Mike Cline remembers "Cloudy" McLean and WBTV | Community Spirit
SALISBURY - Salisbury resident and Salisbury Post columnist Mike Cline wrote a wonderfully reminiscent story about his experiences with WBTV, and in particular with beloved meteorologist Clyde "Cloudy" McLean.
Here, from The Salisbury Post, is that column:
Let’s talk TV.
Actually, back in the 1960s, there was a WBTV program called just that.
It was on Saturday afternoons just after Roy Rogers and Sky King had marched their villains of the week before the bar of justice.
The host of the program was everybody’s favorite local weatherman, Clyde “Cloudy” McLean.
“Let’s Talk TV” probably fell into the public service category and helped WBTV satisfy its FCC obligations in programing the required number of public service hours.
That didn’t matter to me, I just loved the show. It gave us, the viewers, the opportunity to ask the people who ran the station questions. This was done by sending in post cards and/or letters.
No fancy set. A curtain in the rear, a potted plant or two on each end of the set, and the required number of chairs. I always assumed that Clyde sat in the same chair as he did every Monday night when he hosted “The Best of Hollywood,” a local movie Channel 3 ran instead of carrying “Gunsmoke” and “The Lucy Show.”
Appearing with Clyde would be the proper staff members required to answer the questions which had been chosen for that particular week’s program.
For example, if a viewer from Sparta wrote in to inquire why their WBTV signal wasn’t as strong as they thought it should be, the head of the engineering department would be there to explain why.
I was always after the program director. I wrote one or two letters every week.
I’m sure the folks in Charlotte could figure out I wasn’t an adult. I always wrote to them on notebook paper. In fact, I probably used more notebook paper writing WBTV than I used during the week in school. And my mother was always asking why I needed yet another 5-cent stamp.
Imagine the thrill I had the first time Clyde read one of my letters. I wanted to know why channel 3 ran “The Best of Hollywood” on Mondays instead of “Gunsmoke” and “The Lucy Show.” (Sound familiar?) After all, Matt Dillon and Lucy were two of the top ten shows on television.
The program director answered, “Thanks, Mr. Cline, for your letter.” (My chest swelled when he called me Mr. Cline). “The reason we run a local movie is because during the two-hour program, we get all of the advertising money and don’t have to share it with CBS. Plus, the ratings for ‘The Best of Hollywood’ are very good. And we do tape-delay ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Lucy’ and show them the following Saturday.”
That was true. “Gunsmoke” usually came on right after “Championship Wrestling” with Big Bill Ward, and “Lucy” followed the news, right before Jackie Gleason’s show. But those weren’t convenient times for me to watch, so I wanted that changed.
My letters continued just the same.
Why did you take “Superman” off?
Why don’t you run “Leave It to Beaver”?
Why do you show some of the color movies you have in black and white?
Stuff like that.
Poor Clyde. He probably wanted to scream every week when he saw another piece of notebook paper. He even commented one week that the station had received yet another question from “that nice young man” from Statesville about WBTV programing.
The program director actually said that maybe they should let this young man come and host the show every week. That way no one else would have to take the time to write the station.
At the time, I took all of that as a compliment, but looking back, I doubt that was how they meant it.
One Saturday, I even made a long-distance call to Channel 3 while the show was on the air. I had thought of yet another question and was hoping for an immediate answer. I “forgot” to ask my mother if I could run up our telephone bill. The lady who answered the switchboard told me that the show was actually taped earlier in the week and that none of the people I was watching were there.
So I fired off another letter inquiring why they couldn’t do the show live so we viewers could call in. It was answered by one of the “suits,” who explained (semi-jokingly) that he liked to play golf on Saturday afternoons. All of the WBTV people on the show laughed. I didn’t.
Then one day, “Let’s Talk TV” left the airways, and it was no more. I was crushed. I even wrote a letter asking for an explanation. I received no reply.
Postage stamp usage at my house dropped considerably. My mother was happy about that. And Clyde McLean and the WBTV “suits” were probably happy they didn’t have to sit in chairs under hot lights every week and defend themselves to some kid in Statesville who bombarded them with questions written on notebook paper.
I didn’t think of myself as a kid back then. When I wrote my letters, I used a pen, not a crayon.
Nothing lasts forever.
Mike Cline’s website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents every movie played in Rowan County theaters from 1920 through 1979.