Box of memories

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I was cleaning out my cubicle at WISH-TV, not because I'd lost my job, but because I'd accepted a limited role in the news and no longer required a place for all my stuff.

The news is changing quickly, they told me.

Apparently I'm not.

No argument there.

Twenty-five years of books, tapes, old paycheck stubs, magazines, emergency neckties, makeup and moldy Pop-Tarts were all in boxes stacked up under my desk. As I surveyed the rubble, I bumped into the new reporter (about a third my age) who now had possession of my old piece of real estate.

She was apologetic, as if she had taken my job, which she hadn't -- only my tiny corner of the newsroom.

Over my 30-year career, I have been fired ("relieved of my contractual duties") about five times, but I always found someone else to be my next ex-employer. A local news reporter once called for advice when the station terminated him after 25 years.

"No one has had more experience getting canned than you," he said.

Compliment accepted. By the way, every job I've ever had in Indy has been somewhere along Meridian. There's a name for someone who works the same street for their entire career.

That's OK. I've been called worse.

But back to my desk and the boxes of memories -- memories not just from WISH-TV, but from several stations. In one box, I found a 1970s interview with the Ku Klux Klan I did on a show called Night Talk on WPDS, now Fox.

A black woman in the audience observed that her great grandmother was white, so she might be related to one of the hooded trio. They were at a loss for words. That's how I remember it, but I can't confirm that because the show was recorded on a -inch tape, a format no longer used at TV stations and never compatible with home technology.

Also on -inch tape was an old interview with Chubby Checker. Chubby asked me to show him how I did the Twist. I'm glad I can't watch that one.

It was hard to watch 30 years ago.

Also interviews with Carol Channing, Donald O'Connor and James Mason.

I'll pause a moment while some of my younger readers say: Who?

In the box were old reel-to-reel recordings of my radio show on WIBC in the mid-90s, where I espoused a progressive view prior to Rush Limbaugh's conservative monologue at noon.

I wanted to reminisce about those days, but I don't have that kind of tape recorder anymore, so the show is hard to listen to, which is exactly what Emmis Broadcasting told me the day they axed me.

I found lots of stuff recorded on VHS, which I know can be transferred to DVD, which I'll get to any decade now.

Right after I transfer films of my Bar Mitzvah to my iPod and put our wedding photos on a thumb drive.

My more recent TV segments are shot on HD discs. I can play those in my home for a small up-tick in my personal video equipment, about a quarter of a million dollars' worth.

I decided to donate the old books under my desk to Goodwill, except for "What I Learned from Jackie Robinson" by Carl Erskine, which I had never read.

I finished it last week and I was happy that no fancy file transfer, download or reformatting had been required.

But it did need to be returned. Technically speaking, it belonged to the public library.

For the past 16 years on WISH-TV's Daybreak, Dick Wolfsie has lent his unique brand of wit and humor to the screen. His video essays and personal stories are unique to Indiana television. Many are syndicated nationally.

This former high school and college English teacher has logged over 10,000 hours of television. Wolfsie's work in the media has netted him over a dozen awards including a regional Emmy for best host, a national ACE award and a Casper Award for five years as host and producer of AM Indiana.