George Tang – TTT Pioneer The Eyes and Ears of the Nation

TTT Crew George Tang on camera with R.Knowles and M. Clarke at Queen's Park Oval

TTT Crew George Tang on camera with R.Knowles and M. Clarke at Queen’s Park Oval

On August 31, 1962 – Independence Day was a milestone in the history
of Trinidad & Tobago with the first live broadcast of the opening of
Parliament by our own television station. They were offering programmes
from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m., and that was all that I thought of television
at the time.
In September, 1962 a visit was paid by Messrs. Barry Gordon, Louis
Sorzano, and Bob Archibald to my workplace Perriera & Company
Limited, where I was the Manager of the Photographic Department.
I was acquainted with Louis who approached me and introduced the
two (2) strangers with him. Barry Gordon when introduced to me
inquired if I would not be interested in working in the Television
Industry, as I was highly recommended to him. I had not given it a
thought as I was happy in what I was doing, so I could not give him
an answer as I needed to think about it.
The next day he telephoned me and invited me to visit them at
Television House.  On my arrival I was handed a Bell & Howell
Camera, and was taken with the team to the passing out parade of the
Police Recruits. Having experience doing cinematography as I
worked with Wilfred Lee Company Limited doing commercials and
documentaries – news. I felt comfortable with this test assignment,
and apparently they were satisfied, as it was shown on Panaroma that
night. Later that night I received a telephone call from Barry at home
and a job offer was made.
Beside my experience at Wilfred Lee & Company Limited, I also
already had twenty (20) years of still photography under the well
known Mr. Isaac Chan, and the artist Mr. Carlyle Chan who was the
foremost portrait and wedding photographers at that time.
I was required to give a month’s notice to my employers, and while
working out my notice, I went after work to Television House to
learn the production system of processing and editing. I was
officially placed on staff at Television House on October 1, 1962, as
one of their two cinematographers – the other person being Louis
Sorzano. We were known as the eyes and ears of the nation.
Our job entailed covering all news assignments with journalists like
– Lloyd Rohlehr, who was the News Director at the time. Messrs.
Clyde Alleyne, and Mervin Telfer, and later joined by Messrs.
Bobby Thomas and John Barsotti.
Also we covered sports assignments like horse racing, cricket, and
football with the well known Sports Caster, Mr. Raffie Knowles.
We also featured shows with Ms. Melina Scott, and Ms. Hazel Ward.
It was always great to work with these two distinguish ladies,
and up to today when we meet I am warmly greeted with hugs. At that we
were kept very busy.
The year 1963 was another first – carnival was covered on the
television in black and white. I was at the Red Cross Children
Show, Dimanche Gras, J’ouvert, and Monday and Tuesday Parade
of the Bands. I worked from Carnival Friday to Carnival Tuesday
without a break, taking my meals on the move. We shot the pictures
and had to hustle back to the television station to process, edit, and
air on Panorama News that same night.
One of my outstanding memories was the September 1963 coverage
of Hurricane Flora. I was put on a two seater plane and sent over
to cover the hurricane damage in Tobago. On this occasion as on
several others, I was both journalist taking notes, and the
cinematographer. This coverage was subsequently used by CBS
Television Station.
My enjoyable assignment was the preliminary casting of the
scouting for talent show with the well known talent host – Mr. Holly
Bataudier.  These auditions were conducted nationwide, and it was
one of the most popular shows at that time.
These were very momentous, and exciting times, a young nation, and
a growing industry – television.  We worked seven days a week,
and we were a very happy, dedicated group of people, doing all that
was required and asked of us. There was a high standard of
professionalism. Among us we also developed a feeling of great
comradeship, and several lifetime friendships were made. I learned a
lot from the professionals like Mr. Barry Gordon, who up to today I
can hear him saying, “you are not Cecil B. Mille making a movie,
this is a news cast” which I often repeat.
Disaster struck in the year 1965, as I was hospitalized with a
bleeding ulcer. The doctors could not pin point the cause of this, and
it was suggested that the breathing of the chemicals techno chloride
used in cleaning films could have been responsible for this ailment.
I remained at Television House until the year 1965, when I left to
open my own studio, but continued to be associated with Television
House as a freelance cinematographer, covering special assignments,
like the visits by The Duke of Edinburgh, Haile Salasie, and Indira
Ghandi of India. The arrival of the Queen of England for TTT, and
also for CBS Television Station who was so impressed with this
coverage they sent me a bonus cheque.
I continued to keep in touch with other TTT Pioneers, like Ms.
Doreen Gilbert until her recent demise, Ethel Bethelmy, and Ann
Winston, who I still continue to meet with frequently, as we all live in
the same area. It is always a joy hearing from any TTT Pioneer, and
I wish they will all continue to enjoy their memories.

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”.

The Demise of NBN – A Double Whammy For Me Personally

Neil Giuseppi, writing in another paper recently, opened his article with the words: “I shed a tear last Friday night.  I shed a tear as I watched the end of an era in Trinidad and Tobago.”  He was, of course, writing about the demise of the National Broadcasting Network (NBN).  And as I read his reminiscences, many of which were also mine, I shed a tear too.

If people remember me as a broadcaster at all, it is usually for my TTT years.  But there may just be some older folk who have not forgotten that I was also among those “privileged” few who opened Radio Guardian (610) in September 1957.  Becoming part of the NBN network later, this radio station too has now been silenced.  So, a double whammy for me

 As much as I loved TTT, there will always remain within me a soft spot for 610.  Just as Neil learned his craft at TTT, so too did I learn mine at 610.  And I was fortunate enough to be taught by some of the giants of radio broadcasting, among them people like Larry Heywood, Frank Hughes and Ed Fung.

While Larry and Frank turned me into an announcer, it was Ed who, as Chief Editor, virtually took me by the hand and taught me the secrets of good radio news writing and the subtleties of being a broadcast journalist.  I never looked back, going on to take his place as Chief Editor when he was promoted out of the newsroom.  And what a newsroom!

We had pioneered the concept of news every hour on the hour, leaving the competition, Radio Trinidad, to re-think its schedule which catered for just a few bulletins spread over the broadcast day.  The 17 hours we remained on air each day were covered by only four of us: Ed, myself, ace reporter John Babb and Mr Cool himself, Geoff Lewis.

I have lost track of the big voices on 610 in the latter years.  But no one among those who listened to the station from its inception could ever forget Mr Perfection, Desmond Bourne; the man with the voice that boomed like thunder, John Betaudier; Mr Fluency, Freddie Wharwood; Mr Laid-back, Ashton Chambers; and the wee Scottish lass, Nelleen Samuel.

The station was part of history too.  You do not often hear anything now about the Federation of the West Indies and it would not surprise me if there are young people today who never heard that we were once part of a Federation.  Federal House was located just around the block from 610.

Federal Broadcasting Officer Alva Clarke came over to 610 studios to edit and produce his programmes and if a technical operator was unavailable but a studio was free, we would work together on those programmes.  Many a decision on what to broadcast and what to leave out were made by Alva and myself in 610’s Studio B.

There is so much more to tell but since I remained at 610 merely for its first four years, I would leave that for others to chronicle.  After 610, I went to work as an announcer at Barbados Rediffusion and, later, as an international fonctionnaire at one of the United Nations specialised agencies in Geneva.

I returned to Trinidad in the late sixties and accepted the post of News Director/Panorama Producer which was just vacated by Lloyd Rohlehr.  Lloyd was a hard act to follow but, with help from people like Barry Gordon, Farouk Muhammad, Sonny Rawlins and Horace Harragin, who was a senior newsman, I managed to take the programme forward.

 It was during this time that Neil joined the newsroom.  And so too did Dale Kolasingh.  Ed Fung joined us a bit later.  Equipment was scarce and sometimes unreliable.  It is a long time now, some 30 years since I left TTT, and memory fades.  But Neil will bear me out when I say that, in the early days, we mostly covered the news with two hand-held 16-mm film cameras.

I know it is hard to believe in this video era but, in those days, we shot silent negative film on 100-foot rolls which were good for less than three minutes running time.  Film stock itself was rationed (for reasons of economy) and it was not uncommon for us to cover three short stories with one roll of film by mentally editing while we shot.

Shooting news for us were Michael Clarke and Leslie Thornhill, both of whom later went overseas to bigger things.  But they were not always available.  I took Neil and Dale to the Queen’s Park Savannah one afternoon and gave them a quick lesson in the use of a camera.  Framing, F-stop, Focus and a steady hand.  Incredibly, they shot beautiful pictures!

 On the more serious side, I remember our coverage of the black power demonstrations and our attempts to put things into perspective for our viewers by doing a series of interviews with Dr Eric Williams under the title, From Columbus to Castro.  It seems impossible in the circumstances but I did those interviews live in TTT’s studios!

 Also live was another series of interviews which I did with Justice Telford Georges on the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.  It was the long consultation period that led to constitutional reform and the birth of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.  Those interviews, hopefully, brought the significance of the proposed constitutional change to the public.

Then, there were the other memorable interviews I did, also live, with President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim who later became President of Austria but who was also accused of being a Nazi, OAS Secretary-General Galo Plaza, and a number of delightful Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Miss World and Miss Universe.

 And of course, cricket.  It was in 1968, I think, with England touring the West Indies.  TTT viewers were treated to live cricket coverage for the first time, and with instant replay as well.  I tell people here in the UK that we covered it with just two cameras and they cannot believe it.  Nor would our viewers who were absolutely delighted with the coverage.

Yes, indeed.  A double whammy for me, TTTand 610.  Neil ended his reminiscences with a quote from the immortal Shakespeare.  I will end with an immortal quote as well, although I cannot remember more than the first few words.  Nor can I remember where it comes from.  But perhaps you can.  “Bring me my weeping vase that I may shed a tear…”