I will always treasure my days in the Channel 31 newsroom. It was extremely intimidating following Brenda Backmon Wood in 1980, and I vividly remember my first night on the air. I was so nervous my voice cracked as I attempted to introduce myself, and all my dear colleagues from my previous station, channel 48, telephoned after the show to imitiate my "squeak." We had a great laugh and, subsequently, a wonderful two year run. My co-anchors during that time included Bob Baron, Jim Marsh, Rick Davis, and later Dave Cody. Mike Sullivan was an excellent news director and managed to cultivate a strong team of reporters with an increcible amount of energy. Wayne Matthews worked tirelessly (and often doggedly) on the never-ending controversies surrounding Police Chief Sal Vizinni. He also resuscitated Dick Van Valkenburg when Dick had a heart attack in the newsroom's voice booth. There was our capable producer, Jim Miller, who later went to WSB and CNN. Jim Keller, now communications director with Boeing, was the Shoals Bureau chief and later anchored weekends with Helen Howard after the delightful Steve Newvine departed. Jamie Cooper was the Country Rover, and naturally, everyone thought we were married or siblings or "kin." (FYI--We weren't related in any way.) I will never forget the sly and dependable Eric Eisgrau or the wild and wooly Ace Askew.
So many of my funniest memories, unfortunately, I can't repeat. But there were poignant moments, such as the time as Deputy Dawg, our infamous cameraman, and I returned late one night from a city hall live shot and found a young man's body in the middle of highway 431 near the overlook. I recall extensive work on a DDT -Triana series and another on TVA's nuclear power build-up, the latter prompting a succession of threatening letters from laid-off TVA workers. I recall falling shards of ice from the tower crashing through our car windshields during unsually cold winters and reporters scrambling to move cars when Baron called for more freezing moisture.
Mostly, I recall the wonderful comaraderie and teamwork during those two years, not only in the newsroom, but among the production crew, art department (Lee Baker and Bruce Houck), sales department, and engineers. The ratings were high, the employees professional, the nights long and filled with longer tales that eminated from bars that stayed open past 2 a.m. (remember the Hilton?). It was a great time in our lives--Many thanks to MD for organizing this reunion!
Kelly Cooper Schrimsher