Fifty years ago this week, president John F. Kennedy arrived at the University of Maine to give what would be his last major foreign policy address.
About 15,000 people were there and TV5 broadcast that speech to the entire state.
50 years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy came to the University of Maine to give what would be his last major foreign policy speech.
TV5 cameras were rolling in October of 1963 to capture what was one of the first big live events for this television station.
We continue our look back at the remarkable career of George Hale, who, like TV5, is celebrating 60 years in broadcasting in Bangor.Jon Small had a chance to talk with George about his career.Many generations have grown up listening to George broadcast high school and UMaine sporting events.But, it was a few years after he arrived here in 1953 that local sports became part of his legacy in radio and at TV5.
60 years ago this year, WABI became the first television station in Maine.Another broadcasting institution in Bangor is also celebrating 60 years on the air…our own George Hale.Jon Small recently sat down with George to talk about his remarkable career.
As WABI celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, we’re tapping into our time machine.If you grew up in the 60’s in the TV5 viewing area, there’s no doubt you remember Bozo the Clown.The live show aired week nights on WABI.Joy Hollowell recently sat down with Bozo’s sidekick, Ringmaster Bob.===Bob Woodbury had just started working at WABI back in 1961, when he was asked to assist Mike Dolley on a new children’s show. The chemistry between the two men was instantaneous.”We just kind of instinctively knew what the other one was going to do,” says Woodbury.There was no script for the show. 5 nights a week, 52 weeks a year, Woodbury says he would just follow Bozo’s lead.”Mike did a bit with a metal folding chair, trying to get it open. Putting his foot through it, falling down, trying to open it while his foot was in it,” says Woodbury. “And it went on for 5 minutes. The next day, we’d be in making up to go on the air, and Mike says, ‘I’ve got these bruises all over my body, I don’t know where they came from.’ Mike, you did the chair bit yesterday.’”The show ran from 5 to 6 each week night, and the studio was faithfully filled with a live audience of kids.”We didn’t pander to the kids,” says Woodbury. “We treated them with respect and they did the same for us. And we could interact with them. And, that was fun, that was really fun.”More than four decades after the show ended, Woodbury still gets recognized as Ringmaster Bob.”I always ask them if they got to roll the cartoon show and those who didn’t, the disappointment on their face is real,” says Woodbury with a smile. “And how many years later are we talking about here, and these are adults.”Now 75 years old, Woodbury says he’s amazed and humbled to be a part of this children’s classic.”When someone mentions the Bozo show, I think I probably blush,” says Woodbury. “I’ve had a long life and it’s been a great life, thoroughly enjoyable. I mean, how many people can say at the end of an 8 hours day, I’m looking forward to working another hour with 25 to 30 kids (laughs).”===WABI still has two of the chairs used on the set of Bozo the Clown. Bob Woodbury instantly recognized them when he came into the studio for our interview.
12 sitting Presidents have been to Bangor, two of them spent the night in the city.Those two visits and one from 2004 were the most interesting trips by the Commander in Chief.It started with the first ever visit in 1871 by Ulysses S. Grant, according to Dana Lippitt of the Bangor Museum and Historical Society. “They had spent about 20 years connecting all the rail lines through Maine with Canada to shorten the sea voyage for goods going back and forth, and they had an enormous celebration, there were cotillions and parades and torch light parades and illuminations on houses. Grant came for all of that there were special train trips it was quite a party.”However there was some controversy, and there are a couple of differ versions of the events.Bangor Author and Historian Dick Shaw says one version of the events made it out as though there might have been tension as the President was slated to dine with Bangor Mayor Samuel Dale “U.S. Grant came in 1871 and he basically was quote unquote for an hour or so by someone who didn’t want him to go up to what is now the Historical Society building, and rode him around town. and well the former Union Commander wasn’t anyone to be messing with, so he finally chomped on his cigar and said what’s going on here, get me up there now and he basically did a walk through shook a few hands and front door, back door.”Lippitt recounts a slightly different version “They forgot to invite the President to dine with Mayor Dale and so someone went down to the Bangor House and got him to come up here and and he kind of came in one door and out the other. I do not know if it’s true. The newspaper articles that following day said that he dined with Mr. Dale and there was another home of the Libby family that he also stopped in at, or dined at, and it doesn’t say anything about coming in one door and going out the other”The other President to stay in the city was Jimmy Carter, on February 17th, 1978.”There was a drawing done here in Bangor of people who wanted to dine in a big public thing,” said Lippitt. “We have the cards here they drew them out of a draft box that was used during the civil war.”The most interesting part of his stay was where he stayed. Not in a hotel but on Maple Street with the Murray family. “It was part of his plan to get to know his constituents, not just his wealthy constituents, but his supporters within the Democratic party,” said Lippitt.”Well the Murrays were Middle America, they looked around you know, they were good Democrats, which wasn’t a bad thing, they were supporters of Carter, the also lived on a corner of Maple and Mount Hope Avenue, so there wasn’t a house on one side and there was a good distance in back so if you’re the Secret Service, it was easier to protect the house and they had a family and they had a bedroom, it was a good deal of PR you know involved,” said Shaw. “Today I don’t think it would happen, but Carter being the Habitat for Humanity guy and he carried his own suitcase out, the media had like three minutes to meet with him, and then he went to bed, got up early the next morning, and then had a breakfast out at Husson”The most recent sitting President to visit Bangor was George W. Bush during his re-election campaign in 2004.”Very warm day in September,” recalled Shaw. “What would it be 2004, it was a campaign stop, and then I never saw Air Force One, where was it? And then he actually went on a troop flight and met troops.” “But to actually, I don’t know how much the troops on board actually knew what was going to happen, they could look out the window and see something but, and then all of the sudden there’s the Chief Executive there in a blue tie,” said Shaw.And that day on the plane with US Troops, then President Bush grabbed the microphone to address them. “I appreciate being the president of such fine men and women, may God bless you all and keep you safe, and may God bless America.”According to notes given to WABI TV5 by Dick Shaw, the list of sitting Presidents to visit Bangor is :October 17-18, 1871 – Ulysses S. GrantSeptember 13, 1882 – Chester A. ArthurAugust 8, 1889 – Benjamin HarrisonAugust 27, 1902 – Theodore RooseveltJuly 23, 1910 – William Howard TaftJune 27, 1955 – Dwight D. Eishenhower (would return briefly in July 1955)October 19, 1963 – John F. Kennedy (delivered last major foreign policy at University of Maine, Orono speech before being assasinated)August 21, 1966 – Lyndon B. JohnsonAugust 6, 1971 – Richard NixonFebruary 17, 1978 – Jimmy Carter November 1, 1966 – Bill Clinton (also visited BIA January 9, 2006 to greet troops)September 23, 2004 – George W. Bush
Through the years, a dozen sitting Presidents have made their way through the Bangor area.When the first President arrived Bangor had been incorporated less than 40 years.”I think it’s because Bangor is sort of a crossroads community,” said Dana Lippitt of the Bangor Museum and Historical Society. “It’s surrounded by smaller communities, and whenever a President comes, it’s really the closest we have to royalty.”The first President to visit Bangor was the 18th, Ulysses S. Grant in 1871, and he was one of just two Presidents to stay in the Queen City. Many of them made appearances at the Bangor House.”That was the finest hotel It was one of the Palace Hotels and they almost always stayed there.”said Lippitt. “There’s great pictures of Taft on the balcony over the Main Street side, giving a speech to thousands and thousands of people who filled the streets.”Not all of the Chief Executives stayed in Bangor. Some just stopped on their way through.”You had Taft and then you had whistle stops, Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison in the late 1800’s, Arthur I think went into the Bangor House and met with people and shook hands.”said local Author and Bangor Historian Dick Shaw. “There’s a big gap between 1910 when President Taft came and then it was all the way until 1955 before Eisenhower came through. He’d been fishing in Western Maine, and unbelievable in those times, you could take a man in a car all the way Route 2 a hundred miles all the way from Rangeley Lakes area right through Skowhegan into Bangor, Dow Field.”While no President’s came during that 45 year span, there was one other White House visit.”The first lady visited the city,” said Lippitt. “Eleanor Roosevelt came through here quite often, there were several events that she stayed for.””FDR came through here many times as a young man on the train on the way to Campabello,” said Shaw. “But never as President after he was stricken with polio in 1921 in Campabello, he came back only three times there and I think his life was in Washington it was too much of an ordeal so he never made an official visit here, but Eleanor his wife came to the old auditorium in 1941, the next best thing.”The fourth time a President visited was early in the 20th century.”Teddy Roosevelt came, spoke at the Bangor House and then he went down to what then was Maplewood Park,” Shaw recounted. “And the Bangor Fair was going on and everyone was asked to pay a dollar to hear the President speak, and it was actually like a mini scandal because a dollar was a lot of money in 1902.”Bangor has been a campaign stop for many candidates, both winners and losers of November elections, so the dozen Presidents to visit could be considered much more according to Shaw. “Bangor’s had a number of future Presidents, McKinley and Garfield, and well, past Presidents, Hoover, Herbert Hoover was here as an old man was here, so when people say what President’s have been here, you know you, once a President always a President, I. don’t think it’s anything you really retire from, so it’s royalty in our city it is the Queen City after all.”
In the days leading up to January 25th, 1953, TV’s were more like pieces of furnture, not the flat screens we have today, and not many people had one yet.”Murray Carpenter, the manager at the time, he had one. We didn’t know how to tune it in. Of course, you couldn’t get anything on it anyway, except snow.”In an interview years ago, the late Walter Dickson, who came to WABI radio in 1938 and became the station’s chief engineer, said he went to WABI’s owner, Governor Horace Hildreth, with the idea to start a television station. The governor wasn’t immediately sold on the idea.”If you fellas want to go with it, how much is it going to cost? It will be around a hundred thousand dollars Governor, not a cent more. If it works, fine. If not, we’ll forget about it.” They didn’t have to worry. On that late January day in 1953, Dickson would make history, throwing the switch that brought the first television station north of Boston to the airwaves. As former TV5 General Manager George Gonyar remembers, television sales skyrocketed at local businesses. “It was exciting. The whole marketplace, everybody, went out a bought a TV and put an antenna on the roof. You had to have an antenna and waited for that signal to come on.” “They had a bonanza. They started selling TV sets. They called me up and wanted me to come up and show people how to tune one. Well, I hardly knew how to spell television myself, you know.”There was not a lot of programming in the early days. Hal Shaw had the first show on TV5, playing records, which he recalled during one of our previous anniversary celebrations. “I came to WABI Radio as a morning disc jockey on “Rise and Shine,” then went to TV as the first TV announcer in the state of Maine. I remember how proud we were to get the first film on the air. We even sold the test pattern.” Everything was live, including the commercials, which were read from cue cards. George Hale came to WABI just a few months after the television station went on the air in 1953.”I can remember doing a thing called ‘Spin the Wheel.’ The show was supposed to be five minutes. They came in with five minutes of commercials. The sponsor said, ‘you want to do a show, that’s your problem. I bought five minutes, I want it all commercials.’ So I did the first infommerical.” Back then, the TV studio was on Copeland Mountain in Holden and the offices were in downtown Bangor. Eventually, everything was moved to Hampden, but the company kept growing, and a new location was needed. Studio City opened in 1962, with long lines of folks waiting to tour this brand new facility. It’s still our home today.We’ve gone from black and white to color, film to video tape, to no tape at all, analog to the digital revolution. One thing remains constant: WABI is Maine’s only locally owned television station, still controlled by the Hildreth family. In fact, TV5 is the oldest station in the country to be under the continuous ownership of one family.
In 1953 gas cost .29 a gallon, you could buy a car for less than $1,900, minimum wage was .75 an hour, and WABI-TV 5 signed on as Maine’s first television station. This year, we are celebrating 60 years of great TV. The current edition of Maine Seniors Magazine takes a look back at our station’s history. 60 years ago, the Hildreth family did something no one else in Maine was doing. ” Those were the glory days. Channel 5 was doing, they were doing live TV at the Main Street festival of every town in their coverage area during the summer,” said Rick Bronson. TV5 was Maine’s first TV station and for many people, it was more than that. ” I was sort of born at WABI,” said Bronson. Rick Bronson’s dad, Dick, was one of the pioneers of the station. ” He really became, more or less, the first general manager of the first TV station north of Boston,” explained Bronson. Even in the beginning, WABI’s mission was clear: local news, local programming, and family. ” He viewed the viewers as part of their family,” said Bronson, talking about his father. Russ Van Arsdale was a reporter for TV5 from September 1977 through early 1981. He remembers long days traveling to and from Augusta. ” When I started at channel 5, we were shooting 16 millimeter film, so you had to get back to the station in time to process the film and edit it by hand and then get it on the air,” said Van Arsdale. One of the most-remembered TV5 personalities from the past is Mike Dolley. You might know him as the guy who played Bozo and Santa. ” There are people that I run into who are my age and a little bit older that remember him reading their letter on TV,” said David Nealley. If you look back at the history of WABI, you’ll see a lot of familiar faces. ” Bud Leavitt was a big celebrity for WABI. He was their big outdoor sports guy,” explained Nealley. TV5 staffers got to rub elbows with some pretty impressive people, including Clint Eastwood, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather. ” When Dan Rather’s there with Gordon Manuel in the photo, I mean what does that say about that day and age,” said Nealley with a smile. David Nealley is the publisher of Maine Seniors Magazine. In the latest edition, WABI takes center stage. ” The nostalgia and the history of so much in Maine is a part of the publication and that’s why the WABI story was important for Maine Seniors Magazine,” said Nealley. Bronson and Van Arsdale wrote the articles in Maine Seniors Magazine. For Bronson, it was easy, he remembers when the studio was on State Street in Bangor. Bronson even went back recently to see what’s changed. ” The second and third floors haven’t changed since they moves out in ’62. Seriously, you could walk in there today and see the radio studios,” said Bronson. In the early days, TV5 was leading the way. The station sent a crew to Nova Scotia for the launch of the blue nose ferry to Bar Harbor. ” They went over there and did live television from Nova Scotia sometime in the early 50’s, back to Channel 5, the only television station in Maine,” explained Bronson. Sixty years later, the faces at TV5 have changed, but the mission is the same. ” To still dominate in the local market is a significant tribute to WABI and all it’s been throughout the years,” said Nealley. WABI TV5 is still about local news, local programming, and family. You can pick up a copy of Maine Seniors Magazine at many local stores. You can also sign up online to have it delivered to you. To find out more, click here.
The ice storm of 1998 was due in part to the strong El Nino that was present at that time. During El Nino winters the Sub-Tropical Jet Stream tends to be stronger than usual and that helps to keep the southern tier of the United States wetter than normal. The polar jet on the other hand typically remains north of its usual winter location and that tends to keep the pure arctic air trapped north of the U.S. Canadian border. On occasion during this type of pattern the Sub-Tropical Jet will turn north and allow the deep moisture laden airmass to move up the Eastern Seaboard as was the case in January of 1998. The ice storm started on January 5th and continued right through the 9th. On about the 5th a storm in the upper levels of the atmosphere began to develop over the Southern Plains States and this along with an unseasonably strong high over the Central Atlantic helped pull the Sub-Tropical Jet Stream up through the Ohio River Valley and then into Northern New England. At the same time the jet was pulling tropical moisture northward aloft a large and very slow moving surface ridge of high pressure was developing over South Central Quebec. The high at the surface turn the winds near the ground into the north and northeast and that caused the shallow arctic air over Quebec to ooze south into Northern New England. From January 5th through January 9th the cold front that introduced the arctic air at the surface to Maine stalled along the Southern New England Coastline. Over the same 5 days the high over Quebec expanded east into the Canadian Maritimes allowing arctic air to remain trapped at the surface across most of the Pine Tree State. Beginning on the 5th a series of storms developed over the Ohio River Valley and then rode northeast along the now stationary front located south of Maine. The storms were able to tap the tropical moisture associated with the Sub-Tropical Jet and draw it north into Maine. While temps near the ground remained below freezing the temps a few thousand feet up were warmer and that caused the snow falling aloft to melt as it moved through the warm layer a few thousand feet above the ground. As the precipitation moved back into the colder air near the surface it either turned into sleet or remained super cooled rain and then froze upon contact with any surface it touched. Far northern parts of Maine remained cold enough at all levels of the atmosphere that most of the precipitation fell as snow, while extreme southern and at times coastal parts of the state saw a combination of rain and freezing rain. The first couple of storms that slid by to our south brought light precipitation to our region on the 5th and 6th, with a much stronger storm arriving on the 7th and lasting into the 9th which brought heavier precipitation to our region . A cold airmass followed the storm beginning on the 10th as the last storm slipped offshore ant that ensured the ice would remain encased on all exposed surfaces for a prolonged period of time. When all was said and done about 2 to 5″ of freezing rain and sleet had accumulated all across Eastern and Central Maine.
This year, TV5 is celebrating 60 years on the air.Throughout the year, we’ll look back at some of the biggest news stories of the last six decades.Among them, The Ice Storm of ’98. It left nearly 70-percent of the state in darkness, as trees and power lines toppled.It also left a lot of memories.15 years later, everyone has a story about surviving the ice storm. Now we’re sharing some of them again.The devastation of the Ice Storm of ’98 was felt in different ways, as one by one Mainers struggled to cope and recover.For farmers, like the Candage family of West Levant, it was a cellar full of water and frozen hoses as they tried to keep their cattle alive. A cry for help on a local radio station saved their livelihood. Dennis Candage said, “We had one guy from Newport, to this day I don’t know who he was, but he brought out a generator to help pump the water out of the cellar. And we had one lady gave us probably about 20 gallon jugs of water. She left a little note on it saying this ain’t much, but it’s a help, which it was.”Jim and Norma Corliss, who own a Christmas tree farm in Newburgh, lost their home in the storm. When the power went out, they used their wood-burning furnace to keep it warm. That furnace started a fire that leveled the place they’d live for nearly 30 years. Jim Corliss says, “A house is a house. It’s the things inside that really matter and there are few things that we lost that are not replaceable. And we still think about those things. But you move on.”Something that’s easier for Jim to do than Norma. Hours after their house burned down, he returned to the rubble. “I came up into what was left of the kitchen and measured from the corner to where the new door was going to be in my new house. I already had it built and the engines were still warm on the fire trucks.”For local historian Dick Shaw, who was an editor at the Bangor Daily News, it’s a heart wrenching phone call to the newsroom that’s frozen in his mind.”I’m talking two weeks later, this man in Levant was crying. He had no water. In the city we lost power but you had running water. He had a baby – no formula – what do I do? What can you do?”Among the frigid memories of the Ice Storm of ’98, there are also some fond ones. Like with Kevin O’Connell, a lineman for Bangor Hydro. He spent hours away from his family, trying to restore electricity to thousands. “A lot of us linemen working, our homes didn’t have power. So we’d get out of work, dead tired, go back to the house, have to chop ice off the roof, try to get something going in the house for heat.”His 7-year-old son Kyle missed his dad but admired his dedication. So much so he was ready to follow his father to work. “I want to be a hydro man when I grow up.”15 years later…”I don’t want to work for the hydro – not at all. Hahaha! It’s a good place to work but not for me.”Instead Kyle serves in the National Guard and wants to train to be a state police officer. But he still has a lot of respect for the man so many literally looked up to as a hero.”He’s the hardest worker I know. I’m proud of him for the stuff he does every day.”15 years after the Ice Storm, Shaw still considers it a tragic adventure. Six people died as a result of the storm, which left the state with $300 million in damage. But it also brought people together, determined to survive.Shaw says in some ways many can even laugh about it now – but not too hard. “I’d like to think it couldn’t happen again, but then who ever thought New Jersey and New York would get hit by a hurricane the way they did with Sandy. So anything’s possible. But it’s been 15 years without anything close.”There’s not much we can do to avoid another ice storm. But we have learned some things to help us better weather one. Bangor Hydro says its tree trimming program is stronger.And last month the company completed a redundant power line to cover the same area of Washington County that lost power for 29 days.So if another ice storm should try to bring the main line down again, there’s now a back up.
This year, TV5, Maine’s first TV station, is celebrating sixty years on the air. So we’ll be taking a look back at some of the biggest news stories through the years.We begin with Ice Storm of ’98.It was 15 years ago, this week, when Maine descended into darkness – for some it would take days, even weeks to recover. The Ice Storm of ’98 left more than 800,000 people without power, when trees and power lines came crashing down.Even now, many consider it the worst natural disaster in the Maine’s history. Here’s a look back at the storm that coated the state.It’s the sounds that are as much a part of the Ice Storm of ’98 as it is the sights.”They’re really much worse – CRASH! – this is what we’ve listened to,” said Lovern Stockwell, an Ice Storm survivor.Over and over again, ice coated tree branches and power lines came crashing down as freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures blanketed Maine for days.Kevin O’Connell – a lineman for Bangor Hydro – remembers a co-worker watching his back. “Lterally he had to spot me while I was working on the house because there were tree branches coming down, all around us and it was just like bombs going off when they came down.”And then there was the darkness that followed. At one point nearly 70-percent of Mainers lost power. O’Connell says, “I remember one of the first nights driving back over the bridge to Brewer and Brewer was black. That was a strange feeling. So that was like, holy cow, we’re in for a big one. “Local historian Dick Shaw says with 6 deaths and $300 million in damage, the storm will go down in history as horrendous. “We should never forget just how troubled people were – it was a true crisis situation.”For many, the slow and steady build up of the storm certainly didn’t hint that a crisis was coming.Bill Cohen was the spokesperson for Bangor Hydro at the time. “I remember walking out with the president and chief operating officer of Bangor Hydro to go to lunch at noon and there was a little sprinkle and looking around and saying, oh this is nothing. And by the time nighttime had rolled around, it was absolute devastation.”As a whole, one of the hardest hit areas was Washington County. Ice toppled a nearly nine-mile stretch of lines and poles. Scott Richards, a line superindent for Bangor Hydro, said at the time, “Your heart sinks because you know you’re not going to be able to get this fixed overnight.”Richards was one of the front men on the repairs of Line 66.It took 29 days and supplies from out-of-state to bring it back to life. “I mean 150 poles, nine miles of line that all had to come from somewhere. Some of the poles came from as far away as Oklahoma – one guy showed up on the empty roads and had never even seen snow before.”The storm was a game changer in many ways, as power companies moved into crisis management mode and learned the value of communication. Cohen says, “At the time Bangor Hydro’s policy was don’t tell anybody where crews were. We broke that policy and we found the temperature of everybody came down. If you knew you were going to be another day, you weren’t happy but at least you knew.”The Ice Storm of ’98 reminded a lot of people about the power of Mother Nature and the determination of Mainers to pull through some of the most dire situations.Everybody has a memory of the ice storm – whether they never lost power or lived without it for weeks. We’ll share some of those experiences and even some fond memories in Part 2 of A Look Back at the Ice Storm of ’98.