Interview with E. D. "Ted" Covington (August 20, 1974)

Material Information

Interview with E. D. "Ted" Covington (August 20, 1974)
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
WRUF ( Radio station : Gainesville, Fla.)
Ted Burrow Tapes
Radio stations -- Florida


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'WRUF' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 1

B: Do you mind if I move this chair over here?

C: Not a bit in the world. I might go to sleep, just finished lunch.

B: This is time for a nap isn't it?

C: Oh, yeah, I usually don't eat.

B: I hope I don't go to sleep on my way back to Gainesville, it's that

kind of a day out there. I had a good talk this morning with, uh,

Duane McConnel and uh, I'm trying to catch up with as many people

as I can but I know I could literally spend years just tracking

down everybody. So, uh, basically here's what I'm trying to do.

I want to get a master's degree, a master's thesis out of the way

by December. I've already been collecting data since, oh, back

around February. Uh, the preliminary stages were the documents

and that sort of thing. I'm trying to wrap up the personal things


C: This is in the department of communications. T ic

B: Right. I'm working, well, Ken Christiansn is my thesis chairman.

You know him don't you?

C: Yeah.

B: Okay. Ken Small's given me a lot of cooperation. Uh, next week I've

got to interview just about everybody in the place up at WRUF. And uh,
so as you can see, it's, uh, it's quite a long process. But have
some questions I would like to ask you. Uh, you are in the card file

up there. They have a card file, it's uh...

C: With my fingerprints?

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 2

B: Well I don't about fingerprints, but the card files about a foot

and a half long and it's got thousands of cards in it, but I still

don't think it's 100% complete. Uh, at any rate, let me check some

information with you. From the card file it looks like you spent

two tours of duty at the station.

C: Right.

B: Uh, let's see if this is accurate, June 1940 to around Augu st the 1st

of 1941. Is that what you recall?

C: Nr, let's see now. I left in '42.

B: Okay, well the card file has been wrong before.

C: Well, it would have been in June of '42, when I left.

B: Okay, fine.

C: And I worked until, I went into the service in June of '42. I

received my R.O.T.C. commission in June of '42. And that's when

I left, I, I wasn't graduated at that time. That's the reason I had

two tours, I had to come back.

B: Oh well, I did about the same thing. I came back after four years

in the army. So a lot of people have done the same.

C: I started in '40, sometime, whenever it was, I don't remember.

B: Well the card file said June.

C: Of '40?

B: Yeah. Now those are payroll dates, apparently. I have notices that

a lot of people started working for free before they went on the


WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 3

C: Not me, not me.

B: Okay, you were mercenary.

C: I was mercenary, I made thirty dollars a month. Or whatever it


B: Yeah, that was about the going rate. And then again from around...

C: I had to be mercenary because I was working my way through school.

B: Yeah, uh huh.

C: So when I uh, I was working at the library, and also hopping tables.

Then when I got this job, it was such a good job at $30 a month,

that I quit the other two jobs.

B: Uh hum, you sound like Red Barber.

C: (Chuckle).

B: You know when he went to work at the station he quit everything


C: Yeah, I wasn't far behind him.

B: Yeah, apparently this was considered good work...

C: Oh it was a good job.

B: ...if you could get it.

C: Oh, yeah, it was a real, top jobs on the campus, all that prestige.

B: What were the...

C: All that glamour.

B: Yeah, being a local celebrity.

C: W,'_ k all the other fellers.

B: How did you manage to get the job, what were the circumstances?

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 4

C: I can remember that very clearly. Uh, as I say, I was work, had

to work, I was hopping tables at the old Varsity Grill which is

no longer there and uh...

B: Was that across University Avenue from the campus on the north side?

C: Yeah, well, you know were the SAE house used to be?

B: Okay, yeah, on the corner.

C: Catty-cornered, catty-corneredf, o-vAa-re-.

B: Right, a eight, I know where it used to be.

C: Varsity Grill. And uh, that was a good job too cause the boys were

such good tippers...

B; Yeah.

C: those days. Uh, and I was taking a speech course under Lester

Hale, he at that time, I can't remember the name of the course,

interpretive literature or something, but at any rate it was speech

course under him. And he arranged for,as part of our training to

go to the radio station and do some recording just strictly for, uh,

I guess more really than classroom critique, that actually put these,

uh, some of these things on the air, why I don't know. We, so we'd

read a fifteen minute commentary on, you know like, uh, science in

the news, I believe that's the thing I read. Science in the news,

horrendous with all these big scientific names, I didn't know anything

about science. At any rate we read that thing and then he critiqued

it and they ran on the air as part of their so-called public service

stuff. And as result of that, I think they got, something happened

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 5

they were short a guy, and Major Garland Powell who was the station

director at that time called me up or sent for me or something, and

asked me if I wanted a job. I said how much does it pay, he said

"'$30 a month." And I said yes sir.

B: Seems he got several guys that way. He'd hear them in some type

of situation at t e station.

C: Well, there were, there was a constant flow of students through

there doing this kind of thing. In all areas, I guess all the

announcers, well there were all, uh, all of the announcers there,

in fact the whole staff, the whole staff were students. Uh, even

the key, except I guess at that time, Garland Powell was the only,

only employee of the station who was not a student. There were a
wko W\a be-v^cr.-0ou0
couple of graduate students, I think Al Flannigan was our program


B: Um hum.

C: And I think maybe he was in graduate school or something, but uh,

they were all students, they whole thing was manned by students.

The engineers, script writers...

B; No kidding?

C: Everything.

B: Even, uh, let's see was there a sort of a business manager of any

kind who would maybe assist the Major?

C: We were non-commercial at that time.

B: Oh okay, that's right.

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 6

C: Didn't have any commercials. That could have been, but I don't

recall it, I'm pretty sure that the entire staff was, was students.

B: Now, uh, what were your general duties and working hours, was it

kind of a flexible thing?

C: No, we had shifts, I remember my first shift of course was sign


B: What time did you sign on then?

C: It was very early, I don't recall, six- 'cleek I guess, or five, maybe

f ive-thiry .

B: You went basically sunrise to sunset?

C: Yes, yes that's right. And uh, so I believe, or was it, did we...

B: Yeah, as I recall it,...

C: ...were we daytime then?

B: ...yeah, right, protecting KOA in Denver.

C: Well then I, we signed on at sunup. But that meant, boy I can tell

some stories about that sign on shift.

B: I imagine I used to work sign on too.

C: Not the way it was then. The station was down in the cow pasture

where it eventually got to be the police, I don't know whether it

still is or not.

B: It is.

C: But that was way out in the woods. There wasn't anything there. And

it was a dirt road leading down to it, no paved road. And nobody had

any automobiles, I didn't. I had a bicycle. And the signion announcer,

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 7

as I say, I guess we, say we sign on at six o'clock. We didn't

have a news machine. So the sign on announcer had to, his respons-

ibility was to get to town, downtown Gainesville. Maybe you've

heard this story.

B: No I haven't.

C: Downtown Gainesville, and go, had a key to the, uh, Gainesville

Sun, which was upstairs in a building there. Go up stairs and let

yourself in before anybody got to work, and they had I think at least

two, maybe three AP news wires, or some news service, I don't remember
which one, I think it was associated press. And they had a, they had
a spare, they had the one they use and then they had a spare in case
one machine went, they'd have copy. So we had to carefully look at

the main machine and be sure that it was aight. And if it was

a Right and wasn't garbled then we picked up all the copy from the

night before from that extra machine, and then took it back to the

station, which meant riding the bicycle. I lived on the campus

somewhere, I can't remember where I was living at that time, probably

in a, either in the dorms or in a rooming house. But at any rate

I had to ride the bicycle all the way to town which was...

B: It's got to be a couple miles easily.

C: ...three miles probably. And then all the way back and then, and

then, uh, fortunately that ride was downhill to the station down

that dirt road. And then open the station and prepare, or whatever

had to be done, and sign on, and edit all that news. I believe we

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 8

signed on with a news cast, five or fifteen minute newscast, or

something. We had a lot of fifteen minute newscasts in those

days, about one every hour if I remember correctly, and then maybe

a five minute news cast on the half hour. But at any rate we had

to do that editing and all, the whole thing. And then that news

that we picked up would last us until, uh, at some point in the

morning, I forget, and then the next news print, or copy, arrived,

uh, Al HendrideB, if you've haven't interviewed Al Hendrieks, you
ought to interview Al.

B: Right, I know Al and I'm going to talk to him too.

C: Well you know we called, you know what we called Al...

B: Huh uh.

C: ...we called him the colonel.

B: (Chuckle)

C: Because Major Powell was a major so we had Al outranked major.

B: Uh huh, I'll have to mention that to him.

C: Yeah, we called him colonel. And if you ask him, if he doesn't

remember, he had a bicycle too, and he was the custodian I guess,

or the maintence engineer or whatever you call him there.
B: Sure.

C: And uh, he was a great guy, I'll tell ya. And uh, quite a golfer too.

And he would, uh, go to town on his bicycle and and pick up the news

and then he would ride out to the station. When he came to work when-

ever it was, he'd bring the news. And many mornings, this, our studios

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 9

were upstairs, and no air conditioning, there was a little landing

out there with some outside steps, little fire e'c type thing.

Many morning me or whoever might have been the sign-on guy would

be standing out there on that landing looking up the road sweating

old colonel out. And he'd come tearing down there, sweat pouring

off of him, and run up those outside steps and hand us all this

big reams of news copy streaming out from behind him, and we'd have

to run in and go one the air with the news without any preparation,

or even, you know, even get, know what was on it.

B: Oh boy, that was cutting it a bit close.

C: Oh yeah. So that's the way signbon went. And I don't, I worked

all the other shifts too from time to time.

B: What about the other programs, uh, did you use to, use a lot of

live local music, or had you gotten pretty much into recorded music

by that time?

C: Oh no, we used quite a bit of it. We used, not a lot, but we used

a lot more live,music than is used now. We didn't have studio band

at that time as such, we had, I used to do the broadcast4fg, an

outfit called the Jubilee Hillbillies, Shorty Shed and the Jubilee

Hillbillies, they later moved to Orlando and became known as the

Hootowls. But uh, they'd work a night dance somewhere, and that's,

they made their, they were professional musicians. And they would

play these square dances and things around the county or the state

into the wee hours of the morning, and then they had a sign-on, I

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 10

6,: a00
mean a show that came on fairly early in the morning, s&x-o-eloek,

or s4ix-thi4rty, or something, quarter hour, half hour I don't remember.

It was live. And they'd come draggin' in there after two or three

hours of sleep with their eyes half closed and play that music.

that time as I remember it, there was only man, it was a five piece

band, there was only man who could read music, and all the rest of

them played just by ear. And I figured, boy those guys really must

love their music to be able to do that.

B: Oh, they'd have to.

C: But they were, Shorty Shed, I guess he's still living in Orlando,

and his cousin, I guess or uncle, or something, Jake Shed, they

were kin. And we had live piano music and some organ music. We

used to do an organ, we used to a show, similar to the

Moon River thing.

B: Um hum.

C: Uh, live. Cause recording facilities weren't too sharp, had to

record on discs, you know. And' uh, whatever the materials made

of it, I can't even remember now, almost a glass I guess, or some...

B: Some sort of, yeah, prior to the good plastics.

C: Yeah right, right. And we, we had to, uh, the material thatwe used

was of course, quite expensive and uh, you could not, once you recorded

on a disc that was it of course. So we did very little recording.

But we used to do a live show. Dan Valentine, if you have,

you maybe, you got him on your list?

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 11

B: I have, I have him on the list, but I haven't talked to him yet.

C: He's in Tampa I understand.

B: Right.

C: And uh, he had a great set of pipes, you know, quite a voice. That's

irrelevant I guess, but anyway, uh, we used to read poetry and

Boots Bernam, she was Boots Bernam at the time, played the organ.

And a great big old cathedral like in the, uh...

B: Was this a pick-up from the auditorium.

C: This was a pick-up from the auditorium, I was just gonna say.

B: Okay.

C: Uh, the big pipe organ in the auditorium. And we used to do that.

B: So they line must have been kept up for at least, uh, gee a couple

of decades, because I remember talking to Ralph N#terts, uh, a

couple of weeks ago over in Jacksonville. We talked about a pick-up

and that would have been 1928 and 29, something like that, uh...

C: Yeah, they use that organ a lot you see, because the only we had

at the studio was a little old, well I think it was probably a baby

grand piano.

B: Yeah, but that organ would...

C: It stayed out of tune all the time cause all those hillbillies were

banging on it. But uh, yeah, I think they used the organ. That, that

program, I can't remember the name of it. U k,*.

B: Maybe I'll stumble on it if I run into some of the old programs.

C: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That program had been on the air for a long, long

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 12

time the same program.

B: Uh, did you run any drama, or anything like that.

C: Yeah, yeah, yeah. As a matter of fact, uh, Dan Valentine, the

guy I was telling you about I believe wrote as, maybe a, maybe a
P /
school project or something, but at any rate, he either wrote it

or collaborated with somebody on it and wrote a script that I

recall it be recorded, called Florida Under Five Flags.

B: Oh, I remember Lya-Mosjby remarked about that.

C: Yeah, he had something to do with it.

B: He might have been involved with it, yeah.

C: He produced it or something. Yeah, right.

B: Based on Professor Patrick's writings.

C: I think so, I guess it was an adaptation of, yeah. And we did that,

It was a long series of things, it was you know, the old radio, with

sound effects and everything done. Although we recorded, I mean

the sound effects were live and this was kind of... And we had an

old, well yes I guess we did have a few recorded sound effects table

there. Yeah we did do that, and quite a few. You see at that time

the station being non-commercial was really oriented, 10% it's main

purpose for being was for public service. And uh, as an outlets

the voice of the University of Florida. Uh, not itts main purpose

I judge wasn't necessarily training of personell, it just, that just

happened that way.

B: Unless the major felt it should be that...

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 13

C: Well I think he did, I think he was quite dedicated to that,

and very very proud of his boys, as he spoke of them, because

they had made. Uh, I remember that, there were some real, uh,

famous radio personalities have come out of our... as a matter

of fact I have to say without question that during those days, not

necessarily when I was there, but the time I was in school, back

in those days when it was run by, when it was non-commercial and

it was operated almost entirely by students, I believe that I can

state that they had the best staff of any radio station that I

have ever heard before or since, as in total staff. Of course

it's a different operation these days, requires a different kind

of guy. My way of, you know, it, and they, it just had some, and

the training was just fantastic.

B: I can imagine, uh, let me ask you this, I've heard, uh, people mention

that there was a place, um, some sleeping quarters in the station

where some announcers used to stay.

C: Right.

B: Uh, do you remember anything about that?

C: Yeah, there was a little room down behind the transmitter was down-

stairs on the first floor.

B: Um hum, okay.

C: Thel Major's office was a little, was a little, uh, reception room

which had a couple desks in it. And there was a fellow named John

Berry, names are coming back to me. Now John Berry was the business

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 14

manager. There you go, you said did he have a business manager?

John Berry was the business manager while he was a student. But

now that you mention it after he was graduated, he stayed on and

was full time business manager, and I believe it was right about

that time we started commercial.

B: Okay.

C: I think this is it.

B: Yeah, because it was in 1939 that the legislature I believe shut

down some of the funding and that would have forced...

C: Well, I don't know when we went commercial.

B: ...forced the station to get into some commercial activity.

C: Do you know, do you have the date when we went commercial?

B: Well, let's see, it says 1939 here, but that, that doesn't necessarily

mean that there would becommercial messages appearing all around

the clock, you know.

C: I don't remember, I don't know. I don't think we had...

B: They may have been so sparse that it would be tough to remember

some of them.

C: Yeah, I don't, I don't remember. And I can't remember whether

John Berry was there before, see I, I left in '42 and came back in

'46, '45 I guess.

B: Yeah, okay.

C: So I can't remember whether John was there before or after. I think

John might have been there after, and we were commercial then, some.

WRUF 7A Side One
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B: And did he stay in that room?

C: His office was in the out in the reception room.

B: But now about the sleeping quarters, where they.,,

C: Yeah, right, down, and then there was a studio off to the side

and then there was a, I believe there was a little announcers booth

or news studio, maybe. At any rate, but the announcers booth and

the turntable, where we do all the news and everything, and most

of the announcing was upstairs, along with a, a then off, a little

room up in the loft was the library, had all the records,

it took a tremendous amount of room because they had these big


B: I'll bet.

C: And the news machine, after we got it, after the war, was up there.

But this sleeping quarters was a little room behind the, uh, trans-

mitter, I mean the control board, where the engineer sat. Engineer

couldn't see the announcer, we had to work with a system of buzzers

or intercoms, I think. Or yell up the stairway.

B: Well that represented a change because in the very earliest days,

the announcers were on the bottom floor, and the top floor was

simply an attic that was later remodeled a bit.

C: Could have been, could have been when they added the studio or some-


B: There was no P.L. or anything between them, no phone circuit or

anything, I guess that could, that you all could talk on.

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 16

C: I don't think there was. We had to work out some sort of a system

for cueing and what not. There was a little room back here as I

remember had a double decker bunk in it.

B: Yeah.

C: And I belive, the guy, you see in those days being all students,

money was something, and it was quite a financial assistance to

be able to stay there and not have to pay room anywhere. Uh, cooking

became sort of a problem, we cooked on hotplates and stuff, but

of course none of us ate a whole lot in those days anyway. But, uh,

as I remember there was a, the chief engineer usually, almost had

to stay there because he was the trouble shooter. And the chief

engineer and then one of the announcers. Either, whoever, whoever

had seniority that elected to stay there, you know. I never did

stay there.

B:. Speaking of people eating and sleeping there once and a while, uh,

wasn't it sort of almost like a club, people would go back even in

their off duty hours, play cards, and sip a beer in the evening,

do you remember?

C: Oh, we'd sip more than one beer. Yeah, especially a fellow named

Bob Anderson, and if you haven't, you won't get to interview him I

guess, he's in California. He's a...

B: At least not in person.

C: Well it'd be worth a few buck to put in a call to him. Uh, his older

brother Orville Anderson had been...

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 17

B: Oh, there's a name I remember.

C: of the outstanding announcers. He's also out in California.

Orville, probably one of the best radio announcers that ever lived.

Bob-was quite an actor, he makes his living now as an actor on primarily
movies I guess. I see him once and while on a tam show.

B: Uh hum, I might try to track them down.

C: Bob would bring a keg of beer down there, and we'd go out in the

pasture in the back. Yeah, it was like a fraternity, sort of. We

were very close, very, very, close.

B: Yeah, I remember Bob Leach saying a few things to that effect, you

know, play some cards, and that sort of thing in the evening. Of

course you were off the air then so there was nothing to disturb

in the way of a program.

C: That's right, fortunately.

B: Yeah, right.

C: We had some pretty good parties down there.

B: Well how did the local citizens, uh, you know think of the station

and it's people. We were joking, I guess, after we first sat down

here about being a local celebrity, Was it, was that the way it was?

C; Uh, well, it's difficult to say because being students, uh, and we

were pretty well, the student body and the university itself was

very isolated from the, from the community at that time. It's not

like it is now. It wasn't so big, and we didn't have a whole lot of

contact with the people. We'd try to, cause you see we were all boys

WRUF 7A Side One
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school, and every time we came to town they looked at us very, with

much suspect because they knew we were after their daughters, which

was true. (Chuckle).

B: (Chuckle).

C: And uh, the high school boys, for instance, you see there weren't

any gals, so the college boys quite often, quite a few would try

to would date the high school girls, +ke olcde oes,

B: That didn't make you all very popular with the high school guys.

C: No, we weren't, we weren't, it was a, it was a little friction along

those lines. Merchants of course were fairly, were reasonably glad

to see us, although we didn't have any money to spend. I can't, I

don't know, when I said prestige job, that was on campus. We were

pretty much a campus station. Now' the people in town listened to us

because there were no other...

B: Yeah, the signal reached out.

C: Yeah, and there were no other stations to listen to. And we put on

some exceptional fine programs. Really we played, uh, you asked about

programming, I remember when, my first duty, my first announcing duty

before they gave me a shift when they just started working me in,

and I may have for a work or two before you probably did, maybe even
A /-
a month till I could prove that, you know, I could cut it. My first

assignment was to write, produce, uh, a recorded program called an

hour with the masters. It was either an hour or an hour and a half

program, classical music. And you had to do all the research. And

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 19

you couldn't get all the narration off the labels of the record, or

the jackets, you know. You could get a lot of it, but they'd get

on you. Al Flannigan would just give you a fit if he thought you
c P
were copying the jacket label, you know, in giving the little exerts.

You had to change it around, beef it up, or go to the library and

get some stuff about the composer and the work. We had some excellent


B: Um, yeah, that seems to have been a series of programs that lasted

for years.

C: Oh yes, that and the uh, Florida Farm Hour.

B: That's right, yeah, that was one of the first programs on the air.

C: TweIve- uluck noon.

B: Was it always at twelve when you worked there?
I-,Ou 12-'.0ao i0 S' H4.'5
C: Twelve-e 'le k. Twelve to twelve L--hy, or twel-veE frty. ive. I
12:0oo 0 !
guess twaove to eae.

B: Who did the voice on that? Was that uh...

C: Different ones.

B: Okay.

C: You mean the announcer?

B: Yeah.

C: Whoever happened, well no, it was a special assignment, and it was

quite a thing to be assigned to do that show. This was one of the

top shows for some reason. Uh, first place it required some savy

because there was a lot switching and carrying on, and we didn't have

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 20

all the techni s that they have today. And had a remote

microphones up at the agricultural building. And they had, they

used to bring Uncle Jeff, Uncle Jeff, what in the world was the

man's last name? Quite a colorful little character. And I did

a broadcast with him...

B: His name was J. Francis Cooper, it comes to me.

C: J. Francis Copper was another one like that.

B: Right.

C: But Uncle Jeff was somebody else, we always used to call him

Uncle Jeff. He, I did the broadcast with him for several years,

andI have yet to ever see him, you know. But you felt like you

knew him.

B: You just throw a switch and there he was.

C: Yeah, and he'd be there, he was quite a guy.

B: Uh, talking about programs; uh, well I know you do sports now, what

about back then. What was your first involvement with sports at


C: Well, uh, my first, uh, I can't remember whether we had a sports show,

I'm sure we did, I'm sure we did, and I'm sure Otis did it.

B: You mean a report, that sort of thing?

C: Yeah, yeah, fifteen minute.

B: Scores and what-have-you?

C: Yeah, I'm sure, well of course we did scores and stuff as we could

get them. Otis was there, Otis had preceded me, Otis had

WRUF 7A Side One
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workI guess either a year or two before I did, although we were

in the same class. But he just, he had this ambition about being

a sports caster, and I had no ambitions about being a broadcaster,

just happened to accidentally be. Uh, in 1940? I guess, or '417

'41, I don't recall, but at any rate, I guess it must have been the

tail end of '40. The '40-'41 football season and the '41-'42 season7

/or some reason I wound up doing the color for Otis, and it's been

that way ever since. You know, whoever was doing it, and I don't

even remember who was doing it before me, was graduated or something.

And so they asked me if I wanted to try it, and I said yeah.

B: Kind of a fluke and...

C: Well yeah.

B: ...decided you liked it.

C: Yeah, I suppose, you know, I always, have always enjoyed sports.

B: Uh, have you missed any time since then. Uh...
C: Florida football?
B: Yeah.

C: Oh yeah, I missed three years, either three or four years, four seasons

I guess when I was in service. Then I came back and went back to

school for a couple of seasons, did a couple of seasons, then I

left. Then I missed, oh, probably two or three or four seasons

then. Then they asked me to come back. And uh, no I missed more

than that. I don't know I missed five or six, maybe seven years or

something in there. After I, I missed three years during the war,

WRUF 7A Side One
bd Page 22

three or four, back did a couple of years, missed six, seven years,

something. Then they called me and asked me if I'd like to try it

again. I said why not, so...

B: But you've been on those games more often than you've been off those


C: Oh yeah, since 1940, which is thirty-four years, I've missed probably

twelve years. You know, I guess, Otis has missed fewer than that.

B: That's right, yeah. He can probably count the games he's missed on

the fingers of one hand.

C: He missed, uh, I think Otis maybe missed four seasons, maybe.

B: I haven't done a formal interview with Otis yet, but I will as soon

as I get back.

C: You'll find that very interesting because Otis has a memory like

an elephant.

B: That's right.

C: He can remember everything. But he's been in touch all these years.

See, he's always been in it, ever since he's been there, ever since.

So he can really, he'll be a wealth of information.

B: I could probably sit for a solid week with Otis...

C: Oh yeah.

B: ...and he'd never say the same thing twice. I've known Otis since

around '64 when I first started announcing up there as an undergraduate.

Let me just check this and see howwe're doing on the, uh... Um I think

what I better do is turn this over, I've got a couple more questions

WRUF 7A Side One
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to ask you before I take off back for, uh, Gainesville.


WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 24

C: $3,000 was lost.
B: Among the missing, huh? Oh.

C: Sent that whole package of stuff just like that, duplicate up

there fT 1 iu,4 the whole thing got lost. I don't know,

I don't know what was lost

B: That's amazing. I'd blame the pony express, sometimes it takes

them quite a while to get with it. Um, you mentioned that you

got into it almost by accident, by doing a little speaking over

there more or less as classes. What was your major at the time

you were there?

C: Well, when I was, you mean...

B: When you...

C: What did I get, what kind of degree did I get?

B: Well, at the time you started work at the station, what sort of

a program were you following? I'm trying to get at what your

career interests were.

C: I didn't know, I had no idea. I started out to be, I thought I

was going to be an architect. And I took the freshman introduction

to architecture, something like that. Then I took a look at all

the math it required so I changed, and then I just, uh, I really

didn't know, I had no idea. I could smell the war coming on. And

I was R.O.T.C. which I liked very much, and was, you know, did

reasonably well. So I, uh, I guess I was like a lot of the guys.
For instance, I, in '42 when I got my commission I had had four years,
For instance, I, in '42 when I got my commission I had had four years,

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 25

but I didn't have a degree. I just, uh, I just took courses that

I liked under professors that I liked. That's how I happened to

by in speech, I had had some speech in high school. A little bit

of stuff in high school dramatics, I was interested in it, professors

I liked, so forth. That's about the way, so I had been, as a matter

of fact after I came back after the war I figured well, I want to

try to figure out the quickest way to a degree because I had all

these credits scattered all over. So I found out something at that

time, I didn't know existed, I got a group major in speech, English,

and economics. This was the quickest way to a degree with all the

scattering of courses. I didn't have any particular..,But I got

interested in radio as a career as a result of the work.

B: Yeah, well I know that later you and Duane put a station on the air.

C: Yeah, here in Lakeland.

B: Uh, what do you, what would you say, looking back on it was the most

rewarding aspect of your work at the station? What could you point

to and say, yes that really helped me?

C: Well, I don't...

B: Or satisfied you...

C: That's a tough question. You know, you don't know. Well sometimes

I look back and say if I hadn't gotten interested fool radio business

I'd have gone on to law school. Incidentally, law school was another

one of my interests. And I probably would have gone to law school

had it not been for radio. So then I figured, well, if hadn't gotten

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 26

messed up in this crazy radio business I would have gone to law

school and I'd be a retired millionaire by now.

B: Um hum, right.

C: Instead of talking my brains out. Well I don't know, uh, it's just

a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun, it's fun, it was then. I don't

know, I don't think I could hack it now, they way they have to...

B: I've been getting the impression that today for a lot of people it's

a lot less fun than it was back then.

C: I guess, the way they have to belt it out now and it's extreme

commercial pressures, to make the buck.

B: I'm beginning to think I've missed something.

C: Yeah, that uh, it was just, uh, probably is not true now, but it

was fun. It was just a, it was a, fun, I had to work, all of us

did in those days to get through school, but a fun way to work your

way through school and met a lot of nice great guys that, and then

some friendships that have just, still. I could, if I had a problem

I could call on Bob Anderson, and we got to be very close, in fact
he was the best man at my wedding. Or any of the guys I feel, and

vise versa. It's just a comradeship that we, I don't think you

find anymore. But then there was adversity, just the whole ball game's


B: I guess here in Florida you still have a chance to see a lot of

the people.

C: Not too often, but some. Of course Duane, Duane was an engineer at

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 27


B: Right.

C: And uh, I don't see him very often, but.once and a while I bump

into him. The guy named Phil Gaines, I don't know if you've had

him down.

B: I've heard of him, that name's familiar.

C: Phil is with NB, in Washington doing some NBC work. Dan Daniel

is also in Washington. I see, I see them occasionally when they

come down through here they usually call me, look me up, which is

kind of unusual. And when I go up there, I-'ll give them a buzz,

etc. It's different because we haven't been in close touch.

B: Ur, thinking back there must have been a lot of humorous situations,

maybe some frustrating, even embarrassing situations. Maybe breaking

up on the airor-something like that. Uh, what can you remember?

C: Well, yeah...

B: Some of these crazy things that happened.

C: Well, the first place one of the, one of the toughest situations I've

ever, incidentally you asked what, I believe that if you, anybody who

went through an announcing at WRUF in those days could talk his way

out of anything, just about today, or anytime after that. But one of

the toughest things I ever had to do is to work a joint shift, and we

had two guys on at certain times, especially when the news was on.

And during the middle of the day only one poor guy in there, early

morning, you know, waiting for Al to bring the news down the hill

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 28

but, uh, was working with Dan Valentine. Dan had a beautiful set

of pipes, a great voice. Uh, but he couldn't read, the reason he

couldn't read is because he couldn't spell. He could look at the

written word and have no idea what it meant, he wasn't dumb, he

just couldn't spell. And the war was just beginning, we were just

beginning to get involved in the war. The war was just getting into

the news. And some of those, some of those names over in Europe

were something else. And to work with Dan and have him try to read

news casts, usually reading it cold, you know, without, or even if

it wasn't cold, it didn't have the phonetic spelling in those days

because it was a newsprint, a newspaper...

B: That's right coming from the paper...

C: ...rather than radio, yeah, he didn't have any, any help. So to sit

there and work with Dan and have him read some of the stuff, and he
could read five minutes and it would sound like music but you wouldn't

have the foggiest notion of what was being said.

B: I'll bet he could ad lib like crazy.

C: Oh yeah. He ran, in fact one of the things he did when he left RUF,

he went out to Dallas worked for WFAA, and I never saw the show but

I can imagine how good he would be. He ran an audience participation

show. Kind of a ladies be seated type thing. And I often thought,

I said I bet that guy is unbelievable because he just has that, he's

about eight feet tall, and he has that rapport with people, and ad lib

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 29

like nothing. Just couldn't read. At any rate I remember one time

in, they had a news desk over here and a control board with the

turntables on the other side. And I was the announcer and Dan was

reading the news and he got cracked, he busted up on this stuff. He

got all tangled up, couldn't get untangled. Oh, and the announcer

here at the control board had the control switch for both microphones,

and we got to laughing, he and both got, I got, and I fell out of my

chair, and I was laughing so hard that I was so weak I couldn't reach

the switch to turn it off, both microphones were on in the small room,

and both of us were on the floor just laughing, tears running down

our eyes. That was one thing, and that didn't happened only once,

it happened several, in fact finally, they had to split us up, Dan

and I could not work on a shift together. It got so, you know, how

it gets after a while, it just gets silly. I got to where I could

just look at him, see him walk in a room and I'd start laughing

without anybody saying anything.

B: Oh yeah, right, that's happened to me too.

C: Just remembering. And then we had a fellow named Sewell Brownstein,

he used the name Sewelj Brown on the air, who died. I don't know whether

you know about Sewel or not.

B: That name is also familiar.

C: Sewell had developed cancer I think as a result of some sort of an

injury sustained in the war. We all went off about the same time.

Sewell was a great guy, hard working kid. And uh, I remember when he

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 30

came, he was so eager, and he was I guess like a freshman when

we were seniors, and we were really putting it to him. And I, I...

we would sit there, and this news again you couldn't, you didn't

have time to edit a lot of times, so you'd just be reading these

longs sheets of paper. And I remember one time somebody closed the

door, no air conditioning, went over and closed all the windows, closed

the door and set fire to his, set fire to his news print as he was

reading it, it was going, spilling over on the other side of the

desk, and of course, he'd tear, he'd already read that part, he'd

tear it off and drop it to the floor, and so then the guy would light

the other section, he just kept turning off, and lighting it. He

was on the air reading the newscast and these guys kept setting fire

to his print. So then, I believe that was Otis that kept doing that

to Sewell.

B: I'll have to ask Otis about that.

C: Ask him. He'll remember it. I can't remember whether Otis did it

to ewell or not, but whoever it was, and I can't remember the principals,

but at any rate whoever got his print burned sooner or later he caught

the other guy in there on a newscast. So he came in, and when we

did these recordings, they had these, some kind of a plastic light

material, I forget what it was. Anyway, when you make the recordings

this stuff would spin off like spun glass, just gobs of it and it would

bur slowly, like rubber, it was rubber. And so he came in and put

a whole bunch of newsprint in a metal waste can and all this rubber

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 31

stuff and set it over there just out of this guy's reach and closed

all the windows and all the doors and set that on fire. I believe

this must have been Sewell they were doing this too. The studio door

had a little window, sit there and look in the window and the smoke

got so thick in there. And so here's a guy sitting, has not switch

for his microphone because the switch is over, where they, now this

is a fifteen minute news cast, and the switch was over there were

the other announcer was, so and the other announcer, of course was

out. These things, they used to go on all the time.

B: Watching the poor guy just about choking through the news cast.

C: Yeah, all the time. And you never, there never was a day that went

by, or a shift that by that something like that didn't happen. So

you really had to learn to hack through it.

B: What was the Major's reaction to all this?

C: Oh, he'd die if he knew anything was going on.

B: Oh yeah?

C: Oh yeah, he was very stern, very strict, he'd just, he'd have a


B: Apparently stern and strict though he was, uh, he was pretty popular.

It seems to be uh...

C: Oh yeah, everybody, he was a very, very stern fellow, uh, he uh, in

fact it was, uh, there was kind of a game almost to act like, you know,

act like you were afraid of him. Let him think he was getting by with

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 32

scaring you. I don't, that's not coming out exactly the way I

meant it.

B: I think I know what you mean.

C: Oh yeah, we had a great deal of respect for the old fellow. He, uh,

he had some funny ideas, he was a very, very strict disciplinarian,

he ran a tight ship, there's no question about that. But then, all

the shenanigans we had to be... pull over.

B: Those kind of slipping around behind his back.

C: Oh yeah, yeah, he'd, he'd never condone anything like that.

B: He seemed to have been quite helpful to his boys as they were called.
r^&- be,
Remember possibly advice he would give or help that he would give

at one time or another?

C: Oh no, not specifically except that he was, he was just interested,

very much interested, very concerned. He'd go to bat for you.

B: Do you recall what the, uh, administrative set up was, uh, above

the Major? Was the station under, for example, the president's


C: Yes, that's my understanding. As I recall it, the station was owned

by the university, by the state, but under the, part of the operation

of the university. And I would, as far as I can, I never remember

anybody giving the Major any orders. Now of course I'm sure the did,

but he...

B: Somewhere along the line...

C: ...he wanted to be the boss, you know. As far as we knew he was the

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 33

top dog. And I think he was, I think they left him alone. But

I'm sure that he probably had to answer to the president of the

university. I guess he was probably maybe a dean's level or some-

thing like that.

B: Do you recall that he travelled a good deal on station business

out of town.

C: The Major?

B: Yeah.

C: I don't know.

B: Okay, I just thought I would check on that, because there was a time

during the war that he did, you were probably gone though.

C: I was gone, yeah, yeah, I was gone.

B: Yeah. Uh, now, at the time you were there after the war, uh, what

was your network affiliation, was it still mutual.

C: I can't remember when we went mutual. I don't recall whether, it seems

maybe we went mutual just around, about the time I was leaving, '42.

B: Yeah, it would have been, uh, would have been around then.

C: So I don't really, I don't really remember.

B: Okay...

C: We had uh...

B: ...I ran into some of the old correspondence relating to starting up

the affiliation, but uh...

C: I don't really recall.

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 34

B: Uh, let me ask you about your own career since you left the station.

Uh, you came down here to open WONN with Duane McConnell and there

was another person involved I understand.

C: Bob Taylor.

B: Okay, uh, have you been here in the Lakeland area all the time since,

uh, since you left WRUF.

C: Well we made application for the station here in Lakeland before I

left. But then we became involved in some, in a freezeA that the

Federal Communications Commission established in 1947 or 8, '47 I


B: Yeah, right.

C: So our, our approval of our application was delayed two years. And

I worked in Orlando at that time for WHOO. Uh, they, in fact they,

that was a new station starting up, so I worked there for two years

and then came here. And then we sold WONN in 19... we opened in 1948

I guess, and we sold it in 1957, and I've been in the insurance business


B: Oh, so you got into insurance in '57 then?

C: Well there was a year gap. When we sold out I didn't know what I

wanted to do exactly. I knew that if I wanted to make a living in

radio I would have to go as an employee, or as a staff man or announcer,

or something, I would have to go to a metropolitan market.

B: Uh huh, right.

WRUF 7A Side Two
bd Page 35

C: And I didn't want to do that, I wanted to stay in Lakeland, or

in some, you know, similar town. So I took a year to make up my

mind what I wanted to do. And during that year the most part of

it, about eight months of that year I worked, an ex-WRUF guy,as

a matter of fact, Gene Hill.

B: Now there's a new name.

C: Gene Hill was the manager of WGTO, Cypress Gardens. He had a guy

quit one day, walk out right in the middle of a shift. They had,

they worked split shifts, two hours in the morning, two hours in the

afternoon. He didn't show up for the afternoon shift. So Gene

called, he knew I was not affiliated anymore. So he called me and

I agree to go over for I thought for just two or three weeks until I

could, till he could find somebody, and then I, uh, wound staying

there about eight months. It was a good job, paid real well for

those times, and it allowed me time to study the insurance business,

and take a little time. The more I studied insurance the more I

realized that that's what was for me.

B: I notice you just couldn't get out of broadcasting completely though.

Still you kept up this association with Otis on the network and so


C: Oh yeah, that's a lot of fun and doesn't hurt my business.

B Sure I imagine.

C: 'Cause I can call a total stranger anywhere in the state and tell him

I'd like, I don't fool anybody, I identify myself as being

WRUF 7A Side Two
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and I've got an idea I'd like to discuss with him that might be

of help and somewhere in the back of his mind, my name is ringing

a bell.

B: Oh yeah, even he doesn't remember exactly how he knows you...

C: Yeah, even if he doesn't know, he's thinking maybe is this guy my

wife's cousin, who in the hell is this. Or they guy says, yeah, hell

yeah, do you do the, and I say yeah, so it's a good door opener.

B: Oh yeah it can help with uh...

C: Ice breaker, it helps sure.

B: Give you some benefit.

C: Don't tell Leech I said that.

B: No I won't.

C: Hit him up for a raise.

B: Uh, that, uh, that is about all I have in the way of formal questions

right now, uh, I don't want to take up your whole afternoon because

I know you've got things you have to do.

C: Well this has been enjoyable reminiscing. I've remembered things

that I'd forgot. As a matter of fact we had an old brochure that was

made just before the war with all these guys pictures in it.

B: Okay, yeah, I've got a copy of one.

C: You've probably got one.

B: Yes.

C: And I've got one at home somewhere, but I couldn't, didn't have time

WRUF 7A Side Two
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to dig it out.

B: Got pictures, uh, I don't remember that it has your picture in it


C: Yes.

B: Unless you have a different edition. I'll go and recheck the one I

have, it may be. I know Al Flannigan's picture's in there Otis's

picture's in there.

C: Yeah, mines in here oA t ro4 bl vST oI rS4o v4n' 'v-IZre

B: Okay, I'll look at that again.

C: I'm awful young looking in that one, I'll tell you.

B: Everybody is.

C: (Laugh)

B: I hardly recognize Otis.

C: Oh yeah, you wouldn't recognize Otis.

B: They tell me he was a good student.

C: Otis was a, I think brilliant, probably a straight A student. Rc ;

B: No kidding.

C: I think so.

B: He'll have interesting story to tell about how he got involved.

C: Oh yeah, Otis was a, and Otis was quite an athlete. I never, I say...

B: Well he pretty much restricts himself to golf these days.

C: Oh yeah, but they tell that he was quite a basketball player in

high school. He didn't play basketball in college because he wasn't

WRUF 7A Side Two
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big enough, he wasn't tall he was short. He was quite a basketball...

B: But still a lot of shorter guys playing basketball in those days.

C: Yeah, right, right. But he was, he was, not many his short playing.

But then, uh, and he was a good tennis player, pretty good athlete.

B: Well when you, uh, first became associated with him on the play-by-

play, that was before the days of the network though wasn't it. Wasn't

it just WRUF doing individual game coverage?

C: Yes, I think that's right, yeah, I think that's right. Uh...

B: I can check with Bob Leech and with Otis on the exact time the

network was uh...

C: I have a feeling that the network was organized sometime after the

war. Now whether we had the network when I first came back in '46,

or whenever it was I don't know.

B: Well they would probably have maybe some documents in the files

that would show exactly when they organized the network. I will

check with them on that. Did you used to travel though roughly the

same circuit of the SEC schools.

C: Oh yeah, but, my lord, now that's a story all in itself. Back in

those days, the team travelled by bus. I don't know that there is,

I don't know, I don't think that anybody ever fly anyway. If airlines

had been available, charter planes had been available we couldn't

afford them.

B: How'd you get there?

WRUF 7A Side Two
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C: We drove a car and uh.. wherever they'd play we'd just have to drive

in an automobile and the whole crew would pile up one car with all

our gear and all the equipment.was much bulkier and heavier then

because you didn't have any of the...

B: Yeah, everything was tube type, none of this miniature transistorized


C: Yeah, that's right, great big old heavy stuff. We'd load that thing
down. We'd take, uh, Otis and the engineer Ladie Routen, there's

another name, I don't where Ladie is now, Tallahassee I guess.

B: Hum, maybe so, I'll ask...

C: Ladie was our chief engineer, he loved football, he went himself

on these things.

B: I image press boxes and announce booths weren't at all fancy in those

days either.

C: Oh, very bad. Let's see, there'd be Ladie and Otis and me, we didn't

have a producer in those days, we didn't have the luxury of a producer.

Uh, and old Sewell Brown when he was kind of an apprentice, he worked

for nothing for a couple of years, he was so eager about it. He'd go

along as a, I guess, whatever, spotters? I can't remember what we

used to do for spotters, I guess we carried them with us. But anyway

we'd load the automobile up and go. It was, you know, a four or five

day trip, torture trip.

B: I imagine, especially for some of those far away games.

C: Oh yeah.

WRUF 7A Side Two
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B: Uh, it's funny Bob Leech kids Otis about, uh, apparently he has

a habit of when he gets into a car he falls asleep right away on

any kind of trip. Do you remember that?

C: Otis?

B: Yeah.

C: Oh yeah, yeah, he hadn't changed much, he still sleeps. And he, uh,

as I remember I think Ladie used to drive. He was the only that had

a car. It was, at that time, that was after the war I guess, uh,

Ladie then was a full time, he had been a student, but he was a

full time employee. After the war they began tD have some of these

full time employees but they...

B: I imagine things got a little bit fancier as time went on.

C: Yeah, they just stayed on.

B: Uh, Duane said that occasionally if the game was really far away

or some other circumstances got in the way that you might recreate

a game based on wire reports. Do you ever remember anything like that?

C: Oh yes, yes, yes, we've done that.

B: Did you ever do any of those, or did Otis do most of them, or how did

that work?

C: Well, I've never done, I've done recreated play-by-play on baseball.

B: Okay, well Duane said even with football once and a while.

C: Yeah, yeah, and I, I remember, yeah, we had sound effects and the

whole smear.

WRUF 7A Side Two
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B: Um hum, the crowd noise and that sort of thing.

C: Noise, and they had a western union wire report, and we had to make

up about half of it. Which Otis does no anyway. But, yeah, I

remember doing two or three of those. I think we had one, you

know when they played in California.

B: Oh yeah.

C: And I've done color, just like we, we just set it up and fake it


B: Well, uh, I well let you get back to your work.

C: Okay, well...

B: I've still got a couple hours drive ahead of me getting back to


C: Yeah, right, right.

B: Listen, I will probably see you this fall when you come up to

Gainesville, and I'll, uh, I'll get in touch with you if I have

any other questions, I may not make another trip down here...

C: Well call me on the phone.

B: ...but I would like to write or call.