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WMFE-TV Channel 24 – Orlando’s PBS Station

Channel 24 – WMFE TV – Orlando’s PBS affiliate had humble beginnings with studio and offices located in the Mid Florida Tech building located on Oakridge Road in South Orlando when I joined the staff in October 1972. The facilities were really amazing considering the small space. There was a complete carpentry shop, photography room, art department, engineering department, large control room, audio room, engineering with all those huge quad machines and new smaller helical machines. In addition, there were all the regular departments and offices would would expect to find in a television station like production department, promotion department, business office, tape storage, the mimeograph room, and the front office. It was a challenge at times having to share hallways with Mid Florida Tech students.

We had a great staff of producers, directors, cameramen and engineers and we had a number of locally produced live programs each week including one for teens called “Rapport.” But in late 1972 the station suffered a huge financial setback and a number of the staff were laid off – including my soon to be spouse.

Those of us who stayed on, took on additional jobs to keep things running. I was originally hired as Traffic Manager but after the layoffs, I became the receptionist, secretary to Stephen M. Steck, and promotion assistant. Our local productions were curtailed and fund raising efforts were intensified. The station survived the financial setback and I believe became stronger in the process. WMFE had huge support in the community and we also had a lot of great volunteers and seniors who worked part time like Alice Aitken and Gladys.

Auctions were all the rage at the time and Channel 24’s first auction was broadcast from a building at the Orlando Sentinel located on Colonial near Magnolia – now a parking lot. It was a huge success, a lot of long hours and hard work for staffers and volunteers, but enjoyed by the people of Orlando. The second year, the auction was held from a vacated building at the Colonial Mall on East Colonial near Ronnie’s Deli.

Some of the folks who worked at Channel 24 during the years my husband and I worked there (1971-1975) were Ronald D. “Ron” Morrisseau (General Manager 1971-1973), Stephen M. Steck (Operations Manager; later General Manager in 1973), Gary Yeomans (Production Manager), Joe Hearn (Director of Engineering), Wally Dreggors (Office Manager), Alice Aitken (Senior part timer), Gladys ? (Senior part timer), Mary Ann ? (Promotion Director after Joan Rhoades), Phyllis ? (Receptionist), Barbara Behun (Art Department), Joan Rhoades (Promotion Director), Jim Irwin (Photographer), Kim Fischer (Traffic Manager, Promotion Assistant), Oliver Peters (Announcer and Switcher), John Newsom (Development Director after Chuck Parrish), Chuck Parrish (Development Director), Tom Landini (Program Director), Aldo Vivona (Engineering), Frank Miele (Engineering), Rodney Van Horn (Engineering/Switcher), Linda Mayfield (Promotion Director after Mary Ann), Sheri Lamb (Art Director), Kathy Harper Thorson (Development Office), Kenny Fouts (Producer/Director), Lee Watkins (Engineering), Mac Brooks (Engineering), Bob Opsahl (Announcer), Jim Heaton (Production Department), Jim McMahon (Production Department), Tom Carvel (Producer/Director/Talent), Mike Simmons (Engineering), and many others I can’t recall.

Pine Castle Pioneer Days 1974

In 1974, Channel 24 – WMFE-TV, participated in the Pine Castle Pioneer Days Parade. The royal blue dune buggy was the float with signs promoting the station’s first Auction – November 18-23, 1974. The driver is Oliver Peters and (don’t tell CTW) I am Big Bird! It was a harrowing ride, trying to keep my balance on the back of the dune buggy with giant bird feet and hands! Certainly a day to remember!

 

As Traffic Manager and Promotion Assistant, I had a lot of fun. I was “Big Bird’s” mom when the teens from “Rapport” television show donned the costume for events and I WAS “Big Bird” when school children visited the station which was located in Mid Florida Tech building on West Oak Ridge Road. I, also, got to meet Fred Rogers, Bobby Sherman, Carl Betz, and Arthur Fiedler.

WMFE-TV / Channel 24 Staff circa 1975

I can’t remember several of the names, but judging from the folks in the drawing, it is from around 1975. I believe Barbara Behun created it as a gift for Oliver Peters when he graduated with his Masters Degree from FTU – Florida Technological University (now UCF – University of Central Florida). At that time, WMFE TV – Channel 24 was still housed at Mid Florida Tech on West Oakridge Road in South Orlando.
The folks depicted above are as follows:
Back row L-R: Gary Yeoman (Production), Kim Fischer (Traffic Manager and Promotion Assistant), Joe Hearn (Operations Manager), Tom Landini (Program Director), Aldo Vivona (Assistant Chief Engineer).
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Middle Row L-R: Alice Aitken* (Senior volunteer), Sheri Lamb (Art Director), Stephen M. Steck (President), John Newsome (Development Director), Frank Miele (Chief Engineer).
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Front Row L-R: Kathy Harper Thorsen, Glenda? (Business Office), Linda Mayfield (Promotion Director), Phyllis? (Receptionist), Barbara Behun (Art Department).
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*Alice and I were great friends. We would go to malls together and make a spectacle of ourselves, skipping through the mall, singing “We off to see the wizard”. I was 19 and she was 70. She was from New Jersey and loved to dance. She said she was a flapper in the 1920s and would take the trolley downtown. Her dad would tell her to be back home before they lit the street lights. She was so much fun! She was sharp and quick witted and loved to joke around and laugh. She was independent and strong. She started as a volunteer at WMFE-TV and that became a part time job. She moved into her own efficiency apartment and loved life! She loved her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren who lived in a subdivision down the street on West Oakridge Road (they managed the Maryland Fried Chicken in Apopka!). She adored her son who lived in Hong Kong and she visited him there! She was always ready for a good joke or a prank. I still miss her.
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Bobby Sherman at SeaWorld

I met my FAVE singer, Bobby Sherman, at SeaWorld on March 4, 1974, while working in the promotion department at WMFE-TV. He was in Orlando taping a special edition of the television game show the Match Game called “Monty Hall at Sea World” which aired in May 1974 to help promote the opening of Sea World. I told Mary Ann, the Promotion Manager, about Bobby being in Orlando and she was able to contact his people. Bobby agreed to do a PSA for WMFE-TV/Channel 24 and I got to meet him!
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An article was published on the front page of the After Hours section of the Sunday Sentinel Star on Sunday, March 24, 1974 about Bobby Sherman entitled “Loyal Fans Keep Sherman In Business” by Sentinel staff writer Randy Harrison and Sentinel staff photographer Tom Kennedy. Due to size of article it is presented in three sections.
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READ about Bobby Sherman’s visit to Orlando.   Part I        Part II        Part III
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Bobby Sherman was in Orlando at Sea World on March 4, 1974 filming “Monty Hall at Sea World” which aired in May 1974. This is the autograph he gave me, signed on the back of the release he signed allowing us to use his likeness for the PSA.
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WMFE – TV Tower Collapse in Bithlo

The article below discusses the rebuilding of the antenna tower in Bithlo shared by several television and radio stations that collapsed on June 8, 1973, killing two tower workers.

The day the tower fell was terrible for the families of the two men killed and two who were injured. Staff at Channel 24 studios on West Oakridge Road were also in a state of shock and fear. Several hours earlier three of our staff members had gone to the site to observe the installation of the WMFE-TV antenna on the tower and we had not way of reaching them to make sure they were okay. This was back in the days before cell phones and the tower was out in the middle of no where in Bithlo. We waited anxiously until Steve Steck, Joe Hearn and Aldo Vivona called in from a pay phone to tell us they were okay.

 

The promotion department together with the art department created a monthly program guide. WMFE-TV was located in Mid Florida Tech at 2908 West Oak Ridge Road, Orlando, 32809.

The July 1976 program guide memorializes  L. Dale Marvel and lists the members of the staff, the 24 Hundred Club, the Executive Committee, and Board of Directors. Staff affectionately called him “Captain Marvel.”

Program Guide Staff: Linda Mayfield, Promotion Manager; Sheri Lamb, Art Director; John Newsome, Development Director; Kathy Thorsen, Special Projects Coordinator; Barbara Behun, Staff Artist; Kim Peters, Traffic Manager and Promotion Assistant.

Executive Committee: James C. Robinson, President; Stephen M. Steck, Executive Vice President; Dean C. Engstrom, President Elect; R. L. Gould, Treasurer; Michael P. Johnson, Secretary; James R. Spence, Past President; John R. Thorsen, Chairman Development Committee; Mrs. H. E. Gross, Chairman Educative Services Committee; Mrs. Bert E. Roper, Chairman Governmental Relations Committee; Frank J. White, Chairman Long Range Planning Committee; Mrs. Richard F. Trismen, Chairman, Programming Committee; Glenn Miller.

Directors: Mrs. Robert L. Barber, John R. Beardall, Jr., Ted R. Brown, Gene Burns, Rev. Donald T. DeBevoise, Mrs. Thelma J. Dudley, C. Barth Engert, Dean C. Engstrom, Ms. Beatrice B. Ettinger, William Ford, Dr. James F. Gollattscheck, R. L. Gould, Mrs. H. E. Gross, Charles J. Hawkins, T. Glenn Jackson, Jr., Michael P. Johnson, Mrs. Sam L. Lupfer III, Mrs. Ethel Kennedy Lyon, Edward O. Martin, L. Dale Marvel, Robert K. Matheison, Glenn Miller, Emmett Peter, Frank Pignone Jr., J. Sid Raehn, Alzo J. Reddick, Ronald E. Ring, James C. Robinson, James H. Robinson, Mrs. Bert E. Roper, James R. Spence, Stephen M. Steck, Harry K. Tang, John R. Thorsen, Mrs. Richard F. Trismen, Royce B. Walden, Richard D. Weaver, Dr. Earl S. Weldon, Frank J. White, Mrs. Barbara L. Whittle.

L. Dale Marvel (1925-1976)

Dale Marvel cared very deeply about what he believed in. He believed in Channel 24, and so he cared deeply about the station, about its welfare, and about its mission in the community. Due to the nature of our business, he was able to express this concern in two distinctly different ways. At Board meetings, he was a hard-headed businessman, examining the books and asking probing questions about where the money was being spent. To a greater extend than most, though, he knew how hard local support was to get … and he had a commitment to using his talents to get it. It is in this role especially that he distinguished and endeared himself to us.

When he stood in front of a camera, Dale changed from a corporate executive to an entertainer. He liked to perform … and he was good at it. He “sold” his “product” – Channel 24 – with a sincerity born of conviction. Whether asking for a membership investment or calling for higher bids as “Captain Marvel” at the Auction, Dale was convincing … because he believed what he was saying. In both of the roles he played so effectively for Channel 24, we’ll miss him.

The 24 Hundred Club were members who contributed $100 or more in a year – a lot back then.

The July 1976 program guide listed these members: Mrs. Erna Achenbach, Mr. and Mrs. David Albertson, Mrs. Elizabeth Bailey, Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Bohannon, Mr. C. W. Cleworth, Mr. T. Jeff Evans, Flagship Bank, Florida Electronic Service Association of Orange County, Florida Gas Company, Florida Power Corporation, Miss Frances Geiger, Phillip S. Harper Foundation, Mrs. Sara H. Howden, Junior Service League of Winter Park, Junior Service League of West Orange, Mr. H. D. Kerman, Mr. Harry P. Leu, Dr. E.A.C. Lloyd, Martin Marietta Corporation Foundation, McCormick Roofing Company, Mr. Harold Metz, Mrs. Arthur Milford, Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Murray, Dr. and Mrs. B. G. Newman, Orange County Teachers Association, Orange Paving and Construction, Mr. J. B. Ottenstein, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Outcalt, Overstreet Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Robertson, Southern Bell, Mr. Howard D. Spencer, Dr. E. B. Thompson, III, Trismen Foundation, R. C. Stevens Construction Company, Mr. and Mrs. Paul D. Tremel, Mr. Ralph L. Weber, Mr. Paul C. Perkins Sr.

Interview with Oliver Peters, former employee of WMFE-TV
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Pine Castle Pioneer Days 1974

In 1974, Channel 24 - WMFE-TV, participated in the Pine Castle Pioneer Days Parade. The royal blue dune buggy was the float...

WMFE-TV Channel 24 Staff circa 1975

I can't remember several of the names, but judging from the folks in the drawing, it was around 1975. It may have...

WMFE - TV Tower Collapse in Bithlo

The article is about the rebuilding of the TV tower in Bithlo shared by several Orlando area television and radio stations that...

Bobby Sherman at Sea World

Bobby Sherman at SeaWorld filming "Monty Hall at SeaWorld" March 4, 1974. Photography by WMFE-TV Channel 24 photographer Jim Irwin.

Bobby Sherman at SeaWorld

I met my FAV singer, Bobby Sherman, at SeaWorld when he was there taping the television show the Match Game. I was...

Bobby Sherman at Sea World

Photography by WMFE-TV Channel 24 photographer Jim Irwin.

July 1976 WMFE-TV Membership Guide - Front Cover

I worked as the Promotion Assistant and Traffic Manager for WMFE-TV for a brief period in the 1970s when it was located...

July 1976 WMFE-TV Membership Guide - Inside Front Cover

I worked as the Promotion Assistant and Traffic Manager for WMFE-TV for a brief period in the 1970s when it was located...

July 1976 WMFE-TV Membership Guide - Inside Back Cover

I worked as the Promotion Assistant and Traffic Manager for WMFE-TV for a brief period in the 1970s when it was located...

July 1976 WMFE-TV Membership Guide - Back cover

I worked as the Promotion Assistant and Traffic Manager for WMFE-TV for a brief period in the 1970s when it was located...

Bobby Sherman at SeaWorld 1974

Bobby Sherman was in Orlando at Sea World on March 4, 1974 filming "Monty Hall at Sea World" which aired in May...

Bobby Sherman - OS 24 March 1974 - part 1

An article was published on the front page of the After Hours section of the Sunday Sentinel Star on Sunday, March 24,...

Bobby Sherman - OS Article 24 March 1974 - Part 2

An article was published on the front page of the After Hours section of the Sunday Sentinel Star on Sunday, March 24,...

Bobby Sherman - OS Article - 24 March 1974 - Part 3

An article was published on the front page of the After Hours section of the Sunday Sentinel Star on Sunday, March 24,...

Oliver Peters - Century III Teleproductions and Hollywood East

Oliver Peters worked for Century III (CIII - Century 3) Teleproductions from 1985 until he left in 2002 to form his own company. Over the course of seventeen years, Oliver held the positions of videotape editor, project manager and operations manager. CIII was first located in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios on Eggleston Avenue in Winter Park, Florida, but relocated in 1989 to Universal Studios after being selected from many production houses to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios. During this time period, Orlando garnered the name "Hollywood East" due to the filming/taping and post production of films and television series in the Central Florida area.

Oliver is currently involved in production and post production of commercial and corporate projects; he is a writer for Videography and other industry magazines in print and online; he is a presenter at conventions around the country; a guest instructor at Valencia State College and Full Sail, and he shares his knowledge of editing systems and techniques as a consultant to television stations and production houses around the country. His web site is www.OliverPeters.com

The following interview took place in May 2011. The interviewer is his wife and Orlando Public Library staff member, Kim Peters.

INTERVIEWER: If you search Orlando Memory for the name Oliver Peters or Century III you'll find info on theme parks, tourist attractions, museums, Jimmy Buffet and motion pictures you may not have seen, but should. Oliver's involvement in most of these projects was as producer or videotape editor while employed at Century III Teleproductions - a video post production facility located on the back lot at Universal Studios Orlando.

Century III closed its doors many years ago, but Oliver is still editing video, teaching video production, conducting seminars, and writing for Videography magazine. Oliver is here today to tell us about Century III during the years Orlando was known as "Hollywood East."

Welcome Oliver. I appreciate your taking the time to share your memories with Orlando Memory.

OLIVER: Thanks. Glad to be a part of this.

INTERVIEWER: I understand that you were part of the original staff of Century III when the company relocated from Boston to Orlando in 1985. Give us a brief background on Century III and how it was chosen to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios.

OLIVER: Century III started out as a branch office of the Boston facility. It was a post production company doing commercials and corporate videos. When the Studios started opening up, both Universal Studios and Disney, we had the opportunity to become the resident facility at Universal Studios and that was a concession that they made available to a number of companies around the country. We happened to win the chance to be part of it, and were invovled in a number of shows and projects from the time they started until we moved off the lot.

INTERVIEWER: Who were the main people involved with Century III in the Boston facility and when you moved to Orlando?

OLIVER: Century III was owned by Ross Cibella and the company down here was managed by Miles Ptacek and both he and I answered to Rich Parent who was the head of engineering and operations in Boston. Rich and Miles were largely responsible for the original design and construction of the facility which was in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios.

INTERVIEWER: If people would like to find out more about Bee Jays Recording Studio we have a number of items on Orlando Memory that were given to us by Eric Schabacker who had been the owner of Bee Jays at one time.

During your time at Century III you were on the back lot at Universal Studios, and the Florida Governor, Jeb Bush at the time, was actively promoting the state as Hollywood East Century III benefited from that, and at the time, Century III was involved in the post production for a number of television series, films, and theme park videos. That must have been an exciting time, probably pretty busy, but exciting all the same.

OLIVER: We had a lot of fun doing that. We were involved in quite a lot of different television shows that were being shot on the lot at Universal Studios as well as various feature films being done in and around the area. Some of those included on the TV show side, The Adventures of Super Boy, Swamp Thing, Fortune Hunter, and Super Force. There was also the first one that got us started which was the last season of The New Leave It To Beaver Show. So, it was fun watching some of those people as they came through the lot and I occasionally got to see some of the taping. The various feature films that we worked on, some of those included the First of May and the Michael Winslow film and we were also involved in some more non-traditional projects done for museums and theme parks. We did some of the work that was at Universal Studios itself, including some of the sound design for the original King Kong ride when it went up there. We also did videos for Margaritaville which is the Jimmy Buffet attraction at City Walk and also the Bob Marley restaurant.

INTERVIEWER: I understand ya'll also did some work for Madam Tussauds in New York and for the Smithsonian.

OLIVER: That's correct. The Madam Tussauds Wax Museum did a tour of New York that was sort of an animated virtual tour projected on a dome, and we produced the actual program including all the animation that included live actors, as well, and we did the whole production on that.

For the Smithsonian, we actually did the video for a museum called the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum which is in Memphis in the old Gibson guitar factory. And this was the Smithsonian's first effort in doing something outside of their normal environment, actually being involved in content for other museums both private and public. They had gone through a process of recording interviews with all of the iconic musicians and studio owners involved in creating the Memphis sound and we had the opportunity to work with a lot of the files which made for a really interesting program about the history about both the origins of rock and roll and soul music.

INTERVIEWER: Now, I know Century III was not just involved with editing. I know on your work that you did for Madam Toussads ya'll actually shot the video against green screens that you had set up in a studio in your facility. What other types of things did you do in addition to editing on some of the projects that you had there?

OLIVER: Well, Century III was a full service company, so we did, in addition to video editing, we also did extensive graphics work including 3-D animation. As you mentioned Madam Tussauds involved both live action and animation of the entire city of New York - 3D replicas of the buildings and so on. We also had an extensive audio department that did sound recording and mixing, obviously on the TV shows that I'd mentioned before but we also did films. For instance, one of the two Christopher Columbus films that played internationally around the world, we did all of the sound on one of the films. And that included everything from sound effects all the way through to a finished mix.

INTERVIEWER: I understand that CIII also did work for several of the theme parks here in the Orlando area. I know one of which was Splendid China and that has closed, but you worked on...had something special to do with the ET Ride that was there [at Universal Studios] and also at EPCOT. What can you tell us about those.

OLIVER: Well when the park opened up at Universal we did sound design for various attractions and that included ET. When the ET character says all the different names of the people going through the attraction [at the end of the ride], the recording of all the variations of those names was something we were involved in and also installing where the various sound effects occurred throughout the ride.

Kim: The biggest project you worked on was Illuminations which is Reflections of Earth at EPCOT. Can you tell us a little about what role CIII played in that and you in particular, and how long it took to get to the final video we see on the large earth globe at EPCOT?

OLIVER: Right, that was designed and started in time for the Millennium Celebration, so it's been running over ten years at this point [debut was at EPCOT October 1, 1999]. And we produced the video content that you see projected on the earth globe which is a 30 foot tall structure and the images are actually shown on what amounts to LED signs. So, we produced that as video and worked on that for about a year. And that included a little bit of R and D (research and development) trying to figure out what kind of images would actually be recognizable as well as actually doing the content.

I was involved not only in organizing and editing but sort of working as the co-project manager on that. Any of these projects take a lot of different people and in that case we had a team on and off throughout the year of probably a dozen different people involved in the project including Craig Stickler who was an art director on the project and Fawn Trivette who was one of the lead artists and compositors. We also had live action. At the very end of the presentation there's a sequence of people handing off a torch and lamps and candles from one person to another, so the recording of those various actors was done by Jack Tinsley who is a director here in town.

INTERVIEWER: And this was all coordinated through Don Dorsey Productions?

OLIVER: Yes, Don was the show director which is a position that theme parks have for the person involved in designing the creative design of a show and seeing it through to its end. So Don was responsible for all creative aspects of the show. Not just our part, but also the music, the lasers, the fireworks and interfacing with the Disney management and getting the job done.

INTERVIEWER: And Orlando Memory is really happy that Don Dorsey provided us with some images of the trips to China to select the proper fireworks and also the recording of some of the music that was done at Abby Roads in London.

In all your years at Century III, there any experiences that stand out or any individuals that you met that you would like to tell us about?

OLIVER: Well, sure. During the time we were on the lot at Universal Studios a lot of interesting people passed through there. We had a chance to meet with Steven Spielberg. Of course we worked with a number of the actors on the various shows. We did a movie that included Ernest Borgnine (Hoover) and he's an interesting character. Of course, we also were involved in lots of different projects that really related to the start of a lot of production activity in the Central Florida area. For instance, that was the time period when Valencia College started up their film technology program and we were very actively involved in a number of the projects that they brought through in classes there. There was a very active high school video competition that Universal Studios was involved in and we met some folks like Jim Hensen and Robert Duval who came through at one point doing audio work in our studio.

INTERVIEWER: That sounds interesting! CIII closed around 2003 and you left in 2002 to start your own company. What type of activities are you involved in with your own company?

OLIVER: Well, I continue working in the post production field primarily as an editor and a colorist, but I'm also involved in overall post production supervision. I've worked on various projects for area clients; a lot for the Walt Disney World Company. In the last few years I've done projects such as a series of videos for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina and other projects that include local documentaries and films as well as television commercials and training videos. I am also involved as a speaker and as a writer and I've been to various seminars and things like that giving instruction in post production processes and various aspects of the industry.

INTERVIEWER: Well, it seems that you really enjoy editing and all the aspects of post production. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

Century III at Universal Studios had a listing and advertisement in the 1992 Florida Production Sourcebook. A copy can be found in the Florida History collection at the Orlando Public Library (call number FLORIDA COLLECTION 338.47791 FLO).

Century III's listing is as follows:

CENTURY III at Universal Studios - Film and Video - Pamela Lapp
2000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32818 - 407-354-1000 FAX 407-352-8662

Complete on-line/off-line computer editing for video and film post production. Digital recording, audio editing and mixing available, Synclavier sound design and composition, SFX libraries, 2-D/3-D computer animation, 16/35mm film transfer, C/K-U Band Satellite Uplink/downlink, Duplication, all formats.




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