Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It started with CBS

My first job was as a movie projectionist at a local theater during World War Two -- but the veteran who had held the job before the war came back safely and reclaimed his job. It was that way with a lot of guys who held wartime jobs - and it was challenging for we who were just out of high school.

I had a real interest in motion picture work and found a job with RKO Radio Pictures in Albany, New York. I'd ride a commuter train back and forth every day and my work involved cleaning the office area first thing and then wrestling cans of film that came in from theaters or addressing and shipping films to theaters in the area. I think the job only lasted one week. The only significant thing during the week was a B-25 bomber crashing into the Empire State Building with a number of lives lost and a lot of damage to the building. Unlike the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building continues to loom over New York City - but the memory remains.

The next few months I helped install lockers in a new frozen food plant, and then went to work in a gas station. My sympathy is extended to anyone who has to work under a car in the wintertime - it can be miserable.

In January 1946 my father finagled another job for me - this one in New York City where he was working for a bank. Through a friend who knew somebody who knew somebody else, he got me an interview with CBS when its headquarters was at 485 Madison Avenue. I was in awe of the personal department and was even more thrilled when they said they would try me out as a page boy..............in the CBS newsroom. But what was a page?

Ever hear of a gofur? It was an overstated name for an errand boy. Go get me some coffee.

Go get me some pencils. And even 'Would you deliver this to my wife at such and such address." But I got to wear an honest to goodness page jacket with CBS letters that I could flaunt all over the building -and even out on the street if I had an errand to run somewhere in the city. There wasn't much money involved but I was part of one of the biggest radio networks in the world. Wowee!

And to top even that, I was working with biiiiiig names in news - Eric Severeid - Bob Trout -- and my boss was Edward R. Murrow. Who cared about salary -- it was more than I could wish for just to be associated with people like that. And to pass celebrities like Arthur Godfrey in the halls.

One day I got called into Mr. Murrow's office. He said that personnel was going to change.The radio news staff was going to be reduced - including me. However, he said that I could stay
with CBS if I was willing to make a move to a new section that was being formed at Grand Central Palace - a department to be called CBS Television News. I'd never heard of anything like that and asked, "What would you do if you were in my position?" He reminded me that I had no college, little other experience in any other work, and he said, "Well, you might apply for a job with a country newspaper." That's how my time with CBS ended and how I ended up going to a small weekly paper not far from home. But that's another story.

Meanwhile, I wonder where I'd be and how my life would have worked out had I taken that
job in experimental CBS television news.

No comments:

Post a Comment