Photo courtesy WREC/WREG-TV
It may not be common knowledge, but most of the treasures stored away in the Lauderdale Library have been acquired through acquisitions and trades with the great museums of the world: the Smithsonian, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the British Museum, even the Itta Bena Public Library and Information Center in Mississippi.
Occasionally, though, I confess that I venture out into the world, tucked away in the back seat of the Daimler-Benz, and mingle with the “real” people by going to what are called “estate sales” where I root through other people’s belongings in search of rare books, artwork, historical artifacts, and keys to their safe deposit boxes.
And so there I was this weekend, at an estate sale in — oh, let’s not give it away, shall we? — when I came across several photographs showing the staff of WREC-TV back in the 1950s and 1960s. This was before WREC (the call letters stood for the Wooten Radio Electric Corporation, in honor of the station’s founder, Hoyt B. Wooten) were changed to WREG. And come to think of it, I have no idea what the “G” now stands for.
But it doesn’t matter. You’re getting me off-track here.
Among those photos was this one, apparently from the mid-1960s, showing the on-air news team in their snappy orange and brown blazers. Wow, what colors! I guess they were trying to take advantage of all those giant console color TVs Memphians were buying in the early 1960s — you know, the ones where you’d have to rearrange all the furniture in your den to make room for them. And I thought I’d post the picture here, so everyone could remember their favorite newsman, sportscaster, or weatherman.
But — this being Memphis and all — it’s never that simple. There seems to be considerable confusion about who, exactly, some of these people are. Now I immediately recognized the two main anchors, if that’s the word they used back then, perched prominently in the middle of the front row: Russ Hodge and John Powell. But the identity of the others has caused strife, strain, and I fear even fisticuffs among the various local Facebook groups where I have also sent this photo.
How could no one remember the names of the people they turned to daily for their news? Especially when, back then, you only had a choice of three, maybe four, channels? Well, one of my Facebook friends, whom I shall not identify here except to say that her name is Barbara Carson, summed up the problem neatly when she told me, “I just know they never smiled while giving the news; it was usually delivered in a dull, monotone way. But I was a kid, and I had no idea why they even had such a boring program on TV anyway. To me, The Flintstones were much more important.”
I guess it would have been easier to identify Fred and Barney and Betty and Wilma.
But a variety of people, including such Mid-South TV notables as Dave Brown (the one and only) and Pam Crittenden have matched some names with most of the faces, so here we go.
In the front row, from left to right, you have: Jim Hutchinson, Russ Hodge, John Powell, and Paul Dorman.
In the second row, from left to right: Harv Stegman, Jim Hipps, Don Moss, a so-far-unidentified gentleman, and Paul Barnett.
Standing in the back row are, left to right: Hank Lockhart, an unidentified woman, and Ron Arline.
Now I just want to point out a few things: 1) How can it be that nobody can remember the name of the only woman on the entire news team? 2) Some of these identifications are still being disputed, even as I write this. 3) What was the distinction between the orange blazers and the brown blazers? Did you have to work up to an orange blazer? And finally, 4) Even though we’ve come up with some names, most people still don’t have any memory of what these people actually did on-air. They remember the anchors, but as far as who did the sports, or who was the weatherman, not a clue.
Keep thinking, everyone. Maybe other names will come to you.