Were there really "good old days"?

Donna Halper dlh@donnahalper.com
Wed Jun 11 15:22:03 EDT 2008

I posted this to another radio discussion list, but also thought you 
might find it interesting.

Yesterday, a journalist friend (Clea Simon of the Globe) and I went 
to an Assisted Living facility to interview Mr. Bill Swartley, former 
GM of WBZ in Boston (both radio and TV) in the 1940s and 50s.  Mr 
Swartley is a dapper man, and very professional in his demeanor-- he 
wears a jacket and tie even on the hottest day, and is very 
articulate about his recollections of radio.  Oh, and did I tell 
you-- he's about to celebrate his 100th birthday.  (We brought him a cake.)

One of the things that made him sad was that 2 days ago, it was 
WBZ-TV's 60th anniversary, and unless we both missed it, the station 
said nothing about it.  I find this lack of respect for history is 
all too common, as new owners buy up properties and fail to see the 
importance of heritage call letters or a longstanding reputation-- 
the fear, evidently, is being seen as (gasp) "too old" and the new 
owners want to show their younger listeners the love, while not 
focusing too much on the older demographics.

But one of his recollections that really got me to thinking was about 
how Westinghouse treated its veteran employees.  Okay fine, 
Westinghouse wasn't perfect and it could be as ruthless as any other 
company, I am sure.  Some GMs are brutal, some are kind.  It varied 
then as it varies today.  But he said it was a policy that if 
somebody had worked for them a long time and then that person was 
seriously ill and couldn't perform their duties, they would still 
have a job waiting for them when they got back.  Also, the company 
felt it was important to cultivate loyalty in its staff and reward 
people for being loyal to the company.

I certainly agree with that assessment, and I am sure I'm not 
alone.  I have hundreds of stories I could tell you about how I've 
been treated over the years, but rather than turning this post into 
an extended whine, I just found it interesting that Mr Swartley's 
chief puzzlements were that today's stations lack respect for a 
station's historic tradition, and that they seem to feel employee 
loyalty isn't important any more.   

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