the "first" Broadcast party at the Statler.
We are living happily ever after that October 28th
party! J Back
Joined the merry group in the fall of '44 while Tyrol and Ed Anderson were in
service...Bob T., my erstwhile partner on "Cinderella Weekend" doing duty with
the Coast Guard and Ed in the Army, scaring the hell out of the Nazis I'm sure.
Larry K. was there, in charge of the music library but Bob King came later....I
believe from elsewhere in the Travelers????? (Incidentally he was well known in
the local (CT) music world having "worked" with Glen Miller before Miller made
his name in the Big Band world.
Herman Taylor and Pat Clancy were well ensconced in the Engineering Dept. when I
got there......Taylor as the Chief, I think, and Pat as perhaps his deputy
Finally, Bob Downes ("Downey") joined later than I but I don't when or from
where.....most probably from out of the blue ... the "blue's" loss and TIC's
My very best to all from "Hurricaneland."
Kenn Venit: In the
beginning: I arrived at 3 Constitution Plaza in May 1969 (at the age of 24) and worked 9
a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, for the first week, eating lunch daily at the
Travelers cafeteria. That was the last time I ever worked a schedule at WTIC remotely
resembling a normal life...News people worked all sorts of "rotations," covering
duties for radio and television ranging from writing the entire newscasts to reporting in
the field...The news was broadcast by "readers," announcers who earned extra
fees for anchoring those radio and tv newscasts...Speaking of broadcast, that bronze
statue, "The Broadcaster" in the lobby, was magnificent. I always wished I could
own a small replica...
Bits and pieces: Bob Steele and Art Johnson played cards (for toothpicks or was it
matchsticks?) every morning while WTIC’s farm show was on the air...On Mondays, Bob
would give us a list of scores he needed from Saturday college games, so he could provide
them to "very interested listeners" whose Sunday newspapers did not have those
late scores...News people who worked Sunday night and Thursday night were required to
change all of the teletype ribbons...The newsroom overlooked the Hotel America swimming
pool, and in the summer, that was quite a daydreamer’s perk...When producing WTIC
Radio newscasts, we were able to use audio from Channel 3 newscasts, recorded on a
reel-to-reel machine in the newsroom...Editing was done by engineers using razor
blades...WTIC had one of the first training programs for minority reporters, and as part
of my work, I helped train a talented young man named John Sablon—and I later learned
they were paying him more than I was earning! (John’s still reporting on NBC30.)
Personal pleasures: My family in suburban Philadelphia could hear me on WTIC-AM
when I recorded stories for the 11 pm newscasts...I taped a toothpick at 1080 kHz on the
Fisher radio in my parents’ home so they could tune in quickly...The birth of our
second daughter, Joy, at Mt. Sinai Hospital in November 1969, was announced by Art Johnson
on his overnight show...I had to work and thus missed the 1969 station holiday party, but
the station gave me a certificate good for "Complete dinner for two at the Rib Room
of the Hotel America." My wife, Bonni, and I, enjoyed a $75.00 meal (tax, tip,
dessert and wine included) --which we could never have afforded on my pay as a news person
Major news events: I covered the 1969 Labor Day Weekend riots in Hartford...The
station issued gas masks, Motorola two-way radios and military-looking brown shirts to
news people...Our radio transmissions were all recorded at the station and evaluated by
management personnel before being broadcast...At one point, at the intersection of Main
& Beldon Streets, taking cover in a ring of police cars, I was hit in the neck by a
rock thrown by an unseen person...My account of the incident was aired, scaring my wife
who was listening...She called the station and was told, "He’s okay...that was a
tape." ...I was producer of the Saturday 6 & 11 p.m. tv newscasts in July 1969 on
the day we learned that Sen. Edward Kennedy had driven his black Oldsmobile off Dykes
Bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, and that a woman had drowned in the accident. I had
already completed the script, and our news reader had already picked it up, but I decided
to change the lead when the story broke at 5:45. The news reader argued vehemently,
"Why bother? It’s only a traffic accident." I stood my ground... When the
first man walked on the moon, I covered the story by going around the Hartford area to
interview folks as they watched on tv. Hartford’s Mayor Ann Uccello (first female
mayor of an American capital city) was among the people who were in my tv and radio
reports, as were children and staffers at Camp Mar-Lin on Rainbow Lake in Windsor, where I
had been a counselor several years earlier.
What I learned quickly at WTIC: Reliability means you get to work on time even if
you have to wear snowshoes (which someone had once done)...A second of "dead
air" was a "discrepancy" because WTIC air time was so valuable...Check
pronunciations of names, never just assume a pronunciation...Bob Steele was always right
(or is that, correct?)...News supervisors Tom Eaton, Paul Kuntz and Larrye deBear (yes,
that is how he spelled it) were almost always right...If you put fifteen audio
"actualities" in your 15-minute radio newscasts, some of the news readers would
think that you don’t like them while others would thank you for making their
newscasts so interesting (Al Terzi liked my 15-cut newscasts)...The same thing for the tv
side...if you put eight films in a 15-minute newscast (in those days, the weather was five
minutes, sports had ten and the news, fifteen).
The end: In January 1970, I turned in my two-weeks’ notice, explaining that
Triangle Publications, Inc., was hiring me back for their New Haven stations,
WNHC-AM-FM-TV (I had worked for them at WFIL-AM-FM-TV in Philadelphia before going to
WTIC). Tom Eaton told me, "Be sure you know what you are doing, because we won’t
ever hire you back." I said I realized that, but was going because of an opportunity
to be a part of something new, "Action News." I was immediately prohibited from
doing any reports on the air during my final two weeks at WTIC. I departed in late January
1970, older, wiser, and eternally grateful that I had been a part of a great tradition in
broadcasting, even if only for less than nine months.J Back
Dave Wilkinson: It was about 1962.
Folk music was so popular. "TIC jumped on board. Ross Miller had recently been named
Assistant Program Manager in anticipation of taking over full program responsibilities
when Bernard Mullins retired in the next year. Ross asked me to be the producer for
"Hootenanny Roadshow" which was to be a live program originating every Saturday
night, live from a different high school, college, or other location in Connecticut or
My job was to formulate the show, find the talent, get the locations, and make
arrangements for whatever else needed to be done.
Brad Davis was selected to host the show and Bill Marks was the on-scene producer.
Ted Brassard was engineer for a majority of the shows. In its two or three year run,
"Hootenanny Roadshow" found and featured hundreds of budding musical talents. We
paid the talent a whopping $35 per show.
On one memorable occasion, we were setting up a show at the sub base in New London.
Bob Nelson, who was then hosting the afternoon music show, offered to contact a couple of
girls he knew in New York City who might be interested in coming up for a show. Based on
his recommendation, we booked them and agreed to go "over scale" and pay them a
total of $75 . That night the sailors went wild when Carlie and Lucie Simon – The
Simon Sisters – took the stage. Their careers seem to have made out pretty well after
A family group auditioned for "Hootenanny Roadshow" at the beginning.
They were known as "The Hoagland Family Singers." They performed on many shows
and we came to know them well. It really caught us by surprise, however, when Dick
Hoagland, the oldest and still in his middle years of high school, asked if ‘TIC
would be interested in doing a live broadcast of the moment when the first space satellite
would pass Mars. Sure, kid!
Well, he went on, if we were interested, he’d get a laser set-up from friends
at Perkin-Elmer They would arrange for us to broadcast from the Springfield Museum of
Science, arrange for a live line from the mission’s control center in California, and
have his friend, Isaac Asimov, come to Springfield to co-host.
The laser? We would broadcast the show from the museum using the laser to carry the
signal to a receiver at the Channel 22 transmitter site atop a mountain west of the
Connecticut River, then we could get it to Hartford via lines.
We did it! Dick Bertel hosted, Bill Marks was on-site producer. With the exception
of some laser problems created by heat convection early in the show, it worked and
‘TIC was the first commercial radio station to broadcast over a laser beam. Years
before, the station had been the first to broadcast from a flying airplane.
‘TIC was a center for innovation and service, even if we all did not recognize
it at the time.
Shortly after Bernard Mullins retired as Vice President for Programming in 1963,
Ross Miller "moved upstairs." I was selected to be Assistant Program Manager and
to take his office on the third floor of Broadcast House. I moved in on a Monday in
November, 1963. Four days later, while Bill Hennessey and Floyd Richards were hosting
"Mikeline", talking to Roz Fishman of West Hartford, a regular caller, I heard
Dick O’Brien yell from the newsroom that President Kennedy had be shot in Dallas.
Things happened fast after that.
"Mikeline" became a news program with bulletins read as fast as they
cleared the printers. Everybody jumped in to see what they could do. We went to NBC radio
for their coverage, our news and announcing staff sought out local and state leaders and
all of our regularly scheduled programming was dropped for days.
One of the most memorable things about this time of tragedy was how everyone showed
their professionalism. As the news feeds began to slow, it became evident that we needed
to radically alter our program schedule. No commercials, no personality shows, no DJ
shows. Into the music library came Ethel Broitman who worked part-time as an FM classical
music announcer. With her, her husband, Mike, a member of the Hartt College faculty and
manager of The Hartford Symphony. They started to work programming classical music --
hours of classical music. They worked all night and into the next day and when WTIC Radio
ended its uninterrupted news programming, it played classical music until after President
Kennedy had been buried.
Throughout that period, from shortly after the shooting, stations throughout
southern New England called asked for permission to re-broadcast the "TIC signal.
They either did not know what to do or did not have the resources. So, throughout southern
New England, ‘TIC was heard on stations in nearly every market. And, until the time
when the station switched formats, the work of Ethel and Mike Broitman was kept handy as
an instant resource should the need ever arise again.
11/5/01 This week, I’m
starting the second week of an intensive training program working with 11 radio station
managers from Indonesia. During the summer, we did a three-week training program with 10
Indonesian radio journalists. It is a great experience for all. As trainers and mentors,
we are learning about the problems broadcasters face in emerging democracies. It is a real
challenge. One manager related how, doing his station’s first ever newscast in 1998,
troops came in and arrested him on the air. J Back
Doug Webster: I came to WTIC from Syracuse in 1967....three years out of Syracuse
University working at WHEN in Syracuse. My door to the
job was Arnold Dean who had worked at WHEN but had Gone to Hartford before me. My wife
Mary and I were on a New England vacation and stopped in Hartford. Arnold suggested I take
the WTIC audition.
Ah, the WTIC audition...pronunciation, pronunciation, pronunciation and lots of
goodies that I am sure snared many who had dreams of a career in broadcasting. Modest
Moussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsikov (the subject of an old joke among announcers about the time
someone announced that they were about to play something written by Rimsky AND Korsikov).
Fortunately my youth had involved a LOT of listening to radio and lots of reading, so I
managed to get through it without too much damage.
WTIC in the latter part of the 60s was an anachronism in broadcasting...a last
vestige of another era, supported by the then boundless resources of the Travelers
Insurance Company, and a station perfectly attuned to the conservative New England
traditions of the world's Insurance capital.
Nothing in Syracuse had prepared me for being
part of an announcing staff so large and diversified. There were literally times on the
hour when one announcer would read the station's call letters, another would introduce the
newscast and the announcer, and a third would actually deliver the news.
Virtually everything was done live and announcers had assignments in AM and FM
radio and in TV. They did in-studio work and remotes covering everything from semi-pro
football to the Yale-Harvard regatta to political events. It was an incredible training
ground and a chance to work with some real veterans.
WTIC's payment structure was born of its love-hate relationship with AFTRA
(American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, Boston Chapter). Periodically, the
union would negotiate with management and after a few polite rounds of give and take a
settlement would be reached and life would move on.
Under the program in place, announcers received a base salary for their work, but
could also earn additional fees for preparing and delivering programs such as sports,
entertainment or features. As prices rose, the station began taking steps to assure that
fee shows often fell outside the normal eight hour work schedule and the results,
particularly for those of us on the low end of the seniority scale could be VERY long
hours. I was often leaving home at 5 in the morning to prepare and deliver weekend ski
condition reports and sports, then would work an eight hour shift concluding with a news
or sportscast around the 6 o'clock hour and then have to be back to prepare and deliver 11
PM sports programs for both radio and television.
But the breadth of experience was incredible:
In FM, most of the music was classical. For me, the worst assignment was operas,
many would go on for several hours.
Periodically, we would deliver the plot for the next act. I don't know if you have
ever READ the plot of a typical opera but it is more convoluted than six Dickens novels
combined, with hidden identities, disguises, unrequited loves, deep passions and often a
suicide or death by duel. How anyone listening could keep track of all the characters and
the plot turns during a reading of the plot scenario was beyond me, but we did our best
and then played the next record.
TV: Hot lights were something you remembered. Very hot quartz Lamps, so expensive
that the crew was under instructions to turn them off just as soon as that portion of the
set was not in use. In fact one night, when I was doing sports, someone inadvertently
turned off the lights on that set just as the director was coming out of the commercial
break and about to turn on my camera. The camera did come up...to a dark screen and a loud
whisper from the floor director, broadcast across New England and saying....NO...THE
To make things even more interesting, at the time he was doing this, he had just
brought his hand down to point it at me and let me know I was on and do so with a motion
so sharp that the pencil in his hand flew right by my ear.
I also vividly remember a public affairs program I was assigned to host at the last
moment...a half hour interview with a woman who was an expert in handwriting analysis. She
and I sat down before the show and chatted about her skills and she proved a very
interesting subject....until the camera went on. She suddenly went rigid and began
answering every question I asked in sentences of fewer than five words. By about the 10
minute mark, I had pretty much exhausted everything I could think of to ask her and the
last 20 were an exercise in verbal tap dancing so prolonged that I still break out in a
sweat thinking about it.
In those days, announcers appearing on TV had to use a very heavy Max Factor
makeup, daubed on with a damp sponge. It made you look a somewhat jaundiced orange hue,
but on the camera your complexion never looked better. One weekend, I was assigned to host
a whole series of roughly 10-minute TV segments in which local political candidates could
have time to air their positions.
Rather than take the makeup off and put it on time after time, I just left it on
throughout the day. At that point, I had enough time to go home for dinner, so my wife
picked me up at the station and we headed back to Glastonbury. I had to come back again to
do late evening TV sports, so I kept the makeup in place. Naturally, this was the time our
car decided to begin coughing and gasping and forced us to leave Route 2 and pull into a
gas station in the industrial section of East Hartford and call AAA. The looks I received
when I walked into the station, covered in heavy pancake makeup were rather interesting.
I also remember with fondness, the late night shifts sitting in the Television
announcing booth just off the control room. Once the news was over, the standard fare,
particularly on weekends, was movies...often two of them and that meant being on the job
until 1 or 2 in the morning.
Late night announcing was the classic hours of boredom punctuated by a few seconds
of work. But you had to be ready and deliver station ID announcements, commercial
voiceovers and movie credits with WTIC style.
It was common knowledge that management recorded EVERYTHING that went out over the
air and when something went wrong, you would hear about it.
Announcer Bob Ellsworth found himself hauled on the carpet after it was discovered
that he was adding the names of personal friends to the credits at the end of late night
movies. When asked what he thought he was doing he replied in true candor, "I was
Of course, engineers made the recordings, using slow-speed documentor tapes and it
was standard practice to lift the best of the boo-boos from the master to a secretly
stored collection of bloopers. I take great pride in having helped produce what became a
treasured archive of these goodies which we entitled "An announcer's Welcome to
RADIO: With its origins in radio, this was the heart of WTIC in so many ways.
Announcers like Bob Steele and Bruce Kern and Ed Anderson and Floyd Richards had been part
of the community and the 'TIC family for years. My first interview was with Ross Miller, a
kind and gentle man who was something of a mentor to me as a young new member of the
Radio announcing at WTIC was unlike anywhere else. There was a professional
standard impressed upon you when you joined the staff -- correct pronunciation, smooth
delivery, sound preparation. One of the wonders of radio was that, unlike television,
listeners carried a vision in their own minds of what you looked like.
I well remember as a child, finally seeing a picture of Arthur Godfrey in a
magazine advertisement and saying to myself....that isn't anything like I pictured him. I
had much the same experience at WTIC when the station threw an open house sometime in the
late 60s to mark a major anniversary and invited the community to come to the station and
meet the staff. I was standing in the lobby shaking hands with people when a woman walked
up to me (at that time I was about 26 years old) and telling me, "I always pictured
you as about 50, overweight and balding."
One of the fond memories I have of radio was a stint as color announcer with Arnold
Dean covering the local semi-pro team, the Hartford Knights who played home games at
Dillon Stadium and away games from New Haven to Roanoke. One night we covered a game at
Roanoke and one of the Knight's players, a very diminutive but incredibly speedy and
nimble running back whose name I have since forgotten, caught a punt deep in his own
territory and made one of the most incredible broken field runs I have ever seen. The mood
of the team after that away victory was further bolstered by large quantities of beer
which were put on the plane (a Mohawk – remember them – charter) in large trash
cans filled with ice and rapidly depleted by the happy victors.
I love flying and was able to make my way forward to the cockpit (you could do that
in those days) and sit behind the pilots as we flew north back to Hartford. It was an
incredibly clear night with a stunning view of New York City and Long Island and so clear
that you could see the runway lights at Bradley from the southern shore of Connecticut. We
began a long and very gradual descent to the airport in the early morning hours when one
of the stewardesses stuck her head in the cockpit and told the pilots...."when you
land, would you please not put on the thrust reversers....there's a big pile of trash and
bottles in the back and it will fall over if you decelerate too fast. She left, and the
pilot turned to the co-pilot and ruefully shook his head as he said, "Only on
Mohawk....." We landed gently.
I left WTIC in 1972 to take a position at Connecticut Public
Television and from
there moved into politics, university development, running my own
public relations firm with clients from California to Germany, and now
as Director of Public Relations for the California Maritime Academy,
but over the years I have
never lost my love of broadcasting and the people in it. The
broadcasting community is a
surprisingly small one and no matter where I travel or live, I commonly
run into someone
who knows a mutual acquaintance from the field. And I still count many
of my work
colleagues as friends across the miles. J Back