B. J. Caldwell was the Administrative Assistant to the WBTV News Director. In other words, she pretty much ran the place.

First Person | A Boost From "Uncle Gil"

By Chuck Hemrick

Here's how I got started in broadcasting—with a "BT connection."

I got my first guitar when I was 12 years old and learn to play a few chords within a few months (my mom bought me a "learn to play" book, with the guitar).

Anyway, that was 1948 and by spring of 1949, I took my guitar up to a radio station in Winston-Salem (WAIR, located in the Pepper Bldg downtown) that had a country show each day (Mon-Sat, 12 noon 'til 1:00pm).

The program was hosted by a fellow who called himself "Uncle Gil"...yep! the one and only Gil Stamper.

He let me play and sing a couple of the little ole songs made popular by "Little Jimmy Dickens" of Grand Ol' Opry fame. I was on his program about every Saturday or so pickin' my guitar and singing "Ole Cold Tater", "Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed", "Out Behind the Barn", etc.. I was on his program 'til he left WAIR to join WBTV in Charlotte, sometime in 1950 or 1951.

One other important note: my mom, dad and older sister and I formed a gospel quartet, "The Hemrick Family Singers." We sang at revivals, homecomings and church services in the surrounding area. We even sang on "Uncle Gils" radio program a few times and later on he made an acetate disc recording of us with about seven or eight gospel songs on it. I have searched for that disc all my adult life since the radio station closed down in the early 60's or late 50's. I keep having dreams that I will find it one day.

When TV first came to this area, I walked into the TV station and told them I wanted a job. (I was a junior in high school then. It was October 1953). They asked me if I knew anything about television. Of course, I said "no." They replied," Well, we don't either, come on in!"

So, I worked after school on the production crew at WTOB-TV (a UHF station in Winston-Salem). I spent two years there until I was hired at WSJS-TV, Channel 12 in W-S (now WXII-TV). I worked there til 1959. I got married that year and then moved to Charlotte in 1961 to work at on WSOC-TV's production crew.

The news director hired me to work in TV news in 1965, and since I knew very little about shooting TV news stories, news director Carroll McGahey sent me to the Oklahoma University TV news photography seminar for two weeks to learn the do's and don'ts of being a tv news photogarapher.

Chuck at work for WBTV News
at the U. S. Capitol

I was hired at WBTV News in the summer of 1970 and spent 13 years as a news photographer there. I wound up at WGHP-TV, High Point, in October of 1983 and retired from TV broadcasting there in 1999.

I was nominated by my peers at Fox 8 news for the prestigious Silver Circle Award for all my years in TV broadcasting and accepted by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Nashville/Midsouth Chapter.

My wife Peggi went with me to Vanderbuilt University in Nashville, Tenneessee, for the award ceremony in August 1998, the same year that Fred Kirby was also honored posthumously for the same award by the NATAS Nashville/Midsouth Chapter).

For whatever it's worth, there was a kid in Winston-Salem who heard me on "Uncle Gil's radio program and came up to see me one Saturday and asked me to teach him a chord or two on thr guitar. Geeezzzzz, I only knew about three chords myself by then.

That kid one day wound up being a major part of the Arthur Smith Show on WBTV. Yep, it was George Hamilton IV!

He and I spent many years together picking and singing at any place that wanted us, with our own band of high school buddies. Back then, to our high school friends, we were just some ole hillbillies. That's what they called you back then if you played a "geetar" and sang through your nose.

I wouldn't trade these memories for anything in the world. George and I remain close friends even today. I played a gig with him at a local Moravian Church in Lexington, right before Christmas 2009. We also have breakfast together now and then. He has been a dear friend during my grieving period since the passing of my wife Peggi in March 2009.

And "Uncle Gil" Stamper and I remained friends after he left WBTV until his passing many years afterward!

So, there you have it...my life story in TV broadcasting, 1953 til 1999!