An early WBT microphone

Artifacts | A Job Well Done

Memos like this one from the early 1970s were common at Jefferson-Pilot Broadcasting. Here producer Carol Wonsavage, in a memo to General Manager Jim Babb, praises all those involved in a particularly difficult production. It was typical: the credit as well as the work was always shared.

Dear Mr. Babb:

Those who did not work on "Child's Christmas" ....and had only the pleasure of watching the show, may not realize the incredible family spirit that evolved with everyone who had any part to do with the show. It was obvious soon after we began our three 16-hour days of taping that everyone, especially the crew, felt a real personal commitment to make the show work .... despite the short time and terrific deadline bearing down on everyone. And the crew went far beyond what was necessary, and gave more than the extra mile... putting up, lighting and striking six sets in three days.

I would especially like to single out several people who really put their stamp on the show and made it work. First Quay Sistare, who floor managed, coordinated production, and got all those trees for the Oz set and big doll set on his own...including that enormous 16-foot wide monster that, even when cut in half...reached all the way up in the grid. Also Bob Morris, who made such beautiful arcing camera moves...and kept giving more when more was asked than was asked before in production. Also the art department who stayed til 3 a.m. one morning putting hundreds of feet of tape on that yellow brick road in the Oz set. And Dennis Phillips who filled in at the last minute as the Scarecrow, plus was a right-hand man getting props and overseeing make-up. And Clara Lowry who baby-sat for the elves for 12 hours. And John Burchett who did a beautiful job editing music in places where we didn't think editing was possible. Plus the other crew members...Melissa Carver, Tony Johnson and Elmer Hilker.

Most of all I'd like to single out Hal Edwards and Pat Lee. Hal oversaw the whole technical side of the production, and then sat beside me for hours in the control room switching the shots called [for] on this rather elaborate production. Without him it would not have been possible. And Pat Lee was constantly there, during the production and the stage show, smoothing the way, dealing with antagonistic actors, getting food brought in and taking a load of details off my mind. Looking back, I don't see how we did it, because the effort, of doing six sets, with 35 actors,....and most scenes completely reblocked and directed from the stage show. It was only possible through the complete dedication of the people involved. Words aren't quite adequate to express the gratitude I felt toward all of them... I just can't say enough in their favor.

Carol Wonsavage

Notes from Dennis Phillips on the "Child's Christmas" production.

Dennis Phillips - 2006

“The Observer Charities and Loonis McGlohan had put together a big Christmas stage show at Ovens. The show raised a lot of cash for charity and Loonis got the idea to do a TV version.

“Loonis and Al Ham wrote all the original Christmas music (his wife, Mary Mayo and daughter Lori both sang on the tracks—Jim Patterson did Rudolphs' Song). Al Ham was an arranger and director of the Ray Conniff Singers. He was known as Johnny Matthis' producer on "Chances are" as well as the creator of "The Hilltop singers" ("I'd like to teach the world to sing"). Loonis and Al had worked together on the music tracks for "The Land of Oz," a theme park at Beech Mountain. (A creation by Jack Pentes, former WBTV artist, commissioned by Tweetsie Railroad's Grover Robbins.)

“The premise of "A Child's Christmas" was that Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow learn about Christmas by surreptitiously watching a very loving family celebrate Christmas Eve in their country farm home. There was lots of music and dance numbers, done in the big studio on a Victorian living room set and a dance set with an infinity cyc.

“The show aired to very good response.”

Carol Wonsavage writes from her position as director of marketing and publicity at Penn State Public Broadcasting in University Park, PA:

Carol Wonsavage

"I was at WBTV from 1972 to 1977 as a producer/director, and was the first producer of its successful "Top o the Day" program. We also worked on some very innovative local productions ... before the days when cable made stations concentrate mostly on news. Pat Lee was head of Creative Services. Hutch [John Hutchinson] was a producer, and then head of Traffic."