The Control Room
"The Big Top"
Circa - 1953
(Click on the picture to see a larger version)
As you can see by the clock, it's 12:07. This means that this photo was taken seven minutes into the broadcast of the CBS-TV Show, "The Big Top" which originated from the facilities of WCAU-TV, Channel 10 in Philadlphia.
Except for the few several months of the series, "The Big Top" always aired in the Saturday afternoon, 12 noon to 1 pm time period. Standing is the show's producer, Charlie Vanda. Seated with glasses is the director, Paul Ritts. All others are unidentified.
The Big Top originated from three different locations. The original site was the Camden (NJ) Convention Hall. When that structure burned down in June of 1953, the program moved to the WCAU-TV studios on an emergency basis. After only a couple shows, it was relocated to the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory at 32th and Lancaster where it remained until the program went off the air in 1957.
Note directly above the director's head is an actual TV receiver (complete with "rabbit ears") which was used by the crew to monitor the live broadcast "off air."
Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia member Gene Crane e-mailed: I was there. I substituted for Jack Sterling four or five times, during the same period that I was doing Candy Carnival for CBS. Impossible to identify any of the (personnel).... The guy on the end may be Dick Kearney, though I think he was always a cameraman.... As to whether the location was at Camden or elsewhere, Gene said: Looks more like Camden, pretty crude.
Broadcast Pioneers member Charlie Higgins, who was a technican for the WCAU stations for several decades e-mailed: I agree that the man standing on the riser is the Producer Charlie Vanda. The audio man at the far right might be Jim Windsor. You can just make out the stack of RCA remote amplifiers in front of him, probably OP-6's and 7's. An OP-6 was a single position mixer with a VU meter. An OP-7 was just a four position mixer and plugged into the OP-6 when used. The OP-6 then fed the line. We also used OP-5's as back up at times which was a battery operated four position mixer with a VU meter on it. They used several batteries all dry type and it was heavy. I carried many of them on remotes for emergency. The RCA TV set was used as common practice and was probably an RCA 630, an excellent receiver in its day. I don't know that Paul Ritts directed Big Top but there are Techs who would know....
Hank Schorle, a long time tech for Channel 10 sent this e-mail to Broadcast Pioneers member Herb Clarke: I think other people in the Big Top Pix were Rick McCabe to Paul Ritts' right. Ed Harper to his (Paul Ritts) left. The second video man to Ed's left (far left).... Can't tell for sure on him, but Irv Hartman often ran second video, and I did also when relieving as Crew Chief/video man. From the shape of the head could be either of us, but never could be certain.
Charlie Walsh, who worked at WCAU-TV for many years e-mailed this to Herb Clarke: Technician on the far right with the headset is Rick McCabe; Audio with Crew 1.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Picture originally donated by Bill Bode
Bill Bode was Director of "Action in the Afternoon"
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