Thursday, October 7, 2021

Here's why I was on the local TV news in 1977 (and never really saw it)

This is what the set of the WJW newscast looked like in 1977. That's Kathy Adams on the left, Judd Hambrick in the middle, and some guy with very 70s hair on the right.

One day in 1976, I walked into the living room of our house and announced that I was bored.

My dad, knowing the kinds of things that interested nearly-seven-year-old me, suggested I write a letter to a famous person like the President.

I was intrigued by this idea, but I did him one better (or thought I did): Rather than writing to President Ford, I would write to Gov. Jimmy Carter, who was running for the presidency against Ford.

I don't remember what I wrote, but whatever it was, I'm sure it was done in pencil on one of the yellow legal pads I kept in my room.

(You may wonder why a six-year-old had yellow legal pads. I do, too. It was a long time ago.)

Anyway, I remember getting some sort of form letter response a month later from Gov. Carter, who went on to win the election by a fairly narrow margin.

That was enough for me. I thought it was pretty cool.

But then, in early January of '77, a large envelope showed up at our house. I think it came via registered mail.

It was an invitation to President-Elect Carter's inauguration in Washington, D.C.

At the time I don't think I understood the significance of this. All I knew is that we weren't going to attend.

I don't remember why this decision was made, but I think it had something to do with the fact that we would have had to supply our own transportation and would have been small faces in a crowd of many thousands.

There may also have been something to the fact that both of my parents were Republicans, and they wouldn't necessarily have been thrilled to go and celebrate the inauguration of a Democratic president.

Whatever the reason, I don't remember being too put out.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to mid-January. I'm in gym class at Mapledale Elementary School, where I'm a first-grader. A local TV news crew shows up and talks to my gym teacher. Then they start walking in my direction.

It turns out they're there to film me. I am incredibly confused by this, though the on-air reporter, legendary Cleveland television newsman Neil Zurcher, explains it's because I received a personal invitation to the presidential inauguration.

They get me on camera doing some rudimentary tumbling, as we were in the midst of a gymnastics unit. Then we go to our classroom, where I sit at my desk and they interview me. I don't remember any of the questions or any of my answers.

They tell me it's going to air as part of the 6 o'clock news on WJW Channel 8, which is exciting.

At some point that day it started snowing. And it kept on snowing. All day. Lots of snow. A real blizzard (almost exactly one year before the epic Cleveland Blizzard of 1978).

As a result, all planned stories for that 6 o'clock newscast are shunted aside in favor of weather-related coverage.

Somehow we find out that my piece will probably air during the 11pm news later that evening. I think my sister Judi was the one who called the station to get this update (as I recall, she was also the one who called them about me in the first place).

At that time of my life, I went to bed every night at 9pm, almost without exception. I rarely stayed up until 11.

I remember laying down that evening on the couch, intending to stay awake until the news came on. But I don't think I even made it to 10:30.

The next thing I knew, my mom was shaking me awake. She pointed my attention to the TV, where I saw myself talking. I was still half-asleep and missed most of the segment.

This was, you will note, a couple of years before the VCR era began, so we had no way of capturing the moment. There is no existing record of this interview, which is too bad.

I would like to see myself doing that somersault in gym class.

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