Some Memories Remain Clear…

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Hazel Ward, Hugh Pierre and I joined Radio Trinidad on the same day around 1956.

Trinidad and Tobago Television (ttt) was about 100 yards from the radio station. ttt in 1962 was ready to hire staff – announcers, technical operators! After Hazel Ward was hired she encouraged me to apply. I did and was hired.

I remember the first area we had Master Control, Telecine, with a desk for the news announcer. It was upstairs in the first news room – later to become the accounts department of Hugh O’Brien, Chief Accountant.

We transmitted from this office while work was going on downstairs – Master Control, Telecine, Presentation Studio (news and information), Audio Booth, Director’s Booth and Control. In Studio B the cyclorama and drapes were mounted. Television was new to me and others and the country.

Classes in studio lighting, camera language – pan right, pan left, tilt up, dolly in – these were strange words to all of us. The person conducting these classes was our mentor and teacher, Programme Director, Barry Gordon. Here we learned how to light a set for 1-2-0 group of people. We learned the dos and don’ts of what television can do or say! What was a Klieg style light and what it did. We were taught about camera shots – close up, medium close up, cover shot, long shot, reverse angle, two shot, etc. We learned how to balance camera video – black levels, white levels, fade to black, dissolve, super impose. There were so many terms that sounded like a foreign language to everyone. “Wind up”, “stretch” – all done with your hands to cue the announcer or presenter. We were taught how to thread a projector, load a slide bank, change caption cards on cue, how to balance video on live camera and the film projector.

The material for the morning and evening transmissions was approved and scheduled by the Programme Director, prepared by the traffic department and the film library. Acapulco 22 was the theme song for our first of many live entertainment programmes – Teen Dance Party, produced and hosted by Hazel Ward, Director Barry Gordon. Director – one month later – Errol Harrylal! Some of the other live productions were Scouting For Talent, Mastana Bahar, Parade to name a few.

Television productions from Studio B were “live” – no recording, no take two! You can imagine we had many problems. I remember a dance performance by Aldwyn Boynes when the canvas backdrop started to fall during the dance. Aldwyn stuck his hands out and held the prop up. The dance continued – Aldwyn made it look like part of the dance – a real pro!

Another time, during a live show in Studio B by performer Lynette singing a love song on the show Parade. A tub full of water was used swirling to create a visuial effect of a whirlpool. This was super-imposed behind the singer’s face which was a “close up shot”. Charlie Moore who came in the studio noticed the effect and thought the swirl in the tub was weakening, so he stuck his hand in the tub to swirl the water. His big fat hand appeared across the singer’s face on my super imposed shot of her face. I could have killed him!

These are some of my memories. Like when the most feared and respected Prime Minister, Eric Williams, was being interviewed at his home by Ed Fung. One of the key lights went out. It was left to me to tell him that we had to stop filming because the light went out on his face and he came out “dark”. He turned to me – expecting the worse – I said I was sorry. He said – “it’s alright, that’s my natural colour”.

No sooner Barry Gordon’s job of teaching television to us had started, he was leaving to return home to Canada. Then came a new Programme Director at ttt, with new ideas, Farouk Muhammad – my boss, my friend. He taught me more about living with the job we love and enjoying it. Mr. Muhammad is responsible for creating a well disciplined staff under his leadership as Programme Director.

Some of the major “live” transmissions included Texaco Southern Games – as the name implies was held in Guaracara Park in the city of Pointe-A-Pierre, the oil refinery capital at that time, Texaco Oil Refinery. The games, all sporting events, opened to foreign and Caribbean athletes – track and field, cycling. The games were similar to the Olympic Games setting – Southern Games held every year and lasted about one week – early morning to late evening.

The Prime Minister’s Best Village Competition Programme comprised of “plays” in song and dance performances by different villages in the country. They all competed for a title and trophy offered by the Prime Minister’s office. These shows were held at the Queen’s Park Savannah every night for about two to three weeks, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Then there was Trinidad and Tobago Carnival which was transmitted “live” from the Queen’s Park Savannah. The crowning of a Calypso King, the crowning of a Carnival Queen, and the Parade of the Bands which entered on ramps to be judged according to the category based on costumes and music that were presented – Music which both the steelbands and big brass bands performed on trucks to thousands of people called revelers. The beautiful music of the steelband enhanced the merrymaking. The extravaganza continued on the streets for two days. You must be here in Trinidad during Carnival to understand why we call it the greatest show on earth.

So many here at Trinidad and Tobago Television (ttt) worked long and hard to bring these shows “live” to many foreign tourists and local residents. This was ttt as I remembered at its best!

Would not change a thing (maybe).