MDS IV Early Jobs

In the mid 60's, Maury Farrell and I did "Coffee Break" together. He was the straight guy and I read jokes and told stories. I did this for several years. Kirby Smith helped supply me with jokes from Reader's Digest to tell on the air and I still have a collection of them from that time. We used two RCA BK-1A mics on the desk top. They looked like brown ice cream cones sitting on a platter.

Well, then we decided to do the show with a female, and Maury had several partners. Being shorthanded as we always were, I started doing the directing-TD job in the booth. I also did the WAAY-OUT news as part of the show. This was an AP feature called "Jig-Saw News & Flashes of Life" that came accross the wire every day.

Now think about this. When it comes my time to do the news, I first turn on lights in the Director's Booth that focus on me. Then I stand up, while one of the studio cameras focuses on me through the glass and gets me on a medium shot. Next, as I am introduced, I have to open my mike, kill two studio mikes and then push the fader bars on to myself and start the news. When I am finished, I lean slightly down, push the bars back to the studio camera on Maury and Pat (or Katie or whomever), kill my mike and open theirs, and the segment is over. Pretty neat, huh?

Another control room I was learning was that of a 1956 Cessna 172 (in 1965) which I bought and owned for a year while I was learning to fly. It was cheaper than renting an airplane and a year later I sold it for exactly what I paid for it and paid off the loan. Well, I am here in the cockpit in front of minimal instruments such as a Narco "Superhomer" radio. It had 3 crystal controlled transmit frequencies (all towers and Flight Service stations monitored the same frequency). To listen on the same frequency, you pushed a "spot" button that turned the transmitter oscillator on just enough so you could hear it, and tuned the tunable receiver in until you heard it come on frequency. And there you were. But if you were tuning in an Omni station, you just had to tune around until you could hear the morse code identifier and you knew which one you were listening to and could then track it "home". Thus, the "SuperHomer". Some aerial shots we have today were photographed out of this airplane. My father had a new Cessna 172 in Birmingham where he was learning to fly, also. It's the one you can see elsewhere with the news hound on the tail.

Speaking of everyone doing everything, here's my father, MDS III, running one of the studio cameras. I think this was during one of our first telethons when we had no where enough help, so everyone was recruited to run camera.

Here's Pete Farrell, Maury's son, running camera in the studio. He did it while he was in school and worked the afternoon shows and sometimes newscasts. Shortly after he got out of school, Pete went to work for channel 48 and has been there for many, many years.

© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 8-15-2003]