Post 44 — The Tutuila Trots

A helpful poster shows young people exactly how it's done.

A helpful poster shows young people exactly how it’s done.

The educational television experiment was proceeding at breakneck speed. Programs were taped and broadcast at a staggering pace, the workload increasing as the teachers tried frantically to keep up with the curriculum. The United States Congress had given Governor Lee permission to expedite the TV operations, so phase two of the program was accelerated and plans were made to go into effect one year ahead of schedule. While the news was an endorsement of the work, it was not met with much enthusiasm by the staff.

Feb. 6, 1965
This means we are to have three new channels next year, and the entire high school program is to be converted to television programming. None of the high school teachers will have their contracts renewed since they want the system turned over to Samoan teachers gradually. 

This creates many new problems for us at the studio. After this July, we’ll have about six additional staff members coming in with no extra physical facilities. We don’t have enough office space as it is so no one knows where the new people will work. Also, we’ll have only four studios in which to tape programs so the rumor is that we’ll have to go on shift work, perhaps taping around the clock. It’s physically impossible to do this with our present facilities so it’s going to be touch and go for the next year or so.

I’ll admit the results of the instructional program have been gratifying to date, but snags are beginning to show up in the operation. Despite the air conditioning (which is forever breaking down)— the damn humidity is playing havoc with the equipment. Mechanical breakdowns are becoming more frequent and replacement parts ordered six months ago haven’t arrived yet. Our supply of video tape is almost exhausted. Some tapes have been used as much as seventy-five or eighty times (for different programs) and they are completely worn-out. New tapes that were ordered months ago still haven’t arrived.

The other part of the operation which worries me is the condition of the staff. The six palagi teachers have been carrying a tremendous teaching load since last October and I think the strain is beginning to show. A wave of flu, upset stomachs, and diarrhea has cost many of us several days in taping time, throwing our schedules off and leaving many of the teachers physically exhausted. I average about two hours/a night in extra work, plus what I can get done on week ends. Every working minute at the studio is a mad dash to get the programs planned, written, and taped in between mechanical breakdowns.

If we miss a day or two of taping, pandemonium sets in because we’re only working a few days ahead of broadcast day. There’s no such thing as a substitute for members of our department so we just have to get a cork and keep plugging, so to speak. In fact, it’s not too unusual to see the doors of the studio burst open during a taping session, followed by a TV teacher with a look of anguish on his face as he barrels toward the crapper with a prayer on his lips hoping it’s not occupied. The guy who designed the building never took this into consideration (along with a few thousand other things he forgot) so we have only two bathrooms in a building which houses a staff of more than forty people, with more to come in the future.

The schedule permits very little time for correction of errors which are becoming more and more frequent as the pressure mounts. Every tiny flub, mistake, or error is recorded for thousands of others to see and comment upon. Headaches, upset stomachs, or the Tutuila trots, you get up there and smile at the camera even if it means crapping your pants or puking immediately after the program is on tape. Many of the teachers have been spending as much time at the hospital as they have at the studio. We were all told we were going to work like hell when we signed our contracts for this job, but I don’t think any of us realized just how accurate that statement was.

Larry

A short clip of what went on at KVZK, starring Judy Aurre and George Hastings. This is NOT a demonstration of the Tutuila Trots.

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4 Comments to “Post 44 — The Tutuila Trots”

  1. I tried to watch the English lesson but confess I got distracted by the tiny origami apartment in Manhattan that unfolds into four rooms

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  2. Wow what stress! Here we kids were just living the adventure and I am grateful for that!! That poster was so funny 🙂
    So were the kids having the lesson always that good and cooperative? 🙂

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  3. Howdy, I have been really enjoying your letters. They bring back a heep of memories. One suggestion, could you put an approximate date on each letter. That is the date the event occurred. Don’t know about the other palagi’s, but it sure would help me tie things together.

    Ron Manning

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    • Good point about the dates, Ron. I did it earlier but things were getting a little out of sequence so I stopped. The one you were curious about was February 6, 1965. I will start adding them in the upcoming posts.

      Chris

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