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Bill Adler

Interview Date: Thursday November 22, 2001
Interview Location: Pittsburgh, PA USA
Interviewer: Jim Keller
Collection: Hauser Collection

 
 
 
 

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 KELLER:  This is the oral history of M. William Adler of Weston, West Virginia and in my opinion the most sophisticated person to ever have come from in West Virginia.  Bill is one of the original cable television pioneers. Has been in the past a consultant to the industry and a consultant to many of the large companies that have come in. The date is November 22, 2001. We are at the Hyatt Regency in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Your interviewer is Jim Keller.  This is history is sponsored by a grant from the Gustav Hauser Foundation and is part of the oral history program of the National Cable Television Center and Museum. Bill tell us a little bit about your history prior to the time you got into cable television.

ADLER:  I guess I answer by saying I saw television for the first time while I was in college in Princeton, NJ.  That would probably be ’47 or ’48. I’m not sure exactly what year it was. Not long I suppose after the New York and Philadelphia area stations started broadcasting. And I was a member of the Tower Club at Princeton and as there were many other clubs of that nature, we all had TV sets and usually after dinner in the evening, I would be downstairs with two or three friends watching programs like Kukla, Fran and Ollie and the Camel News Caravan which I remember quite well.

KELLER:  Milton Berle.

ADLER:  Then I came home to Weston, West Virginia which was back in the mountains of West Virginia. Far removed as far as I could tell from any television reception. My family had a department store. My father had died and I was playing a small role in its management and had concluded that we couldn’t make a great deal of money only in Weston and we ought to think about some branch stores. And the town that I picked, at least first investigated, was the town called Richwood, West Virginia. Further south and east of Weston. I had a good friend down there and he was looking for a store location for me and one day he called and said he had found one and would I come down. Which I did. While I was there looking over the store location, he said “By the way, have you seen our television here?”  And I said, “Television? In Richwood?”  He said “Yes.”  He said that it’s a cable system. They have coaxial cable and they bring it in the town on that and he said “Let me show you.”  So I went along with him to the cable company in fact and saw this absolutely incredibly perfect black and white picture coming from Huntington, West Virginia.  A hundred miles away.

KELLER:  Who owned the system?

ADLER:  The system was owned by Carl Gainer.  Carl Gainer was in the oil/gasoline business and this was something of a sideline for him. But he started the system, it was coaxial cable. I think his system dated from about the middle of ’51, maybe early ’52, something like that. And I didn’t meet Carl on that occasion but I was astounded by his TV and what particularly intrigued me was that a friend of mine at home had been in dental school in Baltimore and gotten married and had TV in Baltimore. Came home and brought his TV set with him and just a few days before I met the distributor in Richwood, I had helped him put an antenna on the roof of the apartment house where he lived. And this was between Christmas and New Year’s and on New Year’s Day he was hoping to pull in a bowl game. Well his apartment was quite close to a high hill. There was no reception from that direction but we maybe apparently did get a glimpse, a glimpse of an exceedingly small, mostly a frame I think of a picture out of the Pittsburgh channel. It happened to be a day -- those were peculiar days when TV signals would bounce into places where they weren’t supposed to go due to atmospheric conditions. And other people in the community who had little systems of 8 or 10 people on an open wire system with an antenna on top of the hill, they saw practically perfect picture that day. One of the few times they did. So anyway, I went back home and I told my friend Jim – I’m going back to Richwood and you’re going with me. I’ll wait until your afternoon off and I’m going to show you TV.  So we went back to Richwood. In fact almost gave up the idea at that point of having a branch store. We talked only about television and gee, this is incredible, marvelous. Let’s go back to Weston and let’s do it for ourselves. We weren’t thinking about doing it commercially.

KELLER:  Were you selling television sets in your store at the time?

ADLER:  Oh no, we didn’t sell television sets. Others did.  One of the reasons, I think by the way that something that contributed probably to cable television in small rural isolated towns was the fact RCA insisted that its dealers of radios and other products must stock TV sets also. Even though the store owner would say we can’t sell a TV set. There’s no reception here. Well you take some TV sets or you lose your franchise. And so they did take a few sets and then they looked for some way to sell them.  And of course, as you well know, in places like – I think particularly in Lansford, Pennsylvania where Bob Tarlton had a store, an RCA dealer…

KELLER:  Pottsville.

ADLER:  And they sold TVs by putting an antenna on top of the hill and running an open line down the hill to a set. And the industry was born. Although at that point it wasn’t coaxial cable, it was open wire system.

KELLER:  I think Marty put it in. Marty Malarkey put it in with coaxial system, didn’t he?

ADLER:  I would have thought the, well if Marty came later than Bob, which I think he did, he would have done coaxial cable, yes.

KELLER: He had the same story. He was trying to sell television sets.

ADLER:  Yeah. I’m sure if he followed Bob, it would have been cable. And Milt Shapp really is the father of the cable industry. It was he who was selling boosters, as they were called and other electronic stuff at the time and all of sudden he’s getting all these orders from that part of Pennsylvania, Lansford and so forth.  Why are they using all these little boosters and he drove up and he met Tarlton and Tarlton showed him what was going on. But he also showed him that because they were still using the open wire that there was terrible interference. At almost every hillside system was radiating signals to the other systems and the pictures were filled with ghosts.  But Milt said “Well, you should use coaxial cable. It’s shielded. It prevents the radiation. It prevents the ghost that you’ve got.”  And in due time, Tarlton put his system back together again with coaxial cable. I think that was really the birth of cable television and Milt Shapp was the guy who thought of it and then began to manufacture the equipment. The amplifiers and the all the peripheral stuff.  I call him and I think most people who were in the business at that time would call Milt Shapp the Father of Cable TV.

KELLER:  If there’s any question about it.  You related a story that somewhat astounded me that had to do with Milt going in to talk to the telephone company, AT&T at the time, in New York. This was some years later after the origination of cable. But he – tell the story.

ADLER:  Well, the telephone company was wise enough to see that coaxial cable, which it had invented -- Ma Bell had invented coaxial cable in the middle ‘30s as I remember -- but they knew that its capacity of full communications was vastly greater than the ordinary telephone wire into the home and they could foresee the possibility of competition developing by cable companies. Competition to them. That they could offer numbers of telephone circuits on one coaxial cable which the phone company could not do with its ordinary pair of wires. However, Milt sold AT&T on the thought that cable is here today and gone tomorrow. This is early. Relevantly few stations in the country and the FCC had stopped granting licenses while they mulled over creating UHF.  The expectation that once UHF came into play and even more VHF stations were licensed there would be no need for cable. People would get service on their rooftop antennas only. Who would pay for something when you could get it free? He sold AT&T on that. They bought it. They thought well that makes sense to us.

KELLER:  Do you remember what year this was?

ADLER:  I don’t know what I know the year but I would think that it would have to be around 1951.

KELLER:  It was after the war though.

ADLER: Oh it was after the war, sure and but Milt went into New York to the AT&T headquarters and he made the argument and he finally convinced enough people at AT&T – okay, let’s let it happen.  It’s good public relations also. We’re cooperating and helping people get television reception. 

KELLER:  The point being he used the poles to…

ADLER:  Of course, it was having to attach the cable to the poles. I left that part out didn’t I?  And it went from there.  Well, as it turned out – at that time the maximum number of channels that the amplifiers the industry had was 3.  You could transmit 3 channels. They were all lowband. You could put a signal on Channel 2 and on Channel 4 and Channel 5 or 6. There was separation between 4 and 5 in the frequency spectrum.  So you could pick 4, 5 or 6.  They were selling the 3-channel amplifier. Now some towns didn’t even have 3 channels they could put on but that was the beginning. It got the Jerrold Corporation going and then their own engineers began to develop the amplifiers and began to learn things that even Western Electric didn’t know. As a matter of fact, interestingly enough, after Jerrold Corporation was well launched and was selling this stuff and was doing miraculous things with television frequencies, that a lot of very bright engineers thought were impossible to do but they were doing it. And they impressed engineers at Western Electric enough, that Western Electric actually made an attempt to buy Jerrold Corporation from Milt Shapp but he didn’t sell. But they could see that “Hmm, this thing does work.”  Now in due time as cable companies began to proliferate and more stations came on the air and yet cable continued to exist, the phone company got nervous about this and then began really to clamp down and make it difficult to get pole attachment contracts.

KELLER: Let’s go back to 1953 now when you’re starting the system in Weston.

ADLER:  Well, it took us about 6 or 8 months from the time we made the decision to do it, to get the system actually operating on air.

KELLER:  Had the funds available or had to borrow?

ADLER:  Well, we borrowed money. We had some money but we had enough credit to go to the bank and get some money. 

KELLER:  What bank?

ADLER:  A local bank. That used an on a demand note that we borrowed money and I think our initial capital was $42,500 in total.   There were 3 of us who were stockholders. Each of us had a third I think. And we got the thing going. There was a great deal of doubt in the minds of many people in our community that this was a feasible thing and silly thing to do in fact.  Well, we had our first actual for sale signals available on January 1, 1954. It’d been a year ago, about a year since I’d first seen the cable service in Richwood. We managed to get it into one beer garden, where they got a substantial number of people in there that day to see the service fixtures and one guy said “These guys are going to make a fortune.”  That’s the honest truth. We were glad to hear that. I don’t think we thought so at the time but there was at least one guy who was watching this picture. We did have 3 channels on. One was really perfect, Channel 7 from Pittsburgh and to get Channel 7 on the lowband we had a converter. That was the equipment that would put it down on; I think we put it on Channel 4 actually on the system.  From then it progressed and were able to have, we got 5 channel. Jerrold was able to perfect 5 channel amplifiers.

KELLER:  Where did you get the signals?  Pittsburgh definitely but they only had...

ADLER:  Well Pittsburgh, I think our original signals were Channel 2 Pittsburgh, Channel 7 Wheeling, and I think Channel 6 Johnstown.  It could have been Channel 3 Huntington, I’m not certain of that.

KELLER:  Those were the two networks?  There were three networks at the time, ABC…

ADLER:  We had no ABC. There was Dupont or Dumont, rather Dumont.  Dumont was Channel 2 Pittsburgh at that time and Wheeling was NBC and Huntington was NBC. I think it may have been -- I’m not sure that we had a CBS signal. I’m pretty sure that Johnstown was also NBC. So I think we only had two networks to offer and there was a great problem with the low channels. Channel 2, reception from Channel 2 was subject to electrical interference and co-channel.  We were 100 air miles away from those transmitters.

KELLER:  Did you get all of these signals off the same hill?

ADLER:  Got them off the same hill. We found the right hill. It was the hardest days’ work I ever did in my life physically. It was climbing this hill to do the testing originally. Carrying an automobile battery, a converter, and a field strength meter, and a Channel 2 yagi antenna. When we got to the top of the hill the antenna was collapsed. We got to the top of the hill and there was a ridge actually we were going to follow and check different points on this ridge and so we set up the yagi antenna and as you know, the elements are what 8-9 feet across. The biggest of the antennas…

KELLER:  Channel 2.

ADLER:  Channel 2. The first spot we checked the signal was very poor. Found practically nothing. This was Simpson field strength meter. I don’t think Jerrold or people like that were making them yet but at least if you had a signal the needle would show some activity.  The first spot signal was practically not measured. So it wouldn’t work.  It had to have at least 100 microvolts it was said and probably the first place was 25 or 30. So we started back up along the ridge. Well, it was too much work to dismantle the antenna.

KELLER:  Where did you learn that you needed 100 microvolts?

ADLER:  Well, that’s what [garbled]. I mean there were a few people doing these things. I mean maybe an individual here or there who had a little antenna of his own he built on above his house. He learned. I don’t know. We learned anyway that 100 microvolts was the absolute minimum for a relatively clear picture. So we didn’t have 100 microvolts the first time. We didn’t collapse the antenna instead we were carrying back through the woods like this you know and dodged the trees until we got to the next spot and set it up and no that wasn’t satisfactory. We kept on going but actually did find on that trip a spot, the highest point on this ridge, 1640 ft. above sea level where we had 100 microvolts, probably out of Pittsburgh.  Wheeling wasn’t on the air by the way. This was January of 1953 we were doing this.  A bright blue day. Relatively cold but also one of the shorter days of the year and we got caught up there in the dark. We didn’t think about taking a flashlight along with us so we struggled to get off of that hill and down through the woods carrying this stuff, falling and tumbling and rolling. Got home about 8 o’clock that night. His wife was frantic. My mother was frantic about what had happened to us but we did make it and that turned out to be the antenna site. And it’s still the antenna site for the system.

KELLER:  Were you able to buy the site at that time?

ADLER:  Well, no. We leased the site and the people who owned it we gave them free service in return. I think they still get free service from the company that owns it today.

KELLER:  When did you sell it?

ADLER:  We sold in 1981, no 1982. 

KELLER:  So you ran it for almost 20 years?

ADLER:  Well no, close to 30. Close to 30 years. By the time we sold it of course the system had satellite channels. I think we were probably offering in the neighborhood of 20 channels by the time we sold it. Today, they are up to – that was 18 years ago or 19 – I think now we’re up to about 70 channels on that system. We don’t but the owners do today.

KELLER:  And you sold it to TCI, is that correct?

ADLER:  Sold it to TCI.

KELLER:  You also built other systems around the area.

ADLER:  We also built systems in [interference] West Virginia and Summersville, West Virginia. That is to say my original partners. Summersville we brought another person into that and then several of us in the cable company, in the cable business like Sandford Randolph and Bert Cousins and Gordon Fuqua and some of the Jerrold people. We built systems in Covington and towards Virginia.

KELLER:  Those were getting bigger and bigger towns.

ADLER:  Those were getting bigger towns and I must mention about a problem we had at Covington and Clifton Ford. They’re in Allegheny County which borders on West Virginia. Exceedingly high steep hills that are almost nothing but rock. The trees do manage to grow out of and Jerrold was a partner with us in that particular venture and we almost gave up in the fact we didn’t see how we were going to be able to dig holes on those hillsides to set poles to bring the cable down.  And we solved the problem by simply putting the cable in steel conduit pipe. Very rigid stuff and laid it on the ground. We didn’t try to set poles because it was just too rocky. So I would do that. Probably the only one of the systems in the country that was constructed that way.

KELLER:  Did you have franchises in these areas or did you have permits of some kind, what was…?

ADLER:   We always had franchises. In the case of Weston, I think another person had come around before we got into the business. I hadn’t even heard of the business I think when this fellow came to town and tried to get a franchise but the city council had some suspicion or was dubious about it.

KELLER:  This was Weston?  After you had already built the system?

ADLER:  No, no I mean this was before we had got into the business. A few months before another fellow who had gotten into the business in the southern part of the state had come in looking for a franchise but the council was dubious about it and didn’t give him one, thank God. Turned out to be a great friend later on.

KELLER:  But you knew the people in city council?

ADLER:  I knew the people in city council. We had no problem getting a franchise at all and most instances city councils were very cooperative and we had no problem at that time getting a contract from telephone company, C&T which was a subsidiary of AT&T.  And the power company. The power company was delighted to give us contracts because we were going to add to their load. People were going to be watching TV a great deal and that meant business for them on the sale of electricity.

KELLER:  Did they both have pole lines?

ADLER:  They shared pole lines. Some poles were actually owned by the phone company, some actually owned by the power company and of course, we took communication space just above the telephone cable. A foot or so above. We had change out some number of poles to get the space that was required for our…

KELLER:  Rebuilt the telephone company plants?

ADLER:  Sometimes we did.

KELLER:  Now how many subscribers did you finally end up with when you sold?

ADLER:  I think in our systems of the ones in Lewis, Braxton and Nicholas counties we had about, you know I’m not quite sure now, I think around 3500 customers.

KELLER:  3500?

ADLER:  Yeah, something like that.

KELLER:  Then you went into Covington and some of the others?

ADLER:  Well Covington and Clifton Forge was a different corporation all together. Different owners and we sold that as well to Jerrold in fact. And all of us made some money out of that particular system in the sale and then later on, I forgot to say, in Charleston, West Virginia. I was one of 13 stockholders there. In fact, I was involved in that company as the expert in cable TV. 

KELLER:  Who were the others involved?  The non-experts?

ADLER:  Oh gosh, the former governor was one of our stockholders, supplier of electronic equipment. In fact, Jerrold Electronics always sold its equipment directly to the user except in one case, in the state of West Virginia, they did sell to a wholesaler of equipment because the wholesaler got out and hustled and sold us our equipment and through the owners of that company we were actually stockholders in the Charleston system.

KELLER:  Well, you never were partners with Jerrold except for Covington where you were partners with Jerrold?

ADLER:  They owned 50% and I think 7 or 8 of us owned the other 50% of Covington.

KELLER:  Was that the nefarious hijacking by the Jerrold Corporation at that time some the other people told me the stories of where you couldn’t use their equipment unless they had a piece of the action?

ADLER:  No, no. It wasn’t that kind of relationship at all. They saw the possibility of making money down there. We had the franchise and we didn’t have as much capital as we thought we needed and they were willing to come in with 50%.  It was a very happy relationship.

KELLER:  I know some people did not have a happy relationship in the early days with Jerrold. Forced their way into the various operations.

ADLER:  I really wasn’t aware of that.

KELLER:  Ben Conroy was a perfect example of that. How did you form the… why did you find the need for an association?

ADLER:  Good question. In 1955, a school teacher member of the West Virginia legislature introduced legislation to make cable television a public utility. Regulated as such. It would be regulated by the public service commission. Now that fellow did that because the guy who owned the cable system in his community refused to extend his line a mile out just to serve this particular fellow. So this guy’s asking for an investment of say $4,000 on the part of the cable company which he happily paid them about $3.50 a month to get cable service. Naturally they refused and he decided he’d get even by as a member of the legislature by trying to get us regulated. He failed. It’s a long story about that but well maybe not that long of a story. We descended on Charleston, the state capitol and we heard… as a matter of fact I’m the guy who got a phone call because one of my partners father was a senator and the telephone company guy, lobbyist for the phone company came to my friend’s father and said “Are you aware and doesn’t your son have some interest in cable TV?”  The senator said “Well, yes he does.”  He said “Are you aware or is he aware that there is a bill before the legislature?”  This was on Friday. He says “It’s up for a second reading on Monday.”  The senator said “No, I’m not aware and I don’t know whether my son is or not.”  So this being Friday came home for the weekend and he called me and said “Bill…”  Eddie [Spunk?] that was the name of the lobbyist for the phone company and he said “There’s a bill in the legislature to regulate cable TV as a public utility and it’s up for second reading on Monday. You guys are going to have to get busy.”  Well, I got on the telephone. Of course I knew several of the other cable operators at this point, most of them and we rushed off to Charleston to do a little lobbying over the weekend and the man who later became the governor of West Virginia was in the minority leader, Cecil Underwood, he was a good friend of Sandford Randolph and Ralph Scheffler and he said “Here’s what you do. You go see the speaker of the house and the majority leader and tell what you problem is. Tell them that this is premature. Make all the arguments that you can.” And incidentally we didn’t have a good argument.

KELLER:  I was going to ask what the argument was.

ADLER:  Well, you know that’s an odd thing. It never occurred to us that we would be faced with this kind of thing so we hadn’t really thought through if you like the philosophy of business but Strat Smith, who was then counsel to NCTA, we got in touch with him. He came up to Charleston. So he gave us what arguments there were. He said “Well, first of all it’s an entertainment business you’re in. You’re not in it.  If cable TV was in operation and went out of business, who gets hurt except you.”  He said “It’s not a matter of life or death to anybody like the telephone service or electricity or water is. They’re public utilities. You’re not for that reason.”  He said “You’re not a monopoly. There are plenty of other sources of entertainment in your community. You’ve got movie theaters and other things. So you’re not monopolizing the entertainment business.”  And I forget 2 or 3 other things that he, arguments that he said.  But as I said none of us had thought of these things until we were floundering around a little bit answering the criticisms we were getting. I by the way was delegated to take the school teacher, whose name was Calloway, out to dinner Sunday night. And I hadn’t heard the arguments. And during dinner Mr. Calloway said “Well, Mr. Adler, you’re attached to poles on public property, aren’t you? Just like utilities are.”  So yeah, we clearly are. “You send out a monthly bill just like the telephone company and the power company do, right?” I said “You’re right about that” and he said “And you’re the only one. You’re the only cable company in town. You’ve got a monopoly on the cable service.”  Yeah, well you’re right about that.  I had no answer to his criticisms. I said going to the antennas is like climbing the [garbled] is the hardest work I ever did. Well, that was the most miserable life of my life. In fact I was so – I had lost the case for us. It was my fault --  feeling about it. Well the other boys were back working the politicians and getting the problem solved and but this guy, you know, put it over on me and I thought because of that I’d lost the whole thing for my friend and myself. But on Monday it came up for second reading and one of the members, this was in the house, hadn’t gotten to the senate yet – one of the members of the house said, stood up and said “I move to strike the enacting clause.”  Well, the enacting clause was what makes the legislation authentic and it was not unanimously passed that amendment but at least he won the thing and over the years after that about every two years when the legislature – then it met every two years now it meets every year – somebody would have an argument to make or a bitch to resolve by trying to get the cable company.  Cable was never regulated in West Virginia until about oh gosh, let me think here about 1992 or something like that.

KELLER:  And it is regulated now as a…?

ADLER:  Well, the regulation amounts to overseeing the quality of service that’s as far as it goes. Nobody tells you how much money you can make or anything like that and it came about because there was small operators who were rendering poor service and you know getting lots of complaints from their customers and weren’t being resolved and the politicians listened to that as they should have and the regulation was put into effect. 

KELLER:  But they’re not regulated by the public utilities commission?

ADLER: No. They oversaw the regulation so far as it went but it only went as I said for quality of service.

KELLER:  So that was the formation of the West Virginia Association?

ADLER:  As a result of that we saw that we needed to be organized and within a few months we had organized and yes, the West Virginia Cable or Community Antenna Television Association as we, well whatever it was called. Something like that.

KELLER:  You became involved in more widespread association didn’t you? The Mid-Atlantic Association?

ADLER:  Well, the Mid-Atlantic…well, West Virginia and California, Pennsylvania certainly particularly, some of the Oregon, some of New England, they were the founders of the cable television. The mountainous hilly areas of those states and West Virginia, almost every town in West Virginia had cable TV because of the terrain and the necessity of having cable TV for reception. So we kind of dominated the early years of the industry in so far as membership on the board of directors of the NCTA and because the other states like Maryland and Virginia didn’t have as many operators. They kind of joined us and we became the Mid-Atlantic Cable TV Association. I don’t even know if that still is the case, it may still be something like that.

KELLER: I don’t know the regional associations seemed to fall apart because the specifics of each individual state became different and the state association became stronger and stronger and the regional associations kind of went away. How long did you serve in the…first of all were you on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Association?

ADLER:  Well, I was at one time or another. I would have been president or chairman whatever the case may have been. I can’t remember how long and for how many years and for how many terms I may have served. I certainly rotated membership on that. I would have been on it probably half of the years of its existence.

KELLER:  Stabbing a senator in the back, it did occur in 1960 did it not?  Tell me about that.

ADLER:  It did. Well, I can’t recall very well…

KELLER:  Senator Pastore wasn’t it?

ADLER:  Senator Pastore of Rhode Island as I remember wanted to place us specifically under copyright, I guess that’s what the argument was at the time and there were members of the board of directors who thought well probably we should. Pastore is a powerful man in the senate.

KELLER:  Communications Committee chairman wasn’t it?

ADLER:  I think that’s correct and we can’t alienate this man. We have enough fights with other people to fight. Fight with Congress is pretty much a no-no. And the bill was number 2653. I’ll never forget the number. And when it came up for a vote, it was defeated. We had mustered enough support amongst our own senators and congressmen. I guess senators in that case. I mean you know in West Virginia, everybody had cable TV and we say to our subscribers “You don’t want to pay more for services than you’re already are and if this legislation is passed you’re going to have to pay more money.”

KELLER:  Didn’t the Association make an agreement with Pastore that they would support him?

ADLER:  I do not recall that specifically. There may have been some sort of agreement. I’ve forgotten that.  But I do remember very well as I was in the gallery as many of us were when the vote was taken and Senator Pastore stood and he looked up at us and shook his finger and he said “You’ll regret to your dying day what you’ve done today”  or something to that effect. As a matter of fact, we didn’t. That is to say he didn’t proceed to do anything that I’m aware of the hurt the industry but I don’t recall, there certainly had been negotiations with Senator Pastore and maybe there had been an agreement on the part of the negotiation committee that we would do such and such.

KELLER:  As I recall, I could be wrong…I was very, very new in the industry at the time. As I recall, we would agree not to fight his proposed legislation. We would not be opposed to it or not be formally opposed to it or openly opposed to it but as it turned out the association was. It took an active opposition to his bill.

ADLER:  They did. There was a lot of debate about it. As I say I think Milt Shapp was probably one of those who was adamant that we should not accept this agreement with Pastore. As I remember Milt was…

KELLER:  There was an agreement with Pastore.

ADLER:  I think you’re probably correct. I just have forgotten that. You know it’s too long ago. Too long ago. Forty one years or so.

KELLER:  So that, but the copyright issue went from early on even in 1954 as you pointed out until it was finally settled in what…early 1990s was it? When was it finally settled?

ADLER: I think earlier than that.

KELLER: No, it was under the 1984 Act. Wasn’t it?

ADLER: I don’t really recall. I was out of cable business in 1984. No, I think,  we were paying copyright long before I got out of the business.

KELLER: I think it was codified but I don’t remember more about it. We’ll have to go into that [garbled].

ADLER:  I got out of the business maybe we’d been paying copyright a few years before that.

KELLER:  What other issues were before the Association at that time?

ADLER:  The telephone company, AT&T, was an issue over a long period of time. It had more to do I think with what pole rentals should be than no contracting with cable companies. Only one telephone company held up for all the years, never to grant cable TV a license to use the poles and that was in Connecticut. And Connecticut was the only state for many, many years that didn’t have cable TV because there was no way, well cable companies didn’t want to go out and set their own poles, so there was no cable there.   But, there was long term negotiations with AT&T and I believe, it I’m not mistaken, at that time they were over what the pole rental should be.

KELLER: Prior to that, also they wanted to prohibit our companies from getting on the poles and offered them a lease back at that time.

ADLER: Was that the case. I really…

KELLER:  That was in the 60s.

ADLER:  Bud Hofstetter was chairman of the committee. I remember that very well and whoever else was on it. I was never personally involved in those negotiations, so my knowledge is limited.

KELLER:  If I recall, correct me again if I’m wrong, if you can remember, it was codified I think in the Cable Act of 1984? 

ADLER:  I don’t know.

KELLER:  I think so when they finally determined that the telephone company did not have a right to prohibit us from the use of the pole. They even set the pole attachment fees at that time. I’m not sure of the time but there was finally some kind of legislation that prohibited the telephone company from putting it to us.

ADLER:  The telephone company always underestimated the power of the cable TV industry even when it was relatively small because we had the public on our side and we won some numbers of battles here and there because of public relations and the phone company wanted always to maintain good public relations and it created problems for cable company that was not really for public relations. So that was one that we had. It didn’t mean that they didn’t fight behind the doors about this or that. But the power companies incidentally finally came around to asking what we considered exorbitant fees for pole attachments and I recall very well myself in West Virginia, and maybe a few other guys and negotiating with an attorney for the power company that serviced that area and saying to him “We’re not going to pay these fees.”  “Oh yes you are. They’re our poles and you’re going to pay them.”  We went to the FCC and the FCC said to the power companies you cannot charge more than x dollars per pole.

KELLER:  I remember that and I remember the formula.

ADLER:  And that’s shocked the power companies pretty badly because their position was the FCC has no control over us but by gosh, the FCC – we have control over the communication space on the poles and they’re communicators and we’re telling you, you don’t charge more than whatever the price was.

KELLER:  And finally the telephone companies were finally required to, I think,  accept the same fees?

ADLER:  I guess so, yeah.

KELLER:   1984 was not correct. It was a time before that because I was with United Utilities at that time and the telephone company and they were getting into the business and I advised them not to try to build systems in their own exchange areas because sooner or later there were going to be problems. They disregarded that and said that they wanted to stick with their own areas, their own franchise areas were and of course they were finally forced out of business but that was in 1966. So the telephone companies were forced out of their…prior to 66, 67 or somewhere around that.

ADLER:  I had my own little fight with the telephone company over a different kind of an issue which is maybe worth repeating and telling this story.  I always looked upon our system as an asset of sorts.

KELLER:  I guess so.

ADLER:  And with multiple channels, some of which weren’t being used and to me that was a waste of an asset. What can we do with the channel that’s not being used that’s beneficial to the public and beneficial to ourselves?  We had a volunteer fire department in our town and as the vast majority of places in this country have volunteer fire departments but we were also getting into the news business. Providing local news via cable and it would be helpful to us to be able to know what’s happening and where fires are. We wanted to cover that story and that sort of thing. Well on FM --  we had some FM frequencies that weren’t being used and it occurred to me that if we that if we could put a microphone in the fire department and volunteer firemen had good old receivers in their own homes, FM receivers always tuned to this one particular frequency, they could hear announcements being made. This was before two-way radios are as common as they are today as of course now cell phones.  We agreed to wire a fireman’s home, if he didn’t already have cable, we’d put cable in there for that particular purpose and in face, we even sold them the radio. We bought Zenith radios and sold them to the firemen at cost.  And then it went a little further than that. There was an engineer with the phone company that said “Well, we can do better than that. We can put, I think he said a condenser on the line or something where the call comes into the fire department, this condenser makes the telephone line think that it’s ready for a call and not already off the hook if you like.  Try to explain it that way. He said “And then that actual call and the caller making the call to the fire department, you can his call on your system.”  You hear the phone ring, a buzzing sound, and you hear the conversation between the caller and the fire department. Immediately as it’s happening. So that’s even better. It’s instantaneous information. If you’ve got a volunteer fireman who lives nearby where the fire’s occurring or some other emergency, you can get out and get there quicker than if he has to run to the fire department to find out where it is. So, we did that. This is the way the system worked and the firemen loved it and we did too. I was going to say it helped us cover the news.  The manager came to town.

KELLER:  Telephone company manager?

ADLER:  Telephone company manager. He took a dim view of this. We were violating the wiretap laws. This is a private conversation that’s coming into the fire department and we’re broadcasting that conversation to every fireman and good Lord knows a number of people who weren’t firemen. Also to their radios and so they could find out what’s going on. Well we argued that we weren’t and we kept the thing going. I came into Washington and I met with the guy who was head of the common carrier of Europe. His name I do not remember and I told him the story of what we were doing and he said it sounds fabulous to me. Put it on paper and send it and I’ll see to it that the phone company lets you continue doing this. Well, and I never got it on paper to him and the phone company backed away and we continued to render that service. I don’t know that many other cable companies in the country did it but I let people know about it. What a wonderful public service it was and it really was.

KELLER:  First time I’ve heard about it.

ADLER:  Yeah, it was great but essentially we eventually won the battle.

KELLER:  Why did you go into the programming business?

ADLER:  I’m not sure what year that would have been.

KELLER:  Because in a system that small that would have been very difficult for you, wouldn’t it?

ADLER:  Well, what we did – first of all we bought a Telemation weather thing and on either end of the weather instruments you had two slots – one you could do slides on and the other you could put a card in and put information on the card if you wanted to. And we started doing that putting information on the cards.

KELLER:  Fill up a channel.

ADLER:  Just to provide a news service if you like but of a very, very limited nature. How much you could get on a what 6 by 8 sized card or something like that and I bought it special. I had an IBM Selectric typewriter and I bought an orator thing which gave you a slightly bigger print, readable at home on the TV.  Then in talking to television people, what was the fellow’s name who owned Telemation?

KELLER:  I can’t recall it.

ADLER:  He was one heck of a good guy.

KELLER:  He really was. I can picture him but I can’t recall his name right now.

ADLER:  Well, I said to him…

KELLER:  Salt Lake City.

ADLER:  Salt Lake City.  I think they had already put a character generator on, I’m mean they offered a character generator to you. I’m not sure, I think that was being done before I took the idea.  I wanted to do the local news with a character generator and with his cooperation he developed the thing maybe a little bit further and we had that on the weather channel. The news ran as a not a crawl --  that’s whatever you call it across the screen. Nice big white letters on black with what the news was. I’m mean this could be 15 minute news cast. It’s like what is on today, CNN and the rest of them. We did it twice a day except weekends on Saturdays and Sundays, it was once a day but…

KELLER:  You had somebody reading the news though?

ADLER:  No, once in a while we did and I’ll explain that. If the system broke down we also had background music and we would take a one of those, I can’t remember the name of it, a tape cartridge. You remember the earliest ones that came out that you stick in the car thing, well we had those that could be put into this thing and if the print thing broke down, once in a while it did, then I would actually record the news in audio and play it that way.  It repeated over and over again. But Telemation further improved on the character generator and we bought a second one. To make it work to start with we had to use paper tape and we would cut a tape, type on the typewriter or on the computer board and would cut the symbols for every letter and the thing would run through the reader and the letters would appear on the screen. Well, gee a 15 minute news thing, the tape might be a 150 feet long and how in the world do you keep it from tangling?  The tape was about an inch wide so we made a box, a tall box like thing that had an open slot at the top, just slightly wider than the tape. The thing worked wonderfully, the tape would feed back into the box and wind around and around and feedback out again and go back. The darn thing worked great. It was marvelous but then Telemation came out with an all electronic one which solved the tape problem. It worked better too. They had to, supposedly you had to press the button every time to make it repeat itself, so we just wedged the button so it was on. Then one of the guys put a switch on, so when we started it…it was wonderful, it was wonderful. We were the daily newspaper. We had weekly newspapers, print but we were the daily newspaper for western West Virginia.

KELLER:  Where did you get the information?  Where did you get the news?  Where did you find it? How did you find it?

ADLER:  One thing we always did, we employed people. We tried to employ people with multiple talents so if somebody was sick, another guy could step in place or the girls. We had two girls in the office and we had a guy who was selling advertising for us, a little bit of advertising. We didn’t put too much on. Didn’t want to clutter it up, to tell you the truth, with a lot of advertising. At maximum two advertisements per day could appear on this tape and two girls and this guy and myself took turn about doing the news. One of the office girls would put it on a noontime and that would be the evening edition and then maybe the same girl depending on what would come in or one of the others, I was in again at nighttime and starting around 8:00 we’d gather the news and get on the phone and cover the news. Find out what’s happening and of course people cooperated with us. They’d bring the news in to us. So we didn’t have to go and get it all. We’d cover a fire or something that happened.

KELLER:  Did you do weddings and engagements?

ADLER:  We didn’t put those things on but certainly everybody’s birthday appeared and who wanted on that day and all obituaries were on. Complete obituaries ran and as I said we’d run a couple of ads and if we sold that many. It was a marvelous service. People – I’ve been out of business now for 21 years, I guess it is, 19 years, and people still say to me “By golly, it’s a shame you don’t still have that service on the cable. It was wonderful.”  And it really was wonderful. A marvelous service to provide. We sold the advertising. We had let’s say 3,000 customers in Weston at the time and we charged a penny a customer, $30 for your ad. But the ad was repeated, every 15 minutes since we were 24 hours so the guy got a good buy. People didn’t hesitate to pay $30 for it. Somebody asked me one time, we covered the local news – what do you mean by local?  I said if President Nixon shot, we would not report it unless he got shot in Lewis County. (Laughter)

KELLER:  That’s local.

ADLER:  And that’s the fact of it. We didn’t cover national. One day when I was not there, my partner, it was the day that Agnew resigned; he insisted that that be put on. That was contrary to what I would have done because we covered the local news but as a matter of fact it did run on the cable.

KELLER:  He was from Maryland, that wasn’t too far. (Laughter)

ADLER:  That did run off of the thing but that’s the only time I believe we ever ran anything on there that wasn’t strictly Lewis County or Lewis County involved.

KELLER:  Tell the story of the first satellite receiver that you saw, if you could.

ADLER:  I was chairman of the board in 1969 and 1970, NCTA board and I was in Washington or else I was invited to come over. I mean I was in Washington as chairman every once in a while, but I think this could have been a special trip that Wally Briscoe – Wally was as you know the, I’ll call him the chief operating officer of NCTA. He wanted me to go with him. He had been invited and he thought I as chairman should go with him. The highway from Washington was now the road between Washington and Frederick. I think the designation as I-270 or I- 170 or something like that, whatever. To a concern however you’d describe it and it was to see a satellite. A complete built satellite that could be launched and would provide satellite…

KELLER:  The actual satellite itself?

ADLER:  The actual satellite was there in this room and it looked like something out of science fiction to me. I mean it had all kinds of gadgets and it was peculiarly shaped as they are I suppose most of them and different kinds of instruments that are on this part of it and that part of it.  About the size overall I recall it of an old Volkswagen.

KELLER:  With this, did they have a method of launching?

ADLER:  I don’t know that this company did. This company and I wish I could remember the name of it; it really was a pretty well-known name seemed to me but for some reason…

KELLER:  Was it Raytheon?

ADLER:  Wasn’t Raytheon, no, I just cannot recall the name of that company. Anyway they were telling Wally and me that the satellite could be used to transmit television pictures to cable companies.  Now I didn’t understand the techniques of this thing, I’m embarrassed to say. I don’t know why it just didn't penetrate my mind as to really what the significance of this was but we already had HBO operating. The microwave.  So HBO could be put on the satellite and so forth and it was. I may have been among the very first people in the cable industry who saw this thing and stupidly didn’t, as I said appreciate the enormous significance of it. I mean it revolutionized as you well know cable TV service. 

KELLER:  But that didn’t come until about 5 years later.

ADLER:  Yeah, it took a while but there it was and I’ve always been somewhat embarrassed at my stupidity I guess, I’ll say failing to appreciate it.

KELLER:  Well, many other people didn’t see it either.

ADLER:  Well, maybe not, yeah.

KELLER:  At that time satellites were pretty ethereal. No one really knew what they could or couldn’t do and what it was.

ADLER:  I think Wally Briscoe did appreciate it but maybe he’d been exposed it to the thing a little longer and had more conversations with somebody. It just for some reason was beyond me. As a matter of fact, in our own cable companies we were sometime later, I mean HBO was on satellite and other things had been around, ESPN three or four years at least before we ever got around to putting on our system.

KELLER:  Wasn’t it originally the satellites regulated and they were only going to allow two, one Comsat and the other with the telephone company and that were two satellites were all they were going to permit initially?

ADLER:  I don’t recall that.

KELLER:  Okay because I remember Comsat. They owned one and I think Hughes Aircraft was going to put up another one and it was something…

ADLER:  Hughes may have been the name of the company.

KELLER:  May very well have been. I think they were a California company.

ADLER:  Well, I think they had an installation up there. I may be wrong about that. For some reason it rings a bell.

KELLER:  Who in your opinion would you say had the most influence on you during your career in cable television?

ADLER:  Oh gee whiz.  Well, the very first name that hits me is Sandford Randolph. Sandford was in the insurance business in Clarksburg, West Virginia when the Fortnightly Corporation, that was the name of the company that was sued on copyright, hired him as manager and Sandford was a was just a great manager. It didn’t make a difference what the problem was, Sandford could find a way to solve. He had a wonderfully warm personality. He taught most of us in West Virginia. He was in business a few weeks or a few months in some cases ahead of the rest of us and had solved some of the problems that we were going to run into and he was just magnanimous in his friendship to us and always concerned. We weren’t competitors so we knew anything he knew, any problems he had and worked out, we had the same things.

KELLER: Generally the case throughout the history of the industry.

ADLER:  That’s perfectly true. So I think Sandford absolutely is the first name that comes to me.  Gordon Fuqua was just another great, great friend and we, I think Sandford, Gordon and I and others got in the business together and one venture we built systems in Covington and Clifton Forge, Virginia. Just one fabulous guy. Well, I tell a little story. I said I was in the store business and continued to be in the store business for a while after we got into cable TV and I told Gordon, I said “Next time I’m go to New York I’m going to buy my wife a mink stole but would you be interested in getting one for your wife? Of course you’ll get it wholesale.” He said, “That’s great. That’s fine. That’s a great idea.”  So we each got, I bought the stoles in the market and sent Gordon’s to him. Which he gave to his wife and a few months later a fellow named Bob Jernigan?  You remember Bob Jernigan?   From down in Mississippi, he and I, I was flying to New York at that time I was consulting, flying into New York, to work with one of my clients.

KELLER:  I want to go a little bit into that when you get finished with this story.

ADLER:  Yeah, I want to… Jernigan happened to be on the same flight with me. We were both coming into New York together and saw each other and sat beside each other. I said “What are you doing in New York?”  “Well, I’m doing such and such.  I’m going to see Gordon Fuqua” and I said “You’re going to see Gordon Fuqua?”  I said let’s have a little fun here. I told him the story about getting the stoles. When you see Gordon you say “Gordon, you know Bill Adler?”  “Oh, yes, I know Bill Adler.”  “Well, the son of a bitch, he got a stole for my wife and the hair all fell out.” (Laughter) Jernigan said “I’ll do it. I’ll do it.”  So he sees Gordon the next day or two and he says, you know Bill Adler, yeah, all the hair fell out and Gordon said “That’s not the Bill Adler I know.”  Well, you know of course when I learned that, I felt terribly embarrassed. That’s what kind of a good friend Gordon was. He wasn’t about to believe that I would have sold Bob Jernigan or anyone else a stole that the hair would fall out of. 

KELLER:  How long were you in the consulting business?

ADLER:  Nine years. From 1962 to let’s see, 1971 I guess. Something like that. I forget exactly, something like that.

KELLER:  I do know that you were a consultant to General Electric when Doug Dittrick was doing a study concerning cable television and General Electric getting in to it. What other companies did you consult with?

ADLER:  IT&T. I did a lot of work for IT&T. Now most of my work for IT&T was because they had a subsidiary that loaned money to phone companies and they began loaning money to cable TV companies. You know people who wanted to get in the business. So, some phone companies in that case too and MGM, Reader’s Digest, several newspapers, some city councils would hire me to evaluate the proposals that had been made to them, that sort of thing. Those were some of the businesses that served.

KELLER:  Did you ever know a guy by the name of Jim Ackerman, who was with a finance company out of Indianapolis?

ADLER:  I knew Jim solely…

KELLER:  Economy financing is what it was.

ADLER:  I knew Jim, you know, at conventions. I really didn’t know him well. We knew each other by name and shake hands and say hi, good to see you and that’s about it.

KELLER:  He helped an awful lot of people when they couldn’t get financing in the very early days I know that.

ADLER:  I wasn’t aware of that.

KELLER:  Without him, probably many people would not have been in the business and he did a great job and trying to think, he had an assistant, a partner who has been in the business ever since and I can’t remember his name anymore. Shows what happens when you get older.

ADLER:  Time Life was another client. Time Life Broadcasting was a client of mine. I tried to help them get some franchise in I think was California.

KELLER:  I consulted with them in Rochester, New York before they… of course, Time then bought ATC and I was with them at that time so I did have an involvement with Time.

ADLER:  GE only got into cable on a very limited scale right in the Schenectady, Albany area and then Doug left them and started his own, of course, it’s been very successful.

KELLER:  Doug left him to come to ATC when Monty Rifkin offered him a job just before I joined and then he went out and formed his own company after he had sold his company to the Tribune Company in Chicago and I interviewed Doug last week and he wanted you to remember him and fondly so.

ADLER:  He’s a terrific guy.  I worked for Reader’s Digest; they were thinking of creating a satellite service and just needed to know all about the cable business and needed me as a kind of a primer to read.

KELLER:  I think I did an  evaluation for them one time. Elmer Metz and Doug Jarvis were in the consulting business also as I recall and they had Reader’s Digest as their client and I did some work for them at that time. So it’s amazing how these things all come together over the years.

ADLER:  Reminds me of a favorite thing of mine about the industry and the people who were in it and the various people I worked for. I recall thinking at one convention that we all had our badges on and who we were with but I said the badge should say “was with and will be with” because the turnover and change from one employer to another to another was extraordinary.

KELLER:  Isn’t that true. You remember fondly some of the Jerrold, Milt Shapp’s company sales engineers they were called at that time, anything specific did they do for you or for anybody that you knew?

ADLER: Well, Fred Lieberman and Elmer Metz both were at Weston at least one time and I think maybe 2 or 3 occasions when we were getting going and you know providing us with engineering help. Our engineers who were – mostly our engineers never had any experience with TV. They were good with radios and they were ham operators and that sort of thing so they did need a great deal of training. You know how you set up the antennas and how you balance out the amplifiers and how you read signals and so forth. So Fred, maybe Fred was there. Seem to me that he and Elmer in an engineering capacity maybe Fred wasn’t but he certainly was in Weston. Lee Zemnick was in Weston a time or two for one thing or another. Those are the only ones that I can think of at the moment. I knew Caywood Cooley fairly well.

KELLER:  Kip Fletcher finally went to Weston.

ADLER:  Kip was in Weston on more than one occasion. I had forgotten about Kip.

KELLER:  Because he was our chief engineer at Daniels way back when and those guys I think were yeomen in the development of cable television.

ADLER:  Yeah, they really were. I don’t know whether I said or not that I think maybe did I not say earlier that Jerrold by and large worked directly with cable operators but in  the case of West Virginia they had a distributor of Jerrold equipment, Mountain Electronics and the only one of that nature that they worked with at all. Otherwise it was all strictly Jerrold and the buyer.

KELLER:  You mentioned something else in our pre-interview that you remembered Jerrold having a broadband amplifier very early on, 1953 or 54 you said when we first…

ADLER:  The original amplifiers we bought from Jerrold, I guess the trunk amplifiers were the strip type. You have a strip for Channel 2, a strip for Channel 4, a strip for Channel 5 or 6 but they also had one for the theaters out on the line that the number was DB26.

KELLER:  Line extenders.

ADLER:  I guess a line extender. DB26.  Now that was a broadband amplifier. It amplified the entire spectrum from 2 through 6 but the trunk ones were per channel only.

KELLER:  Yes, I remember that. I didn’t remember a broadband trunk amplifier as early as what…

ADLER:  Not the trunk, no. It was only on the outlying legs of the thing that they worked fine.

KELLER:  When did go transistor?

ADLER:  Oh boy.  We went transistor, I don’t know what year to tell you the truth, honestly I don’t.

KELLER:  Did you use the AMECO transistor originally or did you wait for Jerrold to come around?

ADLER:  We had a little bit of AMECO equipment and one little amplifier in particular was about the length of the two rolls of toilet paper seems to me and not much bigger in diameter and I remember that thing put in the line and that amplifier worked and it worked and it worked and it worked and it worked, it never failed in my experience. It was a marvelous little amplifier and when we built Charleston, West Virginia, I was involved in that system. That was an AMECO system. We brought Archer Taylor in to do the evaluation of the bids we had on it and we all agreed that AMECO could do and do it well and it was the best thing we had dollar and cents wise.

KELLER:  Were they the only ones who had transistorized amplifiers then?

ADLER:  Oh no, I think probably almost everybody did at that time. That would, let me see, that was around 1972, I think that we built Charleston.

KELLER:  Jimmy Palmer had one a little bit later didn’t he?

ADLER:  I don’t think I ever had any C-COR equipment in our system.  Jim and I were friends but just never happened to have bought any of his stuff but we did buy that AMECO. By and large our stuff was Jerrold and we bought Times Wire was our cable supplier. Well, most of the time, then later Superior was doing our stuff when we got the aluminum jacketed cable. That was bought from Superior and Regal for the drop wire.  Good old Arthur Baum.  That reminds me when…

KELLER:  Everyone has an Arthur Baum story.

ADLER:  Well when we were doing the hoax. Conroy wrote to Arthur and he spelt his name Bomb. But what he did was he only sent the second page of the letter. He left the first page out of the thing and the second page, I forget what it was, it had to do with somebody who was trying to buy something that Arthur had. He was very anxious to buy something from Arthur but he wouldn’t make it clear in this paragraph, you know and poor Arthur, he’s trying to fathom who this was and when we got together in, the guy had a name on the thing  and we got together in Boston, I ran into Arthur in the lobby of the hotel about time we were registering and said “Oh by the way Arthur, so and so saw this guy’s name, he’s at such and such hotel and he’s locking for you.”  Oh we were mean as hell.

KELLER:  You were. You guys were bad.

ADLER:  Oh,  we were bad.  We were bad. 

KELLER: But Arthur was a unique character.

ADLER:  Yes, he was.

KELLER:  I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to interview him.

ADLER:  Arthur had his salesman that I always claimed had died and they simply preserved his sales pitch because every time he called you on the telephone the wording he used was identical. “How’s the weather down there?”  He’d start out “How’s the weather there?” and then more spiel. I think he did read from a script.  (Laughter)  Again, I can’t remember what the fellow’s name was that we bought a lot of his wire though.

KELLER:  And his two sons, Bob and Ted.

ADLER:  Gosh, yes.

KELLER: Arthur was a fixture in the industry and immortal in the industry for a lot of years.

ADLER:  You know, he was absolutely sweet guy.

KELLER:  Yes, he was.

ADLER:  And we took advantage of his good nature I’m afraid.

KELLER:  You think so?

ADLER:  Well, I mean I’m saying that Conroy and I at least to some extent. 

KELLER:  He was a hustler.

ADLER:  Oh gosh yes.  Absolutely so.

KELLER:  And he got in the cable business through manufacturing hula hoops. You probably knew that.

ADLER:  No I didn’t. No I didn’t know that.

KELLER: His original business was manufacturing hula hoops and when the fad ran out, he had all these extruding machines and he had to do something with them.

ADLER:  No I had no idea.

KELLER:  Then he went in the amplifier business.

ADLER:  I think there are still drop lines in West Virginia that got Regal wire.

KELLER:  Viking was his company.

ADLER:  Viking, well Regal was the original name. Then it became Viking. I had forgotten that.

KELLER:  Anything else you what to add before we wrap this thing up Bill?

ADLER:  Gosh, I’m not sure. I think we were talking here, while we were  not on camera, it’s a joy to be engaged in the business as the owner or the operator or as an employee. It was fun to be in the business and I don’t think that anyone in the cable business can say it wasn’t fun or isn’t fun if they are still in it and so many ways, it’s a joy. In our early years of cable, people would stop you on the street and say “Thank you.’ They’re paying you $3.50 a month for service but they’d say Thank you. The people in it, Good Lord, to think of the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people to work with. Frank Thompson and George Barco and of course, I’ve already named Sandford and Gordon. There wasn’t a single one of them, Larry….

KELLER:  Flint?

ADLER:  Boggs, Larry Boggs and [Laurie] Calhoun, down in Key West, John Spottswood. Good heavens above.

KELLER:  Ran the Florida Association for years.

ADLER:  The Schneider brothers, Bill Daniels, just go on and on and on.

KELLER:  Bill used to say that…

ADLER:  Al [Jay] Rickey, Al Kozminski.

KELLER:  We had formidable enemies, the telephone companies didn’t like us, the power companies didn’t like us, broadcasting didn’t like us, the FCC didn’t like us. The only people who liked us were our customer.

ADLER:  Yup.

KELLER:  I remember him saying that and it’s true and you’re absolutely right about the joy of having been in the business all these years. I couldn’t imagine being in anything else and having as much fun as we had in developing the industry over the past forty years.

ADLER:  My partner,  Martin Sweeney, his main business had been appliance store and also a funeral director. Martin didn’t mind getting up at 6:00 in the morning or 5:00 in the morning if there was something to be done. I wasn’t that kind. I was a late sleeper but I didn’t mind staying up until 2:00 in the morning to do something or get it done. We worked extremely well together. He had his talents and I had mine and we had a very wonderful relationship.

KELLER:  On that note, I think we will end this Bill. This has been the oral history of M. William Adler of Weston, West Virginia and I’m amazed after all these years and everything he’s been through, he still resides in the small community of Weston, West Virginia. Even after going to Princeton and being in New York and Washington, he still today lives in Weston, West Virginia. Again, this oral history was brought to you through a grant by the Gustav Hauser Foundation and it’s a part of the oral history program of the National Cable Television Center and Museum.  The date is November 27, 2001. Your interviewer was Jim Keller. Thanks very much Bill. We appreciate it. It’s been fun.

ADLER:  Jim it’s been great to see you again and to talk about old times.  Wonderful old times.

KELLER: Thanks guys. 












 

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