This picture dates from May 26, 1964. It features the Producer of the Bill Bennett Farm Show, Bill Bode.
Bill was the director and one of the writers for the CBS Western, Action in the Afternoon," which originated live from the backlot of WCAU-TV in the early fifties. After "Action" went off the air, the area was used for staff parking and as part of the set of "The Bill Bennett Show" which aired early mornings on WCAU-TV, Channel 10 in Philadelphia.
Bill Bode e-mails: "I don't remember the day or what I was doing with the wheel barrow on that day. Only comment I might add is that we used the area as a parking lot both before and after ACTION (in the Afternoon). The existing parking lot was simply covered with soil to make it Hubberle."
Got another Bill Bode e-mail. It said: "...Just had a call from his (Bill Bennett) son, Adam. Hadn't heard from Adam in years. He's taking care of his Mom, Tal, in south Florida, while his wife works in CT. They live in Jamaica under normal circumstances. Bennett show was on for many years. I produced it for 14 years, and it had been on before I joined. Don Lenox, our Associate Producer on ACTION (in the Afternoon) was Bill's first producer. Bill was a full-time school teacher in (the) Philadelphia schools. Lad Pohubka (took care of the animals as a young teenager and)...was one of Bill's students. We used his students as "shepherds" for the live animals we used on the show, kept in (the) old Blacksmith's barn from ACTION. Bill's (Bennett) birthday was February 2, Groundhog day."
In another e-mail from Bill Bode, he said, "Bill Bennett's show was on early in the morning. As I recall, it aired from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. I'll have to do some research to find out the year it began. Don Lenox was Bill's first producer. I took over in, I think, 1960, produced for 14 years. I resigned from the job because at that time the managers were trying to...assign tasks to talent that the talent was not prepared to perform. I described it as the proverbial trying to fit square pegs into round holes. I complained, to no avail. Only recourse to staying with Bill and helping destroy his show, was to resign from it. So I resigned. Just 8 years later I resigned from the station completely because I could see the path local TV was taking: news-only, no public-affairs programs. Bottom-line thinking, no concern for quality. So I left and have spent the subsequent years mixing teaching with Tony Verna's global TV adventures (Live Aid, Sport Aid, Pope John Paul's Prayer for World Peace, Earth 90, Goodwill Games, etc.) What made Bill's show so good was that he was fully grounded in agriculture (He taught it at a local Phila public school) at the same time that he was fully grounded in such activities as playing the harmonica, reading non-literary poems, interviewing representatives from State Ag-Extension programs, enjoying our collection of farm animals Most famous was Mr. Williams, the goat...(and) Matilda the sheep. Bill served in the navy in South Pacific, ergo Mathilda. I served in the ETO, didn't name any of the animals. We had no names that I recall for the ducks or geese. We did have a donkey. I'm blocking on his name. Lad Pohubka will remember. Bill was a great personality, almost always very "up" and inspiring.... Hope any of this helps."
A few minutes later, another e-mail from Bill Bode came. It said, "We were live with Bennett till the mid sixties, when we got videotape. Used to have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the studio in time for the live show (I lived in Downingtown). When we got videotape, we taped in the afternoon, after school--and I was able to take the train rather than having to drive! The animals for The Grand Parade (We played music as they came out of the barn to run up to a portable water-pond to get fed) were kept in the left over blacksmith's shop from ACTION (in the Afternoon), the only part of the set that survived."
Broadcast Pioneers member Mike Muderick e-mailed: I worked as a summer intern at WCAU during the summers of '67 and '68. I read the website description of the show, and my recollection-- could be wrong. was that in '67 the show was still live. I think it ran from 6:30-6:45. We then rolled the cameras back into the studio to do a fifteen minute news(cast) with Gene Crane. We only had the duration of the station break to move the cameras back into studio 1. I remember that we had a rooster, or some such animal that made it into the studio before we closed the doors. I'm sure it happened more than once. I also recall working as a cameraman for the show and being butted by a goat. The director really gave me "what-for" for not holding the camera steady.
Adam Bennett, a visitor to our website e-mailed: My father (Bill Bennett) passed away about one and a half years ago (in 2000). ...I remember, as a kid, in the trees behind the station (WCAU-TV) was an old stone farm house that George Washinton had used as a field hospital during the revolutionary war, sad to say I doubt if it was saved. (It wasn't). In the 50's and 60's, the idea of saving historical buildings was behind. I used to go on the show and remember it as starting with black and white live broadcasts and ending up as color video.
Rachel Kopple Martin, a visitor to our website e-mailed: I grew up in Philly during the 60's and was part of a modern dance company (The Joan Kerr Dance Company II). One of our performances was aired on the Bill Bennett Show. I don't know when it was (late 60's I would guess)....
KNOWN TIME PERIODS
July 18, 1960 to August 5, 1960 - 6 am to 6:30 (daily)
August 30 to September 3, 1965 - 6:45 am until 7 am (daily)
From the Official Archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo and text courtesy of Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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