Sam Arnold - 1959 BC (Before Cactus)

[ Editor's note: Sam was/is a multi-talented guy. He directed news casts, Romper Room and even taped shows like the Schlitz's (Joe Adams) "Gone Fishin'" show. But Sam also shot film, slides, processed film and slides (all B&W of course), mounted slides in glass for air use, shot polaroid slides for graphic use on the 4x5" rear screen projector slides (that projected this image on a screen behind the anchor), wrote and produced commercials, did switching (which we call master control work) and about anything short of heavy engineering. He had a mild temper in those days, but was still careful and accurate in his work. He was one of the ones we REALLY hated to lose in the 60's when Sam felt it was time to move to a better job.]
Thanks for contacting me. I look forward to seeing many of the old group. I am BC (before Cactus) and AJ (after Johnny).

Here are two of my war stories.

Time was fall 1960 with station operating on 1000 watt transmitter and 150' tower. It was about 10:45PM and raining like crazy. The phone rings and a guy asked if we are on the air? I asked where he was calling from? He said Madison. We were running an awful late movie, (understand this is before Smith Broadcasting) so I suggested he go to bed and forget it. I said our signal was falling off the side of the mountain so if he did not live at the foot of the mountain a'int no way he could see it.

Oh Well one more quick one.
I grew up in Memphis area and attended Bartlett high school. A school buddy moved to Huntsville shortly after I did. Johnny or others would tape remaining station breaks and introductions after the 6PM news. I called my buddy and asked him to watch around 10:30PM. As Johnny introduced the movie I gave him my school class members names as stars of the late movie. [So class members names were listed as all the stars of the movie instead of the actual movie star names] I attended a class reunion many years later and my friend reminded me what happened. I think Johnny and I were the only ones who knew what happened.



[ Here's a follow up from Cactus about the transmitter Sam talks about above, in the really early days of WAFG-TV, Channel 31. ]

Back when Sam was at WAFG in 1959, we had an old Dumont transmitter that sat where the old Ampex 1000 VTR (monochrome Video Tape Recorder - All Tubes to run it) was... The power output was only 500 watts PEP and nearly everytime we would fade to black it would go off the air.. ( if you remember, NTSC TV is full power in black ) anyway, Sam was right, the signal on rainy nights would just drip off the hill.... Maybe to 5 Points...

Those where the days... But you know, Ol' John Higdon and Johnny sold air time and on good months would pay the power bill... The old GE helical had a published gain of 12DB, but it was not near that in real life... If it were 12DB the PEP (Peak Envelope Power) power would have been about 4,400 watts ERP (Effective Radiated Power) considering the loss in the transmission line and diplexer... I remember one time we had an old movie of some type on that John Higdon had sold to some VIP client downtown and just before the movie started John came up to the station and kneeled down in front of that old Dumont and prayed to God to keep it on the air.. I remember Vic just raising hell back in the back.... I thought it was funny as Hell myself.... More to come.. "Cactus"

[ Sam recalls the old Auricon Film camera in this updated memory ]
By the way, one of the hot shot directors from Army came to borrow the Auricon to shoot a 30 min. political with Ryan Degraffenried Gov candidate in 62. I tried to explain I had a non standard setting on the sound exposure (on the optical sound track) due to that famous film processor but he did not listen. He brought the footage back and I processed it and had to run it that night. The picture was a beautiful exposure but there was only a faint audio sound in the noise. I think it was paid anyway.
[ note: added recently 8-26-03 ]

Since many of my stories are from my first employment I am not sure the group would care to hear them. But I'll list a few and if you see one interesting let me know.

The 10PM News fire
Grady Reeves 10PM News and Story Behind the Story
My First Opportunity to meet George Wallace
My First Commercial Shoot with a Polaroid
Setting up the Cramer Film Processor
Covering the Governor race at First Monday in Scottsboro and running out of gas in VW wagon.
Finding the music for Schlitz Gone Fishing Show
John ? doing news and falling backward all 300 lbs.
Country Boy Eddie Show on Saturday 10PM w/Band showing up at 9:59.
The Day the aural on new GE would not turn on and Alvin Millwood solution ( Alvin was in picture with Maury Farrell's son)
My assignment 2nd time employed 76-78
Get a First Class License (I went to Atlanta and took all 3 test in one day and passed) Cactus could not believe it.
Cactus said the TR70 would not make red when recording commercials, I fixed it.
Keep the 2 VTR's running all day and for Willie Douglas to make masters at night
Try to get Bob Sullivan to relieve me at 5PM

Although every day was a wild one on Romper Room no big story comes to mind.

Sam Arnold

[ added after 31 picnic as more thoughts ]

Thanks for the pictures. I spent my last couple of years at Sony working with HD camcorders including the model that shot the stars wars movie and now most of the prime time shows but I don't take many pictures.

Bill Powers reminded me of this.
When I joined 31 in mid 70's the operators reported to me that when que tracking tapes the control track was being partially erased and the tape would break up for the first couple of seconds on the air. It so happened a RCA engineer was at the station for another reason. I discussed the problem with him and he said the only way to isolate the problem was to have the RCA alignment jig sent in at about $1000 a day. I suspected the problem was mechanical but could not see the source of the problem.

I declined the $1000 jig and brought in my tape developing solution I used at the Army to physical splice tape. I was able to prove the problem was physical. I ran a few more tests and isolated the problem to the tape guide on the audio stack. You could not see the problem until the guide was removed. The tape which is abrasive had worn a grove in the guide over the years of use. Since a replacement was not available I rotated the guide 90 degrees. I had to hay wire the audio stack shield since it no longer would close properly. All the folks who que tracked tapes should remember this.

Sam Arnold

© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 9-2-2003]