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Interview with Wayne Jackson, February 21, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Wayne Jackson, February 21, 2002
Date:
February 21, 2002
Description:
Mr. Jackson attended a radio school on the G. I. Bill after spending a few years in the U. S. Army. He moved from Illinois to Rocky Mount and then to Wilmington in 1954. Mr. Jackson gives details about early television in Wilmington including hosting a talk show, doing news, sports, weather and involving the African American community on the airways.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Jackson, Wayne R. Interviewer: Lack, Adina / Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 21 Feburary 2002 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 60 minutes

Interviewer: Here we are, today is February 21, Thursday, 2002. We're interviewing Wayne Jackson. Adina Lack, university archivist and Sherman Hayes, university librarian, at UNCW. Welcome, Wayne.

Jackson: Thank you, it's good to be here.

Interviewer: One of our big purposes today is to talk about early television in Wilmington because you were a pioneer and I would guess, what, your complete career was in television?

Jackson: When you say pioneer that means you're old.

Interviewer: No, I just mean you were early.

Jackson: Yeah, I was early.

Interviewer: But before we get into that, why don't you give the sense for the person who's going to look at this in 20 years and 30 years and 40 years, how did you end up in Wilmington? Where did you grow up, what is your background, so they have a perspective?

Jackson: I grew up in Illinois, a small town, suburb of Chicago, town is Hinsdale. It's about 20 miles west of Chicago. Had a couple years in the Army in World War II, went to a radio school on the GI Bill. I was in the radio school one day several years later and they said there's a radio station in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. They said, "It's real pretty, it's in the foothills." Anyway I went down there. They said, "Come on down, we'll give you a 30 day trial. If we like you, we'll offer you a job and if you like us, you can accept." So I drove from Illinois down to Rocky Mount. They offered me a job after 30 days and I accepted and I got to know people in Wilmington because I would come down with the Rocky Mount football and basketball teams. And the television station here, WMFD, channel 6, started April 9, 1954. A few months later, they decided they wanted to branch out into afternoon programming, have an afternoon interview show. So they called me and said, "You like to talk, so how about it?"

I came down twice and my wife came down with me the second time and finally said, "Why not?" It's a chance to get into a new business and we'll see what happens. So I arrived in Wilmington on a Saturday and on Monday, this shows how naive we were about everything, on Monday I started an hour and a half talk show, 48 hours after I got in town.

Interviewer: Now what year is this?

Jackson: 1954.

Interviewer: So the station had just started.

Jackson: The station had been on the air about six months.

Interviewer: And I think you have a picture here of somebody who was the founder. You can hold that up and we'll get it for the files.

Jackson: Yeah, here it is. This is Dick Dunlea, Sr. He started WMFD radio and then he went into WMFD television. That's his son, Dick Jr., who now has Dunlea Realty in Wilmington. WMFD stood for "We Make Friends Daily."

Interviewer: They got to pick that or they just made that up you mean later?

Jackson: All stations in those days had it, WPTF in Raleigh was, "We Protect the Family."

Interviewer: I didn't know that. I just thought they kind of got arbitrarily assigned or something.

Jackson: You get some things assigned, but then depending on what the letters were...

Interviewer: You came up with your own...now did you come up with that?

Jackson: No, that was his that was with the radio station. I'll say something, some old-timers that were with WECT after the call letters were changed, we were having some technical problems at times. WECT, somebody came up with "We Experience Constant Trouble" (laughter). We don't like to say too much about that. Probably shouldn't even have said it on tape. So things like that happen.

Interviewer: So anyway, you're going to be running an hour and a half talk show.

Jackson: I did an hour and a half talk show. The people that were going to work with me had lined up a number of guests. My first guest was Alton Lennon who was a member of Congress and United States senator. I forget who else were on the programs. We didn't have any video tape, no satellite dishes, one black and white camera, that was it and we would have to work on things and see how it goes. The cameramen were really great because Harold Ludwig was one that ran the camera and he could come panning in and stay on you and stay in focus all at the same time and then he could pull out and he would move to different people.

Interviewer: And these were really big monster machines, weren't they?

Jackson: Yeah, well here's what the camera looked like.

Interviewer: Oh great, let me get in on that, that's great. Yeah, see, they're about as big as the person, weren't they.

Jackson: The weatherman was Clint Long. Now that's what our weather board looked like back in 1954. Really what it was was a blackboard just like you would have in school and we would draw in the lines of the frontal systems and the highs and lows in chalk and the numbers down here on the bottom also were in chalk. So after you finished the 6:00 weather, you would just go in and erase everything off the board and get ready for when you did the 11:00 weather, you would write in new figures and do it. So that's how primitive things were. Now this is what my set looked like for "Relax with Jacks." That was the set for "Relax with Jacks."

Interviewer: Now that was the name of your...

Jackson: That was the name of the afternoon talk show.

Interviewer: By afternoon, what time did it run?

Jackson: We went 4:30 until 6:00.

Interviewer: So what market were you hoping to get? Kids after school?

Jackson: Just Wilmington that's all.

Interviewer: No, I mean kids after school, housewives.

Jackson: Anybody we could (laughter). There weren't that many television sets in 1954 and we were trying to serve the community and that's one thing that Mr. Dunlea and after the Cameron family bought the station in 1957, very much emphasized. We're going to serve the local community. We're going to have local people on it. It's amazing because I will be someplace now and somebody will look at me because I was on television 35 years and say, "I watched you when I was just a little boy or a little girl like this." I'm just glad they were watching (laughter). But Channel 6 was the only station on the air in Wilmington for 10 years. Channel 3 didn't come on until 1964; I think it was October of '64. There for awhile, we could carry programs from all three networks, ABC, NBC or CBS.

Interviewer: Well, how did that work? How could you do that?

Jackson: We didn't have any real network affiliation at the beginning and we were the only station in the market so we could kind of pick and choose, but when Channel 3 was getting ready to come on the air, they were going to be an ABC affiliate so as soon as that was announced, about six months before they went on air, we dropped all ABC programming. We didn't want to build an audience for them. We pretty much went with NBC, carried a few CBS programs, but not many. As I mentioned, the show I was doing was live. One camera. I wish I had a picture of our news set because we would have news, sports and weather and they would all be done live and all of the commercials were done live by announcers and we would be doing commercials for Hughes Bros. Tires or Foy-Roe Men's Store, whatever it might be and we'd have to show up and do the commercials live.

So in the news program, it would be all formatted, there would be a picture or maybe a slide at the end of a news story or we would run some old film and while that was running, the camera would go over and get on the commercial set. They would come out, we would do a commercial. At the end of the commercial, there would be a slide for 10 seconds that gave the name, address and phone number and the camera would go over to the next commercial.

Whenever the announcer was finishing that one, when it was over, that slide would come up and the camera would go back and focus on the news person and you would start over again. So in a 30 minute period, we would do news, sports and weather and maybe eight live commercials.

Interviewer: We're going to come back to your talk show because I'm fascinated by it, but obviously that's not enough to be hired for. What other jack of all trades did you end up doing as an employee?

Jackson: At the time, that was pretty much it, although we all worked on radio also. The station was downstairs downtown at 219-1/2 Princess Street. The station was up on the third floor of a building and there was no elevator so any of the props, if McMillan and Cameron Company was going to advertise a refrigerator, they had a big strong guy and he would take that refrigerator up on a dolly up three floors of stairs up to the third floor and set it up and we would do the commercial from there.

Interviewer: But you would work a certain amount of hours on the radio station?

Jackson: Yeah, we would work some on radio.

Interviewer: And how about these spots? I mean that was part of your job too, reading those.

Jackson: If I had a spot to do, we would get what they call 'talent' to do a commercial live. I think we got paid $1.20, but for that also, I did some for Foy-Roe and Company, which was a men's store and I would go down and see Clayton McFadden and we would talk about what we were going to do and then he would leave it up to me to ad lib the spot most of the time. You got to the point where you knew what he wanted and you could go ahead and do it. We would take the props and go back and set up the mannequin or whatever it might be and do the commercial.

Interviewer: So talk about a day, you know you're going to have an hour and a half live show, what was your day like, I mean a typical day getting ready for that?

Jackson: Trying to figure out what we were going to do (laughter). We would have to get guests and make phone calls. We didn't have much of a budget at all and we would get together after the show. It was very interesting. In the early days when we signed off at night, everybody that was on the air doing whatever we were doing, we would get together and sit down and talk about what we had done, what was good, what was bad, how we could do it better. We might spend an hour, an hour and a half just discussing among ourselves because we didn't have any video tape that we could go and look it. It was just observation from other people and things that came to mind in our head.

Interviewer: And who were the people at that meeting? Who would be ...

Jackson: Well Bob West was one, Bob was big, tall, thin redhead who ended up in Virginia. All of these people are retired now. Johnny Thomas...

Interviewer: So what was his role?

Jackson: Bob was a producer for "Relax with Jacks", but he also did news. He did sports, he did weather. Everybody did a little big of everything including radio plus commercials. It was a very unusual; you looked at that weather set. Clint Long actually was the program director for Channel 6, but he did the weather. Johnny Thomas was a jack-of-all-trades. This is Johnny. He was Johnny Ranger and he was host of a western theater, a western movie that would come on each day on Saturdays. Some of these times skip by my mind as to when they were on, but Johnny did that. In later years, he was manager of a public broadcasting station down in Tallahassee, Florida. I called Johnny to just talk to him and renew acquaintances. We had kept in touch with each other.

He wasn't in and I asked the fellows who worked at the station if he had ever mentioned Johnny Ranger and they said, "What's that?" and I told them what Johnny Ranger was and I sent them a picture. So one day when Johnny walked in, they started asking him about Johnny Ranger and they pulled out the picture and said, "Was this really you?" About five minutes later, they said he called me in Wilmington (laughter) and said, "You blew it. You told them what I was doing."

But those of us who worked in the early days have maintained some contact with each other because it was very unusual. Nobody had written a book as to how you should do it and what you should do so we were flying blind. We didn't know...okay some names...

This picture was of a program called "Bob and Hester" and that was also in 1954. Bob, the announcer, was Bob Carl and Hester was actually Stanley Rehder who is a realtor from the Rehder Florist family. Stanley was sitting under the desk and his hand was in Hester, the puppet, and Hester and Bob would have conversations back and forth.

Interviewer: He was the voice too, Stanley was the voice...

Jackson: The voice of Hester.

Interviewer: Did he use his regular voice or was he distorted?

Jackson: Oh, he faked it and used his regular voice. He was a real character and a clown so whatever popped into his mind, he used. We also had a program called "Over at Al's," which started out, and this is a group of the Rhythm Range Riders, Tex Lancaster and Bob and Freddie Hickman.

Interviewer: Now these are local folks?

Jackson: Yeah, these are local. I think Hayseed, Hayseed is the one at the end looks like in a clown suit, he's passed away. Bob and Freddie and Tex Lancaster are still around. Bob and Freddie Hickman live in Brunswick County. Tex Lancaster lives here in New Hanover County. They would come on, they started the 6:00 program and they would sing and tell jokes and have guests and just have a good old time.

Interviewer: So they weren't necessarily in this, like you, part of this profession?

Jackson: No, they were not part of the television station per se; I mean they weren't on the payroll. They had their own gigs off on the side. Jackie Robinson, the baseball player, came to town. This was in 1955 and I had him as a guest. In those days, the Star News would not print the picture of a black person and Jackie Robinson came to town and the sports writers might go talk to him, but they couldn't put his picture in the paper.

Interviewer: Now who's this handsome guy on the left here? This is you, right?

Jackson: Yeah, the handsome guy on the left.

Interviewer: And you're not sure who the middle person is?

Jackson: I forget, for some reason, I think I know his name, but I don't want to say because I might be wrong. I think it was Lonnie Merrick, but I'm not real sure.

Interviewer: So this was part of your...back to the interview show, you were looking for anybody coming through as well as local because he's obviously not local.

Jackson: Oh yeah, oh sure.

Interviewer: And how would you even find out about these kind of people?

Jackson: Just contacts through the community. We maintained good contacts with the black community. In 1954, I contacted Williston High School, Constance O'Dell. Connie is still around town. She was the choir director and I called her and said, "Could we get your choir to come in and sing some Christmas songs for us live?" and she said, "Sure."

Interviewer: Great.

Jackson: So she came in and we have this old rickety wooden floor up on the third floor with some risers and they came in and they were so quiet that you could not even hear it. Now I'm on the air talking with somebody else. This whole choir moved in and got ready to sing and they sang and just did a real good job. At the time, it was something unusual for them to get public recognition like this so we've been pretty good friends. In fact, one of the things I think I am most proud of is years later the Williston alumni gave me a plaque honoring me for pioneering spirit for opening up television to the people in the black community.

Interviewer 2: I have a question. Did some people have some problems with you guys being so different from the Star News or other media in terms of having Jackie Robinson on your talk show?

Jackson: No, no.

Interviewer: Never got any backlash that you know of?

Jackson: No.

Interviewer: So you just did it?

Jackson: Yeah, we just did it and opened it up and said they're in the community and this is something special and something good.

Interviewer: Well when we talked to Dan Cameron, he seemed to project the same sense of this is the normal way, these are folks, let's just do it and it came through, you all were that way then.

Interviewer 2: Not the Star News.

Interviewer: But you didn't necessarily have any staff members who were African American?

Jackson: No, we just...if it looked like it was something good in the community and something important, then we went ahead and did it.

Interviewer: That's great.

Jackson: We had Walter Best from the Community Boys and Girls Club. One year we had a football autographed by a lot of Washington Redskin players and Walter came in and one of the young boys from the Community Boys Club, it was just the Boys Club then, it wasn't Boys and Girls Club, had done something special so he was awarded this autographed football of the Washington Redskins. We gave it to him on the air.

Interviewer: That's great.

Jackson: It was very interesting. A couple of other local programs, let me see if I ... oh this is something. This is what the studio looked like. When you take a look at a television studio these days, it's much, much different.

Interviewer: What time period would you say...?

Jackson: This is 1954.

Interviewer: Okay great, right at the start. Interesting. Still pretty spacious though. That building looked like it had some good room in it.

Jackson: Well, it did. Actually this is the building we were in and we went in the stairs down here and went up onto the third floor.

Interviewer: This is great. And we'll get copies of these if you don't mind. We'll keep them for the files. We don't have to have the original, but I'm saying if you want to share those with us, at least....

Jackson: One of the interesting programs...we were scraping together trying to figure out some things to do and I talked to the engineers one day about maybe doing a man on the street program down on Princess Street. They said, "Well we can take the camera and split in two parts. Take the top part off and then the tripod, take it downstairs, drop camera cable and microphone cable out the third floor window, hook it up on Princess Street and you'll have a microphone and you can do man on the street." So we said, "Fine, let's try it." So we put on a film called "Industry on Parade" that was put out by the National Association of Manufacturers. It ran for 15 minutes. While that was on, all of this movement, set everything up down on Princess Street. We came back and here I was on the street with a microphone. Anybody that came by, we would stop them and start to talk and people started saying what's going on here and they would come by.

Now the ones that started going across the street and bypassing us were the attorneys. There were a lot of attorneys that had offices down there and I guess they were afraid of what we might ask them. But those were the first man on the street interviews.

Then in 1955, a year after the station went on the air and I don't have any pictures of that, but we televised our first Azalea Festival parade. One black and white camera and we rented a zoom lens so we could go in and out a little bit, but the parade then started up at Third and Dock up where that statue is, what is it George Davis or somebody? And it would come down the hill and it would go north instead of going south on Third Street.

Well, with the one camera you could follow the parade unit and it would go past us and get down to here and then when you wanted to go back here, you either had to take it into black and move it real quick or slowly pan back and pick up the next unit and go through. Like I said, we didn't know what we were doing, but we were having fun doing it.

Interviewer: Now you worked with radio and in a sense T.V. was in competition with radio. Had that developed at all?

Jackson: Oh no, we weren't in competition with radio. I mean not with WMFD. We just, we worked both and we worked for the Dunleas. The Camerons took over the station in the fall I think of 1957 and the call letters were changed from WMFD to WECT in 1958.

Interviewer: So there wasn't any of that because later on, you know, television was threatening to the movies and this and that, but because it had blended right with radio, you didn't get the sense that they were competition?

Jackson: No, they were two entirely different things. There was no competition and those of us who worked, sometimes you'd be doing a commercial. After you did the commercial, you would go down to the second floor and pull a half hour or hour shift as a disc jockey. Whoever the DJ was down there would come up to do a commercial upstairs.

Interviewer: Now did you have a special kind of music that you were a disc jockey for?

Jackson: No, we didn't do that. We had Catherine Godwin who lives in town has got some wonderful pictures of a program she did called "Kiddie Time" and Catherine can tell you some. This is Ann Dunsford Mills. This was in the early 60's. Ann did a show called "Saturday Sunday School." I think Ann is retired now. She was an elementary school teacher at College Park School. She's still in town. In fact, we're talking here now, what is it, February of 2002, a couple of years ago, we had a reunion of people that worked at channel 6 for the first 20 years from 1954 to 1974 and we ended up with about 75 former employees and talked to each other about how good we were (laughter).

Interviewer: Well there was nobody better for 10 years.

Jackson: No, or any time after that (laughter). But we did things that ... alright this is one, 1960, Wilmington College was a junior college and they were playing Campbell in a junior college tournament game at Brogden Hall at New Hanover High School and we videotaped that and played it back and that was the first time any athletic event for Wilmington College had ever been televised. It ended up in a huge fight at the end of the game. Campbell won and they were tearing down the net and a Wilmington player objected to that. He didn't like it so he jerked the Campbell player on the floor. Somebody threw a punch and the next thing you know people were fighting all over the place.

Interviewer: Now Brogden Hall is the one down at New Hanover High School?

Jackson: At New Hanover High School.

Interviewer: So that's where they were playing their games?

Jackson: Yeah because Wilmington College at that time was one building across the street.

Interviewer: Across the street, so for all their athletics, they used Brogden. So what happened after the fight? Any repercussions for anybody?

Jackson: Well, I think Bill Brooks and I think it was Bill Randall was president of Wilmington College at the time; they came over to the television station. We had progressed to that point where we had video tape and they came over to the television station on Monday to look at the tape and started writing down names of people who had been committed in the fight, but it was all over. It was the end of the basketball season so it didn't make that much difference. But we laughed about how our first basketball telecast ended up in a brawl.

Interviewer: Now were you then the announcer? I know you've done extensive sports announcing. Did that start your...one of your first times?

Jackson: Yeah, that was me over there in the corner and the man running the camera, when people take a look at it, is Buck O'Shields who is a developer and a homebuilder here in Wilmington and Buck was in later years on the county commissioners and was chairman of the county commission for a good number of years. So he's still in town. I think Ken and Don Bowie are in here someplace. They're still in town. They're retired from electric...

Interviewer: So you're up on this big platform. You had to build that I suppose, didn't you?

Jackson: Yeah, we fixed that up. But that worked and then in the 60's, we went throughout the area and videotaped high school football games and did a few basketball games, but mostly football games. We would videotape them on Friday night and play them back on Saturday morning. We would go out with a crew and we'll say, we were going to do Whiteville vs. Tabor City. We liked to get these rivalries between the two schools. One salesperson would go to Whiteville and one would go to Tabor City and they each had half the game to sell. Well to be on television and to have their local high school on television was a special event and within an hour just about of getting into those towns, those salespeople would call back and say, "My half is sold."

Interviewer: Wow!

Jackson: Then on Saturday morning, we would play them back before there were any sports coming up on television and we did that for about three years and finally our remote bus just fell apart. It collapsed and we didn't do anymore, but they were very popular throughout the community. In fact, for years I would run into some people and they would say, "I was on that team," or "I remember when I was on that team." Davy Waggett from Seashore Drugs, we did a Little League baseball game and Davy was on that team and I had the score sheet and I gave him the score sheet from it.

Interviewer: I think it shows kind of the power of the new medium. I mean this was unusual. Now somebody's on television. It's still unusual, but it must have just been unheard of, right?

Jackson: It was and we went out, I will say this, we looked for things and a lot of that was because of the owners, the Camerons owned the station at this time, and they wanted to do things and they wanted to do things differently. We did some things that had never been done in the state before. In 1960, John Burney, attorney, came to us and John was backing Dr. I. Beverly Lake in the Democratic primary for governor and he had an idea for doing a rally, a political rally. He said, "Can you do one?" I said, "Well, we've never done one, John." He said, "I know you haven't done one, but can you do it?"

I called a number of television stations in the state, Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, they said, "No," they had never done one, "You want to do what?" I said that we had a man who wants to do a political rally. So we said okay, we thought we could it. The engineers said, "Yeah, we can do it." We were going to do it live.

8:00, I think on a Monday night down at the district courtroom, and John was a great promoter and he set it all up and they had a little band that played. John came out at 8:00 and everybody whooped and hollered like it was a big convention and John gave them a big solid pitch and introduced Dr. I. Beverly Lake and the place went bananas and we were live, but also videotaping it.

I had a copy of Dr. Lake's speech. We told them they had to be off at 8:29 because we had a minute commercial to run. We had to join the network at 8:30. On the headset, I told the director, I said, "I don't know what we're going to do. He's never going to finish." All of a sudden, I couldn't find where Dr. Lake was on the script. We were giving him time cues. Gave him 5, 4, 3, and all of sudden I couldn't find him.

He had skipped about four pages of script without missing a beat and he finished about 8:28 and the place erupted for another 60 or 90 seconds and we signed off and we went off the air. Well, it was such a hit that Dr. Lake was getting contributions from all over, anybody that could watch us. Some other people heard about it. We ended up doing another one with them in Lumberton. I went up to New Bern with John Burney and WNCT in Greenville.

Interviewer: Were these paid rallies?

Jackson: Oh yes.

Interviewer: You weren't doing this free?

Jackson: No, they were paid.

Interviewer: So you were very early in the political advertising?

Jackson: Yes and Dr. Lake ended up in a runoff with Terry Sanford.

Interviewer: I think Sanford won, right?

Jackson: Yeah, Sanford won.

Interviewer 2: He stayed in politics for a while.

Jackson: Yeah, Dr. Lake was just a real...it was interesting. Sanford would come up to the television station. He'd get out of a big Cadillac with a suit and tie and everything on. We went to Lumberton to video tape one of these programs, political rallies, and Dr. Lake would come in and he'd take off his shirt and tie and shave, talk to our crew backstage, just be a regular guy and he would get ready to go and talk to us. I think everybody that worked on the telecast voted for Dr. Lake. Terry Sanford didn't get many votes out of the station because Dr. Lake was just such a nice guy.

Interviewer: Was Lake local?

Jackson: No, no, he was out of Wake Forest. He had been a professor at Wake Forest. And it's his son who's now, as we speak, who was Chief Justice of the North Carolina State Supreme Court.

Interviewer: I want to just jump back to your talk show because I think it's fascinating the people that come through a community. We act like we're at the end of the pipeline and no one comes, but you would be one of the first that they might come and visit. Who were some of the other people that have just wandered through that you got a chance to share with?

Jackson: Oh, I'm trying to think of the name of the band leader who came in. I'll think about it when I leave here. It's one of those things, but one of the top band leaders of the country came through, but mainly we worked with local people in later years. Now I didn't keep this hour and a half show very long. We got it going and then when we started getting live network programs in the afternoon and Catherine Godwin's "Kiddie Time," I went to an hour, then I went to a half hour and finally I was off with that show. We had done what we were going to do with it and we got into other types of programming, but it was fun while it lasted.

Interviewer: And so what did you move to next then?

Jackson: I did a little bit of everything. I did news, I did sports, I did weather, I got into programming and station management and some other things. We did some special things. In 1966, we went up to Camp LeJeune and videotaped the All Marine boxing championships and one of the men that boxed in the Marines was Ken Norton who ended up being a top heavyweight. Then I think it was two years later at Camp LeJeune they had the Inner Service Boxing Championships. The champions from the Marines, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. Now you take a Marine and an 82nd Airborne trooper and put them in the ring together, I mean that was war (laughter).

But we videotaped it and when we did the one in 1966 with the Marines also and then we played them back here and then we gave the tapes to the Department of Defense and they were able to use them on Armed Forces radio and television all over the world. Because we figured that wherever they were, that some of these guys would enjoy seeing them.

Interviewer: Now were you calling the fight too?

Jackson: Well I'd always wanted to do boxing on radio so there was a sergeant up there who was going to do it on radio and he said, "I'll tell you what. You do half of them and I'll do half of them." I said, "Okay." Richard Williams did the telecast then. In television you don't have to say that much cause it's obvious on the screen. Boxing, you have to learn in a hurry that you cannot call every punch. The first minute and a half of the first round and I was breathless (laughter). You had to learn how to pace yourself, but we got through. It was very interesting to do it.

A couple of other things we did and I'm going to look back here at a program to see what it was, we televised all day a public hearing of the highway commission at Thalian Hall. They were getting comments on building a bridge over the Cape Fear River, the one that we now have, the Cape Fear Bridge. It was October of 1960 and we were down there all day with them. When they broke for lunch, then we went into some other programming and then we went back.

I remember one man, Otto Pridgen, got up and he was giving this impassioned plea and he says, "Thank God for the bright lights of television so everybody can see this," and the hearing went on all day. Later on there was a letter to the editor in the paper by somebody and said, "We'll have a man on the moon before we have a bridge over the Cape Fear River." We did, we had a man on the moon and a few months later, they completed the bridge (laughter).

That was the first one of those. We also did, in April of 1963, the General Assembly had a session on the battleship North Carolina after it came through and we televised that.

Interviewer: A real session?

Jackson: Yeah.

Interviewer: Wow!

Jackson: And then in that time, Hugh Morton was the king man as far as bringing the battleship North Carolina here and Hugh and I were talking one day and he came up with an idea for a television program and it was put together. The production part was done at WRAL in Raleigh and he asked me if I would go up and work with them on it, so I did. Did a 30 minute program. David Brinkley videotaped a segment for it. Dick Grove a great basketball player at Duke and later a Major League baseball player. Andy Griffith did a comic bit on tape. They still have this tape over at the battleship. I saw it not long ago. Jayne Morgan, a great singer in those days, actually recorded two songs and a 30 minute program was put together and in a space of one week, every television station in North Carolina carried that program in prime time at night. It was to help raise money to bring the battleship North Carolina here.

Interviewer: And you were the producer?

Jackson: Oh I was part of helping with it. Most of it was done by the people at WRAL, but Hugh knew me better than he knew them. I got to know some of them...in fact, one or two of the people that worked on it at WRAL had worked at WMFD down here so we knew each other pretty well, and we did it. But that brings up probably the saddest moment in my television career and I think the saddest moment in the history of Channel 6 because in September of 1961, we along with the Civil Air Patrol were sponsoring, co-sponsoring an air show out at Bluethenthal Field. It's now Wilmington International Airport. It was the fourth year that we had had the air show and we were doing it live. A plane carrying the Golden Night paratroopers from Fort Bragg was going up. The paratroopers were going to drop out of it and they invited John McNeill, one of our photographers, C.D. Martin, who was on the staff at the time and Jimmy Craig, whose idea it was originally to get the battleship North Carolina here.

The plane crashed on takeoff and Jimmy Craig died three weeks later. John McNeill, our chief photographer, died seven weeks later. Jimmy was going to get a chance to look at the battleship berth from a couple thousand feet up and he was the one who had the idea originally of bringing the battleship here. He never had a chance to see it. We were doing it live and to see something like that with a couple of your great friends in it, you know, was just horrible and that was the last air show we had.

It was something. I know the old James Walker Hospital when they were taking a lot of people in, some people had seen that we were televising live, doctors and nurses were going in because they knew they would be needed and people were lined up to give blood at the hospital because they knew blood would be needed. [Break in Tape]

Interviewer: I think, what did you say it was, WECT stood for?

Jackson: We Experience Constant Trouble.

Interviewer: Well, we can do that here, but you were talking about this horrific air crash. Were the paratroopers also on that plane?

Jackson: Yeah, the Golden Night parachute team.

Interviewer: So tens of people perished in this?

Jackson: Five, the copilot, the crew chief, Army photographer, Bobby Turner, Jimmy Craig and John McNeill, they were on our staff.

Interviewer: You were saying the nurses and the doctors, so you just stayed on the air through this whole catastrophe?

Jackson: Yeah, we were videotaping little portions of the show. We weren't going to tape the whole afternoon because we were doing hours of it and I think the director at the station, all of a sudden he said, "Gee, the plane looks funny," and he hit the record button, but by the time it started taking, the plane had already hit the ground. We worked with these shows and working with all the military people, they had rescue units and everything there and they had helicopters and they would take people over near the hospital, the injured.

Interviewer: Now did that tape go to the national news and so forth?

Jackson: Yeah, some of it did. It was quite a story to see something like that happen.

Interviewer: Speaking of national news, you said videotape came in about...when do you feel like it was a normal part of your life to be able to record what you had done?

Jackson: Late 50's, early 60's. That was in 1961 when we had that. When we had the Dr. Lake thing in 1960, we were doing tape.

Interviewer: So did that change how you started thinking about what to do, that it might have a national import? I mean was it a proud thing to try to get something that the national news wanted?

Jackson: No, the last thing we were worrying about was getting anything on the national news. The thing that we were worried about is what kind of a product we were putting on the air for the people down here. If something happened and it became a national story, fine.

Interviewer: Now what about all of these...I don't even know if we want to mention this, but hurricanes? How would you handle hurricanes in those early days?

Jackson: With our fingers crossed.

Interviewer: But I mean trying to do those bulky cameras and get the feel of it.

Jackson: Well, we couldn't take our cameras outside because we had no way to get the picture back. We could take our camera down and put it on Princess Street and drop the cable down like I talked about, but that was it for years until we had some kind of a remote system. Now you could send photographers out to try and get some...

Interviewer: Still pictures.

Jackson: Well, they would also get some film. Under the board where the engineers were, there was a little switch because when we processed film, it came out in the negative, but they had a switch under their control panel that they could switch it and it would change the negative to positive and then it could run on the air.

Interviewer: And would you get knocked off the air? I mean if we had a serious hurricane, you were just....

Jackson: Oh sure, not until such time as you had emergency generators to crank up and get you going, but there wasn't much we could tell people anyway because we didn't have any way of getting crews out and process film or do anything like they do now where they can go out and have three mobile units out in three different places and do things live.

Interviewer: So did you almost automatically get shifted over to radio 'cause I would guess radio was able to do something?

Jackson: Yeah, we would stay on the air as long as we could giving what information we could and like that weather board we looked at before, you know, we could draw a circle and say, "This is the hurricane," and that was about it.

Interviewer: People could probably phone you and you'd have those kind of interviews.

Jackson: Well, now you're talking about phone, election returns were interesting also because in those days, they had counted all the ballots and we would go on with election returns and I remember one morning we were on. It was a very important election and things were slow coming in. It was about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and we would get what returns we had and do some things and then we would run a half hour film and we would come back. At one point we looked at each other and a couple of us on the set were saying, "I wonder if anybody is out there watching?" And the phones started ringing. Somebody called in from Lumberton and somebody called in from Whiteville and several people called in from Wilmington. We're watching, tell us who won this race.

Let me see, I've got the sheet, April 9, 1954, channel 6 went on the air, September 27, daytime programming started, that was "Relax at Jacks." Then February 18, 1955, live network arrived and one of the first things we carried was the "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports," which were the Friday night fights.

October 1, 1956, we started carrying some live CBS to go along with our NBC and we went into morning programming and then the first weekend in June 1957, we started carrying the Today Show and Tonight and we went from 7:00 in the morning until 12:30 at night.

Interviewer: What year was that?

Jackson: That was 1957, we had been on the air three years.

Interviewer: And you really went to a complete schedule and you had to fill all of that time.

Jackson: But we, I don't know, we mentioned the football games we did and the boxing bouts up at Camp LeJeune. When Trask Coliseum opened, this goes now into 1977, Wake Forest came down here to play basketball and the dedication game for Trask Coliseum and we televised that. There are a couple of pictures here of action in the game.

Interviewer: Excellent. Well, Wake Forest was a big deal. I mean did we have a chance against them or not?

Jackson: Well, with one minute to go, the score was 81 to 79 in favor of Wake Forest and they won it by 4. I think the final score was 83 to 79.

Interviewer: Wow!

Jackson: These were the two tremendous announcers on that, Gil Boyd was on there with me. But that was the dedication game of Trask Coliseum.

Interviewer: That is great. Now Wainwright wasn't there then, was he?

Jackson: (Laughter) No.

Interviewer: We'd give him a bad time if he was.

Jackson: No, he wasn't there. Jerry's not quite that old, but it was just a special night for Trask Coliseum out at the University and almost beat Wake. A number of the players that were in that game still come around for alumni games. Billy Martin, who's an assistant coach now at Delaware and I saw him when we played Delaware now that they're in the Colonial Athletic Association, he and I talked about it, both when they were down here and when we were up in Delaware 'cause he and his brother played on the team. So there were a lot of things. Then in 1969, the station put up a...and I think this is probably the first 2000 foot tower east of the Mississippi, up near White Lake in Elizabethtown which greatly expanded our coverage area. That gave us a full grade A signal into Fayetteville and really helped our coverage area a lot. Engineers for years tried to get me to go up to the top of it with them in the elevator and I begged off. I said that I didn't know what's up there anyway except a bunch of steel and a couple of towers. I didn't see any sense in going 2000 feet in the air in a skeleton of steel (laughter).

I don't know. The days were very interesting. There was a lot that went into it. In the 60's we did a good number of editorials which was something ... then we got out of that in the 70's, but we did a good number of editorials. Naturally through the station, we were on the air when we went through the integration and racial problems in town.

Interviewer: Now how could you cover that without the ability to be as remote? Was that just through the news mainly?

Jackson: Yeah, but we were able to do more things then because you're talking now about the late 60's. We did two programs there that I think was a continuation of our efforts to do more local programming. The Board of Education was really wrestling with things and the schools were open and the kids were not getting along well together and there were problems. We came up with an idea of going to Hoggard and New Hanover High School and setting up two cameras and letting the students come to us and tell us why they couldn't get along or what was going wrong with the school and hearing it from the students' standpoint.

Interviewer: Oh, that's interesting.

Jackson: The Board of Education looked at us and said, "You want to do what?" (laughter). So we talked and they discussed it and decided why not, let's try it. So we did one hour at Hoggard and one hour at New Hanover and we let the students come up. Ken Murphy was at one place and I was at another one and the students would come up and just talk to us about what was going on. We asked why they couldn't get along more, what's going on in school. We did not edit it. It went just the way they said it and then we played it back in prime time like between 8:00 and 9:00 at night, did that two nights in a row. I don't know that it helped, but it didn't hurt. But it gave the public, the parents and the other people at home a chance to hear it from the students' side and they were not bashful about coming up to the camera after they saw what was going on. They would trust us.

Interviewer: Wow, that's great.

Jackson: That whole period was very trying. We did get some feedback. A couple of times we did editorials advocating the appointment of a black to City Council. Ken McLauren was pointed to a vacancy and then Luther Jordan was later on. When they ran for reelection, they were both reelected at different times. But at that time there had not been a black person on City Council. So we did that. We did a number of other editorials. Dan Cameron, he and I would talk sometimes. Sometimes I'd have an idea, sometimes he did and I would make sure that after I typed it up, he would sign his name underneath, "Okay, Dan Cameron," so if there was any feedback, I could say you told me this was what you wanted, but it worked.

Interviewer: So obviously over your career, you changed from just being a general every purpose one, were you the station manager at one point.

Jackson: Yeah, station manager at one point but...

Interviewer: When did that happen?

Jackson: Oh I got into that I guess in the 60's and into the 70's. Things changed. I ended up my last eight years I was doing the Carolina in the Morning show and also anchoring noon news and Carolina in the Morning was another one where we went out. We would go out in that and do an hour and there would be a cameraman, an engineer and me and we would go out. You can do an hour if you plan it. We would set up Hospice Festival of Trees. We would go down and do that when they were setting up the morning that it was going to start and we'd have two cameras. One would be an overall shot. Another one would be a close-up of me and a tree or an interview or whatever it might be and you would have the overall shot and they would switch to us, we would do the interview, talk about this, they'd go to an overall shot. I would continue talking. We would move over to something else.

When we came back, we would have a different thing. We would go back to the studio for commercials or news or weather. When we'd come back, we would be located in a different place and the engineer would switch the camera shots. So you would do an hour remote with three people. There are a lot of different things that you can do throughout the area that we did. Some worked, some didn't.

Interviewer: Now was there a morning show before you started that?

Jackson: Yeah, but we changed it once we got in there. We changed it and started going out to Whiteville and Lumberton. We would go to a restaurant. We would find out a restaurant in town where a lot of people went and just had coffee and talked about things. So we would go and join them and it would be live and we would talk about what's going on in Whiteville or what's going on in Lumberton or what do you think about this in the state, what do you think about that. They would give us pure unvarnished opinions (laughter) on anything that went on. Now we're talking the 80's here so this was the early years, but that was a continuation of what we had started and what I had learned back in the 50's and 60's about local television. It's amazing what you can do if you just stop and think about it a little bit and go to different places.

There are a lot of wonderful people and wonderful stories and they're not limited to New Hanover County. There's Brunswick County and Columbus and Bladen and Lumberton, all around. One year we were doing the morning show, we decided we wanted to get a lot of high school choirs into sing and we would end up with about 10 different choirs.

They'd come in at night and we would record songs and then every day in the month of December, we would play at least two of those tapes and then Christmas Day, the whole program was prerecorded and we would use one or two songs from every one of those choruses. And these kids would come in and they had never been in a television station.

One year they came in ... and you learn so many things, one year they came in and the kids were all over the television station, I'm thinking they're going to ruin this place. Teacher said, "Wayne, they're just excited. They've never been at a television station. Don't worry about them." Then she said, "You know, we came over the bridge and they looked and said "That is a big city, isn't it?" They were from an adjoining county and half of those kids had never been to Wilmington.

And you realize things like that. We were doing an interview with some high school students in Bladen County and I said, "After you graduate and go through school, do you want to come back to Bladen County and work?" And they said, "No." I asked them why and they said, "You know we don't even have a movie theater in Bladen County," and at that time we got thinking around and a lot of the counties around us did not have a movie theater and we're sitting here in New Hanover County with two dozen. [Break in Tape]

Interviewer: Okay, we're back on the second tape, still talking to Wayne Jackson. Do you have a middle name, Wayne? Should we get that on the record here?

Jackson: I have a middle name of Robert.

Interviewer: Wayne Robert Jackson, great. Good Illinois person. I was wondering if we could just glance back, you've talked about so many people, but I wondered if you could just go through time and tell us about some of the personalities that you've run into. You were the station manager, you hired some of these folks and others came through. Was Burns, Jim Burns, now he was kind of an institution at your place for a long time, right?

Jackson: Yeah, here's a picture of Jim. I think this was when the station was 10 years old. Dan Cameron is in the picture and the lady in the picture is Jane Repp who had a cooking show and she was an excellent cook and whenever she was in there, we had all kinds of people coming into the studio trying to get something to eat.

Interviewer: So cooking was an early one, even 10 years after you started, you started that cooking show. Did that last for a long time?

Jackson: It lasted for several years.

Interviewer: Because now with cable, it seems like cooking is back.

Jackson: It is. Well cable has changed so many different things in the afternoon programs have changed and I remember when we first started. I think this is something that we drove into our brains in the early days is that television can be a very personal medium because you're going into somebody's home. You're going into their living room, their bedroom, den, kitchen, wherever it might be. And when they turn on the set, we used to like to tell our people when they came it, when people turn on the set, it's almost like they're inviting you into their home and as long as you are a good guest or visitor, they'll keep you there. But if you rub them the wrong way or you get arrogant or whatever it might be, they will switch. Now in the early days, people had to get up out of their chair and go to the television set and change it. Nowadays they sit there and they just press a button and you're history (laughter), you're gone so it's real easy. But it's still a personal medium because you're going into somebody's home.

Interviewer: That's a good point.

Jackson: And they can see you.

Interviewer: Now Jim, was he a jack of all trades?

Jackson: He did the weather and he did the "Jim Burns Show," which was an afternoon talk show of about 30 minutes and he did that for a good number of years. I think Jim was hired in 1958 and then he was, when the station was sold in '86, the new owners severed relationship with him.

Interviewer: So that's a long run and that's all local entertainment. Kind of the same tradition you had only at a shorter time frame.

Jackson: Yeah, but he was on with that show many years, many years.

Interviewer: Now what about newscasters? Today's newscaster, I'm trying to think the two that are on there now.

Jackson: Ken Murphy and Frances Weller.

Interviewer: They've been there a while.

Jackson: Well, Frances came in the 80's. Ken came in 1965.

Interviewer: Really? So did you hire?

Jackson: Yeah, so Ken's been there 37 years, 38 years as we're speaking. He's been there a good long time. He'll retire one of these days.

Interviewer: But they get a following, right? I mean the current weatherman is 'Mr. Popular.'

Jackson: It's real funny. You never know who's going to be popular and who isn't. Some people just have a warmth or something about them that people like and by the same token, that same person, Joe over here will think that person is wonderful and Jim over here can't stand the same person so you don't know. But the main thing is to be able to get things down plain and simple so people can understand them and I think sometimes nowadays they try to get too technical in the weather. If somebody tells me what the temperature is going to be and how the wind is going to blow and whether it's going to rain or the sun is going to shine or if it's going to be cloudy, 95% of the people know what they need to know and what they really want to know and the rest of it is show business.

Now when you get into the storms, now you're talking about an entirely different thing and with all the Dopplers and radars and things they have now, they can do things that could never be done before. But there again, I'm going to editorialize I guess, there's a danger of scaring people and too often coming up with thunderstorm warnings in Cumberland County and that stays up on the screen in the upper left or right hand corner for 10 or 15 minutes for every half hour.

Sometimes you can put up so many different warnings that you scare people and then when you really need to put up a warning, they're not paying that much attention to you, "I've seen all that before." So there is a danger in that. That's just me speaking. That's my personal feeling on it, but you can scare people.

Interviewer: When you were starting to become the station manager and so forth, did you see kind of a professionalism develop where you would go to conventions and there were other, you know, other stations you had worked with? I mean early on it was so rudimentary, but did you see a change in how people viewed the profession?

Jackson: Yes, I used to go to meetings around the country, NBC affiliate meetings. People would sit down and talk and somebody would say I've got this problem and somebody else would say I've got the same thing, how did you solve it and then somebody else would say well we had it and we did this and it didn't work, but we did this and it did work. I never went to a meeting that I didn't come back with two or three or four ideas for helping to make us a better station. You got to know some network people too. NBC would have a session out in California each year like in August and you could go out there and in one day do interviews with 12 people who were going to be on new programs. There would be three people in one room and we would have a camera and the star of a show would come in and sit down and they would go with station A and then they would cut a promo with station A that they had typed up for them. Then they would go to station B and station C.

You each had roughly an eight minute period to do a five minute interview and then whoever that star was would do a couple of promos for you and then they would move to another room so at 9:00 you would have a person come into the room, at 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30 and then you would break for lunch and you'd start again at 1:30 and would go through. At the end of the day, you had 12 five minute interviews with the people who were going to be featured on some new network programs and you could come back home and run those and it would help develop an audience and then you would have their promos with them doing it.

You would meet some very interesting people and some interviews would work and some wouldn't. One I don't think I'll ever forget is Michael J. Fox. I had him, I was the third person and when we finished, we had about 4 minutes before he had to go to the next room, we were just sitting there talking. He said, "You know what bugs me, really gripes me?" And I asked, "What's that?" He says, "I'm small," and he says, "I look so young. I'll be 30 and they'll still having me playing a damn teenager." (Laughter)

I did one with Carol Lawrence, what was it, That's my Family, that was the name of show. Horrible interview. I guess I asked stupid questions and she gave me crazy answers and it was one of those things where two people, it's not that we didn't like each other, it just didn't work and I thought to myself if that's as bad as I think it is, when I got back to Wilmington, I went into the control room with the engineer and we looked at it and it was as bad as I thought it was and we just erased it. That one never got on the air, but those things happen.

We had an unusual thing that worked. One time, the S.S. Norway, big cruise ship was coming down here with the Norwegian Lines and the Today Show was going to be on it. They were off Wrightsville Beach on Monday, off Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, Charleston on Wednesday, Savannah on Thursday and then off Florida on Friday. They originated the Today Show from it. We got thinking. The engineer said we could do it. We contacted NBC and we contacted the cruise line and they said yeah. So we went out the night before and set up our equipment and we did Carolina in the Morning from the ship before the Today Show.

Interviewer: Oh, that's great.

Jackson: So that was a big thing. Then when it was all over, I went and had an interview with Brian Gumble 'cause he's a Chicago Cub fan like I am and we talked about the Cubs. But those are things, the engineers that we had were real hard working people and we would do things like that and come up with ideas. Sometimes we would go to Dan Cameron with them and Dan would say, "Can you do that?" and we'd say, we'd ask Bill Elks, the chief engineer, "Bill?" "Yeah we can do it." Okay let's try it and that's what would happen. So we'd go ahead and try it. More often than not it worked. There were some that we did and we said, okay, we won't do that one again (laughter). They're interesting people. There were firemen from Dublin, Ireland that came over to this country and they were going around to states that had a Dublin. I think there was a Dublin, Ohio, there was a Dublin, Pennsylvania. We've got a Dublin in Bladen County. So they stopped and we heard about it so we went up there and set up in a little restaurant and the firemen came in and we did an hour of Carolina in the Morning from there going back to the studio for the news and weather and just talked to the Irish firemen and the volunteer fire department guys from Dublin and Bladen County.

They had had a big party the night before and they were somewhat worse for wear, but they were very good. Then later on on the way down to Georgia, the firemen from Ireland came across an automobile accident and as best I remember, they saved somebody's life with some immediate rescue work. But it's programs like that that made it so much fun.

Interviewer: That's great. Now you're married and you have children here in town?

Jackson: Yeah, one's at the State Port, one is at DuPont, two grandsons.

Interviewer: What's your wife's name?

Jackson: Lee.

Interviewer: And your kids names?

Jackson: Mike and Steve.

Interviewer: You were a local personality. Now did they have people kid them or talk about you? You were highly visible. I wondered how it went for the family.

Jackson: Well, very interesting. They became, as the boys grew older, and my wife, they became very good judges because it's very easy to get into a habit of using certain words or certain phrases. My wife especially, Lee would check, I'd come home sometimes and she'd say "You're back in that habit again." It may be "And uh." In these days, the two words that just curl my hair, what hair I have are "you know." You listen to an interview and see how many times the person says "you know." "You know, we were doing television and you know how it went you know." It goes over and over and over. Now it's not just habit and if somebody calls it to your attention and you work on it, you get out of that habit and my family would help.

Interviewer: So they were critics?

Jackson: Yeah, they were critics. I would come home sometimes and the boys would come home and they'd say, "Why did you do that? That was an awful question you asked, but that was good." It kept me on my toes.

Interviewer 2: Did you find yourself sometimes being interrupted if you were going to go out shopping or something at the store; people would want to talk to you?

Jackson: Yes, somewhat. I don't think it was as bad as if a network person had come to town. People would see you and they might say, "Hi Wayne, how are you?" It was more of a small town thing. Sometimes you would go along and you would realize that somebody had recognized you because they would poke somebody and someone would turn around. But for the most part in Wilmington, gee so many of them we had had on television and they had seen us at football games, basketball games and local events.

Interviewer 2: You probably had mayors on your show.

Jackson: We used to get our elected officials to come on Carolina in the Morning. Every Monday, when the state legislature was in session, we would have one. There would be four of them, three from New Hanover County and one from Brunswick County and a different one would come each Monday morning, live, unrehearsed. They would say what are we going to talk about and the standard answer "what you did to us last week and what are you going to do to us this week" (laughter). But they enjoyed it. They had a chance to explain to the public what they were doing and why they were doing it, why they made their decisions, why they made their votes. It was live and we would go 8 to 10 minutes and they got a lot of feedback from it. They would tell me they would stop at a service station or a restaurant on the way back up to Raleigh and people would say, "Hey, I saw you on television," and as long as people were watching them, they wanted to come back. Also we treated them fairly.

But you get some characters. One year we had the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan who was running for governor and he came on and some people criticized me for not getting into almost hand to hand combat with him, but my feeling was I didn't have to because he made such a fool out of himself just with his answers to questions that you didn't have to say anything. You don't have to get combative with some people like that.

Interviewer: That's right. Well, I think that morning show is still one of the mainstays. It's a very, very popular show for every channel. I mean it's a very competitive...

Jackson: I haven't seen any of the rating figures on it, but very interesting people, so many people that came here to the university, Mimi Cunningham would call me and we would get them on. Scott Carpenter, the astronaut, the aquanaut was on one time and Sylvia Earl, underwater expert came on and we talked to her. The interesting thing is you get so many different subjects and you don't know really much about their subject and that's when you ask simple direct questions like the man on the street might do. "What do you do?" "How does that work?" and let me explain it because if you try to talk like you know as much as they do, you end up making a complete fool of yourself and people at home know it (laughter).

Interviewer 2: I think that's Larry King's philosophy, I've heard him say.

Interviewer: Just let them do the talking.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, you don't pretend like you've read the book if you haven't read the book. In fact, he prefers not to read the book if he's interviewing an author because most of the audience hasn't read it.

Jackson: Well, one of the things that happens and it happens to everybody that has done interviews at one time, you come in and you make a statement and say "Isn't that right? and the person will look at you and say, "No, that is not right, this is what happened." Jack Lescoule from NBC was down for an Azalea Festival one time and he was out at the station and sitting in the lounge having a cup of coffee and we got talking about interviews. He said, "Your second question should depend on the answer to the first question" and he explained why. He was doing an interview with somebody and he asked a question and the person gave him an answer that really took him way off here and he had been planning on going this way, but he said his answer took me in a much more interesting direction and he said from then on, we just did this. So he said, "Listen to the answer to the question and follow up on that." Now if it's just a simple yes or no, then okay go your own way. But he said so many times, they will lead you off in a different direction that's much more interesting, something that you had never even thought about.

Interviewer: One of the reasons you got into this business was because you liked people I assume, do you still think that television is a people industry? Are the people there enjoying each other and meeting people?

Jackson: It is, but I don't think they spend as much time on the local people. They're formatted so much now that 3-1/2 or 4 minutes and you're on to something else. They use many more package things like life watches and health watches.

Interviewer: Yeah, I see that too.

Jackson: Some other watches rather than getting people in and going live and spending a little more time with them. I asked somebody that did a talk show and I said, "What would you do if you had the governor down here?" He said that they might give him four minutes. Well you could get Governor Easley now, I'd want to go 10 or 15 minutes and discuss the budget with him and the budget shortfall and things and go into depth. You don't get those people too often and when you have a chance to get them, you want to use the time and use it as well as you can.

Interviewer: So you say it's more of the sound bites and the short segments and what's driving that? Is it just the competition or what do you think?

Jackson: It is and I think it's... well I grew up in a different way with all the talking that we were talking about where you got people in and discussed things with them. Now it's, I think they think the timeframe of people watching is much shorter. That after 3 or 4 minutes, they want to jump off to some else and that can be true in a lot of things, but when you get a very difficult subject or one that's very important and you get a very important person, give it the time that it takes. You never know what you're going to do. I learned a couple things from people. Joan Mondale was here when her husband Walter was running for national office and she came in. We're walking down the hallway back into the studio with a couple of Secret Service guys following us. She said, "Your name is Wayne Jackson?" I said, "Yes," and she said, "You've been here x number of years and you came from Illinois and you've done so one and so forth."

And I said, "You've been checking up on me?" and she said, "You bet your bottom dollar. I want to know a little bit about the person that's going to be asking me questions" and that's the only person in all the years that I interviewed that did something like that. And Marilyn Quayle had a great answer for me and I don't think I'll ever forget this.

She was down campaigning for Dan Quayle and I asked her what some of her husband's strong points were. I said, "What are some of his strong points, the things that you really think people should know about" and she named three or four. I said, "What are some of his weak points?" and she looked at me and smiled and she said, "If he had any, I wouldn't tell you." I thought it was a great answer. I sat there for a second and said, "Okay, now what are you going to ask her" (laughter).

But things like that you don't forget. You remember that. I enjoyed it. I will say this. It was a tremendous difference in moving from local ownership to corporate ownership.

Interviewer: Now when did that happen?

Jackson: When the Camerons sold it in 1986 to an outfit out of Missouri bought it, News Press and Gazette Company. You had people come in that were looking at it as a business and how much money could you make. The only thing they knew about Wilmington, they could find it on a map and this happens when the corporations do it. They're looking at the books. They don't know the community. They don't know the area. When I retired, I was still enjoying television, some of it, but not enough to stay.

Interviewer: Everything changes. Now is it locally owned?

Jackson: No, it's not locally owned. I keep thinking I see something on RayCom. I'm not real sure. After the Camerons sold I in '86, it's had three or four different owners.

Interviewer: But they've kept a lot of same local personalities. At least they understand that part of it, the news people.

Jackson: Well, Ken Murphy and a few people, and Frances, and a few people in the background have stayed, but I don't know how many others that are not on the air. I know a few of the people that are still in production or copywriting, promotion and things like this. The medium has changed a great deal. Number one is cable television has changed so much of it. They are so many channels now that you can pick up and the networks have diversified. You've got CNBC, NBC and MSNBC and ABC is hooked up ESPN and Disney is in it and General Electric and at one time, RCA owned it, CBS was owned and all it was was a broadcast network. Now General Electric owns them. So you get people that don't know beans about the business and so news departments have been cut back. You're not able to do as much, not able to go out and get around the area as much.

I think that has hurt some stations financially because when you would go to Whiteville and Lumberton and Elizabethtown and other places on a regular basis, the sales department could go there and sell commercial time because they knew that you had been there and that you cared, the station cared about their market. And people from Bladen County were watching so somebody in Elizabethtown would buy some commercials. This works.

Interviewer: Now as an executive, did the network dictate a significant part of your programming time or could you negotiate any of that?

Jackson: Pretty much what the network provided, you carried. In the morning, they would go from 7 to 9 with the Today Show and then start again and go from 10 until noon or sometimes from 10 until 4 and then 4 to 6, was usually time for local programming; 7 to 8 has been an hour for local programming. Then you have your local news. You can preempt for special events, basketball, maybe football. Where you run into a problem there sometimes is you have a basketball game scheduled and you have that schedule way in advance. Then it gets into the rating period in February and the network decides to run a two or three part serial and part three comes when you're supposed to carry Duke versus North Carolina. This can cause problems and a lot of headaches because you're darned if you do and darned if you don't.

The ones that want the basketball game don't care about the other things. Other people that watched the first two segments want to see the third segment. Basketball takes me back to October of 1957 I think it was when North Carolina won the national championship. Three overtimes against Michigan State and three overtimes against Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain. And there wasn't much basketball on then.

A man by the name of Castleton D. Chesley provided the tapes, the telecast. We carried the games and we didn't have, our sales department was having trouble selling them. The Atlantic Coast employees service club would collect money and give it to our salesman and our salesman would come in and Carolina would give them $10 or $5 on the street and they would come in and put the money down and we carried the games.

That was really the start. It became so popular seeing those two games. They went into three overtimes. Carolina won. Bob West was our on camera announcer out in the studio to do some commercials and when the championship game ended, Bob just looked at the camera and said "We're number one." He and I still laugh about that. But it was one of those live moments of television and it came on. He was a big Carolina fan. He had gone to Carolina. "We're number one" (laughter).

Interviewer 2: When did you retire from television?

Jackson: End of June 1989. I had almost 35 years.

Interviewer: Quite an interesting span.

Jackson: I saw a lot of changes, met a lot of wonderful people. When you cross the Cape Fear River and go into these other counties, it can be a different world.

Interviewer: But you've stayed in Wilmington so I think you're still contributing, you're still doing wonderful things at UNCW and you know, this commitment to community continues it seems to me cause you didn't run back to Illinois anyway.

Jackson: No, no, my father-in-law told me many, many years ago, he said, "It's better to wear out than rust out." I remember that and somebody else told me one time, "There are three stages of life, youth, adult and hey, you're looking good," and when you get to that, "Hey, you're looking good," you say am I that old? (Laughter).

Interviewer: Well, listen, thank you very much. I think that we've gotten exactly what we wanted to help future generations understand a little of the important history of this station and your contribution to it. Thank you.

Jackson: My pleasure, thank you for inviting me.

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