Interview with Duane McConnell (August 20, 1974)

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Interview with Duane McConnell (August 20, 1974)
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
WRUF ( Radio station : Gainesville, Fla.)
Ted Burrow Tapes
Radio stations -- Florida
WRUF Collection (Ted Burrow’s Tapes) Oral History Collection ( local )


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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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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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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Lakeland August 20, 1974

Duane McConnell

Page -1-

D: O.K. good.

I: That's a nice little machine. It's more important for you to be on mike than

for me to be on mike. (laugh)

D: O.K. good. Wll where would you like to start?

I: Well let's see... tell ya what. Uh/let me confirm at least the approximate

dates of your employment because uh what I did first, I looked them up in the

card files...the station keeps.

D: Right.

I: You may of even seen it. It's a thing about this long full of three by five cards.

D: And it goes all the way back?
1 2-Q
I: Yeah it goes all the back to nirnetan twenty eight but uh I'd be willing to

bet it's not one hundred per cent complete or accurate.

D: Forty-three to f-ty-e- e.

I: O.K. That's what it says, forty-three to fe-y-nine and it says around the

fifteenth of August. That would be the eighth month. Um do you remember that

as being about the time you started work?
D: Approximately and I left there I think in June of forty ine to come down here

to build WJNN.

I: Mm hmm. O.K. yeah, cause it says June fifteenth. So O.K. we've got that right.

D: Right.

I: Now ..... um what were the circumstances in which you began work at WRUF to

start with? Wre you a student up there?

WRUF 8A -2-

D: Well I uh rejoined as a student. It's rather strange I've been a ... an amateur
radio operator since thirty three I guess. And uh I went through the university

and majored in accounting and went out in public accounting for about a year. And

in the middle of World War II I was riding home on a bus with a radio amateur

manual in mymy hand and the lady who sat next to me said "Oh are you taking that

course at uh University of Tampa in radio?" and I said."no what's it all about?"

So uh they're offering a course in radio and I went over and registered and
o e-
Jule Mitchell, the chief engineer of WFLA was teaching it. So um I went through
o e-
and when I got threw Jule offered me a job as engineer at W#LA so uh I was

sitting on a transmitter shift out there and listening to the soap operas and

fixing radios in my spare time and uh then I decided well if I was going to

stay in radio I wanted an engineering degree so I took uh oh my physics and

calculus by correspondence and uij) called Major Powell and I was offered a job

as an engineer. I've forgotten what I was getting. Forty dollars a month or

something like that I believe.... to fifty perhaps and I went to work uh...
in fgert-three as an engineer.

I: So you were a student for the second time.

D: That's right. And at that time Les Troop was the chief engineer and Al Bagano

was the assistant chief and uh so uh pretty soon uh.... uh... Les graduated and

uh..... my mind is a little bit cloudy on uh, I think left about

the same time. I'm not completely sure. But uh there was nobody left so I

became chief engineer.

I: By default?

D: By default. There was nobody else for it.

WRUF 8A -3-

I: And you remained the chief engineer then until you left in forty ine.

D: Right.

I: Now um..... what were your uh general working hours and duties?

D: Well of course as you know, engineering is uh an around the clock type of thing.

I: Were you on call?

D: Oh all the time and uh... of course we had two or three girl engineers as the time

and U they didn't know much about engineering. All they could do was take board

shifts so anytime they had trouble uh)chief had to come and and fix it and get

it going again.

I: So the term uh./ fet me clear one thing up) Ahe term engineer, at least in

those days, sometime didn't really refer to the people who maintained the

transmitters and so forth. Uh that term could pertain to the board operator?

D: Board operator because as you know at that time all of them had to have first

class licences. And these girls had uh gone to a school down in Ocala and koa

go licences but they knew very little about tadio.

I: A matter of memorizing the questions that would probably be asked on the exam?

D: Right, passing the exam. So uh that's the way it went. And of course in those

days we had this old uh western electric transmitter which was built in the

twenties and uh should I ramble a little bit or are you?

I: Yeah go ahead because I'm interested in the transmitter. Was it the first transmitter

that had been used I wonder?

D: Yes I think so. And uh.... it was about oh twenty-five or thirty feet long. I

understand it's somewhere around there doing industrial electronics now in the


I: Well I think I may have tracked it down but a little too late to do anything with it.

I understand it was down in the basement of Weil Hall, the engineering building,

until just recently they dismantled it.

WRUF 8A -4-

D: Have they really?

I: Mm hmm.

D: Well it was an interesting....

I: ',r e rip/s 3 ?

D: It was an interesting old transmitter because originally uh so much of it was

powered by uh uhgenerators, electrical generators. There's a whole room of

generators in the back room and uh uh their filaments and their bias and

originally they've had one for the high voltage for the exciter. So every

night when you uh signed off, and of course in those days of course it was the

daytime. And we'd sign off and go in the back room and check the oil and the

the uh all the bearings and rub down the commutators of the generators and uh

this is part of the.... part of the daily ritual when you close down the station.

I: So the station didn't rely on the uh locally distributed electric power?

D: Well yes. But see they had a motor from the power line...

I: Oh I see.

D: That drove a generator to-create direct current to feed all these things.

I: Oh I see. Oh that's O.K. These were D.C. and you had to have some way to

convert that A.C. to D.C.

D: Right.

I: O.K.

D: And the antenna.... of course they had those two towers in a T-type antenna

strung between em and uh there's a great big switch just inside the room with

a couple ropes hanging down from the ceiling and.... of course we weren't very

commercial in those days, so when ever.a lightning storm came along they'd send

the station off and ground the antenna.

I: (laugh) How bout that.

WRUF 8A -5-

D: Then uh a little bit later as the war developed it became important, Major Powell

thought, to have some nighttime service to communicate with the people of

Gainesville. So they obtained a special temporary authorization. Is this

stuff you already have information on?

I: I/I wanted to ask about that. I'm glad you're talking because that would have

been my next question anyway.

D: Alright. Rambling too much orJ, ,

I: No no.

D: O.K.

I: This is great.

D: Alight. So anyway the Major got us a special temporary authorization for a

hundred watts at night and what we did was to turn off the final amplifier, the

bigbig old rascal, and then we would uh link couple back to the exciter and

uh feed a hundred watts out at night and surprisingly since the channel was

very clear, it did a pretty good job of covering the whole area at that time.

I: Yeah I was wondering how a hundred watts would carry if you have.Do you recall
the distance from ......

D: Oh certainly more than the Gainesville area. It diddid amazingly well.

I: Hmm. Maybe got out around Newberry and uh Hawthorne on the east? Maybe little

places like that?

D: Uhhhh I don't remember exactly.

I: O.K. No problem.

D: Right.

I: There was an air base around Gainesville at the time.....

D: That would've been out at Camp landing At Keystone.

I: O.K. because I understand that that was given as one of the justifications for

WRUP 8A -6-

I: going on the air at night because.......

D: Well the airport I guess was an air base at that time too wasn't it?

I: Mmmm I've heard that too and I've also heard that..; member that little

uh inr! /e air field out Archer road was also used for some training.

D: Yes I believe they did do some training _____ _,

I: O.K. because uh I'm I'm a bit hazy on the details myself which is why I'm glad

you're mentioning some of these things but that was given as one of the justifications

to entertain the troops a little bit at night. Give them a little radio to listen


D: Right.

I: Um..... I have.,, I was interested in the technical information because most

people can't supply that. The people I've been talking to so far are more of

the programming and sales types.

D: Right.
I: I talked in Jacksonville lately with Ralph NimmAns for example.

D: Mm hmm. Now he came a little earlier.

I: That's right. And uh Cliff Beasley who was there in the late thirties.

D: Right.

I: But uh... they can't really give me any of the technical information so that's

why felt it was important that I come down here and talk to you. Um... do you

recalle..What do you recall about the programs that were broadcast? You mentioned

something about the soap operas uh.,,

D: Well would you like to finish technical or uh....?

I: Oh O.K. I'm sorry.

D: I have a little more technical if you'd like and then we can...

I: Yeah, let's finish up the technical area and ....

D: Alight. And then we can go on to the other if you'd like.

WRUF 8A -7-

I: Yeah.

D: Well, as I say uh, we had uh our girl engineers at that time and of course we

had the control desk downstairs in the transmitter room and they had a transmitter

operator on duty all the time and a little announcer who was upstairs and uh

we also had girl announcers at that time. Um old pick ups with a changeable steel

needles like uh the old victrola had. You'd play one record and then you'd change

the needle in the pick up. And uh... I remember some uh.... little episodes uh,

Miss Becky Rooks I believe was on duty as an announcer one morning and all of

the sudden a garden snake crawled out of the window into the announce booth upstairs

and Becky came out there and out the stairway about ninty miles an hour and a

couple of lem had to go up and kill the snake.

I: Huh.

D: Uh....

I: Before she'd continue with the program.

D: That's right.

I: I guess uh you had women working there uh primarily because there was a shortage

of men. Most of them were off in the service.

D: That's right. You see there were only about five hundred men in the whole
university in f.tr4y-fve. So then uh in the .. later uh forties Major decided

it was time to get into FM so we bought a one kilowatt Westinghouse trans...

af electric transmitter and uh we put a single one band antenna on top of one

of those old towers and we went into the FM business.

I: Mm hmm. Do you remember exactly what year that was?
"/7, "/8
D: Fcrtyyyyy-Gvcn, fort-y-eight.

I: O.K. Um......

D: I would guess frty-eight.

WRUF 8A -8-

I: Right. Before we go further with that, let me ask about the studio or the

announce booth upstairs. This is the first time I've heard about that. I thought

the studio facilities were downstairs and.....

D: We moved those down later.

I: O.K. uh..... because I had heard that upstairs had been used.... well way back

as an attic first, kind of storage. Then there were later a couple of rooms

built upstairs as kind of writing av'd

D: When I came along in fe-ty-three the announce booth was upstairs.

I: Oh O.K.

D: And uh it had been there apparently for quite awhile.

I: Hmm. See this is how I'm piecing together some of these things.

D: Right.

I: O.K.

D: Um..... booth was up there, the coffee department was up there, and

the record library was up there at that time.

I: O.K. O.K. That sounds familiar.

D: And then we built ... FM studios downstairs I would guess in fortyyyyy) foy-eight

we went into the FM business and uh uh)put the old Western Electric console in
down there. Uh.... you're familiar with the pleet building and....

I: Yes, right.

D: Have they redone the inside? I'm sure they have.

I: I'm sure they've changed the position of some of the rooms...uh I guess to fit

their needs but at least the exterior still looks about the same.

D: Right.

I: Uh you've seen how things have grown up around there.

D: Oh yes.

WRUF 8A -9-

I: It's amazingisn't it?

D: It really is.

I: Um... in connection, back again some more of the technical matters, back around

forty-eight was the time I understand that the transmitter facility was moved....

D: Right. We built a plant out on Newberry Road and uh.... went to a directional

antenna. Uh.... Major wanted to go into a UoOSI,' hut which I was opposed

to at the time. But we went into a qClOrS' hut and I guess it's still in it.

I: Yeah. Their still in a uoovsT hut. I've been out there once or twice myself

and I imagine it's the same one there they've use since then.

D: We installed a ten kilowatt RCA transmitter because Major had hoped to get an

increase in power, which he never did, but we operated this five thousand and

of course that's a sixty acre piece of land with four towers in it.... and uh

the three two hundred and sixty footers and one four hundred and eight if I

remember correctly. With the FM on the top of the uh four hundred and eight


I: Mm hmm. But you... the FM was not directional, was it?

D: No.

I: O.K. but the AM was?

D: AM was.

I: Uh O.K. Uh which direction? Wre they more or less north and south?

D: No the uh... the directional had a low to thee east northeast and oneif I remember,

to the uh south southwest.

I: O.K. So it....

D: The same pattern you have now.

I: Yeah. O.K.

WRUF 8A -10-

D: We were protecting uh... WHDH in Boston and KLA in Denver.

I: Right. O.K. Um why didn't you like the idea of a vons hut?

D: Well uh a metal building to me never has been and the most permanent..... We

wanted to build a block building.

I: Uh huh.

D: And uh Major said a 9iVOs-i+ was cheaper and more practical under the conditions

and. But by the time we finished uh.... finishing out the inside I think we had

as much money in it as we would have had in a in a block building.

I: Mmm. I guess even so uh all through it's history the station had to watch costs.

D: Oh yes. Uh...... of course when the state ran short of money and the station

went commercial it had to support itself.

I: Mm hmm.

D: Which it did.

I: Right in the late thirties. Yeah. Um... what were you gonna say?

D: Oh I guess nothing too serious. They moved the FM out uh.... about the time

I left. So I wasn't really involved in uh/the putting the FM on the air at

the new site.

I: Was the AM on the air from the new site when you left?

D: Yes I built the plant and uh....

I: O.K. Uh what....

D: And we had it going before that.

I: What uh as you see it, uh were your uh biggest problems I guess aside from the

__onsi_ hut? (chuckle) Was it a particular chore for any....?

D: Well we built it during the time they were building the Newberry Road and uh,

that was the only way out there and it was a sea of mud and it reached the point

I had to go down to university transportation and get a uh... a truck with +CLt dev\

back wheels to drive through that thing to get out there. And it was so hard

WRUF 8A -11-

D: to get out and back I'd take a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and uh just

spend the day because it wasn't practical to get in at lunch time and difficult

to find a spot at that time to build it. As you know it's a mile off the main

drag. Well it isn't anymore.

I: That's right. A little bit south of uhNewberry Road.

D: A mile south really.

I: Yeah. Have you been out there lately incidentally?

D: I've been....

I: It's very easy to reach now.

D: Yes. Well actually my son engineered there about three or four years ago.

I: Oh no kidding?

D: When he was going to the university.

I: Hmm.

D: So, yes I have been by..... and uh..... it's the same old building. Of course

they have a new transmitter now.

I: Right. And they're building condominiums practically right next door so you can

imagine how uh....

D: Unbelievable.

I: Things have grown.

D: The roughest thing about the installation besides difficulty in getting there was

that it was a field full of rocks. And.... as you know the ground system consists

of miles of copper wire which you have to pile in under the ground, and we had

a rough time getting that wire under because of all the rocks in the soil there.

I: I hadn't really thought about that. I'm not really a technician. Uh I'm no kind

of an electronics genius but I'm glad you mentioned that. Some of these unusual

problems uh that you've had people wouldn't ordinarily think of.

WRUF 8A -12-

D: The ground system is consistent about a hundred and twenty radials of number

ten copper wire which run out oh.... I think two hundred and fifty two hundred

and seventy-five feet a piece which have to be plowed in about six to eight

inches under the ground. And then we ran a copper strip between all the towers

to tie it all together and uh.... then of course the transmission lines went

out on supports to all these towers. And uh we had never put up a transmission

line before and we clamped them down tight to the supports and then one cold

winter night all of the sudden we weren't getting power to one of the the main
4o tr--a.-c d a+-
tower. We went out and the copper had cracked and it opened up a joint. So

we learned a lot of things while we were building that and getting it in operation.

I: Um....

D: I remember having to climb the tall tower and put a sampling roof up at two

hundred and sixty feet beca e nobody else would do it.

I: I'll betthat wasn't very much fun.

D: It was a little scary but.

I: I can imagine.

D: Uh being the chief uhnobody else wanted to so I felt I had to.

I: That's it. There's another thing you go by default. Um how long did it take

from from start to finish to do that job?

D: I really don't remember. I think the construction probably took about six or

eight months.

I: Mm hmm. I've heard about an episode, a humorous episode, connected with the

ceremonies or whatever you might call them when the station went on the air for

the first time from the new transmitter. Wasn't there some sort of observance

out there at the transmitter? Do you recall uh)a live broadcast with the Major

and perhaps the university president? Anything like that?

WRUF 8A -13-

D: I don't remember that.

I: It may be that uh.... may be that it didn't happen till after you left. Maybe they

had an official dedication after the thing was already on the air.
D: It may have been because ya see I left in uh..... June of sixty-n... f-orty-nine.

I: Mm hmm.

D: And uh .... we were in operation but it's conceivable that they had a formal

ceremony after I left.

I: Mm hmm. O.K. UhBob Leach told me about it./2Something about uh.... from the

studios they were supposed to play the ,ationalKnthem and they got the wrong

record or the wrong groove on one of those long ETs by mistake and they ended

up playing Chicken Reel.

D: Oh Lord.

I: And I understand the Major just about killed everybody that day.

D: Well I could imagine. The Major had a hot temper and when things didn't go

right he had the nack of chewing. Great old gentleman.

D: Well I.... Everyone I talk to seems to have been very fond of him and uh.... let's

talk about the Major for a moment. I understand he was quite a businesslike fellow

and as you say, ya know didn't take any nonsense.

D: Uh no. He he rendered a tight ship. And I know he's chewed a lot of people but

uh.... he was one of my favorite people and I don't think he ever chewed on me. Uh..

I felt kind of fortunate about that.

I: Well maybe that's a testimonial of the kind of work you .....

D: No I doubt that. But I can remember he'd hold a staff conference and of course

all of these kids on the staff were just full of the devil. He'd get in there

and he'd chew on em and they'd giggle and carry on and .... and then he'd snap

like a.Major at them and they'd pop to. But um... he'd uh.... As you remember

he was uh..... Canadian... but he served by the French I believe... in the....

I: Right. Yeah....

WRUF 8A -14-

D: In World War I.

I: I hazigaO- he was one of the first of the Americans who went over there.

D: Right. Shot down and injured in service and uh uh..... then he came back and

I think his jaw was shot up and put together again and uh ........he didn't

feel real good all the time and he usually didn't get to work till about ten o'clock

in the morning. And uh..... he'd come in and the secretary, Helen Edwards, pretty

well ran the show when he wasn't there. I assume all of this is background that

you've already obtained.

I: Well, not all of it. I'm ya know you're filling in little details as you go

along so uh....

D: Uh huh.

I: By all means.

D: But uh... he uh.... he was a good radio man. And uhlwith all of us kids we needed

a lot of straightening out because we were full of the devil and we didn't realize

most of us at the time that it was a business.

I: So did he generally uh .... ya know try to give helpful advice as you went along?

D: Uh, yes.

I: Help you sharpen up your skills?

D: Yes, he did. And of course the talent that went through that place is just

unbelievable. So uhlthe youngsters, they had so much ... had so much leadership

from the older fellows who were there. Uh some of the greatest radio people in

the country have come through that station then through the years.

I: Mm hmm. Right. I'm I'm getting that impression with everyone I talk to. Uh....

did.... What sort of a guide.was he as far as the ethics of the profession were


D: I thought his ethics were top notch. Hehe uh.... he believed in playing it down

WRUF 8A -15-

D: the line and as far as I'm concerned he was just straight all the way. Um... -
+ell yo L a
Sunny little episode uh... which hasn't anything to do with radio but a hurricane

in the late forties uh power was supposedly going to be going off this particular

night. And the Major had the only basement I think in Gainesville in his home.

And uh... he had this thing stocked with food. Just rows and rows of cans of food

and he had a sump pump to keep it pumped out. So uh... when the hurricane came

along and his power went out he called me and I had to take a generator out to

operate his sump pump to keep his uh... keep his basement from filling up with water.

I: (chuckle)

D: And remember going out there and driving around trees that had blown down

and getting his sump pump going and getting his basement pumped out again.

I: That's right. If the best pump in the world won't do any good if there's no

power for it. Um... do you... Did you find, or did any of the people you knew find,

that the Major was helpful in say finding jobs after graduation and that sort of thing?

Did he go out of his way to be helpful to to his boys?

D: His boys uhhe was very loyal to them, yes. He helped wherever he could. Now

of course in my case uh I'll always be fond of him and greatful because .... Ted

Covington and I .... and along with this doctor um... Bob Taylor who was in the

service. He was head of the dental clinic at Camp endingg during the war. He

used to do the eleven o'clock news at night just for the fun of it. But when

we applied for a radio station in Lakeland,jhis was in forty-six, and uhwe

went in and explained to the Major our situation and we didn't know whether

he'd fire us or what but he uh kept us and he let us stay until such time as

we uh got a grant which wasn't till naintnpn rty-nin. three years. And he

allowed us to stay and do our job throughout that time and while uh we were

getting squared away to move out. So yes, he was great to his boys. He was

WRUF 8A -16-

D: mad sometimes and he'd chew them out but uh)then he was over it just as fast

as he got mad. And uh he'd do anything for the kids. And he was very proud

of 'em.

I: I've gotten that impression too. Uh I've seen some letters that he has written

and you know it reflects pride in what these people have done.

D: Right. And he's quite a politician. He had to be a politician in the university

system as you know. But uh... real sharp gentleman. Had a real heart.

I: Who was the Major responsible to? Do you recall? Who... What office was the

next step above the station in the administrative hierarchy?

D: I really don't know.

I: I'm having a little trouble finding that out. It seems like it would be fairly

obvious but not too many people know exactly. UhI suspect it was still

the president's office.

D: My impression was John Tigert.

I: Yeah. I suspect that that's the way it'll turn out. I'm I have a few more

people to see and some more documents to look at but that's probably it.

D: It is uh..... Is Dr. Constant still alive?

I: No I'm afraid not.
a C.
D: eight. Lester HJI is still around isn't he?

I: Mm hmm. Yeah.

D: He probably might know. Uh... engineering was supposedly was uh.... answerable

to the Dean of the College of Engineering but uh.... after Drrr.... goodness

gracious, what was his name?

I: Dr. Well?

D: No. Um... he never was. To my knowledge he never was involved in it....

I: Oh, O.K.

D: during the time I was there. Head of the electrical engineering department left

WRUF 8A -17-

D: in about.... early forties. He was a little bit involved in it but uh...

I: ?

D: No.

I: Ummm. Let me think now. (pause) Oh well. I I can look it up I suppose.

D: Right. But he was he was involved to a certain extent but... interruptedd by

telephone ringing)

I: I got a little bit involved in that last year and I have a feeling they're gonna

put the arm on me again this year.

D: I would think.

I: Uh to do a little radio and TV work for them. Um... let's see now. We were

talking about the Major and I just have one more question. Now he seemed to

have been the sort of man, from what I have been able to get from other people,

uh)that you didn't see much of aside from uh business hours. He seemed not

to mix the business life and the social life. What what do you remember about


D: Uh that's true. That's true. Actually I very seldom saw him except at the station.

And there again, as I say, he came in at ten and left at twelve and uh was in

sometimes a little bit in the afternoon. Uh.... he didn't work a full day.....


I: But uh do you get the impression that he um traveled a lot? Do you recall him

being gone a lot on on station business out of town?

D: Yes, yes supposedly New York and Washington and Chicago. Uh.... supposedly

he was doing h national sales or uh talking to the attorneys in Washington.,.

I: O.K. Umn.... what do you recall was the general feeling of the local citizens

for the station? Um..... did they seem to um.... for example, look at the

people who worked there as any kind of local celebrities? (phone ringing in

background) Is that for you?

WRUF 8A -18-

D: No. No that's my cable television phone.

I: Oh.

D: Uh........ that's hard to say. I wasn't involved those days in the uh...

programming end. Uh... I think they sort of were. Of course in those days

programming was uh.... such a hodge-podge conglomerate thing and so much of

it was training for announcers and we'd do drama and such on the air that

you would... you really wouldn't think of doing anymore.

I: Mm hmm.

D: Uh... yes I think they were sort of celebrities except that most of them were

university kids who didn't get that involved in town but uhyes, our)we'd do

country music shows and get tremendous turnouts for this.

I: Do you recall that the Orange Grove String Band was still active at that time

you were in the station?

D: Oh yes. Yeah. The Orange Grove with Shorty Shedd and Toby Dowdy's gang was

there and and we'd go out and do shows and everyone down the American Legion

Hall and somebody hit the microphone and it framed down the floor and we

picked it up and just kept going and uhthey'd uh ... they'd travel

throughout the whole area and of course being on WRUF made them these country

boys celebrities for uh... four hundred miles out. Because in the early days

uh there were so few station that they listened to at seventy-five and a

hundred miles away.

I: Mm hmm. Uh... now you mentioned uh being at some American Legion Hall. Did

you do remote broadcasts often?

D: Uh, not real often but once in awhile.

I: Mm.

D: During the war uh..... we used to do a lot of big national bands. I remember that

WRUF 8A -19-

D: uh Tex Benecky came in the Glen Miller Band and I had to....

I: In Gainesville?

D: Yes. Came into the uh... what was the new gym them. Ya know the new gym uh...

I: So that would have been a ... the wooden building.

D: Yes.

I: O.K. uh...

D: That's right. The old-looking new gym.

I: That's right. So there were three gyms on campus. I have to keep thinking which

one is old, the medium, and the new.

D: Right. But uh... they originated the Army Hour there for NBC and uh... uh... they

wanted nine microphones and we collected mixers from everywhere to gather this

thing together and I had to engineer it and u, probably the worst experience

I ever went through because the arranger was behind me and ya know he'd want

trumpets, and this,that, and the other and uh... it was it was a wild hour.

I: I can imagine. Do you recall ub what year that might have been in?

D: I'm guessing uh.... fr-rtyyyy- fe perhaps. Of course we had a number of big

bands in for the university. Uh... that I believe is the only one that we

originated for NBC but uh... of course we had uhhh.... Jimmy Dorsey and uh.....

Bess Brown uh....... Hudson. What was his name? UhIDean Hudson was here a

number of times.

I: Yeah. O.K. Dean Hudson. Right, yeah that namesounds...

D: But uh most of the big bands of the day came through there and of course as

the radio station we'd originate a broadcast on them which was sort of


I: Right. Let me just check the tape for a second and see how much we've got left.

We ought to be getting down.....

WRUF 8 A -20-

D: You're about through.

I: O.K. Tell you what....... (tape endS)- Eod o .sid/ /1

D: .... days and during World War II.... some of the time we couldn't afford to
go out and travel so we'd get a to/igraphic report and recreate it and uh uh...

I: Did you play crowd noise uh discs and ?

D: Oh yes, the whole bit. The whole bit and uh I'm trying to remember the name

of this boy. Dean? No. Dave..... Dave something or other.

I: Oh.

D: It was during a football game.

I: Let me um.... let's see, Dave. Does the name.., oh no. That's the wrong Dave.

O.K. Sorry about that.

D: Well Dave was there about the same time I was. He left a little before I did.

I: O.K. I was ......

D: S /L-OJ-i from the air one night and they'd decide he resign and go into

the ministry. (both laugh).

I: I guess just about everybody has at one time or another and I think my turn was

on my first night on the air so I got it over with early. Um in connection

with those remote broadcasting, you say you originated it for NBC but I recall

that uh you were a mutual affiliate af-3j 8v t,

D: Well that's right but see the NBC was uh NBC was running the Army Hour show at

that time.

I: O.K.

D: And uh...

I: So this was just a special deal?

D: Special deal for them.

I: Mm. Did they pay uh)WRUF?

WRUF 8A -21-

D: I don't know. I don't know. Uh the Major never told us very much about the

money business.

I: Yeah rightII'm sure that he kept ya'll pretty much in the dark except for the

doing your assigned jobs.

D: Right. But uhon this recreation there's a little incident there I'd like to


I: Sure.

D: Uh... in this particular game uh...... he had, Dave had his telographic report

there and uh... some of the local comics set fire to his copy.

I: (chuckle)

D: And uh... so he speeded up speeded up to keep ahead of his uh his on the fire

copy and finally somebody came and took pity on him and put the fire out but

uh he was he was really zooming along on his broadcast that particular night

because uh he was afraid the ca.... the fire was gonna catch up with where

he was reading on his topic.

I: Must have been the quickest game in history.

D: That's right. And I remember nights in the middle of uh ... a broadcast that

they'd take one of these carbon dioxide fire extinguishers and shoot it at

the fellow on the air to try to break him up. Uh...

I: Yeah that's a familiar part of student situations. I/I guess I've been involved

in my share too. You get to a point where you kind of outgrow stuff like

that I guess....

D: I think so.

I: After awhile. Do you recall uh ... uh.Ted Covington's efforts in sports?

I understand he did sports there.

D: Well he did color. Uh.. he did color through ..... the later part of the

WRUF 8A -22-

D: war. As you know he was in service and then he came back. I don't remember

which year. I would guess uh....

I: Yeah, I think Li foiLy-s-bc.

D: Right.

I: I'll have to check that with him this afternoon.

D: So we uh we traveled uh the Florida Football Net.together and uh....

I: So you did do some traveling in connection with that?

D: Yes. I engineered it from uh.. well ..... until forty ne-.

I: Did you go throughout the southeast?

D: Yes. Yes.

I: Just to all the regular SEC stops along the way I imagine.

D: Usually did. Occasionally if it was too far off we might get a telegraphic

report. But usually we went.

I: Mm hmm.

D: And uh...
-red d c4
I: You said tn-t-e- color. Do you remember who was doing the play by play? Was

Otlis ?

D: Well in the later stages Otris did. Uh while Otf is was gone uh.... well let's

see did Elliot Heal do that or did Elliot Heal do color? He is the manager
of WBST televisions.

I: Right.

D: He went on some of the trips with us and I'm trying to remember what he did. Uh

I don't believe Ted ever did much play-by-play.

I: Oh, O.K. I'll have to check that um.... I'll have to get in touch with Mr. Heal

up there. I haven't met him but uh you know his son goes to our college now?

D: No, I didn't realize that.

I: Yeah he's uh ..... he's first or second year there. So......

WRUF 8A -23-

D: Well he can fill you in too because he was there quite awhile.

I: Yeah. Yeah and I will contact him and find out. I'mI'm trying to track

down you know it would take years to track down everybody I guess but um....

I'm just about at the end. I've got a couple more that I just want to ask

you before I leave. What.... what would you consider your most frustrating

experience when you worked there? Was there any particular incident that

you could point to and say you know it really frustrated you? About

your duties or anything?

D: Not really. There were some tough times and some times that we weren't too

happy but uh... no not really. Basically,it was a lot of fun.

I: What about the most humorous episode? I imagine there must have been quite a


D: Oh perhaps the episode with the snake.

I: Mn hmm, O.K.

D: Uhh... or ......

I: And since you' left there you've been down here all the while, right?

D: No.

I: No? O.K.

D: We started WON in forty-ni and then in uh fifty-seven Ted and Bob and I sold

it. And I went and started a station in Leesburg. Uh... WBIL which is now

WZST and fifty- .... the man who bought WOAN was in trouble and I bought
it back. And uh in the early sixties I builfbuilt one in Clirmont which I
sold about three years later. And uh in seventyyyysseventy-ene I guess I sold

WON and bought into WVFM.

I: Mm hmm. O.K.

D: So I've been in Lakeland except for about ... two and a half years when I lived

in Leesburg.

WRUF 8A -24-

I: O.K. but you have stayed in radio. I can see that. Some people don't stay

in radio. They get off in some other line of work.

D: Well we are off on a few other things too. We're developing some real estate

and we built a cable television system here and sold it and and have a

franchise for another one which we're gonna build. And we have a construction

company which is doing uh... cable television construction. Infact, we're

working on the Gainesville system.....

I: Oh no kidding?

D: In uh... at the present time -along-with some other areas, But uh .... a lot

of radio and uh/I don't want to get out of it.

I: Right, yeah. At least it's all... it all seems to communications oriented.

D: Right. So uh.... as this friend of mine said, if you didn't have a radio station

to spend an hour or two a day in uh you know it wouldn't be much fun.

I: Mm hmm. Aside from uh I guess a chance to get more practice in the engineering

aspects, what would you say uh are the most rewarding aspects of of having

worked at WRUF? Is there there anything else that you can point to about

your work up there that may have prepared you for for your career and so forth?

D: The people that we associated with and the fact that they were all students and

uh... just sort of a big that you could step in and and learn

the complete picture. For instance, Leonard Mosby was a copywriter with


I: Right. I talked to him last night.

D: Have you talked to Leonard? Right. And uh Leonard was a good friend and he

moved down here with us when we started WOON and he worked with us here...

I: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

D:,,,Aor awhile before he left.

I: That's right.

WRUF 8A -25-
D: And um... Johnny Sever in uh Clearwater.

I: Mm hnm.

D: Have you talked to Johnny?

I: I haven't talked to him yet but I plan to.

D: Great guy. Johnny came down and worked with us when we got the licence for

WO N. So uh... the people I think probably and the opportunity to uh .... work

and learn and have so much fun along the way.

I: And I guess everybody uh.... Well not everybody, but a lot of you seem to stay

in touch and a lot of people who are here in Florida can probably uh uh just

count .... ya know dozens of people that .....

D: Right.

I: They see at least once or twice a year.

D: Right. Uh Dan Valentine. Have you talked to Dan?

I: No yet. Uh... do you know where he is incidentally? I've had trouble getting

his exact address. Do you have it?

D: Mnmm, he's in Tampa.

I: O.K.

D: And his wife is at the University of South Florida.

I: Uh huh.

D: Let's see if I've got it here.

I: This is always the last part of every interview. I like to have my interview

subjects steer me towards some other folks.

D: AIight uh... I don't have his phone number here.

I: So that he's in Tampa, huh?

D: He's in Tampa.

I: Uh... I guess he's in the phone book.

D: The NAB can get you in touch with him if necessary.

I: O.K. Uh.... Ken Small up in Gainesville probably has his address on file somewhere.

WRUF 8A -26-

D: Right. But Dan is one of the old-timers and he was there before I was....

I: Right.

D: And uh... all of this time he was the god of programming.

I: Mm hmm.

D: And he came back during about the end of the war...

I: Right. Yeah.

e' He was there in fey sixand forty-seven.

D: Dick uhbCraigo in uh Vero if you happen to talk to him....

I: Right. I will. Ya know my folks live in Ft. Pierce so.I go down there from

time to time and I will see him.

D: Uh.....

I: I've been uh...

D: Kim Sharp over there also in Vero.

I: Uh huh. Yeah. I've been dealing with guys as far away as uh... Denver or

Richmond or....

D: Whom do ya.... Do you wanna give me some names and ?

I: O.K. Al Flanigan in Denver. Did you know Al Flarxigan?

D: Uh....

I: He may have left before.....

D: He left before I came.

I: Yeah.

D: What is Al doing now?

I: Uh he is the President of Broadcast Operations of Combined Communications Corporation.

Apparently it's a very much diversified outfit. Uh they run ur.... I forget the

call letters now but it's channel nine in Denver. A TV station. KPRC strikes

WRUF 8A -27-

I: me as being somewhat close to the call letters. But that's what he's doing. Uh)

I've been corresponding with John Tansey up at WRVA in Richmond.

D: Right.

I: And uh then there was a guy who was around later than than you were. Uh... a
guy by the name of Charlie Northg ff and he's up at the University of Alaska.

D: No kidding?

I: So he has really traveled far. Uh... people are spread out all over the place.

D: Bob Smith was associated for awhile.

I: Mm hmm. That's right. Urn....

D: Landice Wilkinson in Tampa was manpower incorporated. Have you talked to him or?

I: No I haven't but I've heard the name and their there are so many people that I

still have to contact. What I'm thinking about doing is is for my masters thesis

doing kind of an overview history of the station. But then as a sideline, kind

of a hobby, keep up contacting more and more people and uh... maybe make a book

out of it.

D: Charlie Murdock, W uh LW in Cincinnatti.

I: Right. I've been corresponding with him. And what I've asked these people to do

is uh is answer some of these questions, comment on things on on cassette tapes.

II figure just about all these people have access to a cassette tape recorder.

D: Right.

I: So I sent them a cassette and a return envelope and I 'm hoping to get some

response from that.

,: Have you talked to Albi :ano.
I: No I haven't.
": He's in Gainesville now.

I: Is he in Gainesville? O.K. I'll check that.

D: He's with the university.

I: Hmmm. I'll check that. Uh...ya know there are some people I've found in

Gainesville but others that ya know they could be sitting right under my nose.

WRUF 8A -28-

D: Right.

I: And uh unless I'm steered in their direction by somebody else uh I would never

know about them.

D: His home is uh..... I think in Hawthorne.

I: O.K.

D: But Albid spent uh....

I: How how does he spell his last name?

D: G-a-n-o.
I: Uh huh.

D: But Albid was was there quite awhile and uh... he was there when I came.

I: O.K.

D: And he went through uh. a lot of the stages. He used to have some tremendous

beer parties there and the chief engineer... a couple before me, had a beer..,

He had a uh/a coffee pot that he used as his beer stein.,

I: Oh boy.

D: And uh they'd uh.... have a beer party and he'd fill that up and drinkit

in the evening. When the Major wasn't there they they wouldneet in the

studio and have there beer parties at night.

I: Uh huh. I got the impression that it was kind of like a club really.

D: Oh it was.

I: Mm hmm. And the station would be off the air by that time.

D: Right. So uh of course they had a night watchman. You've hear of Jim Tilly?

I: Mm hmm. Yeah.

D: And uh of course Jim policed it to a certain extent but he was also one of the

boys. He put up with uh quite a bit.

I: Mm hmm. Right. I got the impression from listening to some people talk that

uvya know the guys would go out there in the evenings if they didn't have anything

WRUF 8A -29-

I: better to do and they'd have card games and....

D: Yeah.

I: Sip a tall cool one once in awhile.

D: That's right.

I: Uh huh. Uh)do you recall there being any sort of sleeping quarters out there?

D: There was one just off the transmitter room and two of the boys usually ept

in there.

I: Mm hmm. On a semiperanent basis at least?

D: Yeah.

I: Yeah, O.K.

D: In some cases this was uh part of their compensation.

I: Mm hmm.

D: They had a they had a bunk bed. Uh)two high buck bed and a couple of fellows

would sleep in there. Usually an engineer but sometimes an announcer.

I: Mn hmm.

D: And it was a little room. I wouldn't have slept there for anything because

uh there was... ya knowjthere was something going on all night but uh,there

were always a couple of fellows sleeping there.

I: O.K. cause that's one of the aspects I'm trying to trace because even in the

facilities they have now there's a room that's referred to as the guard room and

usually ... well tradition has it that the sign and the sign off man

usually stay there. .. to make it convenient.

D: I'm trying to remember who has stayed there at various times.

I: Well I understand Charlie Murdock stayed there for awhile and um ..... oh there's

been a variety of folks from uh..... Let me mention a couple of names. Um....

(long pause)/ Ted Covington never stayed in there, did he?

WRUF 8A -30-

D: He may have. I'll tell ya somebody that um..... who probably would be an

interesting fill in. I can't.,, I've got a mental lapse on his first name. His

last name is Smith and he was in sports there the latter part of the time that

I was there. And he is in a management capacity now foruh.... the uhk.....

Post Newsweek station. He's about number two or number three man in the Post

Newsweek station in Miami. Norm Smith.

I: O.K. Yeah.

D: You've heard of Norm Smith?

I: aMm hmm. Yeah. Right um... as a matter of fact I sent him a um... a tape. and

a letter and I hope he'.l write back.

D: Right.

I: So that's that's great.pU....

D: He was up at the FAB meeting here a month or two ago and we were reminiscing

about WRUF at that time.

I: Yeah. It's uh... There's a lot to reminisce about. There's there's no doubt

about that. Um... I can't find these guys who supposedly stayed in the guard

room but I/I'm sure I have it my notes somewhere along the line. Uh the reason

why uh/I'm having to umrjust pick for little details and bits and pieces here

and there is because there's no body of organized information at all.

D: No.

I: Oh, it's just amazing. I,I've had to start ya know from the ground and work up.

D: And just sort of assemble it and picture holes.

I: That's it. That's it. And it's something that may take years before it's done

properly but uh I figure ... II'm the first to give it a try and maybe someone

who comes after me'll fill in some more of the details.

D: The war years were very exciting years there at the station because ya know every-

body had somebody in the service and everybody had to know the news all the time

WRUF 8A -31-

D: and and uh... Gabriel Heater and these folks, they list... picked every word

that they ... they said. And I remember uh... uh... in uh DE Day when uh they

opened up in in Normandy, they called us out in the middle of the night because

uh the invasion was starting. And we went down and we signed the station on in

the middle of the night probably in violation of the law. But uh considering

an emergency and we went on the air and uhtook the broadcast of the invasion.

And uh.... these things that happened during the war, just some of them very

moving, uh things that we aired.

I: I imagine it was um ya know quite an electric atmosphere around the place uh

figuratively and literally.

D: Yes.

I: But uh.... So the news coverage must have been expanded greatly.

D: It was. And uh Mutual did a surprisingly good job in those days.

I: Well I I get the impression that Mutual was a a pretty good network in those days.

D: They were.

I: And they uh... fell by the wayside later but uh....

D: Yes. They certainly... they certainly were in competition with the others and

they were they were doing a good job at that time and uh of course news was bigbig.

I: Mm hmm. So un I'm glad to know about the war years. I haven't been able to find

too many people who were there actually during the war..... because a lot of the

people who are now Florida broadcasting had to go away to the war

and then came back ya know.

D: Right.

I: So uh......

D: I'm trying to think of some folks who were there.... during most of that time.

Really very few of them. Uh my assistant chief died of cancer here three or

four years ago.

WRUF 8A -32-

I: No kidding?

D: Uh Gano was around most of that time.

I: I will check with him. Uh.... fortunately there are still enough people living

in Gainesville so that I don't always have to make trips out of town but I)I

enjoy this.

D: Yeah. Right.

I: Un.... what I'd like to do is um.... perhaps uh take the liberty of writing

you a letter or giving you a phone call if I have any further questions. Uh....

D: Please feel free anytime. It.... Little snatches come backto ya but there

are all sorts of things that if you're prompted probably would come to mind.

I: Yeah, right. I know it doesn't always come back to you all at once so I don't

really expect the one hundred percent completestory in one interview.

D: Mm hmm.

I; But uh ya never can tell. Maybe at next year's FAB convention I'll bring the

tape recorder and we can all sit around again. III may be able to catch up

to more people that way.

D: Dick Craigo did quite a bit of uh.... He was there a fair portion of the war

and he did play by play during this time. I think you'd find Dick very interesting

to talk to.

I: Right. Yeah Bob Leach said that once you get Dick Craigotalking you can't

shut him up. (chuckle)

D: Can't... can't stop him. That's right.

I: So I I like Dick. I've met him once or twice and uh he's a really pleasant guy

so I'm looking forward to talking to him. It's just a matter of getting down

there and catching him.

D: I know what you mean.

WRUF 8A -33-

I: Right. Um let me thank you and I'll I'll ...........
D: Ted, enjoyed it..

(tape ends) y / / i ve