G. Lewis Davenport
Interview Date: June 5, 1986
Interview Location: Atlanta, GA USA
Interviewer: Richard Hatch
Collection: Penn State Collection
Note: Audio Only
HATCH: Mr. Davenport, what we want to do is start with your background. What does the G stand for? Is that George?
HATCH: And the L is for Lewis?
HATCH: Before we get into cable television--and I know we're both anxious to talk about that--let's talk about you. You were born when, where? Tell us a little bit about your childhood, your family and those memories.
DAVENPORT: I was born January 23, 1922, in Mosier, Oregon, which is a small town twenty miles from The Dalles where I entered the cable business. I graduated from The Dalles High School. I spent three years in the military service. Prior to entering the service I worked for the Pacific Power and Light Company in the accounting field. Then I went into the service and most of my service was spent in the ASTP college program the Army had during World War II. A big part of my time was in engineering, so when I came back to the company, the Pacific Power and Light Company, they placed me in engineering. I became a district engineer for them.
HATCH: As a boy did you enjoy radio? Did you listen to radio a lot? Any interest in communications back at that time?
DAVENPORT: No, it's very odd you asked that because on all my IQ exams I took in the military, it turned out that I was least qualified in the communications field. And really if you asked if I flunked any IQ test, it was in the communications area, and I ended up in the communications area.
HATCH: What were your hobbies as a boy growing up? What things did you enjoy doing most?
DAVENPORT: Oh, mostly hunting. Skiing. Of course, I came from very close to the slopes of Mt. Hood. I did a lot of skiing on weekends. I was on the high school football team.
HATCH: What position?
DAVENPORT: I played quarterback.
HATCH: Did you play single wing?
DAVENPORT: No, Notre Dame box. If you remember what that was, I lined up off the guard so really, as quarterback, I was a blocking back. That was what we called the Notre Dame box. It was what we played, in those days, at our high school. In high school, I did not go out for baseball, but I did start playing on the town team as a junior in high school. Later on I managed the American Legion baseball team for eleven years in my community. After World War II, I started the Legion baseball program again. I placed two young men in the majors. Then I was called back into service during the Korean War. The team I had went on to finish fourth nationally in the American Legion World Series. I had a young man by the name of Eddy Urness that was one of the most prime prospect pitchers from the United States, but he didn't make it. I had another boy by the name of Bobby Gene Smith who went on and played about eleven years of pro ball for many teams. When the Mets took off, that's when he did very well as a center fielder. He also played for the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cards. The Cards signed him originally out of high school. So I had a lot of luck there. I was very active also in Little League baseball.
HATCH: I was in American Legion baseball and my sons played Little League. It's been a great thing.
DAVENPORT: Really, in my early years my hobby, you might say, was youth baseball. My wife said our three sons grew up in the back seat of the car at the ball park.
HATCH: Did your folks have a radio or can you remember the first radio that came into your home?
DAVENPORT: I can remember. As I recall I think it was a Metrodyne Set. I remember when the man came and hooked it up and we listened to the first radio. Then, of course, in our community we had no television because we were in the mountainous area and television did not come until we brought cable into the community.
HATCH: Do you remember what year you got your first radio set?
DAVENPORT: I can't remember. I was very young. I do remember that.
HATCH: What were your favorite programs then?
DAVENPORT: Oh, "Amos and Andy."
HATCH: How about "The Lone Ranger"? Was that around?
DAVENPORT: I don't remember that one. I remember "Amos and Andy." As a little boy I remember "Amos and Andy." I used to like to listen to that.
HATCH: Was there any indication of an interest that would have taken you into your career of communications at that time? Did you have some things that started any interests?
DAVENPORT: No, really let me tell you how my interest came into cable TV. When I came back after the Korean War.
HATCH: Well, tell me about your military experience before we get to that. Where were you stationed in the military? What kinds of things did you do in the military?
DAVENPORT: I did have a higher IQ and I went in to basic training in Stockton, California.
HATCH: What year was that?
DAVENPORT: That was 1942. I never did finish basic because they talked to me about Officer's Candidate School and they placed me in administrative schools that the Air Corps had at that time. I went completely through all administrative schools the Air Corps had up through, what you would call today in private business, audit school. About the time they were ready to send me to Officer Candidate School, I had become disillusioned with second lieutenants and didn't feel I wanted people talking about me behind my back so I said I didn't want to go. So I continued on through those schools and went into Inspector General inspection work in the 4th Air Force. And then the college program opened when our government felt there was going to be a shortage of education due to the length of World War II. I was assigned first to Arkansas State College.
HATCH: Where was that?
DAVENPORT: In Jonesboro, Arkansas. Then I was later transferred to Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, where I knew John Glenn's parents very well. New Concord was a very small town with a Presbyterian school in eastern Ohio. We all studied engineering. I had finished up and the bulge came along and they closed the program down. I went back to the troops and was assigned to the infantry. I started with eight-inch artillery. Then I went to armored field artillery. In those days you were shipped overseas if you went to Hawaii. We were scheduled in the third wave into Okinawa, but we ran into a storm and missed the invasion and we put into Hawaii. I became disillusioned with life of working on the piers six days a week and firing artilleries on Sundays. I put in again for Officer Candidate School into which I had been accepted in the States just before shipment out. I came back and finished up my military career at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in Officer Candidate School. But it was the end of the War and you could elect to take your commission and serve a year, or not take your commission and go home. Having been in for over three years, I decided to go home.
HATCH: And home at that time was still Oregon?
DAVENPORT: The Dalles, Oregon. I went back and worked again for the power company. Due to the education I received in the military and my type of work, they placed me in engineering. I became their district engineer in The Dalles.
HATCH: And that involved what kind of work? What did you do?
DAVENPORT: Oh, electrical layout, power lines, surveying, actually layout, transformer banks, figuring services to residential and commercial installations. Then I became disillusioned because I knew I was the lowest paid district engineer due to the fact that I didn't have a degree. I left the power company and decided that since my friends were making money in sales, I'd go into sales. So I did go into sales and I was successful. I sold appliances, heating, and lumber supplies for a large lumber company and then later a General Electric dealer. After my stint in the Korean War--which was in a C-124 outfit that was stationed stateside and they flew to Korea all week long--I got out of the service. Disillusioned with selling, I wanted to get back in the utility business. So I went back to the power company and applied for employment.
HATCH: The sales business, did you have your own store or did you work as...?
DAVENPORT: No, I worked as a door‑to‑door salesman.
HATCH: What was the first thing you tried to sell on a door‑to‑door basis?
DAVENPORT: Appliances, mostly. Originally, I had the Norge line which didn't sell very well. So, I had Ironright Ironers and I had Youngstown Metal Kitchens. So I really put my efforts into the ironer and kitchens. I was very successful. In fact, for a couple of years I was picked as the top salesman on the West Coast in both those areas because I had a specialty product that others didn't have.
HATCH: Well, you must have had something more than that. What was your sales technique? When you knocked on a door, how did you approach that?
DAVENPORT: I don't even remember. Personality, get in the door. If I got in the door, I could sell it. I left in a pickup truck every morning with an ironer in the back. If I'd get that ironer in the woman's home, I'd sell. I could do four men's white shirts and fold them in twenty-five minutes.
HATCH: Did you actually do that?
DAVENPORT: I actually did it. Once I got into a home, that woman was sold an ironer whether she ever used it again or not, she bought it. I always said if I got into a home I could sell four out of five ironers as I sat in a woman's home.
HATCH: So to get inside and to show and tell was the trick.
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: What were the methods of payment and things like that? Was it cash on the barrel head?
DAVENPORT: No, no. We had bank financing and so forth. I worked on a straight 10 percent commission. I had no guarantee. In those days, I did quite well.
HATCH: What years were those, again?
DAVENPORT: Those were about 1948 to '51 when I went back in for the Korean War. Then after the Korean War I sold for a very short time.
HATCH: What were the circumstances for your being called back into military duty?
DAVENPORT: I had joined the Reserves after World War II. Even though I had finished up in the artillery, I had rejoined the Air Force in the Reserve and our entire wing in Portland, Oregon, was called up.
HATCH: What wing was that?
DAVENPORT: 403rd Troop Carrier Wing. We were all called at the same time, about 4500 of us. And during the Korean War, I worked in the Inspector General's department. I went back to my original schooling in the Air Corps of my early World War II days and I was head of administration in the Inspector General's department for the wing.
HATCH: What kind of things did you do there?
DAVENPORT: Inspected records of the men and things like that to see if they were maintaining them, just like an auditor in civilian life, auditing the enlisted men's records to see if they were being kept properly.
After I returned from Korean duty, I became disillusioned with selling because the man I'd worked for had hired a salesman during my absence on a straight salary. I lost my initiative. Why should I come out and appraise your refrigerator at night when I made the same money as if I didn't. So I said it was time for me to get out. I had an open invitation to come back with the power company at any time to enter their manager trainee program. The division vice-president took a liking to me and he gave me an open invitation to return to the company and leave engineering and go into their manager trainee program.
I had an appointment to go back to find out where I was going to be assigned and I went over for a cup of coffee one morning and a friend of mine was telling me about this great job that he'd been offered. I wasn't listening to him and I patted him on the shoulder when I left the coffee shop and said, "Earl, if you don't take that job, give me a call." That was on Tuesday and on Thursday night I got a call about 9:30 and he says, "He wants you to come to work for him." I said, "Who are you talking about?" He said, "Don't you know?" I said, "No." He said, "The new cable company. With your engineering background and relationship with all the utilities, the power company and the telephone company, they want you to come to work for them. I've turned the job down." So, yet that night I went down to see the publisher of the newspaper. The owners of the newspaper were tied up in the new cable company coming to town. By 1:00 in the morning I was hired. I had to call the power company to tell them I wasn't coming for an interview; I was going into cable.
Of course, during my first three years in cable none of us knew how long it was going to last. It was during the FCC freeze. We were all very concerned that we would not get our investment out in three years' time. We figured we had three years to do it.
HATCH: Before we talk further about what those early years were like, let's go back to your recollections of just television and what brought on cable television. Do you remember the first TV set you ever saw?
HATCH: First program?
DAVENPORT: The first program I saw was in Tacoma, Washington. I was stationed during the Korean War in Portland first, recalled to duty there, and was transferred up to McCord Field. They had a day room in the apartments we were staying in and I went over there and saw my first television.
HATCH: That was broadcast from what city?
DAVENPORT: That would have been 1951 and broadcast out of Seattle, Washington. Now, in the Northwest, there was one station in Seattle that came on the air in 1948 and then it was early '50s for the second one to come on the air. In Portland, Oregon, they didn't get a station at all until the early '50s. Then if you lived in a mountainous area--the Northwest is very mountainous--you received nothing unless you lived in the metropolitan area. The reason is the mountains--the same in Pennsylvania--that became the birth of cable TV. People were drastic to see television and so this sparked the birth of cable TV.
HATCH: That was before there were networks, it was all locally originated programs?
DAVENPORT: No, there were networks. Of course, all black and white.
HATCH: Do you know how those networks were transmitted across country? Was that by microwave or cable?
DAVENPORT: Oh, all through the telephone company via cable and microwave. Actually, would you like to go into some of the history of the Northwest?
HATCH: Yes, give us a little background on that.
DAVENPORT: Ok. There was a gentleman by the name of L.E. "Ed" Parsons who was in Astoria, Oregon, and owned a radio station. They tell me in those days Ed was an entrepreneur type. He was one of the early people that flew his own airplane every place he went. They tell me--and I think that Ed will admit--that Ed wasn't a very good businessman, but he was an entrepreneur. Probably the reason why he wasn't a good businessman was that he was so busy trying to do things and invent things. So Ed got the idea when the first television station came on in Seattle, Washington. The call letters of the first television station in the Northwest which was located in Seattle were KRSC‑TV, now KING‑TV, Channel 5. It has always been Channel 5 from its inception.
When the station went on the air Thanksgiving Day, 1948, Ed Parsons erected an antenna on top of the building right across from the Astor Hotel in Astoria and strung cable down into his apartment. He picked up the first, you might say, cable television picture. Then some of his friends wanted it extended to their houses. There was one set dealer that was about two blocks away. Ed strung cable from that antenna to him so that he could start selling sets as they strung the cable and open wire to different homes. Ed's big problem in the early days was trying to get a permit from the telephone company to use their poles which they would not give to him. So the early cable just went from building to building and it just started spreading out around town.
HATCH: Now, that was the feed from an ordinary TV receiving antenna?
DAVENPORT: That's right. Here I have a picture which is a poster of a replica put out by MA/COMM which actually shows the building where the antenna was. It shows Ed Parsons and it also shows his first customer that he cabled to.
HATCH: So he would have lived in this building?
DAVENPORT: Yes. Actually, that is a little misleading because that is the Astor Hotel and really the antenna was originally across the street on the apartment building and then later he moved it to this location that is in the picture.
HATCH: How far away was this from the TV transmitting antenna?
DAVENPORT: Roughly, 150 miles. We picked up some very marginal signals. They would not be saleable today. They would not be acceptable by our customers.
HATCH: A lot of snow?
DAVENPORT: Well, when you say a lot of snow, half the time watchable, half of the time not watchable.
HATCH: More snow than picture?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: This was probably the highest point in town?
DAVENPORT: No, it wasn't. Then he later moved to what they called Coxcomb Hill. The monument which we'll discuss later is on Coxcomb Hill. I can tell you some of the stories that I had with the historical society when we put this monument up there because they said it was misleading. That wasn't where the first antenna site was.
HATCH: Looking at that picture, we see the cable coming down over the building, what kind of cable was that? Was it coaxial?
DAVENPORT: I am not familiar with what was available at that time. Now, Ed went into the manufacturing of amplifiers. He went into the manufacturing of everything for cable TV. I have in my archives his original price list dated January 1, 1950, magazine articles from 1949 and the early '50s, a letter from KRSC‑TV, dated May 18, 1949, granting Ed permission to use their signal plus other historic documents. Our manager in Astoria found all these and I will turn them over to the Museum. You will be excited about these.
HATCH: We would certainly appreciate copies of those documents to go into the Museum.
DAVENPORT: I would recommend you to contact Ed Parsons. To my knowledge, he is in Alaska. I think if he was not alive I would have been told, but I haven't seen Ed in the last two years at NCTA. His full name is L.E. "Ed" Parsons and he is recognized as the Grandfather of Cable TV. The last address that I had for him was he had his own business in Alaska, very active, flying his own airplane, servicing communication. I understand that he was quite active with our government and the two pipe line installations up there when they were put in. But the last address I have for Ed is Communications Supply, Inc., P.O. Box 1450, Fairbanks, Alaska. And the phone number I had which was current two years ago was (907) 452‑6001. Ed has been quite active coming to the NCTA convention and to the Pioneers Club at our conventions.
Let me follow up with Ed Parsons. He got into problems, his business went into receivership. There was a gentleman in Astoria, Oregon, who is now deceased called Tommy Williams who stepped in with some other partners in Astoria and purchased Parson's business out of a receivership. They really didn't know what to do with it. There were a couple doctors and another man who was in the fish canning business. Tommy Williams was a kind of entrepreneur. He had the ferry that crossed the river and a few other things. He played a lot of golf.
In Aberdeen, Washington, there were two different companies, I think, in about the year of 1950. Finally, the two companies merged. Then they started building a single system in Aberdeen. Later they heard about Astoria and they developed a 50/50 ownership and started developing Astoria. The real kingpin of that group was Homer Bergren who now lives in Seattle on Mercer Island. He can be contacted. I really look on Homer as the father of cable TV in the Northwest. I give him credit as father of the development of cable TV in the Northwest.
HATCH: What specific thing did he take the lead in doing?
DAVENPORT: Well, Homer was an entrepreneur and a real entrepreneur. He started out and he got the idea that there was some money to be made in cable. Like he tells the story, he came back to Seattle as a Naval officer without a dime to his name and didn't know what he was going to do. He had done part-time professor work in labor relations for the University of Washington. And about the only thing he had done, he was an attorney by education, was a professor and taught labor relations. He worked sometimes for the union and sometimes for private companies in labor negotiations.
HATCH: He was a veteran of the Second World War?
DAVENPORT: Yes, he was a Naval officer. So, he came back and he got the idea that there was money to be made in cable. Homer never wanted more than 10 percent interest in any cable system he was interested in.
DAVENPORT: Well, he just had this idea of how you go about things. So he formed his own group that was in the Aberdeen system. His right hand man's name who did a lot of front work for him was Fred G. Goddard who lives today in Aberdeen, Washington. To those in the industry today the name is familiar because his son is president of VIACOM. John Goddard is the son of Fred Goddard. I remember John when he was a little boy running around and coming home from junior high and riding his bicycle in the yard.
Homer would have Fred front for him, come into a community and encourage local investors to come in. Now he went for two people principally. He went for the newspaper and the radio station which he thought he could get the most out of. He also looked for a leading attorney. He looked for a person who might be closely tied to the Chamber of Commerce. All well known names. The locals took 50 percent. Homer and his group took 50 percent. And Homer rapidly moved through the Northwest and tied up properties all the way through. He tied up with the Astoria group and came into my community. He went all over the Northwest. If you wanted to give him credit, he was the largest operator at one time in the Northwest. Then he sold all those properties in the Northwest in the later years and went down into California and did the same thing and they became the properties that he sold to VIACOM and formed VIACOM as we know it today in the cable industry. I believe the original California properties he sold to VIACOM for $20.5 million.
He came into my community and he contacted the Chamber of Commerce, a gentleman who had been there for years. His son was rated as one of the top CPAs in town. The son was ex‑mayor of the community. He was able to secure the city attorney as a partner. He took these two gentlemen in as minor stock holders. Then he went to The Dalles newspaper which was owned by Scripps League Newspapers and talked them into coming in. Between them and Scripps League, they originally formed the company. Homer required everyone to invest their fair share of capital.
HATCH: Were these stocks or did he set up....
HATCH: It was a stock arrangement?
DAVENPORT: That's right. To give you an example, during my first year of management in those days, cable TV didn't pay too well because no one thought it was going to last. I had left my selling job. I'd been averaging about $650/month, which was a good salary in those days, and I went to work as manager of the cable company at $450/month.
HATCH: What were you selling before you took this cable job?
DAVENPORT: That was the appliances, kitchens, and so forth.
HATCH: You took a cut in pay?
DAVENPORT: I took a cut in pay because I wanted to get into cable management. Well, I figured if the cable industry lasted three years, I had three years of management experience I could sell to somebody down the road some place. So I really didn't care. I just wanted the management experience further down the road. I was too busy--I wanted to get married and so forth--to go back and get my college degree which today I think was a mistake, but I made out pretty well anyway. So I was looking for that management experience to go down the road and sell. That is how I got into the cable area.
To show you what even the people that owned cable systems thought they were worth, they tell me the story that six months after start of operations Jim Scripps came into one of the board meetings and said, "I move we raise Lew's salary to $1000/month." Homer Bergren said, "My God, we can hire an MBA for $650/ month." And he said, "Well, every manager I got I pay at least $1000/month or I don't have them on my payroll." And I'm told the board didn't go along with him. So he came to me on the side. He said, "Lew, if you can have me five hundred subscribers by Christmas, I'm going to give you 5 percent of the company out of my stock holdings." I had about 804 subscribers as I remember. So that's how I started getting my ownership. Then as different ones dropped out, I bought stock and went on with the company. Then in turn we sold to Cox in 1964.
HATCH: Going back a bit, this Scripps, that's not of the Scripps Howard? Tell me more about this man.
DAVENPORT: Descendants. Two grandsons and a granddaughter, descendants of the original Scripps family. It was the Scripps that spun off and went to San Diego. Jim Scripps was the business manager for the company and then there was Ed Scripps and Ellen Scripps.
HATCH: What was the company called at that time?
DAVENPORT: Scripps League Newspapers. They owned about twenty-one newspapers.
HATCH: And he actually came to Astoria.
DAVENPORT: No, it was The Dalles. I started in the business in The Dalles, in my hometown. Scripps League Newspaper owned The Dalles Chronicle. That's how they got in on the ownership.
HATCH: How much of the stake did he own in the cable system at that time?
DAVENPORT: Thirty-nine percent.
HATCH: And he promised to give you 5 percent, 5 percent of that 39 percent, if you came up with five hundred subscribers?
DAVENPORT: No, 5 percent of the company's total stock.
HATCH: And you came up with 804?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: How long did it take you to do that?
DAVENPORT: From April to December.
HATCH: You got it. That's a nice Christmas present, huh?
DAVENPORT: That's right. At the time, I thought it was not too much. But later on it proved to be a pretty good Christmas present. In those days none of us, even those of us in the business, thought much of cable TV. We thought when the freeze was off...see they had a freeze where people couldn't put in any more television stations. The FCC had a freeze on them. So we got our start, our leg in while that freeze was on. We figured when the freeze went off that there would be television stations bouncing in every small town just like radio. But then it became obvious, from the economic standpoint, they couldn't afford to put a television station in a small town. There wasn't enough advertising to support the expense of a station.
HATCH: What was the year of the freeze? Did you remember when that was committed?
DAVENPORT: It was 1948. There was just no growth in television stations and that gave us our leg in. You know, we went down through the early years with this person nicking at us and that person nicking at us. The FCC didn't give a darn what we did.
HATCH: What kind of people started nicking you? The local people or other businessmen?
DAVENPORT: The telephone companies started looking around. The FCC started putting restrictions on us and they started...
HATCH: What was your problem with the telephone company? What was your relationship with them?
DAVENPORT: Well, we were new and we wanted to use their poles. They were the only company that was in the communication business. Any of us would naturally be concerned about a new country cousin starting to come in wanting to use your poles out there on the street to get into the communication business. Where are these people going? What are they going to do to us down the road? I don't blame the telephone company at all. I'd have had concern too.
HATCH: Were you the first industry that asked permission to use their poles? Was that a new concept for the telephone company?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: How did you go about negotiating the rights or the privilege of using those poles?
DAVENPORT: In some cases, it was very difficult for cable operators. I had no problems. You have to remember I was the district engineer with the power company and I worked every day with the engineers for the telephone company and they were all my friends. So when I came into the business, I had no problems. In our industry, you'll talk to people about the huge costs of make-ready where the telephone and power companies would have to move their lines to make room for us. In my relationship out in the Northwest, I never paid a dime on make-ready because I was dealing with my friends.
HATCH: And you knew what the score was.
DAVENPORT: That's the reason why they wanted to hire me. They were having difficulty getting a pole agreement and when the head man of the telephone company said, "Well, who's going to be your manager?" My partners said, "Well, we can't tell you." He said, "Well, that's important to us." And they told them that I was going to be their manager. And they said, "No problem." And we got an agreement.
HATCH: Speaking of wires and cables, let's go back to that wire hanging off of the hotel or the apartment house across from the Astor Hotel in Astoria, Oregon. From your recollection, how did the system evolve and expand from that first wire hanging down from the antenna?
DAVENPORT: You mean in Ed Parson's system?
HATCH: Yes, let's go back to that.
DAVENPORT: Of course, I had some of my management time in Astoria. Later, I lived in Astoria myself for ten years and managed out of there. I came into the picture in Astoria after it was a rebuilt cable system. But they tell me he just hung open wire and cable from building to building. And everybody let him attach it to their building because they wanted cable TV.
HATCH: So, it was just a tacking it to the side of the building?
DAVENPORT: That's right. I've gone back in some of the archives I had at one time and I saw letters between him and the telephone company in the early '50s where he wasn't making much progress getting a pole permits to use their poles. Some cable operators didn't understand the telephone company. I feel I did because I was out there working with the power company. We had National Electrical Safety Code to live by and I was probably a little different entering the cable business because I knew the National Electrical Safety Code. I knew the utilities problems and at times I was sympathetic with the telephone company and some of their thinking where maybe some of the other cable operators weren't.
HATCH: And you say you think that got you your first job?
DAVENPORT: Sure, it did.
HATCH: Well, how does that square? You don't think of engineers as being super salesmen as you apparently were to come up with those subscribers. Make the connection there for me, between engineer and salesperson.
DAVENPORT: I was talking to a psychologist at one time and he told me the reason I wasn't in engineering was I was not an engineer to start with; I was a manager. You know, there are some people who say engineers are too analytical and not good managers. And he was telling me the reason I was in management was because I wasn't cut out to be an engineer to start with. I was only kidding myself. That I was really management inclined and not engineering inclined which was why I left the field and why I've been successful in the management field.
HATCH: But you have the technical understanding to be able to deal with the people on a managerial level that you had too.
DAVENPORT: In the early days, you know, our engineers didn't know anything about cable TV. I had an engineering background, I went to all the technical schools. When we had a convention, I attended the technical sessions as well as management sessions. And I knew as much about engineering as my manager did. In fact, in my first system I designed the entire system myself and did all the map preparation, application to the utility companies for pole use, everything.
HATCH: That city was?
DAVENPORT: The Dalles, Oregon.
HATCH: Describe that for us. What was that first system like there?
DAVENPORT: Ok. I started April 4, 1954, as general manager of The Dalles TV Company. The Dalles was a community about ninety miles east of Portland, Oregon, right up the Columbia River located on the Columbia River. Actually the west city limits of the town were right on the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Now, in Oregon you start out in Astoria with ninety-three inches of rainfall a year. You move in roughly one hundred miles to Portland, Oregon, and you have around fifty-five inches of rain. Then you move approximately another ninety miles to The Dalles which is on the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains and you have from ten to eleven inches of rain in a year. This makes a big difference building a cable system and in how you build them, too.
HATCH: How does the weather affect it?
DAVENPORT: Where your heavy rains are, you've got to waterproof everything. You get on the coast you've got to have jacketed cables to keep the salt air from eating your cable up. In a place like The Dalles you don't have to worry about those things. It's so dry and everything that as fast as the rain can soak in it dries out. So we started in and at the time we felt that the only station that we could pick up was KOIN‑TV, Channel 6 out of Portland, which was roughly about seventy-five miles west of us, but we were looking right into the Cascade Mountains. So we knew the picture we picked up out of KOIN‑TV, Portland, was a "bounced signal" as we call it. It goes out and hits the mountain side and you get a ricochet and you can pick it up. You can get a clean signal like this or you can get a ghostly signal. We picked up a pretty good picture from KOIN, seventy-five miles away.
We started building the system with plans of only one channel going on the air. In The Dalles, nobody could pick up anything. So we had a captive audience. We went on the air originally with one channel and then we started racking some antennas--learning something about antennas--and we were able to pick up Channel 5 which I'll give you a comparison. Channel 5 out of Seattle with sixteen antennas stacked, as we call them, we picked up fifty microvolts. The FCC today says we have to deliver one thousand microvolts to a customer's set for a quality picture. So you can see the type of picture we were dealing with. So actually we went on the air with one channel of television. Then we added Channel 5, KING‑TV and then Channel 4 out of Seattle, KOMO‑TV.
HATCH: Do you remember the approximate date of the first picture that you delivered on that system?
DAVENPORT: Sure. June 22, 1954. It sticks well in my mind. In fact, I had some of the pictures here of the set dealers that were at the first showing when we showed our first picture which might be interesting to you. You see, the community leaders seeing their first television picture in my community.
HATCH: Those folks had not received any television signal at all up until that time?
DAVENPORT: None whatsoever. Those were all television set dealers that we had a special showing for the night before we had the public showing. The first picture shown to shareholders and employees in The Dalles, Oregon, was June 21, 1954.
End of Tape 1, Side A
HATCH: Turn back to that picture of your launching of that first set. I find it interesting. Look at the calendar on the wall. Did you notice that? The Studebaker? I guess that dates it, doesn't it?
DAVENPORT: The Studebaker Car and Truck dealership. That would have to be one of the younger Urness boys whom I had later in American Legion baseball. His older brother was the one that was signed by the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher. That's Jerry Urness. His dad, Chuck Urness, was the one that sponsored the American Legion baseball team and gave me the money so I could develop the program. He was a very good sponsor. He did fit into my life style for many, many years. And he sold Studebaker cars. His three sons are now the Plymouth dealers in the community. Charles, Sr. has passed away and his three sons run the business.
HATCH: This was taken the night before the actual public....
DAVENPORT: ....the actual public showing.
HATCH: What was the first program that was broadcast over the cable, do you remember?
DAVENPORT: I really can't tell you. We had such overdrive and such interference that I think that was the development of my first ulcer when we had the public showing and none of us could find out nor could our engineers understand why we were overdriving amplifiers.
HATCH: You were trying to pump the fifty microvolts to a reasonable level. Is that what you mean by overdriving?
DAVENPORT: Well, let me explain to you. Today we are very sophisticated. We have what we call automatic level controls, AGC, automatic gain controls. In the early days they were not developed. In later years we put one of these in every fifth amplifier. Now we have them in every amplifier. The sun, the ultra‑violet rays, does a lot to our cable. For instance, at night our cable will carry a signal farther than it will in the daytime because ultra‑violet rays penetrate the cable and reduces the carrying capacity. The best way to explain it to you might be like if your water pipe gets rusty inside you don't carry as much water. That's what happens to us in the daytime. When we went into the cable business we had no automatic gain controls. We just cascaded our amplifiers as we needed them, spaced them out. Then pretty soon we'd get overdrive. That's why we only had equipment that would go channel 2 through 6. And we could only carry signals on 2, 4, and 6 because we needed that space in between so that the other channel wouldn't slop into it. We called it cross‑mod.
The night we had our public showing the picture was beautiful up to that night when it was like electrical interference. We hunted for where the electrical interference was getting in. It was just like a bunch of dotted lines going across. And then we found out it was characteristic of our amplifiers. So we had fun back in those days. We didn't have government regulations. We didn't have anyone picking at us. Nobody gave a darn about us. We just had fun.
But a lot of problems went with it too. For instance, I lived in an area that got very warm in Oregon. Most people think Oregon is all mountains and trees. It isn't. I came from the dry lands. Eastern Oregon, central eastern Oregon, is desert. It can compare with any place in Texas you want to go. I came from the end of the trees. My hometown in Oregon was where the last natural tree is. From there on it's desert for one hundred twenty-five miles going across the state. So we had huge temperature fluctuations from night to day. I've seen it one hundred twenty degrees in The Dalles and it's not uncommon for one hundred ten in the summer months. So what do we do? My engineer used to go to work at 6:00 in the morning. We had it figured out that every fifth amplifier we turned up or down with the temperature. He would go through the entire system every fifth amplifier and as the ultra‑violet was hitting and the heat was rising he'd turn the amplifier up. Then we'd start around 7:00 at night and turn them down and he'd work until 11:00. And that's the way we kept a quality picture on and kept our customers happy.
HATCH: Well, that's the ultimate in automatic gain control, isn't it?
DAVENPORT: That's right. Now you do nothing because it is all automatic. Automatic gain control works, you might say, just like a thermostat on anything. It just releases more signals into the cable or retards more signal as needed, just like a thermostat.
HATCH: When you launched that first picture what was the extent of your system? How many subscribers, miles of cable?
DAVENPORT: Our antennas were located on the Klickitat Mountains in the state of Washington. We had ten thousand feet coming down the mountain for which we used some special large cable for no loss so we wouldn't have to have any amplifiers in that ten thousand run.
I feel we were the first system to do a major river crossing when we crossed the Columbia River in which they tell me the current underneath where we crossed was--underwater down on the base of the river--about twenty-five mph during high water. We laid four thousand feet of submarine cable across that river. We went in the railroad track right away which was about another five miles. So roughly, let's see, we came about eight miles into town before we served our first customer.
HATCH: How much amplification did you have to have to pump that signal just into town?
DAVENPORT: In those days we placed our amplifiers about 2200 feet apart with that type of cable. Now where you put an amplifier is how much gain it's got or the carrying capacity of your cable. The bigger the cable the farther you can go between amplifiers. We used large cable. Coming along the railroad tracks, we were probably spacing about 2500 feet which was too far apart engineering taught us later. It might be interesting to see some of the pictures. (See transcript for Tape 3, Side A)
HATCH: That's a river crossing?
DAVENPORT: This was coming out of the river after we had finished laying it across.
HATCH: That looks pretty rocky. What were the mechanics of actually getting that far enough under the bed of the river to keep it from being washed away?
DAVENPORT: That was a problem. The first cable lasted thirteen months. So we learned from that.
HATCH: It did wash out on you?
DAVENPORT: Yes, and we replaced it after thirteen months. You can get an idea of what a varying country is up around my community. No trees.
HATCH: Yes, that looks like sand dunes.
DAVENPORT: That isn't Oregon by most people's thinking of Oregon. There was the reel we took the cable off. That was on a barge and tug we used to lay the cable across. I've got a number of newspaper articles like you are looking at. "The First TV Service Due This Week," was a press release I put out that we were going to have the public showing. You can get copies of these. This happened to be a reminiscing book that they made up for me.
HATCH: Now was the newspaper involved as a part-owner or some people from the newspaper in this system?
DAVENPORT: The newspaper stayed involved in the system until 1960. The Scripps League Newspapers had some bad experiences becoming a conglomerate. Jim Scripps wanted to stay in the cable business, but his brother and sister wanted to get out when they could see a profit in selling. Scripps League Newspapers sold out their interest in 1960. And those of us who were in it reorganized and increased our holdings. Then in 1964, Cox came along and bought us out and that's when I came with Cox. In fact, Jim Scripps tried to get me to come with the newspapers and leave cable at that time.
HATCH: What would you have done with the newspaper?
DAVENPORT: (Interrupted for a minute) Six months at Stanford University studying. Two years a publisher trainee and then a publisher of one of the Scripps newspapers.
HATCH: What kind of money are we talking about here to get the system to the point where you launched it in June of '54? How many dollars had you and other people really put into getting the system ready to offer a picture to those subscribers?
DAVENPORT: Well, you have to understand how we charged for cable. We were in a business that we figured we had a three year window. We were out of business in three years. We all felt that way. So it was "crash," get as many subscribers today as you can because we figured television stations would come in and put us out of business. But we lived for three years. Could we live five years? Five years we were in good shape; three years we were gambling. My gamble was management experience and go down the road and sell it to some other industry. So I was after management experience. My investment was mostly a free ride from Scripps's bonus to me.
After Scripps sold out I did put some of my money into the company itself. To give you an idea, I can't remember in actual dollars, at the time we bought Scripps out we probably bought him out at around $100/subscriber. Cox bought us out at about $300/subscriber four years later. Then we more or less stabilized in that bracket and it crawled up in resale to $500/subscriber. Now it is not uncommon today for cable systems to sell for $1500 per subscriber.
In those days we priced our connections very high. If you wanted to hook up the cable you paid $125, but you paid a very low monthly fee of $3.50. Now, we had it figured that the $125 you paid was going to pay for you and others to cable past your house. So if we could reach up to 50 percent saturation and get $125 out of 50 percent of the houses, we paid for our investment. Everything beyond that was profit. That's what we worked on. Today, the cable system in The Dalles, Oregon, is 95 percent saturated.
HATCH: How many people did you have hooked on that first day, do you remember?
DAVENPORT: Oh, I think just a very few. Well, we had our public opening with nobody hooked up. And then the next day we started hooking up and we probably hooked up twelve a day after that.
HATCH: So it was kind of an event.
DAVENPORT: Oh, yes. I've got to tell you a story. I had a board of directors, and they told me that when I sold four subscribers for every one thousand feet, I could build that one thousand feet. Well, I went out and I was managing the company. I was the salesman. I was everything. I just couldn't go out and knock on doors and manage the company and keep the construction going. I had an engineering background, so I was out there on the back of that construction crew that was contracting the job. I was pretty busy.
We had our quarterly Board meeting. As soon as that one was over, I said, "You know, I'm going to take a chance." I told the contractor, "Run that main cable trunk from the west city limits to the east city limits and put her all up." I was taking a chance with my Board if I'd have enough subscribers sold to pay for that footage of cable, which I did. Then I told them what I'd done. I defied them and I'd gone out and used management judgment. So they told me to go at it. We built the system very rapidly after that.
When we started building the system, we would build having four subscribers to the thousand feet. But this became absurd. If you knew anything about construction, when you stop and put a deadend bolt in one side and when you start you've got another deadend bolt. So every thousand feet I had two deadend bolts. You just couldn't build cable that way.
This gives you a little background on how the system got going before Cox came into the picture in '64. Then I stayed with Cox.
In the meantime my partners had bought into Astoria; they had bought Seaside, Oregon; Warrenton, Oregon; Hammond, Oregon; and all the Long Beach communities referred to as Long Beach, Washington. The Astoria investors then came after me to move to Astoria and manage the five systems that were in the Homer Bergren complex and still manage The Dalles. The manager in Astoria wasn't doing well. So we were going to move him under my supervision to The Dalles. I moved down in 1962 to Astoria and I had all the systems under me. Then Cox bought out all of us in '64. And the manager in Aberdeen, Fred Goddard, went on with Bergren to California. So then I took over Aberdeen. I managed all of Cox's properties in the Northwest and worked out of and lived in Astoria, Oregon for ten years.
HATCH: Tell me a little about your arrangement for pole rights from the telephone company, the power company, your relationship to the city fathers. What kind of authority or release did you have to get approvals from the city commissioners or whatever? Any regulation involved, any things you had to meet from the government, and that point of view?
DAVENPORT: Really, I had no problem. I just had no problem. They were all my friends. You know how the story goes, if you got all friends, friends don't vote against you.
HATCH: Do you remember how much you had to pay the telephone company? Did you use telephone or power poles?
DAVENPORT: We paid $2.50/pole both to the power company and telephone company.
HATCH: You used a combination of both. Was that on an annual basis?
DAVENPORT: An annual basis per pole. We just had no problem with those people. Also, city fathers were personal friends of mine.
HATCH: Did you pay a franchise fee to them?
DAVENPORT: Yes, 3 percent of annual revenues.
HATCH: Of the gross take?
DAVENPORT: No, gross service revenue. You didn't pay it on hook up revenue or anything like that?
HATCH: On the $3.50/month service revenue.
DAVENPORT: That's right. Today the cities ask for everything.
I was very active in the American Legion. They tried to get me to run for State Commander but I couldn't see where it would do my business any good at the state level and I backed out of that. But I was everything in the American Legion right up through all this.
Here's another thing they pulled out of the archives (referring to a book of clippings), it was my first year's salary record. It showed how much I made, which is $500. I started out at $450 and the second month they raised me to $500.
HATCH: It says you were born on January 23, 1922, and that was one of the questions I was going to ask.
DAVENPORT: My salary was $450/month when I started my first cable management job.
HATCH: Ok. That was in 1954.
DAVENPORT: Yes. That was in my first quarter of employment.
HATCH: And that June 30, 1954.
DAVENPORT: It showed how much Federal withholding was; only $73 for a quarter. People get a laugh out of that knowing my salary today.
HATCH: You had talked about the real key that you felt then, was to know the business leaders, the mayor. Why don't you say a little more about the importance of that, then and now. It is still just as important now?
DAVENPORT: Yes, definitely. Why don't you ask me the question of, as a manager in the early days and today, what do you feel a manager has to do to be successful?
HATCH: Obviously, from the resume you have to have a lot of energy.
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: And you've certainly shown that from baseball to business enterprises. Did you get involved in church? You are so much involved in the American Legion.
DAVENPORT: No, I didn't. I was also very active in the Elks and all other civic organizations.
HATCH: Ok. Were other people like you? Was there a similarity among those pioneers who really started television? Or were you a little different from them?
DAVENPORT: No, not really. In the early days most were set repair dealers, set sales, ex‑radio salespeople and repairmen. They wanted to sell television sets so they were really the entrepreneurs in the cable business because they wanted to string cable to sell television sets. So in the early days I would say that your percentage was that maybe 80 percent of the ownership of cable TV had a personal gain by selling television sets. And that's why they went into cable.
HATCH: Cable was a means to some other objective.
DAVENPORT: Let me tell you a story. There were ten of us young men in town that formed an investment club just to play with and put a few bucks into. In this group of ten men there were different walks of life: a fuel oil dealer, a lumber‑yard owner, an optometrist, a lawyer, and a few such young businessmen in town. I had been over at the bank trying to borrow $50,000 for my company and my banker says, "You are a high risk business. I can't give you the money." Our investment club, at the same time, had a chance to buy some property that we figured the state was going to put a park next to and they'd need that property later, and we could make a fast investment. So the ten of us went to the banker and he loaned each of us $5,000 on our names. After we closed the loan, I sat down with the banker and I said, "If I had to raise $5,000 and pay you next month, there is no way I can do it. Practically all my partners couldn't either. How come you loaned us $50,000 when I've got a growing business that you won't loan $50,000?" Things were that bad in those days that my local banker wouldn't loan my company $50,000.
HATCH: What year was that?
DAVENPORT: This was back in the late '50s. Everyone felt cable TV was a risky business.
HATCH: They thought it was just a temporary thing? When the freeze came off that there would be television stations in every town?
DAVENPORT: That's right. You couldn't even get a banker to loan you a dime. Later on I'd go to our national conventions and bankers are begging you to take their money and I said, "Boy, how things have changed." In the early days, I was very active in trade association work in our industry. I used to go to meetings and they'd get excited that the FCC was investigating this, investigating that, starting to set cable rules. I said, "Don't worry about it, we've got something. People are starting to see us and they are getting worried about us. And people only get worried about something if you are competition. I really think we've got something. I think we are going to make it and we are going to go forward." I said, "Don't worry about all this stuff." I said, "It's good. It's a good sign that we have got something because other people are worried about us and we are going to be competition to them." The broadcasters, in the early days, wouldn't even speak to us. I would try to go into the broadcast stations we carried and talk to the manager on good will. One station wouldn't even accept my visits.
HATCH: Did they think you were just stealing their signal? What was their attitude?
DAVENPORT: That's right. They thought we were stealing their signal. They weren't going to recognize us. They had to feel that we were a threat or they wouldn't feel that way.
HATCH: Did they want some of your revenue?
DAVENPORT: No, they never asked for that. But in the early days, of course, we were called pirates. We were using their signal free and they got no return. Copyright people were after us for years for using the product and not paying copyright. Everybody was after us.
HATCH: Relative to copyright, how did you handle that? Did you just ignore those accusations?
DAVENPORT: Nobody bothered us until they finally got the copyright passed through Congress where we have to pay copyright today.
Another thing evolving as a big threat in the early days is what we called an illegal booster where you went up on a mountain top and you picked up a signal just like we did, you bring it out of the antenna into an amplifier, and kick it back into another antenna that would shoot the signal all over the homes and they could pick it up. We called that an illegal booster. And we went through that stage of illegal boosters trying to get the FCC to stop them. But the FCC wasn't controlling us so at first they wouldn't control the boosters.
HATCH: The stations were doing this?
DAVENPORT: No, individuals were doing it. Individuals. The first one that tried it was up in a dam construction project in northern Washington. And a very unusual thing is that the guy that dreamed this up and did it ended up as a neighbor of mine here in Atlanta years later. We were fighting each other as individuals and didn't know each other except by name until he moved into Atlanta as my neighbor.
HATCH: Is that how one came to be called cable and the other community antenna?
DAVENPORT: No, community antenna is cable. That was the name we used, community antenna equals cable. That was our name. But we called them illegal boosters. Finally, the FCC closed them down.
HATCH: On what basis?
DAVENPORT: As very dangerous to aircraft. They could interfere with aircraft radio controls. Radiation is something that was/is controlled very strictly by the FCC to date due to radiation and foul up, especially of aircraft control. So the FCC watches it very close. But in those days we did anything we wanted to.
HATCH: Did the cable industry bring any pressure on the FCC to put them out of business?
DAVENPORT: Oh, yes, we were very successful. Now, it worked the other way. I had an engineer that was really an entrepreneur. We had one of these illegal boosters operating and someone went up and put a jammer out in the field. Well, the FCC felt they knew who did it and the inspector called on me and said, "Lew, we can't prove you did it. We know you did it and you can't do this stuff." I said, "All right, by God, you close down the illegal booster." I said, "We didn't do it." And I set there and grinned. I said, "You close down the illegal boosters, and I'll try to control other people so that something like that doesn't happen again."
HATCH: Was this the pattern all over the country? Were there those illegal boosters?
DAVENPORT: Mostly in the Northwest. Only in the Northwest. So we couldn't get the interest of the industry too much. But finally Strat Smith, an attorney and head of our NCTA, came out west and worked with us very closely in getting these things closed down. I mentioned to you, we put the river cable in. It was a big job. Thirteen months later we lost it. And naturally I was dead in the water serving my customers. So, I said to my engineer, "How do we get across that river?" He says, "I'll get you across that river." So later the Japanese TV set dealer I showed you in the picture, came to me and said, "You've got an illegal booster going down there. That's how you're getting across the river because I'm getting a signal all over town." The FCC never said a word. You know, it took us a month to build up a new river cable and we had a thousand subscribers still with TV pictures. They could do it. We could do it. That was back in '55. We did a lot of ingenious things and had a lot of fun.
But a big key to management and getting along is your involvement in community affairs. I developed ulcers in my thirties. I finally learned how to control myself in my forties. I haven't had them since. But I think it was carrying on a heavy community load. Like I tell young managers today when I interview them, "Let me give you an explanation: I'm the cable TV manager and you are one of my customers. Now about a year ago, you're an electrician, you're a hard worker, you've got two children. You get through at night, you're tired. You like to spend the time with your children, and maybe out hoeing your garden and watching it grow. So you haven't got an expense account, you haven't got time to be involved with your community. You know the mayor, you know the councilmen, but only by name and what you read in the newspaper. Now, I'm the cable manager. One of the councilmen is president of the YMCA and we just had a drive for a new swimming pool. I was advance gift chairman and I surpassed the goal on advanced gifts for him for his swimming pool. One city councilman is president of the Chamber of Commerce and I'm on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. The mayor and I play golf every Wednesday afternoon together in the same foursome. Another councilman I'm in Rotary with. Another one was head of the Salvation Army and I'm on the Salvation Army board.
Now, I have asked for a rate increase for my company. You are so moved because you were out of work for three months and we disconnected you for non‑payment of January. Before you had been paying the cable company religiously on time for five years. And you thought I'd been very unfair. So you show up at the council meeting for the first time in your life. You get up and say this company doesn't deserve a rate increase and you tell your story. I get up and I tell my story from economic reasons why we need a rate increase. The mayor and four councilman up there have to vote. They look out in that audience, they see you, they see me. How are they going to vote?
The mayor says, "God, I can't face Lew next Wednesday afternoon." The president of the YMCA says, "Lew just did a hell of a job for me on collecting advanced gifts." The other one says, "Golly on Monday noon I'm going to see Lew at Rotary and I can't tell him why I voted against him." I ask, "Who's going to get the vote? Maybe you're right and maybe I do not deserve the rate increase. But who's going to get the vote?"
Now, if you're a joiner in your public relations, you go down to that senior vice‑president of human resources and fight like heck for this job because this is a great company, a great industry. But if you aren't a joiner, in a year's time I'm going to know you're not and if I hire you, I've got the right to fire you a year from now. So you make up your mind: Are you a cable TV manager or not?
That's the best way I know to tell the story. It's highly political in our business. You know the right people, you're going to get what you want.
HATCH: It doesn't sound like it's a 9 to 5 business.
DAVENPORT: No, sir, it isn't. You can look at my outdated resume made up in 1968 because I haven't looked for a job since then. You can see how active I was in my community. In 1958 I received the Outstanding Public Relationship Award from NCTA for the most outstanding public relations work in the industry.
I'd like to give you a little background on the Northwest that had another first. I have some documents I'm going to give to you here. Mary Alice Phillips, a woman studying for a doctorate degree, did a study on cable television. She later had a book printed. She really had too much government regulation in there. Only about the first five chapters were interesting. I don't think the book sold. I loaned it to one of our young managers and it was not returned.
She traveled, must have had a little money from her family because even she went to Alaska and interviewed Ed Parsons. I do have her transcript that she sent me and note the leading part. You know I do a lot of kidding with the Cable Pioneers. I told them I would make a donation to the Museum when they finally admitted Astoria, Oregon, was the first cable system in the United States and they got John Walson off my back. But I didn't feel like donating to something that was putting out false stories about Walsonavich's system being the first.
In the early chapters she goes into her study of Parson's and her study of Walson's operation. She recognizes Astoria as the original cable system in the United States and then gives Walson credit that he was the first commercial system. She also states Parsons started out experimentally and was the grandfather of cable TV. And then Walson picked up the concept and ran with it.
The story I've been told is that Milton Shapp, who was governor of Pennsylvania, was a young engineer for General Electric. When he heard about this Parsons, General Electric sent him to the Northwest to look at what Parsons was doing. From this trip Milton Shapp got the idea of building electronic equipment and that was the start of Jerrold. He left G.E. and formed the Jerrold company. Milt Shapp was really the first commercial developer and sales of electronic cable TV equipment. Jerrold was the original company and then some other companies like Entron, Westbury, and a few other companies like that, came about in later years. But Jerrold was the big company.
HATCH: Does this square with your perception of the way it really was?
DAVENPORT: Yes, it does. I definitely feel that Ed Parsons is the grandfather of cable TV, period. He had the first idea. He started out. He couldn't get financial backing so he really never got into commercial business as such. Walson probably has to be given credit and I think the young lady that was writing this paper for her doctor's degree actually had made the study and it is correct. I do feel that and that's the first time I've ever admitted it. I will also stand that Astoria, Oregon, was the birthplace of cable TV.
HATCH: I'm sure somebody is going to come up with a copy of this, if not I'll bring it back to you.
DAVENPORT: Well, one of the guys like Strat Smith has got the book, but someone got away with my book. In May 23, 1968, or in early '68, I got the idea if I was going to beat these boys in Pennsylvania, I had to do something out west to get Astoria recognized as the first cable system in the business. So I came up with the idea that, where Astoria had a city park and a monument in Astoria, I'd work to erect a marker designating it as the original cable TV system in the United States. I have copies here of the speech I gave that morning. I have numerous pictures. (See transcript of Tape 3, Side A)
HATCH: What was the date of this marker?
DAVENPORT: The dedication was May 23, 1968. One way or another I really scooped the boys because I got Fred Ford, who had became president of our NCTA and had just left as chairman of the FCC, to come out and be at the dedication. He had to recognize Astoria as the first or he wouldn't have been there that day as the principal speaker.
HATCH: You're a politician too, aren't you?
DAVENPORT: And I have a copy of the program. I have a copy of my speech that I gave that morning. I don't know if you'd like to have me read this speech in for the record, it isn't that long:
Monument Dedication, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, Oregon, May 23, 1968. This is a speech given by me as master of ceremonies of the occasion. At the occasion were many people, but the principals of the program were Roy A. Duoos, Acting Mayor, City of Astoria; Fredrick W. Ford, President, National Cable Television Association, Washington, D.C. and immediate past chairman of the FCC; Marcus Bartlett, Vice‑president of the Cox Broadcasting Corporation; Douglas C. Talbott, National General Manager of Cox Cablevision, Atlanta; Mr. L. E. "Ed" Parsons, Owner, Communications Supply, Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska, who built and initiated the first cable system in Astoria; and Ronald Martinson, President, Astoria Ministerial Association.
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen. The city of Astoria is one of the more historic cities west of the Mississippi River. As we stand here this morning we can look out to the mouth of the mighty Columbia River‑‑discovered by Capt. Robert Gray‑‑the river that brought the first white man to this part of the continent. We can look across Young's Bay to the site where Lewis and Clark ended their trek west and wintered in 1805‑06 before starting their journey back to St. Louis. We can look upon the first city in Oregon, our city of Astoria, the site of the first U.S. Customs House and Post Office west of the Rockies; and many other historic firsts too numerous to mention. Today we are here to commemorate another first‑‑the birth of cable television, the fastest growing medium in the communications industry.
To extend greetings from this beautiful historic city is our Acting Mayor, Roy A. Duoos."
"Thank you, Mayor Duoos. In the past nineteen plus years cable television has grown even beyond the wildest dreams of the inventor and the industry pioneers. It is a distinct privilege to have as our dedication speaker today the president of the National Cable Television Association, Mr. Frederick W. Ford, from Washington D.C. Mr. Ford was born in Bluefield, West Virginia. He graduated from West Virginia University with an A.B. degree and received his law degree from that University's Law School. He practiced law in West Virginia and entered government service in 1939 serving in the Federal Security Agency, Office of Price Administration and Department of Justice. He served in the Air Force during World War II during which time he advanced to the rank of Major. In 1947 he joined the Federal Communication Commission serving in numerous staff positions, eventually becoming the first chief of the Hearing Division of the Broadcast Bureau. On August 29, 1957, President Eisenhower appointed Mr. Ford as a member of the FCC for a seven year term. On March 15, 1960, President Eisenhower designated him to serve as the Commission's chairman in which capacity he served until March 1, 1961. On May 12, 1964, President Johnson nominated him to a second seven year term which he resigned on January 2, 1965, to accept the position of president of the National Cable Television Association--the position he holds today. We're fortunate to have Mr. Ford in our industry and we are especially pleased to have him here in the great Northwest. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Frederick Ford."
A byline of this you can see where Fred Ford served during the rough years of cable TV development and some of our problems with FCC and their problems with us. I could go on here but I'll give you copies of this where I introduced the vice‑president of our corporation from Atlanta and then on with the program as it went. Later in here, I would like to read about my part of the speech about Ed Parsons.
End of Tape 1, Side B
DAVENPORT: This is continuing about my presentation at the dedication of the monument in Astoria, Oregon, naming the Astoria system as the origination of cable TV.
(SPEECH) "This dedication wouldn't be complete without recognizing the person whose vision and ingenuity almost twenty years ago made this gathering possible today. The story goes that Ed Parson's wife urged her husband in 1948 to devise a way for them to see 'pictures with their radio set.' (This is a true story.) She, of course, was talking about television which was coming to Seattle, some 125 miles away.
It was a tall order, but not for Ed, who for many years has been considered an electronics genius.
The balance of the story is written in the words inscribed on this marker.
It is a genuine privilege for me to present my friend, the inventor of cable television, and known today throughout the state of Alaska as 'The Great White Father' ‑‑‑ Mr. Ed Parsons."
He is referred to by the native Eskimos throughout the state of Alaska as, "The Great White Father," because he flew his personal plane into these back areas on communications for these people.
I have some pictures here. This first picture I'm showing you are the people that were the principals in the program. This being Mr. Parsons, right here. (See transcripts of Tape 3, Side A) That was the vice president of Cox Broadcasting, my parent company, that was in charge of Cable TV out of Atlanta. This is Fred Ford. This is at the base of the big column in the city park of Astoria. These are sideline pictures. This man was president and this man, secretary of the Northwest Cable Association talking to Fred Ford. This is yours truly on the podium and with the monument marker here. Another picture of the group. This is the picture of what they call the Astor column in the city park. This is Fred Ford speaking. This was Ed Parsons at the reception. This gentleman here is recognized as the first one to receive cable TV in Astoria. He had a music store. This is Fred Ford, Clay White, president of the Northwest Association, Ed Parsons, and yours truly and you can see the top of the monument.
HATCH: What does it say?
DAVENPORT: Let me get the large picture to read. I'll have to try to read it off here. 'Cable television was invented,' this is what is on the face of the monument, 'and developed by L. E. "Ed" Parsons on Thanksgiving Day 1948. The system carried the first TV transmission by KRSX‑TV, Channel 5, Seattle. This marked the beginning of cable TV.' (See transcript for Tape 3, Side A)
HATCH: Now, did the brass plaque on the top say something?
DAVENPORT: Yes, it did. These are things that people have not returned to me.
HATCH: What I will do is record another tape (Tape 3, Side A) and any documents that I can take with me to get copied and return to you. We can number and describe them.
DAVENPORT: On the back of this (on the inside of the program) is just what I read to you. I'll give you copies of this and the program of the day.
Now another important thing that I think you need as a record in the Museum and this can be verified especially by Strat Smith and Marty Malarkey of Malarkey‑Taylor, who was the first president of the NCTA. He served three terms. Strat Smith was our first attorney for the Association and more or less acting day-to-day president. You might say Marty was chairman and Strat was a paid employee. They are both living, both active. Strat's in Florida and Marty, of course, is working out of Washington, D.C. with his consulting firm. Archer Taylor, his partner, was an early pioneer in cable TV along with me in the Northwest in the state of Montana. Strat and Marty can back up this statement. Strat was interested in getting more support in different regions. Mr. Bergren, who I mentioned was always the ringleader in everything, came to me and he said, "I want you to organize an association of cable operators in the Northwest where we can sit down and compare notes and learn from each other." So the Northwest was the first to form a regional trade association. We called it the Pacific Northwest Community Television Association. That was the first regional trade association in the industry. Strat used to fly out from Washington, D.C. to every one of our meetings. We had them every three months in those days. I feel that since ours was the first trade association on a regional basis, we were also the first one to have a legislative committee to work with our state legislators. I think I can truthfully say, unless someone wants to challenge me, that I was probably the first one to hire a paid lobbyist to work in a state legislature.
HATCH: Now, what were the principal political thrusts at that time? What were you trying to achieve? What were the objectives of that committee and the association?
DAVENPORT: Politically, it was to stop public service control at the state level because people were becoming interested in us and the Public Service Commissions were starting to look at controlling cable TV like telephone or power.
HATCH: Governing rates?
DAVENPORT: That's right. And also legislatures were looking for more tax income. They were looking at taxing us and things like that. So we had our problems.
HATCH: You were a thriving economic entity at that time.
DAVENPORT: That's right. I used to tell my peers, "Don't worry about all this. We must have something good because they are coming after us."
HATCH: You were past the period then of the freeze on television stations. You saw that very clearly at the time.
DAVENPORT: That's right. Then it broke out. Everyone got interested in us. How are we going to stop this cable TV? They're getting too big for their boots. You know, I can appreciate that the telephone company could see us with wire strung out there parallel to them, thinking we'd go into the telephone business.
HATCH: Did you ever consider that?
DAVENPORT: No. Honestly in our industry, the telephone company has very unfounded grounds. The only place that they had any concern has been in the latter years when we went into cities where we might get into digital transmission. We found that not to be too economically feasible in the last five years. So I think their fears were unfounded, but again, as I said before, I didn't blame the people. They could see a threat, but they didn't know what kind of threat. You take a look back, what does Bell do? Bell used to take things in their laps and study them for ten years. How are they going to "work" before they invest? We were a bunch of entrepreneurs. We went out there and we didn't know whether it was going to work, but we invested. The phone companies were looking ten years down the road; should they be in the cable TV business or not. We were doing it. And we were doing it so rapidly that their work in the Bell labs was being wasted because by the time they got through with their decision and their lab work, we'd have the communities all built. And there were some grounds probably for some interference on their part from that stand point. But I think you can document very well that the Northwest Association was the first regional trade association.
HATCH: And the date of that beginning of the Association?
DAVENPORT: Oh, boy. Thirtieth anniversary.
HATCH: You had a woman president in '85. (They are looking at materials from the 30th anniversary meeting. See transcript for Tape 3, Side A)
DAVENPORT: Now, Marty Malarkey is a well known name, started in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Here is a letter he wrote:
"It is hard to believe that thirty-seven years have gone by since the very first cable system in Astoria, Oregon began providing service to its subscribers, and that thirty years have elapsed since the founding of the Pacific Northwest Cable Communications Association, the first (and, I dare say, a most influential) regional cable association."
In January '55, the first organizational meeting was held. I was the temporary chairman. Then I became the second president of the Association. The first official meeting after forming the association was May 17. You see early we had Senator Magnusson out there just giving them hell about the illegal boosters and no one knowing anything about it."
HATCH: I see you had a technical committee as a part of your association.
DAVENPORT: Oh, yes. (Still referring to documents. See transcripts of Tape 3, Side A.) And it will give you the name of all the original ones that formed the Association. This gentleman here, his father was an original partner with J.C. Penney in one of J.C. Penney's first of five stores.
HATCH: That's Newell Priess.
DAVENPORT: Priess. He's deceased now.
HATCH: He was from what part of the country?
DAVENPORT: He was from Idaho. We really started the Association originally with only three states: Oregon, Washington, and Idaho because we told Montana it was too tough to get into their state to hold a meeting. Montana attended all our meetings, but we would not recognize them as a member. Finally, in the tenth year, I brought it up myself. I said, "They've been in here supporting us. We ought to recognize them. Let's go to Montana for a meeting."
Alaska had only two operators. They came to every one of our meetings, but we never did recognize Alaska till later years in the Association. At one time they tried to get us to expand the Association clear into Colorado. But we were all good old country boys out there and we didn't figure on traveling that far. We liked to stay in our own backyard. But I will go ahead and copy all of this for you which you can document at the Museum. I had it all dug out for me to formulate my speech because I was honorary chairman out there for the last convention.
HATCH: Was this Association kind of the beginnings of what is now the National Association?
DAVENPORT: No. NCTA was formed originally in 1952 and Marty Malarkey was the father. The first convention I attended was 1955. I remember it was held in Washington, D.C. We counted wives, we counted the guests, we counted babies, and we came up with seventy-five people attending the first NCTA convention that I attended. I think the first one was 1952. I've got a picture of 1958 in there. But through Marty Malarkey and some of those people I'm sure you can get pictures right back from year one. This is really no keepsake. There's a lot of them floating around.
Here's how we used to advertise our business. (See brochure and transcript of Tape 3, Side A). This was my first engineer. That's the type of trucks we used to have. This gentleman was my second engineer. He's a manager out in northern California just ready to retire like I am.
HATCH: Yes, if we could get a copy of that, I think that would be interesting because that has what cable television is and the history of the system out there.
DAVENPORT: I might have another one of these (photos) or I can go back to The Dalles and they may have it in their archives. You let me work on this and give me an address and I'll reproduce a lot of this stuff and just send it to you.
HATCH: Because the objective is not only to have these transcripts but for the serious scholar who wants to do a Ph.D. thesis or a book to have records.
DAVENPORT: These antennas here are racked to receive Channel 5 out of Seattle in Astoria, Oregon. You can see how we racked them: 2, 4, 6, 8. I racked as many as 16. I had one rack 108 feet long and another one 105 feet long.
HATCH: I'm not an engineer, so explain to me what you are really doing and how that gives you the reception of the signal.
DAVENPORT: Ok. If you put up a single antenna, you only receive so much signal. Now if your path is rather wide, you put up all these antennas. Each one captures a little bit of signal. Then you bring it together and you've got more signal than you've captured with one antenna. That's the way we got these distant signals. These were picking up a station one hundred twenty-five miles away.
HATCH: You've got four racks there or is that eight?
DAVENPORT: That's eight. Eight antennas racked.
HATCH: And you said on one occasion you had how many?
DAVENPORT: In The Dalles I had sixteen each for Channel 4 and Channel 5.
HATCH: And you had them pointed in a specific way?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: Is this what you would call the headend?
DAVENPORT: That's the yagi antenna and in this building would be the headend equipment. (Referring to photos. See transcript of Tape 3, Side A)
HATCH: And that fed the cable that went down under the river?
DAVENPORT: That's right. Well, this one happens to be in Astoria, Oregon. It wasn't in The Dalles. What I'd like to do is go through and see if you can use any of this. I also may call my ex‑manager and ask him to go through the archives and see if he can find something there that probably doesn't mean that much to the system. How have you people done in getting old equipment? Pretty good?
HATCH: I brought a couple of clippings a long that were published locally. I think some contributions have been made, but this is an objective too. Do you know of the equipment, some of this original stuff that might be secured?
DAVENPORT: I could cover the systems we just sold out in Oregon and ask them if they've got anything left around. At Long Beach, Washington, we had what we called G‑line that was popular.
HATCH: Has cable itself changed very much over the years? Even a section of this first Astoria system? Is there some of that?
DAVENPORT: Well, Astoria has been rebuilt three times. So you see how the technology has changed. It is very common for me to say anything we buy today will be obsolete six months from now. Technology changed so rapidly. That isn't true today. The technology is pretty well set.
HATCH: I think anything in the way of the evolution of cable, the evolution of amplifiers, I'm thinking of a caption underneath one of those old automatic gain amplifiers where your man went out and turned the volume up in the day and down in the evening, would one of those amplifiers still be in existence?
DAVENPORT: Well, most of us junked that stuff. That was all Entron amplifiers we were using. I know we had some out at our trade show at our Pioneer's meeting and there was a lot of the equipment we used out there. But I could go ahead and contact our people out there and ask if they have anything left in the warehouse. I would be most interested if you didn't have what we call the G‑line. Now I don't know, in my Long Beach warehouse the technician strung it up from the roof inside the warehouse and I don't know if it is still there or not. That was a way we tried to distribute cable, but you've got to go clear back and get the old timers from my age bracket that know what G‑line is.
G‑line started out something like this. (Demonstrating) It was a wire horn. It came out like this. A single wire came out of here and we'd shoot five miles down the road with this to another horn. We'd have no houses in between here, so we'd shoot this five miles and then take our signal out of here and go back into cable. We'd come out of here. Well, as I was telling you in those days they didn't worry about radiation. Now the second leg was actually the ground. We ran a ground down like this and a ground like this and our second leg was here. This was nothing but an open wire just like the old, old style telephone bare wire. It would radiate like mad.
We used to have state police that didn't have anything to do. They'd go up there and park and they'd listen on their radio to the television audio at night. It radiated that bad. But as time went on they wouldn't let you use that G‑line. You just about have to go into the state of Montana and some of the Northwest to find it now.
And then we had what they called ladder line. Two bare wires and ever so far there was an insulator. You could really kick this stuff out. But that was called ladder line and I'm sure you have some of it in the Museum already. These were bare wires and they radiated out. They're not allowed today, period. If you were in an area where there were roof top antennas and they were picking up a television station, our radiation would just foul their picture up. But you could use this stuff where you had no other type of pickup like in a community that couldn't pick up a broadcast station, you could use this and not get in trouble.
HATCH: You energized each of these hops right? These were in a sense a form of amplifier? Horn
DAVENPORT: Yes. We had an amplifier here (at the receiving or transmitting horn). We amplified the signal and the amplifier shot it down this wire and this picked it up. Over in Long Beach, I was shooting down there a little over three miles with one of these links like this. Think of the money you'd save. I didn't have to put up coaxial cable amplifiers or anything. But that disappeared as the rules from the FCC came along. We had fun in those days. We didn't know what we were doing. We figured out a way to do it and save a buck and make a buck. We had fun. Today it's too sophisticated. It's an attorney's job today. Everything is legal. You've got to have an attorney for everything you do. In those days nobody asked us anything. We just went out and did it. Had fun. Really had fun.
HATCH: One of the questions on the list is the regulation and especially what's been happening in recent weeks relative to cable, even the Supreme Court ruling.
DAVENPORT: You're talking about the California case that they're just ruling on this week.
HATCH: Yes. For the record this is whether a city or a municipality has the right to restrict the franchise to just one cable operator or whether the city has to allow a second operator to come in.
DAVENPORT: I understand. And it's a First Amendment deal. I think that it is the first Supreme Court ruling I've ever seen that they didn't rule. They ran away from it. They just did some hedge talking and I really don't know what came out of that. Now, I've read the case. I've read their opinions. They recognize that cable has some First Amendment rights. They didn't specifically say we had total First Amendment rights. Our Association is saying we won the ball game. They said it has to go back to lower courts to decide whether a city should be forced to give two franchises.
Now, I'm mixed on this case. I feel the cable company should have won the case, cut and dried. We lost the war because it's a proven fact that it is not economically feasible for two cable operators to operate in the same community. It absolutely is not. Number one, you are cluttering up the poles. We have a hard enough time abiding by the National Electrical Safety Code on space with one cable operator. When you get two, they've got to be spaced apart. There's got to be more space. There's got to be more poles changed out. It's another cable in the ground and if it's underground then if you have to replace the cable or repair it, you dig the other guy up. Then you end up with one cable operator, let's say, getting twenty-five thousand subscribers and another getting eight thousand. The guy with eight thousand can't survive economically. The guy that's got eight thousand has taken away from the big boy who, if he had more income, could do better things for the community. I just do not believe in dual systems. As I say, if we had had a clear cut win in the case, I'd feel we won the war.
HATCH: Based on what you're saying it doesn't seem that the cable industry should be shouting that we won.
DAVENPORT: I came from the background of being with a private power company and in those early years, when I was with that power company, public power was coming into being. I lived through those days. I saw poles on both sides of streets. I saw poles being shared by companies on an eight foot utility strip. I saw electrical lines crisscross. It's a hodgepodge. It's been proven in the power industry. Finally, Pacific Power and Light sold out to the public utility districts in the Northwest because it's just such a hodgepodge competition. You know, if a system is going to survive they still got to charge. They say competition lowers rates. Sure, the public utility district was carrying that load and the tax payers' money subsidized them. Pacific Power and Light, what they were doing, was buying a truck in a non‑competitive area, depreciating it rapidly, and then bringing it over where they could keep it on the books. So in reality the customer in another community was supporting the lesser rates in that community.
I'm just not for power, telephone, or cable dual systems. I think it's foolish for a city to consider it. See what happened to the power industry out in the Northwest, the fall of the Tennessee Valley Authority, then it became big in the Northwest. It made a very strong Republican out of me, anti‑government ownership, because I lived through it and I observed it and so forth. I came out of a Democratic family and I turned Republican pretty darn strong, and probably conservative Republican. I just don't believe in it; just can't see it. It's not economical and the rate base payer is going to pay for it in the end because one of them is going to go broke. Then the one that is going to survive is going to raise the rates high to make up for the losses the year before. Sooner or later the rate base payer is going to pay for it. I don't care what type of utility business it might be. Cable TV isn't a utility.
HATCH: Yes, that sounds like that same thing that's happening in the telephone industry, where the rates keep going up because of the competition that's been allowed now.
DAVENPORT: Sure, you can get--not naming any names--something other than AT&T, but till you get disconnected once in a while when you are on your long distance calls and things like that, are you saving anything? For instance, we're not customers of AT&T right now and my wife's on my back to transfer back to AT&T because of disconnected long distance calls.
HATCH: How practical is it for a large city like Philadelphia, for instance, to divvy up, say, ok, this section of the city will go with Cox, this section with TCI or some other cable operator? In a large city is it practical to have multiple franchises providing cable?
DAVENPORT: Yes, I believe it is. Philadelphia is large enough that by giving out quarters they have a big enough house space, homes passed space, to make it pay. Finally, the city of New York granted Cox half of Staten Island and granted another company half the island. We merged into one company because we felt that six thousand homes wasn't enough for the expense that we had to invest in there. See they would have had a headend, we had a headend, they had to have a cablecasting studio, we had a cablecasting studio. Sixty thousand homes, it wasn't in the ball park. I don't know the number in Philadelphia but I'd assume it was 250,000 homes per quarter. That would be feasible. But it is very difficult for a cable operator to make it in a major market. Very difficult. That's why Cox sold Tucson last year. I have the New Orleans system under my supervision and we'll be lucky to show anything in the black for ten years, period. Do you stay in a market like that or do you sell out and put your money where it will make money for you next year? It's a pretty hard decision.
HATCH: You were talking about the regulation and the concept of the spurious signal going out. The cost of establishing a cable service, I guess, is many fold higher than it was just five or ten years ago.
DAVENPORT: Definitely, for instance, on Staten Island we're figuring our underground is going to cost us about $83,000 a mile to install. I've installed in rural communities, small cities, I've installed underground for less than $10,000 per mile in the past. We are getting ready to rebuild Gainesville, Florida. Our underground down there is going to cost us about $18,000 a mile. In the urban markets like Staten Island, $83,000. We're building the French quarter in New Orleans right now and it's going to cost us about $100,000 a mile.
HATCH: Is that going underground?
HATCH: Is that the trend nationally to go more underground?
DAVENPORT: Not really. Only where utilities are underground. It's too costly.
HATCH: There's more cost in going underground?
DAVENPORT: Oh, definitely. Why would they ask a cable system to do it if telephone and power are all overhead? But what you're franchises will read is when utilities go underground, everybody goes underground. I think the day will come when you'll see it all underground. What's bad about it, the underground is so expensive. If you initially go in there and operate for fifteen years and get your investment back and show a profit, then your system's about worn out and you are ready to rebuild. Then next time you've got money in your pocket you can put it underground. That's our philosophy from the cable operator's standpoint.
HATCH: Cable operators today are looking at a ten to fifteen year amortizing of their investment. Is there any rule of thumb on that business side of cable?
DAVENPORT: Well, we have certain depreciation schedules with IRS. We feel they're quite realistic. Some may have a longer life, some may have a lesser life. I sit down with tax people and they've tried to get out of me how long cable lasts. When aluminum cable first came in, IRS paid me a visit and said, "What's the life of aluminum cable?" I thought, "How do I know? We just installed it last year. Now you want to know the life of the original cable we had, I can tell you that. It was darn lucky to get ten years out of it. I don't know if aluminum cable is going to last ten, fifteen, or twenty years. I don't know. You've got to give me twenty years to find out."
HATCH: Maybe this would be a good place to stop. Would you like to take a break?
HATCH: Are we looking at a newspaper? (See transcript of Tape 3, Side A)
DAVENPORT: We are looking at a special edition we put in The Dalles Chronicle in The Dalles, Oregon, on October 4, 1963. This is a picture that I had that disappeared. This was how we had the submarine cable and feed it off the barge into the river. This page is a promotion for when we expanded the services, in June '54--two channels, now seven channels plus FM. Here's the two big antenna racks I told you about. The one was 105 feet long, the other 108. We stacked sixteen antennas on each. That was to pick up at The Dalles. Here was one of our original antenna sites up on the mountain. And this is another picture of the first showing for the television dealers when we first built the system. These are getting to be pretty sloppy copies. (See transcript for Tape 3, Side A)
HATCH: This is a newspaper TV FM section. It's devoted to all this history and news and it has some wrap around commercials for furniture dealers, radio, TV service operators. It's a mix of commercials related to the cable service.
DAVENPORT: Yes. In those days we didn't have marketing or sales managers. The manager did it all. He was the marketing and promotion manager; he was everything. So I did most of the marketing, that is promotions and so forth.
HATCH: Now the way this ad is written, your ad for The Dalles TV cable system, you've got cable TV and typed just as big AND NOW FM RADIO you seem to be making a big deal about FM. Tell me about that.
DAVENPORT: Well, in later years we found out that people could not pick up FM radio in the mountainous regions just like they couldn't pick up TV. So we found out we could pick up FM and carry twenty channels of FM stations from the metropolitan markets and then we brought FM in. Then if you had your FM radio over there, we'd sell you another TV outlet, but you'd only take radio out of it. So we'd make another $1.50 on that outlet so you'd get FM radio.
HATCH: Always selling.
DAVENPORT: I had an engineer that was a nut on FM radio and he really worked on it. He discovered we could bring FM in and could sell extra outlets.
HATCH: I'll never forget my first FM stereo experience. You remember the days when you had FM, but you had one channel out of FM and you got the other channel out of AM and you put the two radio together and you got stereo.
DAVENPORT: You got stereo. Why don't you let me take you to lunch?
HATCH: We want to follow up on a couple of topics we discussed at lunch together. One is relative to labor relations, management, personnel. With your years of experience in managing people and running cable systems, what have you learned?
DAVENPORT: Well, in my over thirty-two years of management I have never been unionized, at least up to this year where I have a favorable union vote in one of my systems. In acquisitions by purchase we acquired five different union units in which the employees in each, in time after being under my supervision, elected to decertify it. My success, I feel, is to have an open ear to the employees' problems. My philosophy is if an employee walks into my office and they say they have a problem, you should listen to it intently and help them and counsel them on the problem because if it is important for them to come into your office, it's a big problem for them even though it may sound very foolish to you at the time they come in. I'll give you an example.
I think in my management career, as I look back, I saved four different marriages by taking time at night to go counsel the wife, counsel the man.
I had a call one morning shortly after 7:30 from an employee saying that he had to see me and I said, "Well, I'll see you at the office at 8:00." He said, "No, I've got to see you before we get to the office." He drove into my yard, came to the door, I asked him into the house. He said, "No, no, I want to talk to you out in my truck." You know what happened," he said, "I'm going to be arrested." I said, "What for Jim?" He said, "Well, for paddling my wife." I said, "For what?" He said, "Paddling my wife." And I said, "Come on Jim. What did you do? Hit her with fists?" "No, I turned her over on my knee and paddled her. And she's sworn out a warrant for my arrest and I don't want to embarrass the company and embarrass you. Should I go home and wait for them to come get me?" I said, "No, you go to the office." And I said, "Number one, something's wrong here because the D.A. doesn't go to work until 9:00 and she has to go through the D.A. to get the sheriff to arrest you. So something's wrong." So I went to the office and I called up his wife and I said, "Marilyn, what's going on?" She said, "Oh, did that big lug tell you all about that?" I said, "Yes." And I said, "All right, what's the problem?"
"Well," she said, "I went into Portland which is about eighty miles away. We have a tight budget and I burned up some gas that he felt I shouldn't have. We got in a fight so I locked myself in the bathroom. I crawled out the bathroom window and I went and stayed away all night with a girlfriend. When I came back the next morning, he literally paddled me and I went to the phone and told him I'd called the sheriff and they were coming after him."
Well, you know, to me it was funny, but to them it was a big problem. I had about four different counseling sessions with each of them and finally it ended up that--in those days people didn't make much money--each payday he was to give her $10 and that was her money. She could do anything she wanted, save it for Christmas presents, buy gas to go see her mother, and so on. The rest of it was their budget which he controlled with an iron hand. I mean that's an example of an employee's problem; a big problem to them or they wouldn't come to you. I think the young managers are not listening to the employees' problems and they're not seeing danger signs. If you've got good supervisors, I don't believe they have to go to a union. The only reason they go to a union is to get someone to listen to them.
End of Tape 2, Side A
DAVENPORT: Summing that up, management has to have good relations with people. The only reason, I feel, that people go to unions is strictly to have someone represent them because their supervisor or management refuses to represent them.
HATCH: You mentioned at lunch that you tried to meet with each employee once a year. And this is kind of on the "qt," that's confidential.
DAVENPORT: No, I make a system visit once a year and I have a general employees meeting. I cover what our company is doing, where we have progressed, give them a corporate report. Then open up for questions on, for instance, fringe benefits if we had an improvement on fringe benefits and explain why. We just had a major fringe benefit change in our company and it looks like the employees accept it very well. When we consolidated companies we had to have one policy for all twelve thousand employees. The cable people got some pluses and they got some minuses. By getting out and answering those questions and explaining why, they're not going to go to a union to try to get something back. I'll hold these general meetings and then I'll tell the people I'm going to be there the balance of the day and that any one of them is free to have an individual conference with me. They all know my policy that anything they say to me I will never tell their supervisor or manager unless they release me. There may be some time when I'll say to them, "Look, I've got to talk to your manager, and I can't help you on this unless you release me." If they release me, then I'll talk to the manager. And they all know that they can talk to me confidentially.
When I visit the system, I generally try to get there before the business office opens and go into the employees lounge. They have two or three in every system who generally come to work early who sit around and drink coffee. You'd be surprised what you pick up there or out in the back lot in the trucks when they are about ready to take off. I'd walk up to a man and say, "How are you getting along? How do you like your job?" I'd chat for a while and pretty soon if he's got something on his mind, he's going to tell me. And you get a little indication if you've got problems in your system before they really get started. Really, it's all communications. Where you've got a manager that fails to communicate with his people, you are going to have problems. It's something we watch very closely.
HATCH: You can't have trust without communications, I guess.
DAVENPORT: That's right.
HATCH: You were also telling me at lunch, you have two sons who are now in the cable business in slightly different ends than you. Tell us about that, what they're doing, and how they evolved and got into the other end of cable television.
DAVENPORT: I say I poisoned my sons to the management field at the dinner table by coming home and telling my wife all the problems I had during the day. The boys would remark as they grew up, "Boy, I wouldn't have a job like yours, Dad." I guess being in the cable business all those years, they leaned to the cable business. I had three sons. One was killed, but all three went into cable TV construction. They worked together and they worked separately. The two boys that are still alive, they're both in the underground cable TV construction business and doing very well.
HATCH: Where are they working now?
DAVENPORT: Well, one boy is working right out of Washington, D.C., and has a very good contract. The other boy is working for a company in Denver. Both of them doing the same type work. The boy who was killed had the contract for Times Mirror in all the underground for the city of Phoenix. At that time his two brothers subcontracted under him. But I guess I poisoned them at the dinner table by saying all the bad things about management; they wanted no part of it.
HATCH: I guess even at the construction site of cable TV there is an element of management, too.
DAVENPORT: Well, one boy I was able to get to stay in college and get his degree. The other boy I got to stay until about mid‑year through his second year. Probably the boy that didn't get the college education is more successful but he is smart enough that he's covered himself with a good accountant and a good attorney and I think that has made up for his shortcoming of what he might not have gotten from higher education.
HATCH: You also talked about the importance of education for anyone going out of a college or a university into the communication field, that many of the students are not getting today. What's your approach to that?
DAVENPORT: What I'm finding interviewing students, no matter what their degree might be in and I mean we've got managers working for us you'd be surprised what their degrees are in. One is in psychology, one criminology, and a business B.A. degree and such as that. But I'm finding that in radio, television, and communications, being the industry that we are, a lot of young people turn to us looking for jobs. Maybe after employment or in the interviews we'll find out their interest is really in management and then you get to discussing with them what their course of study was.
Believe it or not, I had one young man that is with the company today who has been very successful due to self study. He had a graduate degree in radio and communication, he had an undergraduate degree in communications. He came to work in the business and finance field for us and in later years I found out he had never even had a simple bookkeeping course in high school. Not accounting or financing in undergraduate or graduate school. But this unusual man was successful because of self study. I think the big shortcoming in our educational programs with someone that's going to enter the business world anyplace is they should take more courses in accounting, marketing, and finance. Then I would also encourage some varied courses, human relations, maybe psychology principles, how to get along with people, how to treat people. It's hard to tell people to treat people like you want people to treat you. But that's the best advice you can give them. I think our students are thinking maybe accounting or finance is too tough a course for them and they are dodging them. But then they want to go into the business world and that is what you need, an accounting background and a financial background to be successful in the world today.
HATCH: You said once you get in the business to be successful, you've got to have adequate legal or good legal advice and good accounting advice. Expand on that.
DAVENPORT: Well, number one is individuals. We can take all the studies we may want to take, but what happens to the tax laws, they change tomorrow. Just like we are going through with our Federal government right now on a major tax overhaul, so it's something you'd have to keep studying on. It's just too complicated. And to make any business you've got to have good accountant support and it's the same way in finance. The world changes too fast, the tax laws and everything else, that you can't keep up with it unless you specialize in those fields. So you can be successful in life and management if you surround yourself with the right people to cover your own weakness.
HATCH: Taking a slight diversion to something we talked about earlier. Back in the '70s I know the FCC put a lot of pressure on the cable systems to provide local access channels and get into local origination, to provide channels for politics and government and education. What has your experience been in cable television where the cable operators have been program producers, the whole concept of program production, and local access channels?
DAVENPORT: It has not been good. In our major markets more so than anything they've asked for eight, ten, twelve access channels. I know of one system where I helped negotiate the franchise that called for eight access channels. This was supposed to be a highly educated area in which the people would use them. The system has been in a little over five years and there is only one channel used. They wanted a library channel, they wanted a government channel, they wanted this, and they wanted that, and none of them are being used.
HATCH: What is it, do they just not know what's involved in programming, filling the space or the air?
DAVENPORT: The people that would be capable to put on good programming on those channels are not going to take time to do it because it would have to be done on their personal time and they're just not going to take time to do it. Now you may have someone that's very sold on some cause. One way or another, they are going to take time to come down and do it. But generally, it's some cause that the general population is not interested in so they're not going to watch it when they put it on. Our experience has been that we do provide the channels. They are there to use. If they were used properly it would add to what we have to offer the customer, but the people are just not going to take the time to put the effort into programming because it is more effort than it looks like out there.
HATCH: You've probably heard of the PENNARAMA educational service that the cable industry in Pennsylvania and Penn State University have teamed up to do.
DAVENPORT: You want to tie all the cable systems together.
HATCH: And provide twenty-four‑hour, seven‑day‑a‑week educational service. Is that an oddity? Is that going to be a Pennsylvania‑only sort of thing that will never work anyplace else?
DAVENPORT: It's the only place I've heard where you're trying to tie all your cable systems together in the state. Now, I'm familiar with your program because my management, when I had the Lewistown system, kept me well informed of what you were trying to do. And I think you had an excellent idea. Now there within your school you would have facilities for programming. You could put something out and be very worthwhile. I've heard of it in other cities, one or another, doing the same thing. The University of Florida, for instance, they're doing a pretty good job in their journalism department down there. They have a channel on our cable system there. They're doing a great study on video text and trying to develop that and see if it would go on cable. They're using one of our cable channels for that. They are doing it with their students and their educational studies. I think it's an excellent program. You people are getting cooperation from the cable operators from what I understand, you're not getting a deaf ear. They're coming forward and trying to help put it together.
HATCH: I think it's now into seven hundred thousand Pennsylvania homes.
DAVENPORT: I didn't realize you have it going that far.
HATCH: The video text that you mentioned. A couple of the newspaper chains, Knight-Ridder, for instance, tried that and I think they've abandoned it.
DAVENPORT: They've abandoned it.
HATCH: Is that really just not going to work as a cable service?
DAVENPORT: It has not been accepted and I don't know why. I've seen displays of what they're trying to do at conventions and things like that. But it has just not been accepted by the public. The general public doesn't seem to want to sit at a screen and watch text. Local cable and the newspapers now have a channel on the local cable company here, but they're giving their news and so forth more like a broadcast station would. I understand they're quite successful. Another thing is talk shows like yours can bring in a new experiment going on in our Pensacola or New Orleans or Jefferson Parish, Louisiana systems.
Some gentlemen got an idea. They call it, "Blab TV" and they go three hours a night. They lease the channel and studio time from us and now they are selling that. And it is highly successful. For instance, they get an attorney in just to take calls maybe for an hour from people about their legal problems. This attorney said by the end of two weeks he had three cases that could make him over a million dollars if he won all three of them just by people not knowing what attorney to go to. They'd seen him on the air and they were impressed with him. That is very educational. They have one woman on there for half an hour on interior designing. In a way they're not advertising, but people become acquainted and when they need one they're hiring them. Now a talk show seemed to be very good on access channels. Very good and well received. You don't have to be professional.
HATCH: What has the impact been on pay channels within the operation of the cable service? What really happened with your first experience with pay‑per‑view, an additional charge, such as Home Box Office?
DAVENPORT: Well, let's check your terminology. We have two different ones: pay‑per‑view where you pay for one program only then with HBO you pay by the month for the entire month for their entire programming day‑in and day‑out. It came in about two years before the advent of the satellite. In about '75 paid movies started. In '77 they went up on the satellites. Very, very popular. All cable operators have had in the last twelve months erosion of paid subscribers, in other words decreasing numbers. Evidently, the customer has taken a look at the amount of product that one has over the other. There is duplicated product over a year's time, so why do I have both services, let's say.
HBO and Showtime are like products, but Disney is a completely different line of product. Now there's a new one coming out called American Movie Channel; it's the old, old oldies. They don't cost as much to put on so naturally we'll probably sell it for about half the price we will others. We think in the older population of our customers that this will be a very popular channel and we are finding younger people who like to see some of the older movies, especially World War II and the John Waynes. It just, I think, is not quite enough diversity and people are evaluating it. Now this has stabilized. Maybe we, as cable operators, put too many on our system and oversold. Maybe we're responsible.
HATCH: Talking about satellites. The role of satellites in bring services to a headend of cable systems has been dynamite in the last two years. I want you to talk about that. Also, do you see maybe a threat from direct to home broadcasting from a satellite overhead, high powered. Has it been a Godsend in one end and somewhere down the road will the dog turn around and bite you?
DAVENPORT: Could be. You know the cities asked us to build fifty-four plus channels and if it wasn't for satellite service there would be no way we could even begin to fill those up. There is no doubt the satellites have brought us some very quality programming that people enjoy and do buy our service for it.
What you are referring to in the second part of your question is what we refer to as DBS which would be a grouping of services that you could receive with a very small dish on your roof top. I know this concerns some cable operators. It hasn't concerned me. I still think for the price we charge and delivering let's say thirty-five channels to your house, are you going to go out and buy a package of four or five here, and a package of four or five there?
I have a lake house up in north Georgia. I cannot pick up one off‑the‑air broadcast station. I have a satellite dish. My wife gets over there and starts running it. It's a variable dish that can cover all the satellites and her come‑back invariably is, "I'd pay $50 bucks a month not to put up with this thing. I can't find anything. I don't know how to run all of this equipment." A man may be different, but a housewife just doesn't like it. It's going to be the same way if you get DBS and you are picking up a number of them. I can't see a threat out there to our business yet. I'm very positive.
HATCH: Is it really a business opportunity where you start licensing the satellites or black boxes for descrambling the signal that's coming in? Do you charge a monthly fee to the person who gets the black box for decoding the satellite signals? Some cable systems are looking at that.
DAVENPORT: The big problem in this area is the pay movie supplier or the program supplier, it could be ESPN or it could be any of them. They're concerned about giving anyone the right to send their product to earth station receivers. What they've done so far is told the cable operator, "You can be our agent selling our product to any dish receiver that's in your service area where you're franchised."
Now in the rural areas they buy directly from each of the individual services. This is a kind of pain. If you've got twenty-five services, you're sending out twenty-five checks a month for services. This is why I think cable has got a plus over an earth station receiver. We're delivering twenty-five channels. He's going to get twenty-five channels on his earth station and he's got to send twenty-five checks a month. The average businessman or housewife doesn't put up for that type of stuff. They'll pay $15‑$20 more not to put up with it. It's a problem. Congress is looking at it as to how you deliver these. Should someone be franchised for the state of Georgia? The state of Pennsylvania? Or the state of California to cover this? Well, that would probably be the best way to do it, but who is going to get the franchise? Talk about your freedom of speech and so forth and the Los Angeles Supreme Court case. You're right back to the question of, "Who should get that right?" It's a big problem and I can see where the programmers are upset because I've pointed out twenty-five different services, twenty-five different checks. And who wants to put up with that? You are going to pay the individual suppliers accumulatively as much as you are going to pay the cable company anyway. But this will have to be the way rural people receive it.
HATCH: Cable serves where population is dense enough to support it. Do you see any technology that's coming along that might make cable deliver a quality signal to the rural area, to farms across the country? Is that going to be a part of our society that's just going to miss some of what the rest of us have access to?
DAVENPORT: Well, I would not rapidly say no to that because the telephone companies and the power companies faced the same thing at one time. They did not serve the rural areas just like we are. I've said to many people after we are fifty years old we will probably be in the rural areas because it took the power companies that long or longer to get there too. So give us a chance. You know technology in electronics is so rapid that a person would be foolish to say that a cable company could never do that. Now I'll give you an example. We used to say that maybe we needed eighty homes a mile to build a cable system in front of. Today with paid movies coming in, having this additional revenue, I use the gauge of forty homes a mile because they've got additional revenue that they didn't have before 1975. Will there be something else around the corner? Could it be pay‑per‑view, where you're paying for one program, by the program, like $2.50 or $3.50 for one movie? I don't know. I think a person would be foolish to say we will not be in the rural area because the power companies at one time said they couldn't afford to be out there but they're there. Maybe it will take government subsidy like the REAs. It may.
HATCH: Has the video tape or cassette recorder been a good thing or bad thing for cable television?
DAVENPORT: It depends on who you are talking to. You're talking to a positive person in me. Even my fellow officers don't totally agree with me. Let's look back on something. How many homes a few years back did you go in that you heard stereos going wide open? In your own home, how much was your stereo played? I ask you is your stereo sitting there today not being turned on? Do you go into homes and hear very few stereos going anymore? I think VCRs are a fad, just like the stereo. I think people go out and buy them like mad. I think they are going to disappear. I think you will see Christmas sales in 1986 taking nose dives on VCRs. Let's use another example, how about the video games? One Christmas, what two years ago, three years ago, they couldn't keep them on the shelves. Now you have video game manufacturers going broke, going bankrupt. They can't sell them. A fad.
HATCH: Personal computers.
DAVENPORT: That's right. Personal computers have taken a nose dive. I've never been overly alarmed, but the cable industry is taking a step forward to be compatible with the VCR. Like in all our systems, we are moving now to have displays set up in each of our customer reception areas showing how the VCR can be hooked up to cable. And they are compatible. Now they can get the most use out of it. We've got cable kits that they can buy and they can hook them up themselves. We've got people who are specialized that will go to their home and hook it up and show them how them can use it with cable. It is a little more complicated when we have a converter on the top of the set. But we have kits, we have people that are trained. The cable industry is what we call VCR friendly. I personally think it's a fad that's going to disappear.
HATCH: Lose its popularity.
DAVENPORT: You know, as we talked earlier, I've been positive on everything. When everyone started picking on us, I knew we had something good or they wouldn't be picking on us. That's the government and everyone else. I still think we've got a great industry.
HATCH: The sale and rental of video cassettes and movies and other entertainment, has that hurt the cable industry or have you noticed any difference?
DAVENPORT: I think it might have hurt our pay movies. I think it's mostly with younger people who maybe want to watch a show at their convenience because they've got a date tonight and they're not going to be home till 10:00, maybe not till 12:00. And they want to watch it next Saturday morning, more so than the adult customer. It is bound to have taken some of the interest of pay movies away.
HATCH: Buy outs, takeovers. You've been a local operator as well as a large corporate overseer of a number of systems. Has this been good for the cable industry, but more important has this been good for the subscriber, the person who is paying the bill, the loss of some local continuity? Has that happened?
DAVENPORT: I know there is concern in that area, but let's look at it this way. Those of us that went into the cable business in the early years didn't have the financial backing that we could spend money as technology advanced. The larger company that came in and purchased from us, could afford to retain or hire consultants and employees that were further advanced in the technology. They had more financial backing so they could go in and rebuild the systems and really give back home product to the customer. You know back in the early days they called us "Mom & Pop" operators. We served a purpose. But as the technology advanced, the system had to be rebuilt. It was originally a 12‑channel system. Then it went say a 21, 27, 35, 54. And the "Mom & Pops" didn't have the financial background that they could go and rebuild that plant when it really should have been rebuilt. I think your big boys, if you want to call them that, coming in have been good and I've been on both sides of the fence and watched what happened.
HATCH: It's provided the capital and management to do something that couldn't have happened with the "Mom & Pop" operators.
DAVENPORT: That's right. So I think it's been good for the industry. Take the small telephone operator. You may be pro Bell or you may not be, but what did Bell Telephone do for our telephone service taking over the small independent country operator? They improved telephone service. I think you've got the same thing in cable.
HATCH: Can you see a pattern of investors and a pattern of corporations who have come into cable television more than others?
DAVENPORT: Well, I don't know quite how to answer your question because we take a look at maybe the Group Ws and things like that who you thought were in to stay and now are going out. I thought things were pretty well shook out as to who were going to be the big people, but some of the big people are disappearing and being bought up by some of the littler ones that are now becoming the bigger operators. I think it's probably stabilized pretty well where you are going to see the same names for years to come.
HATCH: Looking over your total career there are a number of questions here. The biggest success, the most important move that you ever made in your association with cable television. The worst failure that you can recall, "Boy, we really blew that one."
DAVENPORT: You mean the most success?
DAVENPORT: The day I went to work for the cable industry.
HATCH: That was your wisest move?
DAVENPORT: My wisest move.
HATCH: Now, then the thing that really screwed up or was the worst failure, the thing that "Boy, I wish that hadn't happened." Can you think of something where things really fell apart?
DAVENPORT: Well, I don't know I could say something really fell apart. But probably--I'm not going to name any company names--one time a gentlemen approached me who wanted me to come to work for him because at that time he said he wanted to take it easy. God, he's working harder today than he's ever worked in his life and this was back in the early '50s and '60s. He offered me--if I'd come to work for him and take over operations--25 percent of the stock in the company over a five‑year period. And I told the gentleman that the money wasn't worth living in the state of Montana. He says, "Well, we're not going to be in the state of Montana very long." I said, "Well, you're there now and I'm not interested." I'd never been in Montana in my life and that was one of the most stupid things to say. Like I refused a job in Florida one time because I didn't want to live in Florida but I'd never been there at that time. But today, that gentleman is with a company that is one of the giants in our industry. I think that probably could have been the most stupid mistake I've made. But the industry and Cox have been very good to me, so I can't complain.
HATCH: Can you think of a time when you were on the firing line and subscribers were about to knock your door down, or the phone was ringing or customers were picketing you when something broke down or something important happened that you weren't delivering the services they wanted?
DAVENPORT: Back in the old days we used to use what we called a rhombic antenna, that was we'd stack two wires and they'd be in a diamond inside four poles and you had a little sharper pick up when you are picking up a station way off.
I think that Oregon State University hadn't been in the Rose Bowl for twenty-one or twenty-three years and they finally made it. So everyone in Oregon was interested in receiving that football game. And lo and behold, it became a very foggy day and freezing and all this fog started gathering on that antenna and it started forming ice. And the ice became like an insulator to pick up the signal and right after half time we lost the Oregon State Rose Bowl game and that was when I was ready to leave town. That is hard to explain.
HATCH: You didn't get any of the second half?
DAVENPORT: Didn't get the rest of the ball game.
HATCH: Any fun times like something really funny happened that comes to mind? Funny, humorous event with a cable connection.
DAVENPORT: There were a lot of them. People that I've told stories to that come to mind from time to time say I should jot them down and write a book after I retire. Some of them are humorous, but not for publication. Offhand I just can't think of anything right now. I guess overall just the fun I've had in the industry growing with it.
HATCH: You still seem to have a zest for it all. Are you going to retire at the end of this year?
DAVENPORT: I'm going to retire from Cox at the end of this year. I still hope to stay active in the industry to maybe up to 50 percent of my time.
HATCH: There are two major cable associations, your links with that, and you talked earlier about the Pacific Regional group of cable managers.
DAVENPORT: Are you referring to NCTA and CATA?
HATCH: Yes. What's your role been in those? Have you been active in those associations?
DAVENPORT: With the NCTA I've been very active, not in latter years. We used to have what we called the pole committee. That's the one that took up all the problems with the utility companies. I served on that committee for eleven years and that was when it was very important that we got a just pole rate and so forth. The committee was finally dissolved when the FCC took over control of the pole rates, telephone and power charges.
I was a founder of the Northwest Association and worked on many committees. I was the second president of the Association. I worked on the legislative committee for years and lobbied in the state capitol at Salem, Oregon. In fact in the early years I was the lobbyist for the industry because we didn't have money enough to pay for a paid lobbyist. The first couple of sessions I lobbied myself for the industry. I've been active in the Association before I moved to Atlanta in all capacities: budget, audit. Practically every year for the Association I served in a legislative capacity.
At the corporate level it has been kind of different. We generally try to leave the Association work up to the system managers instead of corporate people coming in and tramping on their toes. But I have been active in the trade associations where I have systems. I attend their meetings, participate, speak. I was honorary chairman for the Eastern Show two years ago. I've tried to be active. But at corporate level we take a back seat and want our system managers to be the leaders in the regional associations.
HATCH: You have a number of plaques over there. I see one from the Women in Cable. Tell us about what those are and what they represent in the way of your contributions.
DAVENPORT: Well, I don't know, the Women in Cable invited me to one of their meetings one night and I thought I was just going down to be recognized with a few other gentlemen for my years in cable and ended up with a plaque. I got up there and they told me I was supposed to give a speech and I said, "Thanks a lot," and I started talking off the cuff. I got a standing ovation and I heard it was one of the best speeches given to the ladies. So I must have made an impression to get that one.
Over there is a Harley Steiner Award which is the top award given in the Northwest area for the person that's done the most for cable. I was the second award winner on that.
Oh, this other one is from the employees of one of the systems we sold in centralizing our operations. I've got a bunch of them at home. Young Man of the Year. Outstanding Public Relations for the Industry in '58, '59. A few more of them like that. Cable Pac, Tower Club, which is the honor club of the southern association which is just people who have done a lot for cable. That's an honorary club called the Tower Club. I guess Tower comes from standing high.
HATCH: You shared with me a while ago your '68 resume. If we can get an updated one, we can make it a part of the files with all of the other good material and pictures that you are going to share with the Museum.
I've got a list of Pioneers here. Some of them you've already mentioned. I'd like you to just look at their names and say what first comes to your mind when you see this name and we'll just go right down through the list. Starting with your good friend and colleague Ed Parsons.
DAVENPORT: L. E. "Ed" Parsons. To me he was the founder of cable and had the first system in Astoria, Oregon.
Milton Jerrold Shapp. You know him well, he was your governor. Milt, they tell the story, was a young G.E. engineer and went out to see what Ed Parsons was doing and came back, quit G.E., and formed Jerrold Electronics. He's the first major manufacturer in the electronic field for cable TV. A man I have a lot of respect for and a good friend of mine.
John Walson. His real name is Walsonavich. A good friend of mine. Every time we get together we get into an argument whether he was first in cable or Astoria. John claims he's first in Pennsylvania.
Bob Tarlton. He's one of the real pioneers. He's one of the guys I enjoy most when we hit at a convention and have a drink together and shake hands. He's from Panther Valley Television.
Bill Daniels. Has the nickname the Father of Cable. Bill really has done a lot for cable. He's one of the drivers. I met Bill in the '50s. He was an insurance man and he got interested in cable, investing in cable. He'd come to the Northwest Association to try to learn something of what people were doing. A man I have a lot of admiration for. He approached me at one time to go into business with him. I'd have been the third man on his staff. And he wasn't the gentleman I was talking about giving me 25 percent of his company. But Bill tried for many, many years.
Ray Schneider. A good friend of mine. A Pennsylvania boy. Very active in our trade association in the early years. Ray, last time I saw him, was not in very good health.
George Barco. By golly, the great big attorney from Pennsylvania. George was a mouthpiece in the early days of our Association. He liked to get up on the floor and talk. He kept all of us honest and kept the Association going. He's a good attorney and really dedicated to cable TV.
John Campbell. Comes from Mineral Wells, Texas. He went into the manufacturing business, too. I guess he sold out to Jerrold in the latter years.
Fred Lieberman. I've got to tell you a story about Fred. He worked with Milt Shapp. They tell a story about Fred that he went up into north country and he bought a pair of boots which he put on his expense account. Came back and his controller said, "You can't put personal clothes on your expense account." He says, "Ok, take it off." So the next month he sent in his expense account and he had a note on there. He said, "The boots are in there. Try to find them." Fred has really been a pioneer, an entrepreneur. He formed Telesystems which he later sold to Cox. I believe his big interest is over in Switzerland. He's developing cable in Switzerland.
Jim Stilwell. He's the engineer who worked for Fred. He's probably one of the best known engineers in our business. A real pioneer also.
Marty Malarkey. The first president and probably the man that's given credit for forming our National Trade Association. He was president for the first three years and really got it off the ground. He had the Pottsville, Pennsylvania system. Then after he sold out, he went to Washington, D.C. and formed a very well known consulting firm, Malarkey‑Taylor. Archer Taylor, his partner, hails from Montana and was an early pioneer and also an ex‑professor at Montana State University.
HATCH: In the same vein if you only had sixty seconds to talk about Lew Davenport.
DAVENPORT: Had a good career and I've enjoyed every minute of it.
HATCH: Are there other names of people that should be added to this list that we don't have on there?
DAVENPORT: Well, you don't have Ben Conroy's name on there. Oh, wait, there's a file by Ben Conroy. A good old Texas boy. Oh, my golly, it wouldn't be fair. Just off‑the‑hand to say there's probably another hundred that deserve just as much as these gentlemen on here. They're all top people. You have so many. I would encourage you people that maybe in the Northwest history you contact Homer A. Bergren. I think you can find his number in the Seattle phone book. He lives on Mercer Island. Also, get hold of Ed Parsons and I'm sure Ed is still alive and still up in Alaska.
HATCH: Ok. I think we are going to wrap up this part of it, and I'm going to put in another tape and if we could just go through and identify and maybe number the photographs and those documents that we can borrow and have negatives made.
End of Tape 2, Side B
HATCH: Photo #1 - Reading from left to right, front row:
DAVENPORT: That would be Marcus Bartlett, vice‑president of Cox Broadcasting Corporation; Douglas C. Talbott, general manager of the Cox Cablevision Corporation at the time;
HATCH: (and he's the man in the dark suit and glasses)
DAVENPORT: and L. E. "Ed" Parsons, Father of Cable;
HATCH: (tall man right in front of the column)
DAVENPORT: the next person is Lew Davenport and to my left and the last person in the front row is Frederick Ford.
HATCH: (on the extreme right).
DAVENPORT: Starting in the back row left to right is Earl T. Ake, he was my division engineer working with me; next man is Bob Erickson who at that time was manager of Clatsop Television in Astoria, Oregon; next man is William Pitney who was a division vice‑president out of Cox's Atlanta office; next man right behind Parsons and Davenport is Tom Dowden who was marketing manager at the time for Cox Cablevision Corporation; the last man in the back row is Richard Hickman who was director of engineering for Cox Cablevision Corporation.
HATCH: Ok, now what we'll do probably is make copies of these and have negatives and do a caption for those and send back with the text of the audio tape so that you can review those. And you'll get your originals back at the same time then.
DAVENPORT: Photo #2 - Here's about the best close up I've got of Ed Parsons.
HATCH: And this is of Parsons pouring a cup of coffee with a stack of saucers in the background.
DAVENPORT: L. E. "Ed" Parsons. Picture labeled #2. On the back the date, May 23, 1968, Sea Fair Restaurant.
Photo #3 - Frederick Ford, president of the NCTA.
HATCH: A picture of Frederick Ford at the podium at the monument dedication in front of the Astor column in Astoria, Oregon.
DAVENPORT: Photo #4 - This is G. L. Davenport standing at the podium at the monument dedication in Astoria, Oregon, May 23, 1968.
Photo #5 - Left to right is Clay White who was president of the Pacific Northwest Cable TV Association; Frederick Ford who at that time was president of the NCTA; and Carl Spaulding who was secretary of the Pacific Northwest Cable TV Association.
Photo #6 - This is a group of the principal people who were attending the dedication of the monument. Left to right are Ed Parsons; Marcus Bartlett, vice‑president of Cox Broadcasting Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia; Roy Duoos, mayor of Astoria; Douglas C. Talbott, president of Cox Cablevision Corporation out of Atlanta; the next gentleman was the minister, Ronald Martinson, president of Astoria Ministerial Association; then Frederick Ford; Clay White, president of the Pacific Northwest Cable TV Association; and the last person on the right is Carl Spaulding, secretary of the Northwest Association.
Photo #7 - Is again at the dedication of the monument in Astoria. It's G.L. Davenport on the podium. Off to his right is L.E. Ed Parsons, starting from left to right, then Marcus Bartlett and Mayor Roy Duoos.
Photo #8 - Is Clay White, president of Pacific Northwest Cable Association on the left, and Frederick Ford on the right standing in front of the monument that was dedicated that day.
Photo #9 - Behind the monument is Frederick Ford, starting left to right, Clay White, president of the Northwest Association, Ed Parsons, and Lew Davenport.
Photo #10 - This is a shot of some typical antennas used for long pick‑up, how you rack them and stack them as we called it. The headend building is typical in cable. This is one of the headend sites in Astoria, Oregon. It is the antennas used to pick‑up Channel 5 out of Seattle, one hundred twenty-five miles away. The location of it is East Astoria on what we call Wickiup Mountain, that's Indian lingo.
Document #11 is an edition of The Dalles Chronicle with a special in it on cable TV dated October 4, 1963.
HATCH: Is there anything special that you'd like to say about this river crossing, laying the cable in the river?
DAVENPORT: I think it's all in there.
HATCH: That's the one that washed out after about eleven months, was it?
DAVENPORT: Thirteen months. The main picture on the right hand side is of the barge where we were peeling off the submarine cable, laying it in the Columbia River coming from the antenna site on the Washington side of the river over to the Oregon side into The Dalles. This was probably the first major river crossing for a cable TV operator and it was just at four thousand feet. The Corps of Engineers told us, at the point we crossed the river, that down at the bottom of the river, during high water, the run‑off speed was about twenty-five mph for the water. So you know the pressure that was on the cable. We learned a lot and in thirteen months the cable went out. We had to replace it because of the current washing and rubbing on the cable. It finally broke the cable.
HATCH: And that's where you used the illegal transmitter to get the signal across?
DAVENPORT: I'm not talking about that. I think several years is past even before they would come after me.
HATCH: I think so. You're safe on that. And by the way it's Astoria, Oregon, rather than Washington that we need to correct for the records.
DAVENPORT: Yes, it's Astoria, Oregon. Now you people from back east may pronounce it as it's spelled like OR‑E‑GON. It's OR‑E‑GUN, pronounced GUN on the end of it. Us westerners say it fast, Oregon.
Document #12 - Is a special edition of the newspaper The Daily Astorian dated June 17, 1966. This was a promotion put out which will have some background on cable TV and how we promoted and marketed it in those days.
Document #13 - Is a poster that was put out by COMM/SCOPE which is MA/COMM today from Hickory, North Carolina. They started depicting the early days of cable and honoring people. It's a reprint of the gentlemen that sat around and watched the first cable picture in Astoria, Oregon. It's a picture of Ed Parsons and his first cable customer Cliff Poole. Standing up, and to the right is a picture of the Astoria hotel called Hotel Astor with a replica of the original antenna that Ed Parsons used to pick‑up the Seattle station Thanksgiving Day 1948.
HATCH: We may be able to get a new one of these that hasn't been folded from what source?
DAVENPORT: Who should you contact to see if they still have some in their files? I recommend James E. Webb, vice‑president of Marketing, COMM/SCOPE Company, Catawba, North Carolina. The phone number is (704) 241‑3142.
Document #14 - I don't know. I don't need it, but there is some stuff in there on some of the legislative. You may just want to take it.
HATCH: I'll take it.
DAVENPORT: I think that came out of an NCTA publication and it's got some background on legislative problems in 1969 that might be of some interest.
Document #15 - I'm going to have several things included here. There was a gentleman at one time with the Longview Washington Press that wanted to write up a story I believe on Ed Parsons. In here in this letter attached to this group of letters is Ed's address and phone number in Alaska. Also attached to it is one of the programs of the dedication and also attached is the speech and the program given by Lew DAVENPORT: Master of Ceremonies.
HATCH: That's the transcript of some you read for us earlier?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
Document #16 - In October 1985, the Pacific Northwest Cable TV Association had the 30th Anniversary meeting of their association. At that association meeting there were some letters received, one from Bill Daniels which might have some background, rather than take some time to read it I'll label it #16. Also attached behind Daniel's letter is a letter from Marty Malarkey, the first president and founder of the NCTA in which he definitely bears out that the Pacific Northwest Cable Association was the first regional trade association in the United States. And that will give a little backing that it was the first.
Document #17 - At this recognition meeting of the 30th Anniversary, G. L. DAVENPORT: was Master of Ceremonies and in it is a format of what he said and recognition of some people and some interesting things from the earlier background of the Association which we are going to include for something you may want to pick out.
Included in #17 will be a list of the past presidents and secretaries of the Pacific Northwest Cable TV Association.
HATCH: There's a gentleman here Carl Spaulding. What do you know of him? He served as secretary for a long, long time. Was he an operator?
DAVENPORT: Yes, he was. He managed Hermiston, Oregon. Carl is now inactive. He's living in Pendleton, Oregon. I don't know just what he's doing.
HATCH: He was secretary from '67 into '80.
DAVENPORT: Also attached to #17 are some of the earlier pioneers in the industry. I was able to secure their phone numbers which maybe would be handy to Penn State in looking up some of these people. I mentioned the name Homer Bergren. I thought he should be contacted and also Fred Goddard who's the father of John Goddard of VIACOM. Here are their phone numbers. Also attached are some notes I made of some of the early meetings that might be of interest.
HATCH: That's the second part of #17, the yellow paper in the back.
DAVENPORT: Document #18 - This will be the minutes of the Pacific Northwest Association from 1955 into the end of 1961 that some pertinent early history might be able to be picked out.
Document #19 - The binder here is to recognize me, I think, on my 25th Anniversary. And some of the former office managers put some pictures together in this book that I gave you.
HATCH: Could we label the pictures?
DAVENPORT: I'll put them on the tape.
#19 is a three ring binder with some background information in it. The first picture in there is when we reached the Oregon side of the river laying the original cable crossing from the state of Washington to the state of Oregon for The Dalles TV Company. It was when we came out of the river and made the final splice to take the television signal into The Dalles from the antenna sites high on the Klickitat Mountain, Indian again, from Washington to Oregon.
The second picture shows the river cable on the reel when we first started reeling it off and started laying it into the water.
Third picture is the TV set sales dealers in The Dalles who were invited to a special showing of the first picture on June 22, 1954.
The next pictures are the principals that were in on the construction and also shareholders in The Dalles TV Company at the time the cable system was turned on. All the people are identified under the newspaper picture as to who they were and their titles.
The next item is G. L. Davenport's first year's payroll record to show what they paid a cable TV manager in those days. My first job was $450/month. In the second month they thought I was going to stay, so they raised me to $500/month.
The next picture has some good history for me. It's a newspaper clipping dated April 3, 1956, from the Wenatchee, Washington's Daily Herald. At the podium is G. L. Davenport who was president at the time. And from left to right all the people are identified on the clip. This was a very important meeting where we were fighting illegal translators and that was a big subject of this meeting.
The next is nothing but a newspaper clipping when my system engineer drove a 4‑wheel drive off a mountain and was nearly killed along with my sales manager at that time.
The next is a picture of the 1958 NCTA convention.
The next picture doesn't have any importance probably, but it was a promotion that we put on at a livestock show, promoting the cable company.
The next item does have some historical significance. It is a promotion that G. L. Davenport prepared explaining what cable television has to give to all of our customers. We mailed it to all our customers. It shows my staff at the time at The Dalles TV Company and gives an explanation as to how the service was started.
The next item is how we used to go to home shows and put up displays just like our vendors do at NCTA conventions today.
The next picture shows that in 1958 we did do cable casting and we had our camera set up and taping it to run on our cable system at a later date.
HATCH: That's an old Dage camera.
DAVENPORT: That's what it is.
HATCH: That dates me, doesn't it?
DAVENPORT: You know your cameras, don't you? As I recall, I bought that out of Salt Lake City.
The next picture is another shot of the Home Show showing us cable casting in 1958.
The next picture in 1958 is the total technical crew that ran the company. It doesn't show the system engineer, but each one is identified.
HATCH: A total staff of three?
DAVENPORT: That's right.
The next one I'm just going to take out because this guy stole me blind and that's why they put the bouncing check in there.
HATCH: Did you ever have a problem of bad debts? Did you encounter that very much in your career?
DAVENPORT: Not too much. Not too much in the early days at all.
The next item is a release from the National Community Television Association giving the background of the National Award Winner for Public Relations which was G. L. Davenport which gives the background of why I was chosen the winner that year of the Public Relations Award. I will leave it in the book. The next two are a couple of letters which were congratulations to me for the award.
The next one is the ad we ran in the paper explaining we had lost our submarine cable and were restoring it.
Another one is from the manager of the power company to me.
The next is a personal picture when I received the "Young Man of the Year" in my community.
The Hanlon letter is from one of the leading citizens of The Dalles showing his regrets when I was promoted to a regional manager.
The next really has history. It's labeled Earl Ake, installing FM equipment. Earl Ake was my engineer and this is typical of what a total headend used to look like in a cable TV system back in the '50s and '60s compared to what you see today. But it's an excellent picture showing exactly what a total headend looked like in a "Mom & Pop" system in the '50s and '60s.
HATCH: And this was the equipment you installed in order to provide the twenty-one FM stations?
DAVENPORT: Yes. We didn't carry that many, probably four or five. This was The Dalles TV Company.
HATCH: But this is the further basis for the part of the ad we talked about earlier that promoted FM service as a part of the television cable service.
DAVENPORT: It's a typical 1950‑1960 headend. That's what it consisted of. If we had one of those in New Orleans or one of our major cities, we'd be run out of town overnight.
The next one I'll leave in here. The TV safe was robbed.
The next are reminiscing pictures where we are giving out service awards.
The last thing in the book is just a little bit of history when we added different signals in The Dalles TV and how we expanded and the dates we did it.
Document #20 - The good doctor likes my resume of 1968.
HATCH: He's going to give us a new one too. That's to illustrate the scope of activity that a local manager used skillfully to really establish services.
DAVENPORT: Public relations.
HATCH: Knowing the right people and being able to work with them.
DAVENPORT: And it gave ulcers before I learned how to control ulcers.
What I'm going to do is contact out in Astoria and The Dalles system and see if there's anything else in their archive file that I left there when I left the system that they might be able to gather up that would be useful to you. I will also check and see if there's any other reasonable equipment still laying on the warehouse shelves that we can donate to the Museum.
HATCH: That is an interesting early headend. If the Museum had this we could say this is what it looked like in the '60s.
DAVENPORT: That was very typical.
HATCH: You could even reconstruct that shed using the rough sawed timber that you used here and just recreate that as part of the Museum. That would be interesting.
DAVENPORT: Well, that particular building was a headquarters of a construction project on The Dalles Hydroelectric Dam that I bought for $50. We loaded it on a flatbed truck and that's how we saved money and got the system built by buying the building for $50 and hauling it up the mountain on a flatbed truck. It is very rough.
Now, #21, I'm very sorry to say I cannot remember the young lady's name. (Editor's note: Mary Alice Mayer Phillips) She was writing her paper for her doctor's degree. She elected to study cable television. She made at least four trips to the west coast that I know of to interview people. She did have it printed in book form to sell, but at the time, she had three-fourths of the book on government regulation which became obsolete within six months. One person that worked very closely with her was Stratford Smith and I would be surprised if Strat hasn't got a copy of the book. But I loaned it to someone and they never returned it. What I have are sheets she sent me for approval. I think through Strat Smith and several other pioneers she documents her research on which was the first cable TV system in the United States. The first part of the book is history of the industry which these pages are and it would be very useful to you. But there are books in the hands of many cable operators, probably John Walson's got one. He may not like it because Astoria is ahead of his system and he might have thrown it away. Tell John that. But I think Strat would have a copy of it and everyone mentioned in here she furnished a copy of the book to.
HATCH: I gather there's a good spirit about who was the first.
DAVENPORT: You ought to see John Walson and me when we get to a convention and have dinner together and a few drinks. We can downright get a little nasty with each other.
HATCH: Maybe we ought to get the two of you together and tape the whole session.
DAVENPORT: I tell John, "There's just no sense talking about it." I said, "This girl spent all that time...."Well, I had a fire and all my records burned up and I couldn't verify it." "Ok, you can't verify something, you can't go to court, John, forget it." We go around and around. It's a pretty good laugh between us. Well, I think I've just about shot everything I've got unless I can dig up some more for you. If I can get from you an address, I'll send it if I can find some more. It's rather pathetic the files that I did have and how much has disappeared on loan. But I trust you, you're going to send everything back.
HATCH: We certainly are.
DAVENPORT: Do you have a card? And if he's going to Alaska really two people that are key would be Homer Bergren in Seattle and Fred Goddard in Aberdeen, Washington. Both their phone numbers are in things I gave you there from that Northwest Show in '85. They're very key people. In fact, Fred Goddard hired me and then John Goddard is now the head of VIACOM, one of the major cable companies. And he is the son of Fred. I remember him as a kid coming home from school on a bicycle when I was there visiting with his dad on business. Now, John's on the NCTA Board of Directors. I think he's an officer this year of NCTA heading to be president. Both Homer Bergren and Fred Goddard served on the NCTA Board of Directors at one time or another. Those two guys really developed cable on the west coast. They were the driving force behind the scenes. Then they had front guys like me out there. Homer Bergren, I feel, is the father of cable in the Northwest.
HATCH: Ok, this is going on tape and when this is transcribed Bob or Marlowe will want to take some steps probably to get out and interview them or send someone.
DAVENPORT: Now, feel free, they can call me on anything that I might have slipped on, they don't understand or anybody they're trying to get a hold of. Pat Hughes, I found her down in Mesa, Arizona. She was really one of the very first women in cable TV. She had the Moses Lake, Washington system. And she was secretary of our Association and then became president of it. Probably could be rated the first woman president of a regional association, and she could very well be the first woman manager in cable TV.
HATCH: And her name and location again.
DAVENPORT: Pat Hughes, Mesa, Arizona. In that stuff I had when I spoke at the Northwest Convention in '85, I have her name listed and phone number because I talked to Pat. I hadn't talked to her for years and years. She's down there in the trailer court business or something. Says she's in good health and doing fine. I really think, to my knowledge, she is the first woman cable TV manager in the United States. It's pretty easy to look back at those days because there are only about seventy-five of us that attended conventions and so forth. There just weren't that many cable systems.
HATCH: What's the attendance now at a National Convention?
DAVENPORT: Fifteen thousand. I don't know anybody. I go for the Pioneer's meeting. We all get there, sit around and reminisce, say how tough it used to be, how easy it use to be. We had a lot of fun making a buck, believe me.
HATCH: The Pioneers is a separate section within the overall Association?
DAVENPORT: We have a club. We have a dinner one night and then we generally arrange an afternoon that will run from 2:00 till 4:00. If the weather is nice, we sit around an outside patio of a hotel and have drinks, and just sit and talk.
HATCH: How many people are considered members of the Pioneers Club?
DAVENPORT: Well, I can't tell you how many are in the club now. It's a sad thing because there are so many people out there that should be in, but aren't in it. And it makes you feel bad when you run into them every once in a while. We took so many in at first, now they are restricting it. What they probably should have done was started the club and said you have to be in the business twenty years or more. They started out ten years or more. They got some in there that had a little political pull that really shouldn't be in there. Right now they should take someone twenty years or more in the industry. But it's a good club. We have a lot of fun. It's kind of sad seeing some of your friends not quite able to get around anymore and things like that, whether they'll be back next year or not, it's a little sad.
HATCH: Well, I'm going to take this back to Penn State and it will be transcribed.
DAVENPORT: It's like Barco. I see him every year. George is getting a little feeble now.
HATCH: Yes. He's been a good friend of Penn State and a driving force behind the PENNARAMA Service. His daughter Yolanda has been very instrumental too in carrying out the services.
DAVENPORT: I know her very well.
HATCH: Ok. This I think wraps it up with Mr. Lew Davenport in Atlanta on about 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, June 5, 1986.
End of Tape 3, Side A