That's the title of an old Al Stewart song (he's much better known for the song "The Year of the Cat"). It's been running through my mind in a not-totally-annoying way lately. I suppose it's the natural result of the aging process, live long enough and you'll start noticing how time does that. Pass, I mean. Look up one day, you're fifty years old, scratching your head in amazement at how it was just yesterday and you were thirty-five. I was lucky to have drawn a pretty good hand genetically, I've never looked my age and I was a slow developer, so I was well into my thirties before I stopped getting carded routinely (I was the original "Babyface", Kenneth Edmonds). Consequently, I've had a hard time concentrating on the passing of time; my own daily visage gave very little indication of such, throw in my artistic sensibilities and the accompanying embrace of the zeitgeist, I've remained A Man Out Of Time (borrowed that from a reference to Nikola Tesla). Some of my friends have found it difficult to appreciate the latest music, literature and fashion, for me it is natural and effortless. The "Shock of the New" has always been the touchstone of the artist, the urge to create makes routine "been there, done that" anathema. Since growth to me (of the personal kind) seems to be a daily exercise, "growing up" is an unattainable goal (my mother passed on her green thumb to me; and I have noticed that in botany, a lack of new growth signals the inevitable downward spiral to death), I intend to keep growing, spiritually, mentally and physically, because the alternative way of thinking leads one to believe that once a destination has been reached that the journey is complete.
Unfortunately, the world around me does not adhere to my personal dogma; people, places and things decline, change and move on. When I started here back in 1983, I was hired by the inimitable Roger Thomas. Roger worked his way through the production ranks at WSFA, starting barely out of high school as a production technician, moving on to Master Control Operator, then to Producer/Director and finally to Production Manager. That was his title, but in reality he was much more than that. Blessed with a near photographic memory and a natural curiosity, there were few subjects he had no knowledge of and unlike some "know-it-alls" there was no air of superiority or condescension in the sharing of his seemingly boundless repository of anecdotes, facts and trivia, some about broadcasting, most not. His four decades+ made him the ultimate indispensable individual, his calm, steady demeanor was a given even in the midst of staff attrition, production snafus and budget crunches. Apparently, it was not his intention to work here forever, so the day came when he decided to (as my friend John Wesley likes to say) "hang up his spurs and shoot his pony". It was inconceivable, but in the weeks since he has moved on to his well-deserved retirement, we've stayed on the air, covered a statewide election, continued to produce five daily newscasts and the infrastructure of the station has remained intact.
Hot on the heels of Roger's retirement, we were buffeted with the announcement of the retirement of our General Manager, Hoyt Andres. Though his tenure here was only a fraction of Roger's, he was nonetheless a part of WSFA history, in that his father was the first general manager at Channel 12. A lifelong broadcaster, he worked at various stations, radio and television, around the country before arriving here in 1993 as General Sales Manager. He ascended to the top spot in 1999 and took the helm of the station as we moved into the new millennium and all the things that came with it, digital TV, expanded web content and coverage, new technology in news gathering and editing and the reality of increased competition from cable and other sources of video content. His twelve years here proved to be poetic not only in the number, but also in the symbolic ending of an era at WSFA; the ownership of WSFA for nearly the entirety of its existence was in the hands of the Liberty Corporation, it was appropriate that it started with Hoyt Andres as GM fifty years ago and ended with Hoyt Andres as GM, as we were purchased by RayCom Media in February.
As Art Director, it has been my pleasure to work with both these men, and I had the singular honor of commemorating their retirements with photo montages that were presented to them in a staff meeting/party celebrating their retirements. As I worked on these, assembling photos and taking a trip back in time to bygone eras of black and white images, film projectors and weather graphics using liquid chalk, I was struck by how they together represented the two types of employees at WSFA. Roger represented what I call "locals". People born and raised in this area, with families to raise and mortgages to pay, quite often working here for multiple decades, usually behind the scenes, but no less essential. Hoyt represented the "transitionals", most often from other states, they arrive here and stay for five to ten years, moving on to other stations as they climb the broadcast ladder. Quite often they are on-air personalities, though not always, and interestingly sometimes they evolve into locals. At any rate we come together to form a family (as in all families, dysfunction is sometimes a byproduct) and saying goodbye to a family member is always difficult, but inevitable. Time Passages indeed.