Monday, February 4, 2008

The Argus Observes --- Who is that grizzled guy there on the TV screen?

By Don Lynch
From The Argus-Observer issue of Feb. 8, 1954

(Editor’s note: Though I try to pick a column from the available selection in sequence with the news stories we are running from the same month in 1953 month, there are times that the options seem flat. So I may reach out, usually to a year or two later. This column from 1954 struck me as particularly telling about the era in general, when black and white TV was still new to audiences in Eastern Oregon and Southwestern Idaho.)

How’d you like to be on TV?

That’s were I was on Friday night at 9 p.m. as some of you TV viewers may know --- if you are neither Dennis Day nor basketball fans.

I was with a panel of editors on the Meet the Press show on KBOI. That’s the program that has to compete with the Dennis Day show on the other channel and with Friday night basketball for its audience.

The kids said, “Dad, that’s no time to be on TV. Everybody’ll be watching basketball.” Which suited me all right.

The experience was kind of a shock. The jolt came in seeing myself on the TV screen which is in the studio just behind the camera. It permits people on the program to see their image.

I was surprised at the middle-aged appearance of the guy I saw there. You see yourself in the
mirror shaving every day but somehow that’s routine. I had noticed that my friends have been aging lately, but I hadn’t quite realized how mature old Don was beginning to look. Apparently any day now I can quite feeling like a brash youth.

(The author was 39 when he wrote this column.)

There really isn’t as much alarming about being in front of a TV camera as one might think.
The thing is just a sort of a box in the air at approximately the height and distance of a man standing across a table from you. It’s about the size of an orange crate with a few round holes on the end toward you and a cameraman standing behind it aiming it in your direction. But he’s as impersonal as a good waiter and you almost forget what’s going on.

All of the tension for me came before we got on the air and in the first minute or two. After that we just relaxed and questioned Col. John R. Mamerow about civilian defense. He is the civil defense administrator for Idaho and, of course, his organization works closely with Eastern Oregon.

It seemed no time at all until the half hour was over.

It must have been a sort of mediocre show from the audience standpoint because, right or wrong, the public has lost interest in civil defense.

You can tell people all about how short the time is for a jet bomber to travel from the northern border to the Snake River Valley but they won’t get excited. That have adopted the new thinking of the “cold peace” in place of the cold war. The fear of attack has nearly disappeared.

You can tell them, too, as the colonel did, that Boise has been designated a possible target, and that Mt. Home Air Base is near and the Arco atomic plant is near, and that we are right on the polar route for targets south of us; but they don’t arouse. The whole idea seems too far fetched.

So Col. Mamerow who is a very eager worker doing an important but thankless job has a discouraging time of it. He can’t get the local government administrators much interested in appointing civil defense leaders for the various towns.

Duane Alters of Nyssa’s Gate City Journal and Maury Russel of the Caldwell News Tribune were the other newsmen on the panel. We all enjoyed talking to the colonel and learning a little more about civil defense.

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