Interview Date: Friday August 03, 2001
Interviewer: Jim Keller
Collection: Hauser Collection
“Our cable family was deeply saddened to learn Sunday (January 17, 2016) of the passing of Irene Gans, an original officer of our Association, a cable pioneer and beloved friend to countless industry associates. With her husband Joe, Irene was instrumental in launching our great industry and deepening its Pennsylvania roots more than six decades ago. Her business acumen was matched with a grace and warmth that will never be forgotten by all who knew her. On behalf of the entire BCAP membership and staff, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Gans family. Irene will be greatly missed.”
The funeral will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. John Bosco Church, Conyngham. Friends and relatives may call Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Frank J. Bonin Funeral Home Inc., Hazleton. Interment will take place in Calvary Cemetery, Drums. Donations in memory of Irene made to the Helping Hands Society, the American Cancer Society or a charity of one’s choice will be appreciated by the family.
KELLER: This is the oral history of Joseph S. and Irene Gans. They are the owners and participants and primary owners, in fact the owners of Gans Multimedia, a multiple system operator headquartered in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The date is August 3, 2001; the place is Gettysburg at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Cable and Telecommunications Association’s Heritage Weekend. Joe is a cable pioneer in both the uppercase “P” and the lowercase. He’s both recognized as a Pioneer and actually a very early pioneer of the cable television industry. Joe, let’s start out by giving a brief history of your background prior to getting into cable television. Before we get into this, I know you did an extensive interview with Strat Smith in October of 1989, and I would recommend that anyone viewing this history also review that oral history for a lot of the details that we may not cover today. So, please just give us a capsule of your history.
JOE GANS: Well, what made me into this, as a little kid I enjoyed the so-called crystal radios. In fact, from my mother’s house I had a wire hanging all the way to the backyard, because the longer it was the easier it was to get radio signals, and me, and believe it or not, Brian Lockman’s, I guess it was his uncle, we used to sit there and we had a set of earphones and we’d play with the crystal sets. So, then when I was inducted into the service, in the Army, I guess that was 1944 and I was fortunate enough that I got into the Army Signal Corps. It actually was the Army Signal Division of the 94th Division, and some of the things that happened there, which I don’t know how you’d relate it to the cable system, but we used to send code back and forth and we never knew what we were sending because everything was coded, and anyhow…
KELLER: But you knew about long distance transmission and reception.
JOE GANS: Right. Another interesting thing though, is when we were going into Czechoslovakia – I was there at the end of the war, not the beginning – and the guys in our division found out that we’d put the antennas up on top of the mountain and we’d have the trucks there and no sooner we turned the darn transmitters on the 88ths were shooting and blowing us up. How this relates to cable I don’t know – what we did then was we put the towers on top of the mountain but we put the trucks down on the bottom of the hill. Then if they shoot it we didn’t care.
KELLER: But you did take electronics in high school and you’ve also done various electronics courses at various universities, including Penn State, is that correct?
JOE GANS: Right. Well, anyhow, I got home and my instructor, a man named Chris Lucian; he was an instructor in the government teaching electronics.
KELLER: Can you spell that name, please?
JOE GANS: L-U-C-I-A-N – Lucian. Anyhow, I went to school with him, and oh, I loved that. Radio was my thing. So come, I guess it was November of 1950, no, even sooner, maybe September of 1950, he told me he knew of a guy named Bob Tarlton that was in Lansford and he was bringing pictures down with amplifiers into town. In the meantime, we were in the television business and I was putting towers up, and it didn’t take me long to learn that…
KELLER: You were trying to sell television sets where they didn’t get any signal?
JOE GANS: Where they get no signal. And when we’d sell them – in Hazleton, if you know it, it’s a mountainous area and the people that lived on top of the hills, they got good television, but those behind the hills didn’t get anything. And we were fortunate enough that the first TV store that we built was built up on 9th Street in Hazleton on top of the mountain and we had pretty good pictures up there, and people would come in and they’d see it and we sold some of the sets.
KELLER: How many channels could you get up on there?
JOE GANS: We got 3, 6, and 10, and once in awhile we’d get the New York pictures.
KELLER: That’s a separate story; I want to go into that New York situation.
JOE GANS: And then so, I finished school in ’50 I guess it was, ’49-’50, Chris told me about Bob Tarlton and what they were doing with that, and he said he was going to try to put a company together in Hazleton and would I be interested in joining him. I was mediocre because our TV business was good, my wife was running the shop and everything else.
KELLER: He keeps telling me she was the brains behind this whole thing.
JOE GANS: She was! Well, she did all the bookkeeping, the record keeping, and everything else.
IRENE GANS: I was the answering service.
JOE GANS: I was climbing the towers. So anyhow, we were selling Philco television sets at the time, and I’d say it was September, I went down to Pottsville and Marty Malarkey happened to be the Philco distributor and I went in there and the first thing I heard from him, “Oh, this damn cable company! It’s not working good, the pictures are no good.” I said, “What do you mean, cable company?” He said, “Well, we have an RCA system. We have an antenna up on the mountain someplace and we’re bringing these channels in.” But the system wasn’t reliable. So I figured, “Holy Smokes!” If you know Pottsville, that’s down in a hole, there’s no reception there at all. And so, I figured, boy, if he can get pictures out here there must be something to this cable thing. So I told Chris, “Okay, I’ll go to work for you.” And my brothers and Irene ran the TV store, but I started with the cable company.
KELLER: And so you started over in Lansford, is that it?
JOE GANS: No, no, in Hazleton. Lansford was in operation and they were doing it. I never saw his pictures, but I did see the pictures in Pottsville. And Lansford, I guess, also is in the bottom of the hill.
KELLER: So who owned the system in Hazleton at that time?
IRENE GANS: That’s when they were starting to develop it.
JOE GANS: That’s when we were starting to develop it. So he tried to get a local broadcaster, a guy by the name of Vic Deem, and I guess it was the Tito family, and they were all wishy-washy, and in the meantime, there was the Corriele family, they were in the coal business in Hazleton. One night, I forget the fight it was, but anyhow, they came up to our shop and we had TV sets there and they saw the fight. They were a well-to-do family and so Chris talked them…
IRENE GANS: New York.
JOE GANS: New York, I think it was in New York.
IRENE GANS: Madison Square Garden, something like that.
KELLER: On Channel 11, KPIX?
JOE GANS: Yeah, I think so. Anyhow, they saw it and then they told Chris that they would invest the money into this thing and we’ll get the cable system in Hazleton.
KELLER: But you weren’t involved as a partner, an equity partner or equity owner, at that time?
JOE GANS: No, no. I was the chief engineer at the time. And then we started out with three channels, and this is an interesting one: we get the equipment, we put the towers up in the south end of Hazleton, which wasn’t the best place, it wasn’t as good as the northside, but anyhow, we put the amplifiers in to get the pictures and we’re coming down through what we call “the heights” and up there they got some reception out of Philadelphia, but not much. Anyhow, when we turned it on, all of the sudden we had, I later found out what they call radiation, our lines were leaking, and people got a black bar down the side of their screen and oh, the phones started ringing. “What’s this cable company coming in?” You know, we just got started, we only had about maybe a mile of wire in there, and so…
KELLER: But it was more television than they’d ever seen before.
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah, yeah. And the word got out that we can get pictures now into where people can’t get reception but we’re interfering with the people who did get reception.
KELLER: Oh, I see. And that’s where the leaking came in.
JOE GANS: That’s when we put the big black bar on the screen. So anyhow, I call up the Jerrold guys and I had two other technicians working with me…
KELLER: And you were using Jerrold equipment at that time?
JOE GANS: Oh yeah, yeah.
KELLER: Three-channel strip amplifiers at each location?
JOE GANS: Single channel amplifiers, and anyhow, a guy comes up and he’s there, he came on a Monday, and I forget who it was. It was in the fall, he’s got this big long overcoat, and he’s writing, and I figured boy, this guy knows what he’s doing; he’s going to fix this, you know, and so come Friday…
KELLER: Do you remember who it was?
JOE GANS: No, I wish I did. If I could I’ll get the name to you. But anyhow, he goes up and he says, “Yep, Joe, you’ve got radiation.” Gets in his car and goes home. So what do you do?
IRENE GANS: He didn’t do anything about it, but he knew.
KELLER: Sent you a bill though.
JOE GANS: So anyhow, we were more or less stymied for a little while there because we couldn’t expand too much, and then a guy by the name of Tony Catone came up and what we started doing then was disconnecting different cables and here we found out that Jerrold at that time had the amplifier on one side of the pole and the distribution amplifier on the other side of the pole and the cable in between the two was the culprit that was leaking, and so as we disconnected that, the pictures cleared up, the bar disappeared and we hooked it up again. So believe it or not, what Tony did was he got a piece of… oh, it looked like ½ inch lead wire, telephone wire, and we took and cut it and pulled all of the strips out of there and put the connecters on and that stopped the radiation, which could have been, I say, the beginning of double shield cable.
KELLER: What were you doing all this time, Irene?
IRENE GANS: That time? I’m selling TV sets in our store.
KELLER: Oh, you’re still running the television store.
IRENE GANS: I’m still running the business. I mean when he left and went with Mountain City, his brothers Eddie and Teddy were still with us, and they did the work putting towers up and then we were selling TV sets and they’d install them and I took care of the shop and my two children and ran the business.
KELLER: Oh, is that all?
IRENE GANS: That’s all I did! Answered the telephone, took all the phone messages.
KELLER: When did you become an owner of the Hazleton system?
JOE GANS: Oh, it was many years later. Actually, I was never an owner of it. I just was in charge of the construction and so forth like that. One of the interesting things that we did too, in this same time while we were up in the south end of town with the antennas, up where I lived on 9th Street I used to pick up the New York channels and I had the Yankee ball games, whereas on the southside they were mediocre, so anyhow, I put another big tower out towards the mountain, I put it up and I got Channel 11. The only thing was the signals were weak and at that time, we had what is known as airplane flutter, I don’t know if you remember that?
KELLER: I do very well.
JOE GANS: The picture would come in and out, but anyhow, what I did was the beginning of broadband, I took the Channel 6 strip and widened it so I can carry 5 and 6 because there was a skip in between channels 4 and 5, which if 5 interfered with anything it made no difference.
KELLER: But you were still working for the Hazleton system owned by the Corrieles?
JOE GANS: Owned by the Corrieles, right. So anyhow, we put the Yankee ballgames on and we’re down at the Century Club one night and the picture’s in then out, it’s in then out, people would see a couple of innings and this… but Chris told me, he said, “Joe, what in the world are you doing? The picture’s terrible! You can’t put that on.” I said, “Well, Chris, that’s the best we can get up there,” so I said, “Alright I’ll take it off.” So I take it off – that telephone nearly went crazy.
IRENE GANS: And it’s a good thing he wasn’t sitting by the telephone but I was.
KELLER: You were? You were taking them all, huh? Those coalminers let you know, too!
IRENE GANS: Yes they did.
JOE GANS: So then I told Chris, I said, “Look, let’s move the antennas up to where they are today in Hazleton,” and it’s close to where I live but it was out on the mountain a little bit farther, and sure enough we put it up and we got Channel 11, I stacked the antennas and so forth and then we found also that we could get Channel 2, 4, and 7 out of New York, which were pretty decent. But at that time we still weren’t carrying full enough. We had 2 and 4, then we had 5 and 6 with the Yankee ballgames on and the pictures were better. This is where Johnny Walson comes in.
KELLER: And you were still using those single channel strip amplifiers in each amplifier location, so you had a box about this big up on the pole, huh?
JOE GANS: Yes, yes, right. Two big boxes on a pole.
KELLER: Two big boxes on a pole?
JOE GANS: Right, one was for distribution, the other one was for the amplifiers.
KELLER: And you said that you had, at this time or prior to this, met John Walson, at that time Walsonovich.
JOE GANS: Well, here’s what happened – oh, incidentally, another thing that was a part of history, when we moved from Janesville we had a little shack there. I call it a shack, it wasn’t much…
IRENE GANS: Yeah, a little building.
JOE GANS: A little building, and anyhow when we moved up onto the new place we got a whole Army bus, a military bus, because I figured it’s metal and it won’t leak to the antennas and this and that, and we put it up there. So anyhow, Johnny and Pete come up to see me up there in Hazleton because they heard we’re carrying the Yankee ball games.
KELLER: And they’re from Mahanoy City, is that right?
JOE GANS: Mahanoy City, yes. And they wanted to know how we’re doing this and so forth, so I showed them where the antennas were, how they’re working and this and that, and we became real close friends and he told me where he has an amplifier where he’s passing five channels. Luther Holt was building them at that time.
KELLER: The old Holt amplifier?
JOE GANS: Yep, which naturally got me interested in how he’s doing these things, and from there we used to see Johnny and Pete, I guess almost every weekend.
IRENE GANS: Every weekend and during the week. But every Sunday, that was a ritual. My living room was full of maps all the time. You couldn’t even see the rugs.
KELLER: Did you think this was going to be a business at that time, Irene?
IRENE GANS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
JOE GANS: There was no doubt, because on top of the mountains we had good pictures and with amplifiers and pre-amps, and so forth, we can make them better and the people down in the valley just couldn’t get anything so…
KELLER: As you built down into the valley in these areas, would you hook up every home as you went along or were some people just holding out, wouldn’t buy it for anything? You were charging $125 or something like that.
JOE GANS: We charged $125 and $3.75 a month. I’ll tell you, I even got sick one day, I was out until what? 11:00 or 12:00 o’clock at night…
IRENE GANS: Yes.
JOE GANS: …putting installs in, then we put in 25 that day and a lung collapsed on me, but you just couldn’t keep up with the demand. Maybe there were some diehards, but most of the people, as soon as they saw the pictures on the cable, they wanted it.
IRENE GANS: Not only that, they had the antennas, the ice and snow and the wind would make that funny sound, the real bad sound, and there was a lot of repair work to the roofs and they felt that cable was better – and it was.
KELLER: So the more cable they built the more television sets you sold.
IRENE GANS: That’s right.
JOE GANS: Actually there was a case where we hired contractors from Philadelphia, Hinkels and McCoy, and I think they had all they could do to keep up with what we were building, and then other cable companies were started, so we were doing good. But some of the points about Johnny Walson, though. We went down to Mahanoy City and he showed me where he was carrying what was known as the adjacent channel at that time, and normally you couldn’t put channel 2 and 3 on because the sound of 2 would damage 3, 3 would go against 4, and I got away with the 5 and 6 because of the games. So I said, “How in the world are you doing this?” You know, I asked him, and what he did is he took the pre-amp, the Jerrold pre-amp, and he peaked the picture instead of… you know, we were taught in school and everything else that the amplifiers should be flat and that the broadcasts are normally held a sound carrier of a 6db below. What Johnny did now, he peaked it to the picture and automatically cut the sound – I don’t know if he realized that’s what he was doing, but that’s what he did – and he said, “Look, Joe, see how nice and shiny this picture is?” And I said, “Holy Smokes!” And quite frankly, we weren’t…
KELLER: He had a great slope.
JOE GANS: Nice slope and the picture was good, and the noise and stuff like that wasn’t there anymore. We didn’t have the meters at the time that this could do it, but then later – months later – I realized that the sound is down on the slope and the picture is up high, and it worked, it worked good.
KELLER: So then you introduced that broadband amplifier into the system at Hazleton?
JOE GANS: Yeah, except I did it a little different. I put Tunes system, Tunes circuits in there. Originally what you had was all capacitor coupling and you really couldn’t flatten it out and so forth, whereas we – and Johnny didn’t like them at first – put Tunes circuits in there which can compensate for the cable, because the loss on channel 6 was higher than channel 2 and it could carry the pictures better.
KELLER: You explained this both in your original oral history with Strat Smith and also in your interview with Archer Taylor, didn’t you, for his book? You explained this also at that time because he had a great respect for you and how you did that to begin with.
JOE GANS: When did you broaden out then, when did you start business for yourself?
KELLER: Oh, I’d say ‘4…
IRENE GANS: ’54.
JOE GANS: ’54, right, is when we started…
KELLER: What year did you get started in Hazleton as the chief engineer?
IRENE GANS: ’50s, early ’50s.
JOE GANS: ’50, December of ’50. I worked for the Corrieles, and I have to say something good about them – I was on their payroll and we applied for the Weatherly franchise and I had a few problems getting properties and stuff like that and believe it or not Palmer Corriele said, “Joe, can I help you, because you’ve been good to us in the business and maybe we can expand.” And believe it or not, he got us the property which I have today, in the meantime, on his payroll. And then we started, I guess, Nuremberg…
IRENE GANS: No, we went into Berwick.
JOE GANS: Oh, Berwick. 195…?
IRENE GANS: 1955.
JOE GANS: ’55.
KELLER: How large of communities were these? What was the population of these communities, or how many homes, in say Berwick?
JOE GANS: Berwick is about 30-35-40,000 people.
KELLER: Oh, good size.
JOE GANS: Oh yeah.
IRENE GANS: And Weatherly is 5,000-6,000. It’s a smaller community.
JOE GANS: And then from then on, what happened is I wanted the Corrieles to spread out faster and they were satisfied where they were and so forth, so I’d say about 1958 or so we more or less went on our own, even though I did work for them in design work and stuff like that.
KELLER: And you were all in agreement with this – going out on your own and doing these systems?
IRENE GANS: Oh sure.
JOE GANS: Yeah, yeah.
KELLER: But you were still the one doing the office work and everything like that? Were you still running the television store at this time?
IRENE GANS: That’s right.
JOE GANS: She typed the franchise contracts, the pole rentals, and everything. We had attorneys, you know, but she had to redo and change the names or upgrade and stuff.
KELLER: Tell me about when you went in to ask for a franchise: any problems there? And how did you handle it?
JOE GANS: I was quite fortunate there. I was able, I guess, to give them a good sales pitch because I’d tell them, I said “There’s no antennas needed on the roofs, the pictures are far superior and we take special equipment, antennas and amplifiers, to process the signal so that you can get the best you can possibly get.”
KELLER: But they had never seen television either.
JOE GANS: No, a lot of them, no.
IRENE GANS: No, and we would invite them to go see what we did in the other communities.
KELLER: And it was pretty easy to sell at that time.
JOE GANS: Oh yeah, and then when we bought Berwick, believe it or not, we got it for what – $30,000?
IRENE GANS: That was a lot of money in those days. We paid it off every month.
JOE GANS: The guy who sold it to us more or less financed it for us – Jimmy Lee.
KELLER: Was he the Lee from Reading?
IRENE GANS: No, they’re from Hazleton – the Lee family.
KELLER: That’s a different Lee.
JOE GANS: They had the system but they didn’t have, I’d say, the know-how.
IRENE GANS: He wasn’t technically…
JOE GANS: He wasn’t technically inclined and the sound was off-balance and everything else, and he was still staying with the three-channel Jerrold system, whereas we came in with already a five-channel system. Then again, Channel 11 comes into the picture – the Yankee ballgames.
KELLER: That’s how you got into the microwave business, wasn’t it?
JOE GANS: That’s the beginning of it. Anyhow, I was trying to get Channel 11, in fact I had antennas all over the mountain and everything else, and just couldn’t do it. So, I belonged to the institute of engineers, electronic, I had EEE, and I was at a show in New York and I saw, I guess, it was Raytheon equipment where you could do the microwave thing and so forth, and in the meantime, Channel 28 – this was about ’57 – Channel 28 came on the air and they were getting pictures out of New York and I’m trying to figure where in the world are they getting them. You know what I found out – they were up in the Poconos, much closer to New York City, and the pictures are pretty decent there and actually they had RCA equipment, microwave, and as soon as I saw that and then I saw the Raytheon equipment in New York, I thought, oh boy, that’s the way to go. So I talked the Hazleton people into putting in a microwave line, which we did, and that started to now clear up.
KELLER: Was it one hop, then, from the Poconos into Hazleton?
JOE GANS: Yeah, right into Hazleton, yeah. And Johnny found out about it real quick, and he was a guy if he heard something new he’d want to go right now and take a look at it.
IRENE GANS: “Let’s do it now!”
JOE GANS: Do it now.
IRENE GANS: And they did.
JOE GANS: So anyhow, he comes in one evening…
IRENE GANS: Tell him about the wedding.
JOE GANS: Huh?
IRENE GANS: My brother’s wedding. We’re at the reception and John comes in, “Come on, we’re going to Massachusetts,” was it?
JOE GANS: Yeah.
IRENE GANS: He got in the car and the three of them left us flat at the wedding and they went right to Massachusetts.
JOE GANS: We heard of a new antenna up there. But anyhow, he found out we got the microwave in there, so I told him…
KELLER: This was a single channel microwave of WPIX from New York.
JOE GANS: Yeah, single channel, right.
KELLER: And they had the Yankee franchise at that time.
JOE GANS: Yeah, right. So anyhow, we went to the Raytheon people up in Massachusetts and we got permission to use some of their equipment and this is interesting – anyhow we wanted to rent their equipment because Hazleton was, I think, 33 miles, where Bear’s Head now is about 35 miles or so and we didn’t know for sure it was going to work, so they sent us up to Messina, New York and they were building the canals up there, and they had microwave there to show them how the construction was going and stuff like that. So they loaned us the equipment and we didn’t know how to work it or what to do or anything, and Johnny had a habit of that time, he put big telephone poles up to put his antennas up, he had a little platform up there, so we were up in the Poconos, he’s down there in Bear’s Head, Mahanoy City, and we’re trying to get signals and there are no pictures coming in. But then I had an amateur radio license and I got a two-meter ham radio and we were able to use that for communications back and forth.
KELLER: So after you got Channel 11 in, did you carry it full-time or just for the Yankees games?
JOE GANS: No, we carried it full-time.
KELLER: It was an independent station, wasn’t it?
JOE GANS: Right.
KELLER: And when did you decide you wanted to bring other New York channels in?
JOE GANS: Well, then Channel 5 in New York was Dumont at the time, it was one of the better stations there and now comes the government and you had to get permission from the stations to carry it and stuff.
KELLER: Well, you were a common carrier, microwave.
JOE GANS: Right, right, and believe it or not Johnny and Pete went to New York City and until today, summer, they got permission to carry the station.
KELLER: On the microwave system.
JOE GANS: On the microwave, yeah.
KELLER: That was the distinction that Strat tried to make with you the last time you talked about it.
JOE GANS: Right, right.
KELLER: Not for permission to carry it on the system, but to carry it on the microwave system.
JOE GANS: Yeah, yeah, and then he put it on his system and it took the lawyers to get that straightened out, but we got it going.
KELLER: Then where did you go after that?
JOE GANS: Well, after Berwick I guess…
IRENE GANS: Well, we built Nuremberg, we went into Benton, and then we went into…
KELLER: Were these still in the same area?
IRENE GANS: …the Garden State.
JOE GANS: Yeah, yeah, and then we start… a guy named Sam Edwards used to sell us cable and he told us about areas available in Delaware – oh, and he was from Reading.
KELLER: What company was that?
JOE GANS: U.S. Wire.
KELLER: Because Ray Schneider, at the time, was with Times, wasn’t he?
JOE GANS: Anyhow, he said there should be a franchise available in Reading, and Reading was behind the mountains too.
KELLER: There was also a television station in Reading, wasn’t there?
JOE GANS: Yeah, Channel 61.
KELLER: That’s when things got a little dicey, isn’t it?
JOE GANS: Yeah, anyhow, so in fact, what they did to me, there was a group called TAME.
KELLER: I remember very well, very well.
JOE GANS: Television Antenna Manufacturers something.
JOE GANS: And the put me on the stage, and I didn’t realize there were that many antenna dealers down there, but boy, they gave us a run for our money.
IRENE GANS: They put you on the radio.
JOE GANS: And then they put me on the radio talking back and forth, but we convinced the politicians at that time that cable television is the way to go here. So then we had a tentative franchise for Reading and we were going to go with that. In the meantime, he also told me about systems down in Delaware, and the systems in Delaware were smaller and I couldn’t afford something like Reading, so the Corrieles went in and they built Reading and we started in Delaware and at that time…
KELLER: You had separated yourself from the Corrieles for business purposes?
JOE GANS: Yeah, I still did their antenna work and everything else, I sold them equipment, and this is where we now had a five-channel… we were building our own amplifiers.
KELLER: I want to go into a little bit more detail on that. Why did you decide to build your own amplifiers?
JOE GANS: Well, because you couldn’t get Jerrold… at that time it was starting to go into multi-channel and stuff like that, but again it wasn’t quite available too soon, and what they did not have at the time was an AGC system for a broadband amplifier.
KELLER: Automatic Game Control.
JOE GANS: Right. So what I did, I put a tone carrier – where the heck was it – right between channel 4 and 5, I don’t know if it would be 73 or 75 megahertz, but it wasn’t on the picture and I took a simple AGC circuit, in fact some AGC voltage back through the tubes and it wasn’t a real perfect system, but it worked anyhow.
KELLER: And that was the reason you went into manufacturing your own – for the AGC in this broadband amplifier.
JOE GANS: Right. And I was building them then for Johnny, in fact we couldn’t make them fast enough.
IRENE GANS: We had about 5 employees building the equipment.
KELLER: How many were you turning out at that time?
IRENE GANS: We supplied enough for Peter and John and our own…
JOE GANS: Yeah, and our own.
IRENE GANS: Plus we were doing Reading.
JOE GANS: Reading – we built that – and then we started in Delaware, we put…
KELLER: What did you call the amplifier, what was the company manufacturer?
JOE GANS: ….. Equipment and Service Company.
IRENE GANS: That’s our company – …. Equipment and Service Company.
KELLER: And over the years how many of these did you manufacture?
JOE GANS: Oh boy.
IRENE GANS: Oh geez.
IRENE GANS: Yeah.
JOE GANS: In fact, George Gardner came up, he wanted to be a distributor for them and we couldn’t make them fast enough.
IRENE GANS: We just didn’t want to do that much.
KELLER: You said that you probably could have made a business out of the manufacturing had you decided you wanted to go into it.
JOE GANS: Yeah, right.
KELLER: But by that time, Jerrold was also…
JOE GANS: Jerrold was starting to do broadband equipment and so forth, and a little bit later on the transistors came in.
KELLER: When did you go to the high-band?
JOE GANS: Oh, let’s see. When we were still building the equipment. We built some high-band equipment and we put…
KELLER: Split-channel for high and low?
JOE GANS: Yeah, right, and we put the equipment down in Reading and then we started using it ourselves and so forth. In Delaware now, we built, just below Dover clear down to…
IRENE GANS: And Laurel, Delaware.
JOE GANS: Laurel, Seaford.
IRENE GANS: Milford, Rehoboth Beach, we did quite a job there. Some interesting things there too.
JOE GANS: Oh boy!
KELLER: That’s a resort area out on the coast.
JOE GANS: Right. We put a tower up and there I was trying to get the Baltimore channels and the Washington channels and the highway department gave us a problem – no, it wasn’t the highway department, it was the telephone companies and the power company wouldn’t let us on the poles to put the wire up.
KELLER: This was what – mid-60s?
JOE GANS: Yeah, right. And so I figured we’ll bury it, we’ll put it underground because Delaware is sandy, was soft.
KELLER: Also water level.
JOE GANS: Oh boy. So anyhow, we put it in and Tommy Daniels, he was actually a farm boy, he said…
IRENE GANS: Well, they knew how to run the tractors.
JOE GANS: We bought a big tractor that was a sub-soiler, okay? So he checks with the highway department, they said, “Okay, put it in.” We had to go down, I think, 18 inches, or something like that, and we had to be 18 inches off the edge of the road. So I checked with the water companies, the telephone companies, and they said, “Oh, they’re down three feet,” they’re this and that and everything else. So Tommy Daniels starts up the tractor and oh, he calls me, “Hurry up Joe! Come running up!” I said, “What’s wrong?” I get up there and the water’s shooting up, they ripped up the telephone lines, the water lines, but would you believe that we had the paperwork done on everything, we had the permission, and neither the telephone companies nor the water companies, didn’t cost us a cent.
KELLER: Because they didn’t know where their lines were.
JOE GANS: No, they didn’t know, and they weren’t where they were supposed to be.
KELLER: So you built Rehoboth all underground even though the water level was right about…?
JOE GANS: Underground, yeah. Rehoboth and actually we had to run from the antenna site, I guess about 15 miles into the town. The antenna site was outside of Milford and we had to run it down there.
KELLER: And at that time there was no AML microwave or anything available to you?
JOE GANS: No, not at that time. And then another interesting thing with these so-called 18 inches, every time the highway department put up a sign, there’s was also 18 inches off, so whenever we’d get a failure we’d just go look for a new road sign and sure enough there was a cable cut in half.
KELLER: And so now you’d expanded out onto the coast. Where’d you go after that?
JOE GANS: Well, we built Delaware, and then I guess we went New Jersey.
IRENE GANS: Garden State.
JOE GANS: Garden State, which is Sparta, Franklin, that whole complex there.
KELLER: Now you are in the area though where there were off-the-air signals, weren’t you?
JOE GANS: Well, except when I always drove through a town I looked to see on top of the roofs how big the antennas were, and you can tell pretty quick whether there was a good picture there, and Sparta had some pictures, but Hamburg and Franklin were behind the mountain so we got the franchises.
KELLER: So you were still behind the mountains in most of those areas, though.
JOE GANS: Yeah, right.
KELLER: Where was the first system you built where – I know you went out to Tucson and I want to get into a little big of that – where was the first system you built where you were actually built in a market that had good television?
JOE GANS: Future Vision – New Jersey. And that’s Eatontown, Ocean Port, Ocean Side, that whole area, we put it in there.
IRENE GANS: Sea Bright.
JOE GANS: Sea Bright. In fact, Sea Bright, if you know where it is, that’s the upper end of New Jersey, it’s pretty close out of New York City, and quite frankly now, that system grew slow. It wasn’t really fast.
KELLER: You really had to do some marketing in that system, didn’t you?
JOE GANS: Yeah, right.
KELLER: That was the first time you really had to market though?
JOE GANS: Right, and unfortunately, we had, would you believe, the passing of what was it…? 150-200,000 homes we passed there, but the demand for cable was slow, it wasn’t doing too good, and that was a partnership – there were other people involved – and they got nervous and we sold that company, but what we did have there at that time we had some of the pictures out of Philadelphia plus New York and everything else.
KELLER: That came to a screeching halt, though, pretty quick.
IRENE GANS: We sold that to Storer.
KELLER: To Storer?
JOE GANS: Storer Broadcasting, yeah. And another thing we did there now, was we had 12 channels at the time, because I mentioned we were getting pretty good pictures off the air, so what I did was put a dual system in there. I had dual cables, 12 channels on the one and 12 channels on the other, and it was an expensive system, but oh, today it’s a big company, but at that time, and satellite broadcasting wasn’t quite available and what we did was the Monmouth Racetrack, we carried the races there.
KELLER: Oh, I wasn’t aware of that.
JOE GANS: And then we had some local origination programs. So, we had some subscribers but not really good.
KELLER: Tell me what you did on local origination up there.
JOE GANS: Oh, we had local politicians coming in and I guess the horse races were on.
KELLER: Did you actually send your crews out to film the races themselves?
JOE GANS: Yeah.
KELLER: Did you have to delay them or anything?
JOE GANS: No, no. In fact, if I remember the racetrack had their own cameras and we just tapped in there and ran a line back and we were carrying the racetrack.
KELLER: And you never got involved with the gamblers or with the Mafia or anybody else who wanted that?
JOE GANS: No, no, well, one of the investors in the cable system was part owner in the track. Harvey Wardell.
KELLER: But they never tried to delay them so they would get to call early on and things like that?
JOE GANS: Maybe they did, I don’t remember.
KELLER: That wasn’t anything you cared about. And you were still handling all of the office work for all of these systems at this time?
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah.
IRENE GANS: Yeah, not Future Vision. I didn’t do their work. We went in and taught them what to do and how to set up the offices and their records.
JOE GANS: But she’d go down and we’d hire people and set up the books, and then later my daughter, Janice, she went down to Delaware.
IRENE GANS: Not Delaware, New Jersey.
JOE GANS: Yeah, oh that’s right, New Jersey. She went down there and helped set the books up and then as we were expanding then Janice as well as Irene got involved in setting the offices up.
KELLER: You got in the business yourselves in the ’60s. How many subscribers did you have in the ’60s, at the end of the ’60s? Roughly, Irene, I don’t need to know it to the exact number. Ten thousand, fifty thousand, hundred thousand?
JOE GANS: No, no, maybe 20-25,000.
KELLER: How many at the end of the ’70s?
JOE GANS: End of the ’70s? Oh, they were hitting…
IRENE GANS: If you added them all together, over 50,000.
KELLER: At the end of the ’80s?
JOE GANS: ’80s, oh, approaching 70,000, because in the ’80s we still had the northeast system which is pretty big and the other companies were growing pretty good.
KELLER: And at the end of the ’90s?
JOE GANS: Oh, boy.
IRENE GANS: Well, we just kept growing. I don’t know.
KELLER: What do you have today?
JOE GANS: Over 50,000, 60,000. We sold some of the company.
KELLER: So 50 or 60 thousand was not necessarily the most you ever had?
JOE GANS: No, no, we had more than that.
KELLER: You’re saying about 80,000?
JOE GANS: Yeah. You’ve got to remember – when was Carter president?
KELLER: In the ’80s.
JOE GANS: Yeah, somewhere in there, interest rates…
KELLER: I know! 24%.
JOE GANS: 24% and would you believe we were six over prime. So you just couldn’t do it.
KELLER: So that’s when John Malone helped you, did he not?
JOE GANS: John Malone came in and he told me – God bless the man, he’s really good – I was going to sell the company and he said, “Joe what do you want to sell it for? Sell me part of it.” I think it was 45%, and we’ll give you the money, which he did, he bailed me out, and then if you want to keep expanding, whatever you want to do – it was up to me. So we had a good buy/sell agreement and come, I guess it was 1990?
IRENE GANS: ’91.
JOE GANS: ’91, we bought him out, and I paid him back much more than what he gave me, but I had that many more subscribers.
KELLER: Now he did that with Lenfest, he did it with Bresnan…
JOE GANS: No, this was strictly with TCI.
KELLER: That’s what I mean, TCI did it, John Malone did it with Lenfest and he did it with Bresnan and a number of others too.
JOE GANS: In fact, Gerry Lenfest told me about the kind of things he was doing, the agreements he had with TCI, but I never went the public route like Rigas did, and John Rigas even asked me to go with him, but we stayed, ’til today we still own our company.
IRENE GANS: We’re independent.
JOE GANS: We’re independent.
KELLER: You don’t have to worry about stockholders or anybody else like that.
JOE GANS: Right, right.
KELLER: Where do you want to go now? What do you want to do? Do you want to build another place, do you want to buy another place?
JOE GANS: Well, my sons are more or less running the company now and we’re total fiber optics, all the systems are interconnected with fiber and we have some systems in Maryland now.
IRENE GANS: St. Mary’s.
JOE GANS: St. Mary’s down there.
KELLER: It’s on the bay, isn’t it?
JOE GANS: We have some down in Kentucky.
KELLER: Where in Kentucky?
JOE GANS: I don’t really know. He’s taking care of all that.
KELLER: Tell me about Tucson. How did you get involved in that? That seems to be way out of the area that you were in.
JOE GANS: Yeah, a friend of mine was on the NCTA independent operator’s board…
KELLER: Lee Druckman?
JOE GANS: No, Bryan Blow.
KELLER: Okay, Bryan Blow, I know Bryan.
JOE GANS: And he more or less told me that there were systems available in Arizona and they need some work and so forth.
KELLER: Not in Tucson itself, though?
JOE GANS: No. Tucson Estates, it’s a housing development outside of Tucson, and there were some Indian villages there, which there’s a different kind of construction there, but we hired, believe it or not, Indians and they run the system and we bought them and they’re doing pretty good.
KELLER: Johnny Monroe, no, Jim Monroe was down there too, in that area, in Show Low and some of those others, Fort Huachuca and that area down in there?
JOE GANS: Right, right, yeah. In fact they’re expanding the one system, I guess that it’s Tucson, but there, you know, these developers come in and they’ll put up 200 units real quick.
IRENE GANS: But you’ve got to get all that wire in there first.
KELLER: It’s a big capital outlay when you’re waiting for those new developments down there, I know that. What were you doing all this time, other than taking care of the family, the office, the books, and other things like that, keeping him straight.
IRENE GANS: I was busy all the time. Well, he was out, someone had to be home, right? Two people couldn’t go. I took care of all the records, it was an awful lot of work. We had 14 or 15 franchises and I had to take care of all that and build customers and…
JOE GANS: Well, when we built Northeast we had 33 franchises up there. Then we built the upper end of New York.
KELLER: 33 franchises? Where was that?
JOE GANS: All up around Scranton, clear up into Clarks Summit and then we built the Poconos.
KELLER: Resort areas in the Poconos?
JOE GANS: Yeah, right, and then we built up…
IRENE GANS: We did the Poconos in the ’60s, that’s our own.
JOE GANS: We built the upper end of New York State from between Syracuse and Watertown – all the little towns in between them.
KELLER: Well, you’ve been honored by the Pennsylvania Association in various ways over the years. That really meant something to you, didn’t it, to be accepted and honored by them.
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah.
KELLER: You’re also a founder of the Pennsylvania Cable Television Association.
JOE GANS: This business has been in my blood. I now it’s going to be a success, like today you saying what are we going to do now. My son is going hot and real heavy into this high-speed access, the data transmission. There are four or five hundred channels with the data transmission and there are so many things to be done, and we’re almost finished with the return lines, which now means out of your home anything you want to access, any satellite and so forth, you’re going to be able to do it.
KELLER: And you’re doing that in all of your systems now?
JOE GANS: Yeah, oh yeah. Well, to keep up to speed with the satellite transmission you almost have to do it, and besides, there’s a good market out there, a real good market.
KELLER: I think that’s right. You’re also on the board of directors of the PCN, is that right – the Pennsylvania Cable Network? When did you get involved with that?
JOE GANS: Oh, this is a good one too.
IRENE GANS: From the beginning.
JOE GANS: I was one of the founders of it. I believe the man’s name was Pittinger. He was an administrator for the Pennsylvania schools or something, and he wanted to interconnect the schools with television, and so being that we built some of the microwave systems in Pennsylvania, we worked with the – what do you call it? Picking out the frequencies and the lay of the land, I noticed that, well, I saw right away that the antenna sites, cable antenna sites in Pennsylvania, you might say, all look at each other. So I went up to the Poconos to the fire tower there, and I talked to Dixon Miller and he said, “Well, there’s a Pennsylvania fire watch system, where the fire towers all can see each other,” and when there’s a fire they coordinate where the problems are and so forth. And I thought, oh, boy, there’s a natural now to put microwave because here are properties available, most of them – not most of them, but a lot of them – have power coming up, and all we’ve got to do is put the towers up and we’ve got a microwave interconnect. So, anyhow, Marlowe Froke, this is where he came into this, and I – because Penn State at the time had the PSX, it was an educational channel, and this may be the opening for interconnecting all the towns with…
KELLER: Excuse me, Joe, as an aside, Marlowe Froke is the President Emeritus of The Cable Center and past president of The Center.
JOE GANS: Right, right, okay.
KELLER: Please go ahead.
JOE GANS: Anyhow, Marlowe and I drove out to see the Barcos now, and George Barco was still legal counsel and all, and I told George, I said, “You know, the state now is going to invest 30 million dollars to build an educational television network,” and I said, “Boy, you know, with the fire towers available plus the cable system towers available, I bet we can do that for a heck of a lot less money.” And so, George said okay and then when Marlowe and I were driving back to State College, somehow we got talking about videotapes and programs, and Marlowe told me, he said, “Joe, did you even see the tapes that we have here at the university?” And I said, “No.” At this time we were trying to get more and different television in the Northeast system, up in the Scranton area, so he showed me and I said, “Do you think we can work out something where we can get these tapes and play them back on our cable company?” He said, “Oh sure, I’ll see what I can do.” So he got, somehow, with the dean of the school to give us the tapes and we put a small, call it a playback unit, in…
IRENE GANS: Worthington campus.
JOE GANS: Worthington campus up in Dunmore, and I hired one of the school kids there and they’d run the tapes and they put it on our cable company in Northeast.
KELLER: Did the schools have sets to be able to view these – VCRs or other things?
JOE GANS: They had some, not many, but they had some. But my market was more for the homes, here’s a new channel out of Penn State, and so forth, and so we started running the tapes on the Dunmore system and immediately, you know, the neighboring systems find out…
KELLER: Do you remember what year this was?
JOE GANS: George Barco finds out and real quick, “Let’s build this in.” So a couple of us got together, put some money in it and we started from Penn State and we came up into Dunmore, then when we got that connected, you know, Berwick was already on the system.
KELLER: Did you ever get any state funds?
JOE GANS: No.
KELLER: All private funds.
JOE GANS: All private funds, yeah.
KELLER: And that is what’s developed into the PCN today, is that right?
JOE GANS: PCN Network, that’s right.
KELLER: How long did you really do educational work on the PCN?
JOE GANS: Well, we’re still doing some.
KELLER: To what extent?
JOE GANS: Well, I don’t know about Penn State now, but Brian has different programs on there, and quite frankly, the kinds of programs he’s running with the political answers and everything else, to me that’s educational.
KELLER: I would agree with that. The Penn State C-SPAN, huh?
JOE GANS: Yeah. And then we ran into a problem a little bit with Penn State. We put together, I think it was anywhere from 3 to 5 million dollars, and then we wanted them to build a school of communications in Penn State, and somehow, I forget the guy – he was an English guy – anyhow he wanted to build it…
IRENE GANS: Winston.
JOE GANS: Yeah, I forget. Anyhow, he wanted to build a school of journalism, and I was more interested in finding a place where I can send my employees to bring them up to date, and that’s when we talked with Marlowe and the thing with moving this…
IRENE GANS: Cable museum.
JOE GANS: Cable museum, and whatever, to Denver, because now I could see where putting it in Denver, there is the university there, you’ve got Cable Labs there, you’ve got all kinds of educational things, and where, I know, like Rigas…
KELLER: And you’ve got Dan Ritchie.
JOE GANS: Right, Dan Ritchie, but it’s going to be a place where I can send technicians and office employees and so forth and keep them up to speed, because today the technology’s going so fast that you’ve got to have a place where you can train somebody.
KELLER: That’s true.
JOE GANS: And would you believe there is no place really where you can send them.
KELLER: That’s still hard to believe, and some of the technical schools, I guess, you can get some information, but…
JOE GANS: Yeah, get some, but not really where I can send a guy in there and when he comes back he’s got a degree or he got a certificate, or whatever.
KELLER: Isn’t the University of Illinois in Champaign, don’t they do some of this work?
JOE GANS: They do some, but this will be a cable center.
KELLER: I realize that, but I thought there was something else.
JOE GANS: Yeah, Illinois does have something.
KELLER: You triggered another thought in my mind. You mentioned that George Barco was your attorney and he was for many cable systems in Pennsylvania. Do you remember his battle over the excise tax in the ’50s?
IRENE GANS: Yeah.
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah.
KELLER: Tell me about that, will you please?
IRENE GANS: Sure – you’re talking about the safe state tax?
KELLER: Yes, well, it was a federal tax where they were charging 8% on everything that was collected and George took it to the Supreme Court. Do you remember this?
JOE GANS: Yeah, and he beat it.
IRENE GANS: Well, they all did that, they did all the legal work.
KELLER: I’m sorry?
IRENE GANS: George and Yolanda, they did all the legal work on that.
KELLER: And they represented the entire industry…?
IRENE GANS: The Pennsylvania Association, they represented all the members of the Association.
KELLER: And he took it all the way to the Supreme Court, is that correct?
JOE GANS: Right, right.
KELLER: And if you lost on the local level, you lost in the State Court, the appeals court, you took it to Supreme Court where you won.
JOE GANS: Right.
KELLER: What year was that, do you remember?
JOE GANS: Middle ’60s, because Pete was in trouble right when that happened.
IRENE GANS: That would be about right.
JOE GANS: About ’64, ’65.
KELLER: Was it that late? I thought it was…
IRENE GANS: It was right before ’64. He died in ’64. It had to be earlier. Maybe ’59 or in around there.
KELLER: I thought it was in the ’50s but I could be…
JOE GANS: The other thing that George did too, is we got hit with copyrights in February of 1966, I’ll never forget that, and what happened there is the government put on that we can’t carry nothing but local channels, so they went in to make a deal with the copyright owners, the broadcasters and all. I was on the NCTA board at that time and, I guess, it was 1972, we were there a couple times, and I stood in line with Jack Valenti and George Barco and we were going up before the courts as to what to do with the copyrights and so forth, but we made an agreement with the broadcasters in ’72.
KELLER: Were you in agreement with that compromise that was made?
JOE GANS: I was. Believe it or not, George wasn’t.
KELLER: I knew that, I knew that.
IRENE GANS: He was very adamant about it.
JOE GANS: He didn’t want to do it, and they blamed Johnny Walson that it was his vote that swung it the other way, but I always wanted it.
KELLER: I know, on the NCTA board it could have gone one way or the other, but they had to finally agree on it. What years were you on the NCTA board?
JOE GANS: Oh, boy.
IRENE GANS: The ’70s. ’70s right up through the ’90s.
JOE GANS: ’90s, yeah. Because you go on for two years and then you had to go off, and on. I was on at least five or six times.
KELLER: Do you remember who the chairmen of the NCTA were?
JOE GANS: Oh, Bob Schmidt was on, Jim Mooney, there was a whole mess of them.
KELLER: No, they were the presidents. Do you remember who the volunteer chairmen were though? Jerry Lindauer was one of them. Was Jack Crosby chairman at one time?
JOE GANS: Yeah. Bill Bresnan, Dan Aaron, a whole mess of them.
KELLER: Did you ever have any dealings with Dan Aaron?
JOE GANS: Dan Aaron? Oh, sure. In fact, going back into the ’50s and ’60s, when we used to have the conventions there used to be what we’d call the Jerrold sweep, and after the thing, why, we’d go up there and have a couple beers, but the thing that we did there, each of the guys that talked to each other as to how to fix this, how you fix that, how you fix that, and the one I’ll never forget was when Vic Nicholson, and this was early ’60s, and we still had the antenna site, the equipment was crude, the pre-amps and the amplifiers and all. Vic and I just had a discussion – the way a TV set works, you can hook it in and pick up anything off an antenna and what they did was put a system where they have the tuner and amplifier and the AGC, and believe it or not – I have it written somewhere what year it was – but the next year we both come out to the convention and they had what they called a channel commander, which, oh, what a blessing that was! And it was as a result of guys…
IRENE GANS: All of them had been sitting there talking about… that’s all they talked – shop. Amplifiers, what do you do with this, I have a problem, how can I fix this. I used to sit and listen to them all the time.
KELLER: You concentrated on Jerrold, but you also had C-COR here in Pennsylvania, Jim Palmer?
JOE GANS: Oh, C-COR now, Doc Brown, Dr. Brown. In the ’50s yet, we were still trying to get a multi-channel amplifier built, and he came up with what they called a chain amplifier, and he and I used to go out at night and try and equalize the cable so that it matched the chain amplifier.
KELLER: And did it all over again the next morning, huh?
JOE GANS: And when the sun came out the cable flopped over the other way. Another thing on this story, at that time, Johnny had his Holt amplifiers and he had some of ours, and the same thing – it’s sort of cable attenuation in the daytime, another one at night. So what Pete would do, every night, in the evening when the sun would go down, he took his Cadillac, he’d drive down and he’d balance the amplifier.
IRENE GANS: They kept theirs down, they didn’t put them way up on the pole.
JOE GANS: I was going to say, another thing Johnny did is we had our amplifiers up on top of the poles and one bad thing with that is we’d be balancing them during the night and you’re on a ladder and we didn’t have too good a communication, so we’re yelling “Up on 2, down on 2,” this and that, and the windows would go up, “Shut the heck up! We’re trying to get some sleep!”
KELLER: I’m surprised that the telephone companies allowed those amplifiers that low, because they always used to say the interfered with the climbing of the poles, and it did.
JOE GANS: Oh yeah, but he put his amplifiers down and it made good sense. Later on, though, from the power company, he got permission, they gave us specs as to how to put them, and on until we went solid state, why the amplifiers were down. And then the other thing he did too – oh, I’ll tell you, you could write a book almost about him – is in the beginning, first he came in with a twin lead – I didn’t know him at that time – and then when I talked…
KELLER: Open wire?
JOE GANS: Yeah, open wire and heavy twin lead, and so when I talked him into moving his antenna site to a mountain, which he did, and we couldn’t get no power up on the mountain, so somewhere along the way he found what they called the K-14 cable. Do you remember that? It was a big, fat cable with about a number 12 wire in the center of it, and we ran that up the mountain, well, he ran it up the mountain, and we sent the power up the cable and the television down the cable.
KELLER: I think that was the first time that was ever done, isn’t it?
JOE GANS: Yeah. And then later on, that’s when he started cascading too. He came down from Bear’s Head, down through Mahanoy City, and then he was going down towards Yardville and everything else, and the only problem there was, again, the cascade was pretty long and it was pretty hard to control that signal, but then a new thing happened to us too. After about a year or two, the attenuation got pretty heavy in the cable and we couldn’t figure out what in the world was happening.
KELLER: Attenuation is loss, signal loss.
JOE GANS: Yeah, right, loss in the signal. It’s characteristic of the cable chain, so somewhere along the line, one of the amps that were down, we saw some water coming out of the connectors and sure enough, what happened was everywhere that cable sagged, we went there and cut the thing and water came out. Those are some of the things we had to learn the hard way.
KELLER: Do you want to build any more systems right now? You say your boys are doing it now.
JOE GANS: They’re doing it. Well, right now, as far as new franchise territory, there aren’t many available, but there are systems available that need upgrading, need fibers, need improvements, stuff like that, and the owners, quite frankly, aren’t going to spend the money to upgrade them so we’re trying to purchase them and upgrading them, and that’s what they’re doing.
KELLER: Smaller systems right now are not that much in demand.
JOE GANS: No.
KELLER: Now you’ve clustered some of your systems also, haven’t you? In fact somebody said that you were one of the early people to start clustering like you did around Hazleton.
JOE GANS: Right, Hazleton, Berwick, the Poconos, it’s all a cluster, and then Northeast was one big cluster of systems up there.
KELLER: That was out in New Jersey and Delaware.
JOE GANS: New Jersey, and Delaware, they’re all clustered, yeah. That made good sense. You’d have one antenna site, at the most two, and you can feed all the towns around there.
KELLER: Now you mentioned a couple of people that have had a major impact on your business over the years. John Walson is one of them, John Malone is another, can you think of any others that have had a major impact on you and/or your business?
JOE GANS: Well, again, a guy as I mentioned, Vic Nicholson, with the channel commander…
KELLER: Jerrold, he was Jerrold.
JOE GANS: And then the C-COR people came out with… again, the first broadband systems that were actually 220 megahertz and stuff like that. The other guy would be Jim Peterson.
IRENE GANS: Oh yeah, from the bank.
JOE GANS: Continental Bank.
KELLER: In New York?
IRENE GANS: We were looking for funding.
JOE GANS: In Chicago.
KELLER: In Chicago?
JOE GANS: Yeah, so I talked to him, and John Rigas too, every time he and I drove in between the systems all we did was talk about the banks and stuff like that, so I met Jim Peterson – I don’t remember where.
IRENE GANS: That’s when we were going to buy Northeast. Well, we knew him from being at the conventions.
JOE GANS: At the conventions.
IRENE GANS: National ones.
JOE GANS: Anyhow, I told him what I’m trying to do, so I met with, oh, who was it? Mellon Bank.
IRENE GANS: In Pittsburgh.
JOE GANS: In Pittsburgh, and the kind of agreement they wanted I had to give them everything but her clothes, and I said, “Well, geez, it’s the system that I’m going to buy and back it up with.” So I walked up on that, and would you believe I went to Chicago and had my projections and so forth, and I start walking around to the different banks to see who would listen or talk to me, and I went to see Jim Peterson and he said, “Boy, I’m mad at you!” I said, “Why?” He said, “I thought you were going to come in here first.” And he was ready for us, believe it or not, I guess it was in about 2 or 3 days we had the loan. And even when we told this to my attorney, he said, “No way in heck can you get something…”
IRENE GANS: “It’s going to take you two weeks. I know all the paperwork that’s going to be involved.” And Jim said, “No it won’t. 2 or 3 days we’ll be done.” And they were.
KELLER: This was Continental Bank in Chicago? What year was this?
JOE GANS: Yeah. ’77, ’80?
IRENE GANS: ’77.
JOE GANS: ’77. That’s when we bought the Northeast system.
KELLER: That’s when the banks were starting to get interested in the business.
JOE GANS: Yeah, right.
KELLER: You didn’t give any personal guarantees at any time?
JOE GANS: No.
KELLER: That’s quite a tribute.
IRENE GANS: Well, your system was the guaranty. Now they believed in it. In the beginning they didn’t believe in cable, but then after that there was a worth to it.
KELLER: Did people tell you in the early days that you were foolish to get into this business, that it would never last?
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah. Especially in the ’50s, and there again, it was almost impossible to get financing. Luckily enough, some of our local people, Mike Romancik…
IRENE GANS: People we knew.
JOE GANS: People we knew.
KELLER: Local banks?
JOE GANS: Yeah.
IRENE GANS: We had collateral for that. We had to collateralize the loan.
KELLER: So you did use some of your personal assets then? Your home and other things like that.
JOE GANS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
IRENE GANS: In the beginning.
KELLER: In the beginning.
IRENE GANS: The very beginning.
KELLER: So now you’re just kind of taking it easy and playing golf or whatever you want to do?
JOE GANS: I’m a fisherman and boatman.
KELLER: You’re still not spending any time at home, huh?
IRENE GANS: Oh, yes we are, some. We get home, get the work done, and then we go off again.
KELLER: Okay, but you’re going fishing with him now?
IRENE GANS: Oh, yes.
JOE GANS: But I still like what’s happening with The Cable Center and the potential they have.
IRENE GANS: He’s still on the board of Cable Labs. We’re still involved.
KELLER: They’re a great help to us, and it’s going to be interesting when they put all of that equipment into The Cable Center. When are you going to come out and see us?
JOE GANS: Well, I’ve got some I’ve put out there, too. I think there are some of Luther Holt’s amplifiers, some of ours there around.
KELLER: I know Dave Willis has those in the archives out there. I didn’t realize he had some of the Holts though. Where was Luther’s plant? Was that in Mahanoy City?
JOE GANS: In Mahanoy City, yeah.
KELLER: I don’t know where we’re going to go with this any further, so I think we’ll just put a stop to it. I think we’ve covered a lot of the things that you may not have covered in your original oral history, and again, I would repeat that anyone looking at this interview should also review the transcript of your oral history done at Penn State University in October of 1989 by Professor Strat Smith. This has been the oral history of Joseph S. and Irene Gans. The date, again, is August 3, 2001. We are in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Your interviewer was Jim Keller. Thanks Joe, and thank you Irene. It’s been a pleasure.
JOE GANS: Enjoyed it.
IRENE GANS: Thank you.