Absolutely shocked!

Blog 59

Absolutely shocked!

Who Did What, Part 2

Last time I started a listing of who did what after graduation. These listings are not all inclusive—just a bit of effort by Charlie Griffin, perusing past notes sent in, and the memory which still kicks in from time to time. The first list included those who became engineers.

Today, let’s call out the academicians at the secondary level:

Rudy Alvarez    Don Mills    Priscilla Weston        Jim Bob Miller        Esther Whitt

Ben Williams    Nancy Grauer    Bob McMinn        Herff (Buddy) Moore    Rose Marie Juarez

Do any or you know of someone else at the professorial level not included above?

All of the above earned a PhD, as I know others in our class have done. It would be nice to know the fields of study for these folks. Does anyone wish to explore this subject further?

What a shock!

Reading the morning newspaper, I came across a brief that an elderly man in the Northwest part of the city had shot and killed a would-be intruder to his home. The article then described the “elderly” man as in his late 70’s. What a shock to the system. Who defines elderly? Am I elderly? Are any of you elderly? Elderly is a state of mind, in my elderly opinion. Most of the classmates that I am in touch with are vibrant, alert, and energetic. It is true that I know of a couple of our classmate brothers/sisters who are indeed elderly, primarily from attitude. Some of us are less fortunate with health issues, but that also does not define elderly in my book. If any of you reading this identify yourself as elderly, please let me know, privately or as a comment. Meanwhile, I will stick with the label senior and allow younger men and women to open doors for me. That is because they see my white hair and insist that I go first.

Nostalgia: When TV Came to San Antonio

The hundreds of TV channels and vast programming choices San Antonio viewers have at their fingertips now is a far cry from what greeted locals in late 1949.

When the Alamo City’s first local television station, WOAI, signed on more than 65 years ago, the audience saw a rerun of a college football game and a documentary about the construction of its building at St. Mary’s and Navarro.

Both offerings may seem like yawns by today’s standards, but television back then, a shiny city newcomer, was thrilling in any form. In fact, the S.A. mayor at the time proclaimed Dec. 11, 1949, as “T-Day.”

The San Antonio Express-News heralded the arrival in that morning’s paper, describing “T” as “a lusty-voiced, bright-eyed youngster, who arrives in town Sunday afternoon, promising much in the way of added entertainment for South Texans within sight and sound of his capricious capers.”

As relatively few people owned a set, “appliance stores held open houses,” said WOAI’s chief anchorman Randy Beamer, who has been with the station 25 years and has done much research into its history.

In a 1999 Express-News interview, one of WOAI’s first newsmen, Henry Guerra, also recalled that many locals gathered outside the old Joske’s of Texas to watch the television in the display window.

As for the programming delivered on Channel 4 during those first hours, most were taped shows, including highlights from the SMU-Notre Dame game that was played the week before; a children’s program called “Johnny’s Treehouse,” 15 minutes of local news featuring the city’s first anchorman Austin Williams; and a Broadway variety program.

The first local entertainment show — “Curtain Time” — wasn’t broadcast until 7 p.m.and featured dancing and singing.

“Another early program was ‘Dance Time,’ featuring Bud and Marie Nash (local dance instructors), with music by Mel Winters and the Orchestra,” Beamer shared from a 40th anniversary special that aired on his station in 1989.

An early singing guest was one of San Antonio’s vocal institutions, Rosita Fernandez. “She was just Rosita in the introduction and sang in Spanish,” Beamer said.

Eventually, Western flavor was added with a singing cowboy: Red River Dave McEnery, known for his topical lyrics. In a 1989 interview with former Channel 4 anchor Debora Daniels, Dave waxed nostalgically about the lack of station security back then. There were “no locks on the doors,” he recalled. “People could wander in and out. I’d see some of my friends — they’d be waving at me.”

Now, WOAI is the city’s NBC affiliate. But initially, WOAI ran programming from several sources: NBC, ABC, CBS and the now-defunct DuMont Network. That was short-lived, however, after other S.A. stations claimed their own network affiliations.

Few S.A. TV shows that weren’t news-related were success stories. One early hit, however, was “Swingtime,” a teen dance gig a la “American Bandstand” that debuted on Channel 12 in 1964. After a few years, it jumped to WOAI and featured one of the city’s hottest DJs of the ’60s and ’70s, Bruce Hathaway.

(Bruce is still around doing gigs) A couple of decades later, the station debuted the city’s first locally produced morning lifestyle show: “San Antonio Living,” originally hosted by Tanji Patton and still going strong. During the ensuing 17 years, other local affiliates launched similar programs.

The biggest boon to S.A. television, then and currently, is the local TV news. It had a very modest start here, however.

WOAI’s first 10 p.m. broadcast was a no-frills production that consisted of prominent WOAI radio voice Guerra reading the news in his trademark deep baritone voice in front of a television camera. He was the first Mexican-American on a San Antonio newscast and the only one for several years. His trademark sign-off became, “Good night, muy buenas noches.”

“The anchorman did everything in those days, ” Guerra said a couple of years before his death in 2001. “We did the international news, the sports, the business news. We also did local news, which we essentially stole out of the paper. Of course, we didn’t let on that that’s what we did.”

News visuals were a far cry from the impressive HD video of today. “At first, our pictures consisted of photos clipped out of the paper that we’d attach to a music stand, ” Guerra said, recalling that commercials also were filmed live in the studio.

Another first for WOAI-TV was gender related. “The first woman anchor was on our station,” recalled WOAI general manager John Seabers. Her name was Martha Buchanan.

She started on a Channel 4 panel program in 1965 called “Early Evening Report,” which aired from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., but it wasn’t until ’72 that she broke ground state-wide. That’s when WOAI launched its weekday 6 p.m. broadcast and introduced Buchanan as its co-anchor, making her the first woman to head a prime-time news telecast. “Jessica Savitch was anchoring in Houston. . .but she was doing weekends, ” recalled Buchanan in a 1999 interview. Buchanan also paved the way for pregnant anchors; she stayed on-air, “in all my blooming glory,” until two weeks before giving birth.

Today, female anchors are an S.A. staple with he-she tandems on just about every local news program.

The number of daily newscasts also has grown dramatically; WOAI currently airs nine half hours Monday through Friday.

Technology has changed markedly, as well. During the early days, for example, news content was typed on paper and carbon copies were distributed. “Stories were longer because film had to be developed and edited,” recalled WOAI’s chief engineer Tom Strauch, a vet of the station for more than three decades. “It was very difficult to move things around, so the news didn’t feel as spontaneous.”

Once typewriters and film were traded for computers and video, stories could be switched around “on the fly,” he said.

WOAI’s many ownership changes over the years also triggered change. Originally owned by Southland Industries, the station was sold numerous times over its six decades. After it was acquired by United Television in 1974, WOAI announced that it would change its call letters in conjunction with its 25th anniversary.

It became KMOL and stayed that way until 2002. Clear Channel Communications, already the owner of WOAI radio, acquired the TV station and changed the call letters back to the original WOAI to strengthen the bond between the two broadcasting entities.

Clear Channel eventually sold its TV unit. Under WOAI’s current ownership, however, it touts a similar synergy with a sister station. When Sinclair Broadcast Group, which already owned Fox affiliate KABB, purchased WOAI-TV, the eventual result was a marriage of news and other resources under one roof.

In late 2014, WOAI left its original downtown location and moved to KABB’s home at Loop 410 and Babcock, where both stations share a giant newsroom, pooling reporting and video for their separate shows.

One thing remains constant, however: San Antonio’s love of news personalities. From Jim Dawson’s weather-related cartoons in the 1960s and ’70s to the big to-do over the shaving of Beamer’s trademark mustache in 1997 to relatively recent promo spots featuring WOAI’s anchors imitating telenovelas, on-air fun combined with serious news continues to rivet local audiences.


3 thoughts on “Absolutely shocked!

  1. Beverly Hime

    Loved this gathering together of local history. Especially enjoyed your comments about being “elderly.” Yes, it is a state of mind. My best friend never achieved “elderly” status before she died at 101.5. And you better never forget the “.5”.

    Reply
  2. Michael Gill

    Hi, Jack (and Charles G for his work on the career fields of our class mates)! I would like to pursue this a bit further since I was left out of the first go-around and also incorrectly identified as a engineer in the first blog list (my Bachelor’s degree was Math/Physics from Texas A&M) As for my being added to the academician list, here are the basics: PhD, Political Science; MA; MPA – Indiana University (Bloomington). I was also left off the list of expatriates, as I have lived in Heidelberg, Germany since 1981! Less important for me but maybe there are others yet to be discovered! Keep up the great Blogs – I hope our members are appreciating them as much as I have. M.R. (Mike) Gill

    Reply
  3. Rock Mogas

    Jack,
    Just had to add this today. Your blobs are so lmportent to so many of us. What do I need to do to convince you to continue keeping us informed.

    Best Regards,
    Rock

    Reply

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