Scoot: Memories of Channel 4’s 60 years on the air

September 07, 2017 - 10:48 am

In honor of 60 years on the air in New Orleans, WWL-TV aired a “Celebrating 60 Years” special last night.  The special featured past and present Channel 4 personalities live on the set and memories from past news shows, and local TV shows over 60 years brought back warm memories.

The fact that the visuals of current and past WWL-TV anchors and personalities brought back emotional feelings from the past is a testament to the idea that we develop emotional relationships with the individuals we invite into our homes every day.

To see Eric Paulsen, Sally Ann Roberts, Dennis Woltering and Angela Hill live on the set with pictures and film/video from the past reminding us of what they looked like when we first met them was comforting in that it reminded us that we’re not the only ones who are changing and maturing; and it’s all okay.  

Like many of you, I grew up watching Channel 4, and the memories resurrected from seeing the visuals of the WWL-TV anchors and personalities served as a checkpoint on my road map of life.  Seeing where they were and where they are now mirrors where we now are in our lives.

Most touching were the pictures and film/video of the Channel 4 personalities that are no longer with us.  Images of the legendary Phil Johnson, Frank Davis, Nash Roberts and others reminded us that sometimes all we have are the memories.

I started out watching the 60th anniversary special last night with the idea that I would watch the beginning and then change to one of the current news shows, which is what I’m doing at that point every evening.  But I couldn’t stop watching! 

Memories of  “Morgus, the Magnificant” and “Popeye & Pals” brought me back to my childhood.  The scenes from “The John Pela Show,” a Saturday afternoon dance show on Channel 4, were fun to watch.  John Pela was my first boss in radio when he hired me to work weekends on WWL 870 AM.

If you watched the special or if you are having flashbacks by reading this blog, I know there were those personalities you miss or maybe the names from the past remind you of a great time in your life.  We all had our favorites and we were all touched in different ways by the different personalities, not only on Channel 4, but any of the TV stations you grew up with here in New Orleans or wherever was home for you.

Watching the weather icon, Nash Roberts, with his black grease pen literally drawing in the weather on the map reminded us how good Nash was at a time when today’s weather technology did not exist.

The strongest and most touching memory I had watching Channel 4’s 60th anniversary special last night was that of news anchor Bill Elder.  Not every TV news anchor is a journalist – Bill Elder was a true journalist with a reputation for courageous and aggressive reporting. 

Bill Elder’s on-camera presence was piercing with the determined, yet comfortable, look in his eyes and his body leaning slightly forward into the camera that made you feel like he was there, giving you only the most important news of the day and was in the room with you.

Bill was a big part of my daily search for news and information because during the years of doing a morning radio show I would be home and settled by noon, and I always watched the noon newscast anchored by Bill. 

I got to know Bill and played tennis with him many times.  I remember having dinner at his house on the West Bank one night, and his wife’s famous homemade-from-scratch cheesecake was served as dessert.  It was epic.

Bill Elder was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1998 and passed away in September of 2003 at the age of 65.  His death deeply saddened me. The images of Bill Elder last night on Channel 4’s special brought back great memories of a news anchor whom I invited into my home every day and I know you have those memories about the news anchors who were part of your life.

Bill Elder’s classic toss to the CBS News at 5:30 pm every evening was distinctive:  “ALLLLLL right now – we stop – and switch you live and direct – to Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News.”

If you don’t realize how personal it is to invite news anchors and personalities into your home every day, think about how you feel when you travel and turn on the news in the hotel room in another city.  It always feels to me like I let strangers into my room.

At the end of the show last night – I thought about the lyrics to “In My Life” by The Beatles:

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all.


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