Jim Vance on the proper way to learn the language –
“What’s it called? Diagramming. Remember we had to learn how to diagram a sentence? That’s how you learn the language by diagramming. When you know where every word goes and why it’s there. And what its point is. What its value is. I keep from hearing from all these kids I see today. Nobody ever taught them diagramming. They don’t even teach it anymore.”
A Ockershausen: And this is Our Town. We’re so delighted, and honored frankly, that our next guest is a regular in our house. He probably doesn’t know it, but we used to see him twice a night, now we only see you once.
Jim Vance: But I like your house, man. I like the way you’ve done it.
Janice Ockershausen:Thank you.
Jim Vance: Janice, it’s gorgeous in here.
A Ockershausen: Jim Vance started out as a teacher. We’ll find out what he was teaching. He’s been a hostage negotiator, he’s been Washingtonian of the Year. The two are not related, but he’s had 19 Emmies. That’s incredible. He’s in the Black Journalist Hall of Fame. He’s a member of the Silver Circle of the National Association of Television Arts & Sciences, an imposing figure with unbelievable street cred.
His opinion pieces give him a personal connection to his audience. He’s a force to be reckoned with. Welcome to Our Town, your town, Jim Vance.
Jim Vance: Well, thank you, Andy. And I appreciate so much being here. And, Janice, thank you so much to the both of you. I mean that sincerely. There are so few people, and you can attest to this, in this town that we can speak of as friends for almost 50 years. That’s to be treasured as far as I’m concerned, man.
A Ockershausen: What we’ve found out when we brought back the idea of Our Town, was the talk about Our Town to people, and everybody was saying, “well gee, I haven’t heard from him.” Or, “I didn’t know he did that. Gee that’s just great.”
So we’ve been so fortunate to have people such as Jim Vance. And really thinking that Our Town is special.
Jim Vance: Right.
A Ockershausen: And even though he was born in Pennsylvania? And he went to school in Pennsylvania, and he went to Cheyney University. I didn’t know that, Cheyney University is part of the state system isn’t it?
Jim Vance: It used to be. When I was there it was one of the 12 state teachers’ colleges. And I need to say, because I need to make the alum proud, Cheyney in fact is the first HBCU in the country. It wasn’t founded as Cheyney, because it was founded as a trade school for black people in America by the Quakers. In I think, if I’m not mistaken 1837. Now there are some of the other HBCUs every time I say that, they raise their hand or raise their fist and say, “no, we were first, because you weren’t really a college then.” Or whatever the case may be. I say to hell with them. Cheyney is the first HBCU in the country and I am so proud to have been there.
And may I say that, I am also so proud of the graduates of Cheyney. Ed Bradley and I, late of 60 Minutes-
A Ockershausen: I was at a recent party that was a salute to you. And Ed Bradley was the main speaker. I was there.
Jim Vance: Yeah, you remember that?
A Ockershausen: A special night.
Jim Vance: But he and I went to Cheyney together at the same time, played ball together, lived together. I was the best man at his first wedding. He was the best man at my first wedding. And we’ve each had a couple or three, but anyway … We hold that in common as well.
Anyway, I am so proud of him and of all the other graduates of Cheyney State. It’s now called Cheyney University, but for all of who … I came out in ’64, so for all of us were there back in the day, it’s still Cheyney State.
A Ockershausen: Jim, that’s well over 50 years ago. But you were born in Ardmore. Is Ardmore on the main line? I see it in my mind’s eye?
Jim Vance: You know what? It is the main line and I have to explain to people that I’m not a main liner. Okay the mainline for folks who aren’t aware is named for a railroad line that ran from Philadelphia to Paoli, Pennsylvania to the west. It’s about a 30 mile run. Ardmore is placed at about the eight or 10 mile mark. And it is part of the mainline, because it’s right adjacent to those railroad tracks. But my part of Ardmore was not upscale. I was on the other side of the track. On the mainline, in the beginning were, for example the guy who founded Sun Oil, the Sunoco guy. And a bunch of really big old, old money.
A Ockershausen: Marcus Hook stands out in my mind.
Jim Vance: Marcus Hook. Yeah and there’s a town center Marcus Hook, right. Anyway my part of Ardmore was where the tradesmen and others worked who serviced all of those people who had the money on the mainline.
My grandfather had 16 kids. Nine girls and seven sons. Pretty much most of my aunts at one point or another worked as maids or in some other servile capacity. My grandfather was a plumber as were all of his sons at one point or another. So, I was in the bathrooms and the kitchens of a lot of really rich people and really nice houses. And I remember at 12, 13 years old walking into these houses and thinking, “boy I sure would like to live in a house like this one of these days, because this is fine living up in here.”
But in any event, that …
A Ockershausen: You had a wonderful family didn’t you?
Jim Vance: I had a wonderful family.
A Ockershausen: You had family values?
Jim Vance: Absolutely because they all were plumbers and at one point or another servants or maids. But one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of my uncles and aunts have college degrees. I as a matter of fact went to Cheyney State, not because I wanted to go to Cheyney State. I really wanted to be a plumber. I lied like a rug to my people when they were asking me, “have you sent your application off to this school, that school, and the other school?”
I didn’t send an application off to anywhere, because I wanted to be a plumber. And it was, I’ll never forget it, my Aunt Vivie my favorite person died last year at 102. Aunt Vivie was one who had a degree from Cheyney. She had also gone to Cheyney and she said, “Jimmy, you have to go because you have the opportunity to go. You can always be a plumber anytime you want to. But go and see what else is available to you and if you’re unhappy, then obviously come on back and you can be a plumber.”
A Ockershausen: She’s a very, very wise woman.
Jim Vance: She’s precious to me.
A Ockershausen: I had an uncle that was a plumber and his word was, “you can always get a job as a plumber.”
Jim Vance: Exactly. I depended on that.
A Ockershausen: Then why did you slide into the educational world? At Cheyney put you in it?
Jim Vance: Yeah, Cheyney was a state teacher’s college obviously and all the degrees were in education. I took mine in, they call it secondary education which meant high school. And I studied English. I studied English mostly because probably one of the sweetest, dearest, kindest, most precious women in my life was Mrs. Fowler. And I will never ever forget her.
A Ockershausen: Wow.
Jim Vance: When I was in Lower Merion High School where Kobe Bryant graduated from years later. Taught him everything he knew, but in any event. Back in those days as you may remember there was a three track system. You at some point in high school, ninth or tenth grade, you were either in the general curriculum, the academic curriculum or what they called the distributive education. The distributive education were the Fonzie guys. All the cool dudes with the leather jackets and we called them DA haircuts.
A Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Jim Vance: Remember them? Remember the DAs?
We got some old folks up in here today. But anyway, I was, because my people made me, in the academic course. I was the only black person in the academic course. That was really fun in high school. But as such, I wasn’t treated all that well to tell you the honest to God truth by some of the teachers. Mrs. Fowler, she was like a mother to me almost. And would not allow me to fail as hard as I tried which is why I value also my professors at Cheyney who today surely would be at Yale or University of Chicago or Stanford or someplace. Back in those days, they weren’t allowed to teach in those schools. But God, their intellect was to the moon. But they were also people who were totally committed to educating black kids. They would not let me fail either. And again, I did try.
Mrs. Fowler was the reason I studied English and so that’s what I took at Cheyney.
A Ockershausen: What a great grounding though for your future. You didn’t know what your future was going to be.
Jim Vance: It was. I had not a clue which is why, a lot of kids come into the station today talking about what they want to do.
A Ockershausen: Oh, Jim. Oh, God.
Jim Vance: You know what I’m talking about? And they act like they know.
A Ockershausen: One a day I get.
Jim Vance: Yeah. I get them all the time too. And when they come in knowing precisely, exactly what it is they want to do: One, I’m happy for them that they’re so sure so early. But also counsel them, “don’t paint yourself in a corner. You have no idea what’s available for you out here especially now. And the world truly is your marble.” Good that you can focus, but keep an open mind.
A Ockershausen: I have been using that old saw for 50-60 years to young people when they say, “well I want to be an announcer”, or “I want to be this”. I advise them first thing. Take an English course. Take a History course. Take a Geography course. Find out about the world. Be well-rounded.
Jim Vance: Come on, Andy.
A Ockershausen: Just don’t be a writer, be a rounder.
Jim Vance: Exactly.
A Ockershausen: And I hope they take advantage of that, because the opportunities are there. You never know where you’re going to end up, Jim.
Jim Vance: Right. Here’s something else that I share with them that you may as well too. I ask all these youngsters either high school or college when they come in, “what papers are you subscribed to?” Even online or whatever the case may be. Andy, I am astounded at the number of these kids that come into my office, and I see them all the time, who do not read a paper every day.
I was telling Julie on the way in. She asked me if I wanted more coffee and I said, “I got a big jug here because I can’t survive without it in a day.” Well neither can I survive without a newspaper in my hand. Now all of my kids don’t subscribe to newspapers either, but they’re online New York Times and the Post and the Wall Street Journal and every other kind of thing. I am amazed at how many kids, college juniors who come in and do not read a newspaper every day. My counsel to them, “how do you live?”
A Ockershausen: What do you know?
Jim Vance: Yeah. What’s your sense of the world? What are your sources? What is your grounding? What’s your foundation? I can’t believe the number of kids, not only who don’t read a newspaper, who can’t write a paragraph. These are wannabe journalists I’m talking about. These are not folks who want to be lawyers who perhaps can pay somebody to write their briefs or whatever. Can I go?
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Jim Vance: What’s it called? Diagramming. Remember we had to learn how to diagram a sentence?
A Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Jim Vance: That’s how you learn the language by diagramming. When you know where every word goes and why it’s there. And what its point is. What its value is. I keep from hearing from all these kids I see today. Nobody ever taught them diagramming. They don’t even teach it anymore.
They’re just getting back now I understand, as I read the other day, to cursive writing. They didn’t teach cursive writing anymore.
A Ockershausen: It’s so stunning when you find out that young people are missing because they’re the ones that are missing so much when you don’t read that paper. And you can read it online. And you’re so right.
Jim Vance: But at least read. And learn how to write.
A Ockershausen: You were a teacher in high schools in Pennsylvania.
Jim Vance: Philadelphia.
A Ockershausen: And then your career in radio, but you worked for the newspaper too didn’t you?
Jim Vance: That’s a funny story, man. I was teaching school. My wife’s father at the time was a lawyer, later became a judge in Philadelphia. He had his own firm. He and two of his partners bought what was the oldest newspaper in the United States out of Philadelphia of course. It was called the Philadelphia Independent. It was a tabloid. And I will never forget the day. It was going under, because funding and every other kind of thing and people were losing interest as newspapers now are …
How fortunate we are to have newspapers to read.
A Ockershausen: I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Jim Vance: Anyway, so he came to me one day and he said, “okay I bought this newspaper and want you to come work with us.” And I said, “cool, let’s do that.” Like I said, I was teaching school and he said, “I want you to be the distribution manager.” And I said, “cool, okay. What’s that?” That’s how much I knew, right.
So he sent me to a guy who was an assistant distribution manager at the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Back in those days there were two big newspapers in town. The morning paper was the Inquirer,
A Ockershausen: World famous newspaper.
Jim Vance: Yeah, like here you had the Star and the Post.
And at one point the Daily News too, right?
A Ockershausen: Yeah it was a little tabloid. Oh, I loved it.
Jim Vance: Anyway, so I called this guy and I said, “what do you do?” Long story short, I became the distribution manager because it was a wide open shop, I hung out all the time with the black reporters that he hired. These are the guys that had worked years ago during the war and otherwise for the Amsterdam News and for the big black newspapers.
A Ockershausen: Right. Oh, I know Amsterdam News.
Jim Vance: The Chicago Defender all those newspapers. God, I learned so much from those guys and I remember so well and so fondly sitting in that rinky dink funky old office where everybody had a cigarette either hanging out of their lips or just hanging over their ashtray. And ashes all over the floor. And we’re sitting up there at 2:45 in the morning talking about, or my listening to their experiences in North Africa during the second world war. Or all these other-
A Ockershausen: You get a history lesson right in your newsroom.
Jim Vance: Oh my God, it was an encyclopedia in that newsroom and I cherish it to this day. At the same time, he was a hustler who got a radio show in Philly called The Mighty Burner. Sonny Hobson was his name. Remember Rip and Read? Of course, you remember Rip and Read. Sonny had to do Rip and Read news. He hated doing Rip and Read news, so he allowed me to come in after I came out of school. Not when I came out of school, after school ended at three o’clock I’d go to the station, do Rip and Read news for three hours or so. Then go to the newspaper and write a story. I was loving life. I was sleeping maybe three hours a night, maybe four hours a night and didn’t even want those three or four house. You know what I mean?
Remember when we were 25? Last thing you wanted to do is go to sleep, because there’s something to do I might miss something.
A Ockershausen: Sucking up that information was worth it. Started your career in radio.
Jim Vance: Absolutely.
A Ockershausen: We’re going to take a break here, Jim and talk about the transition from the ink to the airways.
Jim Vance: Let’s do it.
[Commercial]Announcer: You’re listening to Love Advice with Leanne. Caller, you’re on the air.
Carl: Hi, Leanne, longtime listener, first time caller. Why in your professional opinion do you never take my calls off the air?
Leanne: Is this Carl?
Carl: Yep, it’s Carl. We had a few dates, everything was great I thought?
Leanne: Well, you know … When you switch to Geico, you could save a lot of money on car insurance.
Carl: Okay, awesome.
Leanne: You should call them.
Carl: I will.
Announcer: Geico because saving 15% or more on car insurance is always a great answer.[End Commercial]
Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town. We’re talking with Jim Vance and learning so much about this man, his extraordinary background. We finally got him out of the newspaper, bring him into the radio business in Philadelphia.
Jim Vance: That was a joy. It’s funny. There were two black radio stations in Philly back then. This is in ’65 through about ’68. Moon, we called Bradley Moon which is a story I’ll never tell you why. He was at WGAS one radio station. I was at WHAT. Bradley was a DJ. He had his own show.
A Ockershausen: A record show?
Jim Vance: He’d been dead. Yeah, he’ll forgive me. Called it Little Jazzbo he called himself. It was a jazz show. I was just on Rip and Read news stuff, commercials and all those kinds of things like that. What happened to get me from radio to TV is, I told you about Sonny Hobson, The Mighty Burner. He had a party one night at his house. A friend of his had a friend who knew somebody at an employment agency. Here’s the deal. I loved teaching school. I loved those kids. I love the joy of watching the light come on which is a rare treat I think any teacher-
A Ockershausen: And you can only get that by being a teacher.
Jim Vance: You can by being there every single day. What I didn’t love is the fact that they wouldn’t let me teach. The system, I am told by teachers now, was as screwed up then, the administration as it is today. If not even more today from what the teacher told me. Anyway I was looking to get out. A friend of a friend of a friend sent me to an employment agency, Snelling & Snelling. Good lord it just came back to me down on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
I went in there three times, because the first two were jobs that I didn’t really care much about. Here’s why I’m in television today, one of the reasons. I went in, there was this woman. She looked like Miss Piggy. I swear to God, frumpy old … I walked in on the third time trying to see if there was something I would be interested in. She never looked up from her desk, Andy. She just totally ignored me. I said, “is there anything else that you can help me with?” Without looking at me, I’ll remember these words till the day I die, she said, “well there’s a UHF station trying to start a news operation, but you don’t know nothing about that.” And I remember hearing those words. I slammed my hand down on the desk which startled her. I was like, “excuse me, give me that.” She said, “but you …” and I said, “no, you don’t tell me what I’m interested in, what I can do or anything else like that. You don’t know me. Don’t talk to me like that and don’t assume anything about me.”
And so she returned her hand and she gave me … I went to the application. This is honest to God, true story WKBS TV Kaiser Aluminum decided to start a TV stations. I think there were three of them. One in Philly …
A Ockershausen: Kaiser Broadcasting System.
Jim Vance: Yeah. Kaiser Broadcasting. That was us. I went for the interview. There was seven of us on that given day. I had recently broken my wrist. I was playing ball at the time. Remember the old days with the plaster casts? How they would itch after awhile? Everybody that had a cast on, you’d carry a coat hanger.
A Ockershausen: You couldn’t scratch it. You had to get up in there.
Jim Vance: Yeah to scratch it. So it was driving me crazy. I was terrified. I knew I wasn’t going to get this job, but I went anyway. And at the end of each audition which was, truly was an abortion. It was horrible for me. I was the last guy. All the others were six white guys who had been all over the world covering news for UPI. And all the wire services. I’m the last one and here’s the deal, let me make this quick. Guy walk in, Hardy Mintor’s his name. Love me some Hardy Mintor. He’s in his office, hands behind his head, feet up on the desk, no shoes on. First words out of his mouth when I walked in were, “you’re a pussycat.” Now he was saying that because my audition was so soft. In fact timid. But I didn’t take it that way. This was 1967.
A Ockershausen: He read you that way, did he?
Jim Vance: Well that’s how he read me, as soft and timid. This was ’67. I had the bush out to here. I had dashikis at home, that I didn’t wear to the interview. I had the string of what I told everybody were lions’ teeth. They weren’t lion’s teeth at all. I had this fist in the air. I was totally into the movement.
So when he said, “you’re a pussycat.” My thing was, “okay, I’m not going to get this job, but I’m not going to let this little punk call me a pussycat.” I remember taking off my glasses and taking my coat off and saying, “you think I’m a pussycat? Get up out that chair and I will whip your ass up one side of this room and down the other.” And I’m ready to throw down, because I’m embarrassed. I’m not sure why I’m even here.
A Ockershausen: Because you’re not a pussycat.
Jim Vance: No, I’m … No. And don’t call me that. He started laughing. And it occurred to me, he’s up in my head. He now owns me. He said, when he stopped laughing he said, “what are you doing the rest of the day?” I said, “dude, I’m looking for a job.” He said, “well let’s go to dinner.” We went to dinner, got drunk as Cootie Brown. He gave me the job. To this day I don’t know why.
I saw him like 10 years later when I was here, because I was only on the air one year at WKBS. He came down, we had lunch in Georgetown someplace. I asked him, “Hardy, why did you hire me?” He was a New York Jewish guy. “I don’t know.” And he talked real fast like that. I said, “come on, you’ve got to give me more. “I don’t know.” And then he said, “okay, you want a reason? You make love to the lens.” He didn’t say make love. You make love to the lens. And I said, “the hell is that mean?” “I don’t know, but that’s what you do.”
A Ockershausen: He read you.
Jim Vance: He read me. He saw things that I never even realized, still don’t realize and understand. That’s how I got my first job. Before the event at the Gold and Silver Circle Awards last Saturday, I told that story to some students because I was in a seminar that Max Schindler had helped organize with the students there. I told that story to them and then told them, “but listen to me, please. Do not ever think you can get a job that way today. That is not the way to get a job. Do not offer to kick the ass of the guy that’s wanting to hire you. It doesn’t work anymore. And God only knows why it worked in 1967.” That’s how I got into TV.
A Ockershausen: What a great, fortunately for you though. I know the Philadelphia story begins with three Vs and then the Us came along. That’s why they were looking for people in Philadelphia. Because the other V was in Wilmington, Delaware, WDEL. So your timing was impeccable in the early 60s. Things were just breaking loose.
Jim Vance: Timing is everything.
A Ockershausen: Now who saw you from NBC that had to hire you off of your air work?
Jim Vance: Oh, my god. Real quick story. My news director, Hardy Mintor called me in after I started in March of ’68. He called me in in either June or July. He said, “you got any money?” I said, “no, you all ain’t paying me very much.” He said, “I’m going to bet you $100 that before 12 months are up, you’re going to have at least six job offers all over the country.” I’m coming out of a classroom into news. I’m thinking, “you are out of your mind. That’s easy money. I’ll take the bet.” Well I had to pay him, because you’ve got to understand. This is now ’68. Kerner commission report had come out with all the separate but equal and that whole kind of thing.
A Ockershausen: Right. We lived through that.
Jim Vance: Every major corporation in the country was looking to become more diverse.
A Ockershausen: Right, absolutely.
Jim Vance: That included 3M, IBM, Westinghouse. All the major news organizations included. And I had job offers in LA, Chicago, New York. I ended up here, because Irv Margolis was the news director at WRC. That’s where Roy, I forget Roy’s name. You remember him? He was the radio news director. Those were the days in the RC newsroom. The radio element was right there in the TV newsroom, because they were still linked together.
A Ockershausen: One company.
Jim Vance: Right, One company.
A Ockershausen: WRC radio and WRC TV.
Jim Vance: Exactly and every story that, back in those days we had to cover at least two or three stories a day. Every story we covered for TV, you also had to file a radio report. I remember this so well. First of all, I was making $12,000 a year at WKBS. I came here and they offered me $11,500. I just said, “I’m going to take it, because it was union.” There was no unions at WKBS in Philadelphia. I figured, “maybe I can make some money.”
So I came for $11,500, you got a dollar for every story that you filed on WRC radio along with your TV story. In those days you got $10 for every story that, as a reporter, that got into the six o’clock show. We only had two half hours shows. You got five dollars for every story that you got into the 11 o’clock show. But you also got, remember Andy, two dollars for every story you filed with network radio. Because remember radio’s still was thriving back in those days.
A Ockershausen: Big time. NBC you better believe-
Jim Vance: And so every third story, I was selling it to network. They were putting it on. I’m making two dollars. My first year, I’ll never forget in my life, my base salary was $11,500, but we got overtime, we got golden time back in those days. You got the fees and all of that. My year end total $19,700. Which means I made $8,000 in overtime and fees and all of that. I thought I was the wealthiest man on the face of the earth.
A Ockershausen: You probably were.
Jim Vance: I did certainly feel … And I’m going to tell you why, real quick, if I may. See you all got me rolling. I never forget the day Bradley and I, and a couple of my other boys from Cheyney. We played a lot of basketball back then, and we played at Overbrook. Wilt Chamberlain had been. Really good games there. As long as you win, you hold the court. If you lose, then you sit on the side, and you rotate.
A Ockershausen: Sit down.
Jim Vance: That’s where that thing of, “I got next” … so we’re sitting there. We got next and we’re eating water ice. Remember water ice and hot pretzels was a big deal in Philadelphia. Bradley and I, Wendell Whitlock, QP, we were all fantasizing on the day if we could only get to the point where we would make $15,000 a year. $15,000 dollars a year was $300 a week. I remember thinking, this was in ’66. Who needs anymore money than that? That’s all the money in the world.
And here I am at the end of my first year at WRC. I’m making $19,700. I went right out to Waxy Maxy, the record store, and bought ten albums. Now if you remember, albums back in those days. $3.50, $4 something like that. That’s a lot, $40 to spend on records. That was a lot of money. But we went out and bought ten albums because we could afford it now. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. But the end of that story, I fell in love with this business. I swear to God. That was 48 years ago. I have not ever awakened on a morning, not anxious to go to work. Every single day.
I am one of those people blessed. You’ve heard the stories of mothers who tell people, “my son does what he loves, so he never has to go to work. Ever.” That was me.
A Ockershausen: Jim you are a living example of that. My God. The pleasure you’ve brought to that place. I lived through it as a spectator on the outside. Even though channel seven was always in competition, but it was friendly competition and to watch what you’ve achieved. And what WRC TV has achieved. Channel four is amazing. For some reason if we weren’t watching seven, we were watching four. That was serious.
Jim Vance: So you were watching Wes Sarginson and Fred Thomas. What’s the weather guy?
A Ockershausen: Louis Allen?
Jim Vance: Louis Allen. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: Oh my god, Jim. Fred Thomas, you know he went to WRC for awhile. I don’t know what happened to him.
Jim Vance: Yeah, he was with us. He was an anchor on one of the shows. Was it a Sunday show?
A Ockershausen: Sorenson?
Jim Vance: Yeah, Wes Sarginson was …
A Ockershausen: All these years that you’ve been at channel four. Who was the GM there when they hired you? It was way before Michael Jack.
Jim Vance: Oh God, yeah.
Janice Ockershausen: Oh, yeah. Allan Horlick?
Jim Vance: It might have been, no way before Allan.
A Ockershausen: Well before Horlick yeah.
Jim Vance: Goodman, I think his name … I can’t remember his name.
A Ockershausen: Wasn’t Joe Goodfellow?
Jim Vance: Joe Goodfellow. There you go.
A Ockershausen: Little short guy.
Jim Vance: Yeah. Yeah. He had white hair I remember even back then. Joe Goodfellow was the GM who I only saw irregularly. Here’s what’s interesting about those days.
A Ockershausen: Were you in the new building then, or the old building?
Jim Vance: No we were in the new building. Yeah.
A Ockershausen: When they hired you you were in the new building?
Jim Vance: The old one was in a hotel, right?
A Ockershausen: Yeah, so the bottom of the … It was a hotel.
Jim Vance: I think they dedicated the building we were in in … Eisenhower was there. So that would have been ’58, something like that. It was less than ten years later that I was there.
Here’s the deal. You will remember back in those days that every desk, in the bottom drawer on the right or the left hand side. Somebody had a bottle of liquor. Any kind of liquor you wanted you knew which one had it. Joe Goodfellow had his own drawer in the executive office.
A Ockershausen: The story was you never talked to him after lunch.
Jim Vance: There you go. There you go.
A Ockershausen: You couldn’t do any business with him.
Jim Vance: Because he had that Cadillac that would drive him around. They don’t do that anymore.
A Ockershausen: Right and he had the big luncheons every day. What a character.
Jim Vance: There you go.
A Ockershausen: They were part of the business then though. Everybody did the three martini lunch was part of the business.
Jim Vance: That’s how it worked. That’s how what’s his name made all his money. Duke Zeibert got rich down there. That’s how, I can’t think of the guys name.
Janice Ockershausen: Mel Krupin?
Jim Vance: Mel Krupin. They all made all their money.
A Ockershausen: History.
Jim Vance: Because we all went in there and got drunk every afternoon at 12 o’clock.
A Ockershausen: We’re talking to Jim Vance about the good old days. And the good old days are really now, Jim.
Jim Vance: Yes, they are.
A Ockershausen: They’re great stories and we love them. We’ll be right back to talk about the Jim Vance that’s taking over Our Town.
[Commercials]Announcer: Are you still promising yourself or your spouse to get your will updated and a good basic estate plan in place? Are you finally ready to make sure you don’t leave a mess behind for your family to clean up? Give me just two hours and I’ll show you how. I’m attorney, Mike Collins, host of radios Legally Speaking Show. Come to my seminar and I’ll teach you what you need to know about wills, trusts, taxes, probate, how to keep your money in your family. Register now at mikecollins.com and I’ll even waive the tuition. That’s mikecollins.com.
Tony Cibel: Hi, Tony Cibel, here to tell everybody about our newest restaurant over off New York Ave. It’s called Ivy City Smokehouse, 1356 Okie Street NE, right next to the Head Company Warehouse. It is terrific and we have the only sea food smoker in the District of Columbia. When you go to your grocery stores or your delis, ask for Ivy City Products, 202-5293 300 or ivycitysmokehouse.com.[End Commercials]
A Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen having a wonderful conversation with Jim Vance and some of the people that have been in his life have been through our life in Our Town. Because they were great performers. He worked with a man named Glenn Rinker. I haven’t heard of him in years, Jim.
Jim Vance: Unfortunately, Glenn died, Andy. I think now might be 10 years or so ago. Real quick story. When I came, the anchors were Glenn Rinker and Neil Boggs. You might remember.
A Ockershausen: I remember Neil Boggs very well.
Jim Vance: Neil also is not with us anymore.
A Ockershausen: Did he go to the network? Boggs?
Jim Vance: No, but he had been at the network before. He had been a network correspondent as a matter of fact. I remember when they made me an anchor in ’72. I replaced Neil Boggs. It was an ugly time. This is way before cell phones and all of that. The mail and the phones were going off the hook. There were a lot of people unhappy about a black guy being put on the air. Max had just started channel nine with Gordon. Either just before I teamed up with Glenn, or right after. I forget. He caught some flack too. Glenn was so totally cool. He embraced me as warmly as anybody possibly could.
Glenn and I, this was back in the day when you could carry guns. Glenn and I kept shotguns in the back of our cars, because between shows from time to time, we would drive out up 16th Street, Georgia Avenue wherever the case is, where homes are now. We would go pheasant hunting in an evening. Every now and then get one, bring it back, leave it in the car until we got home. Then cook it for dinner. Glenn was a wonderful guy.
A Ockershausen: At Our Town.
Jim Vance: Yeah. He was a seaman too. He kept a boat down on the water in southwest DC. What’s it called right down there? Main Avenue, on Main Avenue.
A Ockershausen: Main Avenue, right.
Janice Ockershausen: Oh the southwest waterfront.
Jim Vance: Southwest waterfront, yeah. Thank you so much. I’m so glad you’re here to help me out with all these things. I understand why.
Glenn was a great guy. We worked together three years or so, then he went to Miami. And by the way, one of the handsomest men that I ever seen in my life. If Glenn hadn’t done what he was doing, he could have been a movie star. Clark Gable would have loved to have looked as handsome as Glenn Rinker was. If you remember.
A Ockershausen: I remember him vividly.
Jim Vance: He was a good, good guy. And welcomed me very warmly and made it so much easier for me to come on.
A Ockershausen: And he was replaced by an African American female. Sue Simmons.
Jim Vance: Oh my god, my baby.
A Ockershausen: Is that correct?
Jim Vance: Oh yeah.
A Ockershausen: I knew Sue. I thought she was fabulous.
Jim Vance: Well she was, and remains fabulous. She’s not on the air anymore.
A Ockershausen: Went to New York.
Jim Vance: Sue Simmons went to New York and had a wonderful career at WNBC in New York. Was not treated well when they finally decided to get rid of her and her salary. I’ve got to say something.
A Ockershausen: She’s a fabulous athlete too as I remember.
Jim Vance: Oh yeah.
A Ockershausen: Softball or something. She was really good.
Jim Vance: Can I tell you what else? Hell of a poker player. We used to play a lot of poker back in the day. I had a crazy news director. A guy named Bruce McDonald who loved to gamble. She, and Bruce and I, a guy named Stan Bernard, one of our correspondents. We would play poker until five, six, seven o’clock in the morning. I don’t ever remember Sue Simmons walking out without a pocket full of money. Part of the reason was she was so gorgeous.
A Ockershausen: Deceptive.
Jim Vance: Distracting is what it was. And I’m trying to be serious about my hand. How many cards I need and all of that. All I’m doing is, every now and then I’d drop a card on the floor.
A Ockershausen: It’s America.
Jim Vance: Hey I was an All-American boy, man.
A Ockershausen: No way, Jim that’s true.
Jim Vance: But Sue, yes she was … and then.
A Ockershausen: She was a 10.
Jim Vance: An 11. But then came, Jim Hartz. Who had been on the Today Show at one point, but who also was one of NBC’s main guys covering the space program when they went to the moon. Just an absolutely wonderful journalist. I learned so much from Glenn as well. Here’s the deal though, Andy. I’m glad you haven’t and please don’t. If you were to ask me the names of all my co-anchors, I’m not sure that I could name them all, because it’s been …
A Ockershausen: There’ve been a lot of them. Oh I know that, Jim.
Jim Vance: It’s been quite a few.
A Ockershausen: Goes over 50 years.
Jim Vance: Well yeah, exactly, so you get a collection of people at that point. I admire and to this day think so well of each and every one of them.
A Ockershausen: Well, Jim, all of them were compatible with you, because you’re such a special person. That’s no bullshit, because we know you quite well. We’re just about out of time for today so we’ll bring Jim Vance back on Part 2 next time right here on Our Town. I’m Andy Ockershausen.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season Two. Presented by Geico, our hometown favorite with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL Radio in Washington, DC for hosting our podcast, and thanks to Geico. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
Kaptain Kidshow says
See a quick clip of a young Jim Vance, reporting for WKBS-TV48, from the Poor Peoples’ March: