A Momentus Period In Television History by Angela Pidduck and Ann Winston

As one of the ttt-pioneers with the longest service at Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), I have been asked, to write an article encapsulating my experiences from 1961 to 2001. During my career with TTT, I was privileged to experience a momentous period in television history in both Trinidad and Tobago and through out the Caribbean. One would think that with historical recall and the fact that the range and scope of my duties at TTT entailed writing, this project would be effortless. Nevertheless, I found this to be an extremely daunting undertaking, because I had not come to terms with the notion that TTT, as we knew it, and the television station where I devoted the major part of my youth, no longer exists…except in our memories.

The fact that TTT disbanded almost 40 years after its inception still leaves me a bit shell-shocked. Yes, a mere 4 years after I retired the station stopped broadcasting much to the dismay of the entire population. The majority of TTT viewers although saddened by the closing of the Station remained silent and bewildered even as the final curtain came down. Upon serious reflection, I am not sure what was more devastating to me, the takeover of TTT during the 1990 Abu Bakr led coup d’état in Trinidad, or its closure in January 2005. This being said, I would not want my TTT tenure to go unrecorded.

The following article written by Newsday journalist, Angela Pidduck who interviewed me shortly after I retired from TTT in 2001, captures in essence, my feelings of nostalgia, hopes and expectations of a bright future for TTT and all that it could have been and more:
In 1962 Ann Winston was a copywriter/scriptwriter with the Voice of Rediffusion and Radio Trinidad on Maraval Road. The programme, which stands out in her memory, as a scriptwriter was “A Date With Yesterday”, voiced by Russell Winston, with whom she kept a date to the altar in 1961.  Says Ann “I found he would be the one to do it, his tonal quality and presentation were both perfect for the programme which was like a back in times programme where you would lead-in with a song like “In the Light of the Silvery Moon’ and move into ‘A Certain Smile.”

At the end of March 1962, Ann noticed that all her peers were sending off applications to join the new television station, which was to be started in the building next door to the radio station, and decided to join them but says, “My application was very, very late. Closing time was 4 pm, I ran upstairs, dashed it off to beat the deadline and sent it in.”

Ann went on holidays and returned to find that she had been invited to an interview in her absence, apologized that she was out of the country and eventually after several interviews, was appointed Production Assistant.

When Ann retired as Programme Controller of Trinidad and Tobago Television on August 19,2001, she had given 39 years to building the television industry in this country. The mother of three adult children, who lost her husband, Russell, suddenly three years ago, never envisaged such a lengthy stint with the station as after the first two months of employment “I wondered what have I found myself in. I was ready to return to Radio Trinidad if my job was still open. I cried long tears and called Gabriel Francis (the Production Director) to find out if my job was still open but between himself and my husband they supported me through that period of uncertainty. And in the end “I have thoroughly enjoyed 39 wonderful and glorious years with TTT.

Ann remembers going into the station before her September 15th, date of appointment. Those were the mortar and concrete days as there were things being done, such as, floors being laid in certain areas on the ground floor. I was setting up programmes in the Traffic Department although I thought I would be a copy-writer but there was no specific area for copywriters and with my knowledge of radio programming I ended up doing everything, compiling logs for transmission, writing copy for commercials, and because of my love for the creative and television was new to Trinidad, production was the way to go.
I used to liaise with newspapers about what shows we were having, I was a one-lady band for years until television grew and the work became divided as it was a lot for one person to handle” Barry Gordon was then Programme Manager and wanted to expose his staff to all aspects of television and he allowed us to produce shows for television in keen competition among ourselves and I was part of the team headed by Tony Lutchman who was so creative we dubbed him the Cecil B De Mille of television.

In the ‘good old days’ Ann recalls an outside assignment as a production assistant-cum copywriter where she had to climb a very tall ladder to get up to the top of the roof of the Grand Stand at the Queen’s Park Savannah to note the camera shots of the cameraman and producer over two days of Carnival, only to return to the station at the end of each day to write copy of the day’s colourful events to be shown the same evening. The same applied to film coverage of the English cricket tour of the West Indies, at the Queen’s Park Oval this time, on top of the Pavilion. Could you imagine this young damsel passing through the hallowed quarters of the ‘strictly’ men’s pavilion to get on the roof by way of a ladder?  Each step was taken gingerly in flight up and down.

On her first oversees assignment Ann covered the Grape and Wine Festival in St. Catherine’s, Canada. And very few children viewers know that it was this very charming lady who assisted in securing the popular Sesame Street series for Trinidad and Tobago at the Caribbean Launch of Sesame Street in Jamaica.
And although Ann is sure that the station knew where it was going she believes that “technology caught up with us when we should have caught up with it. We should have been prepared for advanced technology and should have set our own standards. I do not believe in comparisons and trying to achieve what others are doing. If you need to train staff, need to go abroad, you must know when the time is right to advance. Just as nobody tells me it is time to have my yard cleaned, nobody must tell us it is time to move forward.”

How could she forget 1990 and the Muslimeen’s takeover of her beloved station? “Normally I was there late on a Friday afternoon as transmission logs had to be completed up to Monday which some times necessitated working long hours, but we were finished early that Friday and just half an hour before the take-over, I said to another girl ‘but what we sitting down here for,’ we were old-talking actually, and that is how we left.”

On entering the station after the surrender Ann was completely devastated by the scenes and asked herself, “what had happened and what could have happened to my colleagues in there? We were going back on the air and everybody had to help us rise out of the ashes, literally, everybody had to pull their weight. We lost a lot of years of work, documents and other items that were irreplaceable.” To this day, the memory of entering the place that was almost in shambles leaves Ann with ” a feeling of devastation…It was eerie because I knew that death had taken place in there. It was like a whisper, a feeling that a breath of life had been removed from TTT.”

Ann leaves Television House with the advice that TTT has to face the competition and must do so aggressively: “Our equipment must be state-of-the-art. Our staff must be knowledgeable in their respective fields, competent and sharp, prepared for action, and be motivated by that driving force which mirrors  ‘Only the Best Will Do… And In Him We Trust”.