Herbert Jackson

Herbert Jackson

Interview Date: Saturday April 20, 2002
Interview Location: Austin, TX
Interviewer: Jim Keller
Program: Hauser Project

KELLER: This is the oral history of Herb Jackson, a contractor in the cable television industry who’s been around for an awful long time and done many, many jobs, most of which he will tell you. The date is April 20, 2002. We’re in Austin, TX where Herb makes his home. Herb, tell us how you got started in this business and what you’ve been doing.

JACKSON: Well, I was with the power company of the city of Austin. I’ve been there about 13 years and I was chief draftsman of the electric design department, and John Campbell come up and told me one day that a mutual friend of his, Tom Creighton, who was a state senator and had an office up in the Capital, wanted me to meet him because I could help him with the pole permits there in the city of Austin. He’d just gotten the franchise for the city of Austin, and it come under my bailiwick to put the…

KELLER: Did you have separate poles or were you using single poles with the telephone company?

JACKSON: It was telephone and… they was joint use poles, but we could get on either one if we wanted to, and I met John, well, I’d met Tom at the university when we he was in law school and I was in engineering school, and that’s how I knew him and just incidentally we were both going with the same girl and I married her. So that’s how Creighton and I become kind of friends and kind of not friends, but anyway, he got me into this and John explained to me about the cable, and I done just like everybody else, said, “What is that?” And he explained to me that they put the lines on the poles and cable lost so much and the amplifiers gained so much, and they had to have pole space to get the construction started here in Austin. So I figured out a way to apply for poles…

KELLER: This was after John Campbell had acquired a franchise from the city of Austin?

JACKSON: Right, uh-huh. Like I said, he set up an apartment and had a drafting table in it and everything, so I’d go over there and kind of moonlight at night. I wasn’t making too much money at the time with the city, and I would draw up plans and then take them back to the office and approve them the next day and they’d have clearances to go on the poles.

KELLER: So you were playing both ends at the time, huh?

JACKSON: Yeah, it was real good and it was going along there and I was laying it out. John and Wayne Fletcher was the microwave engineer, and they were setting up the microwave in the headends and the distribution system, and the system was kind of a minor thing with them and they didn’t want to mess with it, and they taught me how to do layout, and I laid out about 40 or 50 miles of system. I didn’t know what in the world I was doing but I knew that the cable lost so much and the amplifiers would boost it back up again, and there was a trunk line and a feeder. They explained the simple terminology to me and I got it all laid out and everything was working fine. One day I asked John, “What does a piece of that coax cable look like?” And they brought in a piece and showed me how it all was, and amplifiers, they were supposed to have so much gain and everything, but they didn’t always. But anyway, that’s the way I started and then one day John called me up to Tom’s office in the capital and asked what it would take me to leave the city. So I thought, well, this may be the chance I wanted so I just doubled what I was getting with the city and said that’s what I’ll go for and they said, “Come on.” There I was, I’d had 13 years of security with the city and all the health benefits and retirement and all that, and then there I was about to branch off into this crazy wild world of cable TV, which I knew nothing about. But we got started and we got line crews in here and I was still doing laying out. The boys that had worked for me with the city had been under me and we were real good friends, so I still had more or less control of it. There was another company, Capital Cable, that come in and they were applying for poles too, and they had to come through… we did have a little bit of advantage of knowing where they wanted to build and how come and why, and we would approve our permits first.

KELLER: You had left the city by this time?

JACKSON: No, well, I’d done a little bit of that before I’d left the city and then I had kind of control of it where I could find out about what was going on after that, and they let me know where the permits were being applied for and I could go ahead and apply for permits too.

KELLER: By way of background, there were two franchises, parenthetically, there were two franchises issued for the city of Austin. One to Capital Cable, which was a combination of the LBJ interests and Midwest Video, the other one was John Campbell and that was Austin…

JACKSON: Right, TV Cable of Austin.

KELLER: TV Cable of Austin vs. Capital Cable, which was the other group. You came with Johnny Campbell and you were doing layout, and were you doing make-ready work then too at this time?

JACKSON: Yeah, I was riding make-ready and getting approval on the poles. The power company would see what it would cost to lower or raise poles or do any pole change outs, stuff like that, and each firm would have a definite cost to do construction to change it out to where there’d be pole space on there, and then we would either approve them and take that permit and pay the amount for the pole make-ready.

KELLER: And that was because there had to be a clearance between telephone power and cable.

JACKSON: And we had to have, I forgot what it is, 36-inches from power and a foot above telephone. That was code. Or whatever the code was at the time, and then you had to worry about railroad crossings and high road crossing, stuff like that, getting proper heights on those.

KELLER: So how did this develop then? After you went to work now for Johnny Campbell who was building the system.

JACKSON: Yeah, we started building and oh, over a period of a year, year and a half there we had about 400 miles of system built and approximately 4,000 subs when things with Capital Cable developed. Johnson become president…

KELLER: Lyndon Johnson.

JACKSON: Lyndon Johnson, and then somehow or another our money got cut off and we were kind of forced into a sale of what we had there. It was real funny, John and I were there at the office, they had made the deal to buy us out, and George Morel was a head man with Midwest Video. He and about five other guys come in a big Cadillac with the door on it and a chauffeur opened the door on the Cadillac and they all come out and come in to the office, and I had to read off everybody that we had as employees right down the line as to what their function was and what they done and everything, and they were there to take us over completely. I didn’t know what the status was for me at that time, and then when it come to my name I told them what I done, and John told them right there that Herb don’t go with the deal. So that’s when I found out I was probably stuck with John for a long time, which was alright with me.

KELLER: I want to pick it up there, but what if both companies had applied for a particular pole or particular length of cable? How would you have accommodated both of them on the pole?

JACKSON: We would have our pole permits there first and have the right to be on them, and then if it took necessary rebuild to get them in proper space they had to pay to get it on.

KELLER: To replace the pole if they needed additional height?

JACKSON: If there was just space for one we’d already have it because we applied for the poles first.

KELLER: You applied for all the poles in town first, is that it?

JACKSON: No, it would be just by permits, which would be maybe 15 or 20 square blocks. We broke it up into areas and permits didn’t get too big. Like I said, it would be about 15 or 20 square block area. It wasn’t a blanket system for the whole town, you see?

KELLER: So they were also applying for poles but in a different section of town, is that it?

JACKSON: Sometimes. If it was a good section we’d go over and get on first.

KELLER: So you had that inroad into it at that time.

JACKSON: Yeah, we did have a little inside.

KELLER: Okay, so after the sale of TV Cable of Austin to Capital Cable Television, what did you do then?

JACKSON: Well, I got three of the line crews that I got together, and John had made a deal up in Salem, Illinois, and it was kind of a funny deal. Tommy Moore had towers and he had a fourth of it…

KELLER: Fort Worth Tower Company.

JACKSON: Yeah. Then there was a guy named John Kirby, he put the deal all together so he got a fourth of it, and then John was going to furnish the equipment and get it built for them and he got a fourth, and the only one that seemed to have any money in the whole situation was the local RCA dealer there. So that was the way that all went together and we started building. John had just perfected, well, it wasn’t really all the well perfected but he made transistorized strand-mounted amplifiers. That was one of the first systems to ever have the strand-mounted gear, and also the first one that I’d ever messed with. I think there’d been some others built using aluminum cables, bare aluminum cable. We’d always use self support 408 or strip braid of some kind, but this is when it went into aluminum.

KELLER: What year was it, do you remember the dates that Capital bought Johnny Campbell out? What year was it?

JACKSON: It was ’64.

KELLER: ’64, okay. So now you’re in the business and you’re up in Salem Illinois.

JACKSON: Yeah, and I built that.

KELLER: Now you’re an expert, huh?

JACKSON: Well, not exactly, I was still a Texan. I went up there and one of the trucks pulled up beside me with the power company and he said where you all out of, and I said Texas, and that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. It’s all union in there, so I took all my boys down to West Frankfurt, Illinois and joined them in the union. I even got me a card and we went back and never had any problems with it. We just paid our dues and went right on with everything, and everything worked out real good. And then John was real good friends with John Threadgill and he’d got a franchise in Marlin, Texas. So I sent all the crews back from Illinois down to Marlin to start putting up the strand and everything. And then it just kind of… I kept doing turnkey construction for John. I’d go to these little towns and they were more of the little mom and pop systems, the bigger systems hadn’t started developing then, and you’d go into a town and there’d be the banker and a lawyer and some local TV dealer or something like that, they’d all get together and form a little company to take the franchise. The bigger manufacturers would ride it and make a strand mount and send it back into their main office. It would take three weeks to a month or something like that to get a design and costs all figured out. I’d go in there, and like I said yesterday, get a 1:400 scale map and ride it with the customer and he’d draw on there where he’d want the cable to be, and would say, now here’s where I’ve got the headend or tower site and all like that. Well, with that information I could draw up a trunk line there, space the amplifiers, draw up the feeders, get a measurement of how much mileage there was on that system, and give them a price right on the spot of how much the system was. Our equipment was a lot cheaper than some of the other equipment, so I had an inside track on a whole bunch of the smaller systems that were watching their money real good, and that’s where on a make-ready there’d be a lot of those where we’d give them so much but then the make-ready was a variable that was going to be another expense to them. The variables were the headend cost and the make-ready cost. Lots and lots of times I’d go in there and ride make-ready with the power and telephone company for them just to get the construction and to sell the equipment.

KELLER: Did you ever have disagreements with any of them about what should be done, or they claimed that something should be done and you’d say, no, it didn’t have to be done?

JACKSON: Well, I can speak the power company’s terminology, which really helped, and we’d done a lot of dealings when I was with the telephone company on joint use poles, and they all took pride in having their proper clearances and stuff like that, and in some of these smaller towns they were built out of code, and I could always get it wormed around that if they’re out of code now, oh, it’s their expense. That saved us a lot of money. When they were out of code themselves they would get back in code and then there would be room for us to be on it. But there was a lot of times they were in code and there was nothing we could do about it but just go ahead and pay.

KELLER: Do you remember at that time and in these small towns about what the average cost per mile of make-ready was?

JACKSON: If we could keep it within about 500 a mile it was pretty darn good. Then lots of them would be practically nothing, but that was about the most you’d ever have to pay because you’d get one of those $2,000 poles to change out, a double buck arm with transformers on it and the whole ball of wax, you could usually bury around that or dead end on either side of it and work your way out of it.

KELLER: So you wouldn’t go on that pole with the transformers.

JACKSON: Um-hmm. You would do a lot of dodging with those heavily laden poles, you might say.

KELLER: How many of those systems did you in, say, between 1964 and 1970?

JACKSON: Probably about 20.

KELLER: All for John Campbell?

JACKSON: Yeah, most of them was John then.

KELLER: Had you formed your own company by that time?

JACKSON: Oh, it was after about three years, John decided that he was just going straight manufacturing and was going into building headends and things like that. He gave me the two or three trucks and tools and stuff that I’d been doing construction with, and we’d gotten a system in Athens, Texas to build, and so he says you’re on your own now, and I formed up my own company then and took line crews into Athens. That’s where the Curtis Mathis main plant was.

KELLER: And from there you then developed your own business?

JACKSON: Yeah, I started doing construction on my own and using other equipment, but I more or less still used a lot of John’s equipment.

KELLER: But you didn’t have that say so in any one system. That would have to be up to the owner of the system to say what equipment they were going to use.

JACKSON: Right. Back then there was a weekly publication that come out and I forgot the name of it, but it would describe cable franchising activity, what town in Texas – this was for Texas – that was applied for a franchise and who had just been granted a franchise, and that was our key to who to contact. That was kind of your bible to go through to find out what was going on.

KELLER: And did you do most of your work in Texas?

JACKSON: For awhile, and then the next thing I know… I’ve kind of forgot how it all developed. I sold my company to Comm Co. and Comm Co. was owned by Walter Jenkins. He had Jay O’Neil running it for him. They bought me out… they had about ten little systems. Eagle Pass was one of them, and some up in New Mexico and some in Kentucky and everything, and it was for the purpose of me going in and more or less rebuilding all of their systems, but I had some good construction jobs going and we got bigger in construction and bigger all the time. It just kind of kept going and I went from about five crews to about 15 and then on up, and I kept all of them busy and we were just going all the time. The tail started wagging the dog, as one of the secretaries said about Comm Co. and the construction, and we formed up Comm Co. Construction. Then later on… I’ve kind of forgotten all the timing on this, but I had a bunch of installs going, and also construction, and Walter Jenkins’ nephew bought the construction company from them, and then I bought the install portion of it back again and we formed another company and started doing installs and then after a while I started doing little minor construction again and built it up and got it going good again, and sold it back to him again.

KELLER: Pulled the same company back to you a second time, huh?

JACKSON: Yeah, and then I bought the installs back again, and then later on I had got the installs going real good again and started a little bit of construction, and then I was building a lot for River Communications building up in Oklahoma and around San Antone. They were building the outside areas of towns, stuff like that, and it kind of got into a cash flow type situation. They did and I did, and so I sold the company again to the people that have it now in Dallas.

KELLER: How many years ago was this?

JACKSON: That was about 12 years ago.

KELLER: They still have it and they’re still doing construction?

JACKSON: Yeah, they never did want to sell it. I never could get it back again. But when I sold it I just took over running installs. I had Kerbill under construction for Times Mirror out of California, and River stuff going – quite a bit of construction going at the time when I did sell back to them, but then we kind of phased out all of the construction and I got a contract with ATC to do installs here in Austin. That just kept growing and Austin just keeps growing all the time. When I left, when we sold out, I took the job of managing and running the Austin system for them, so I just…

KELLER: The cable television system in Austin?

JACKSON: No, the install and construction that we had going right here then. I’ve done some installs, I mean construction for ATC, too. We had about three or four crews that done minor extension work here. That was all part of our offices of operation.

KELLER: Did they do their own splicing or did you do the splicing too?

JACKSON: We done splicing on the minor extensions.

KELLER: You’re no longer doing construction for them now; you’re doing installs.

JACKSON: I got completely out of construction. The installs just seemed to take all your time and when we first started it was straightaway go in and hooking the house up and putting the extra outlets in and all the proper traps that go in to give them what signal that they want to pay for and everything. Well, and then they come in with the nodes, modems and the Roadrunner and all that, and we get our boys in there and train them. I wouldn’t dare go out and try to put an install in anymore because of all the stuff that goes on now. Doing the regular hookup’s kind of secondary now.

KELLER: With digital converters and everything.

JACKSON: They have really done a lot of that, and we train our men to have all that. We’ve got’em to work meters and check devices and everything to do that job, and right now I’ve got about 70 installers.

KELLER: 7-0? Seventy?

JACKSON: Yeah, and they’re all subcontractors that work for us, and then I’ve got about eight field supervisors that we go and keep constant check on them and answer complaints and things of that nature.

KELLER: So the supervisors work for you?

JACKSON: Yeah, they’re employees and work for me, and then I’ve got two top notch men that watch the supervisors and then we’ve got the necessary… we have our own dispatch system. We’ll go out with 300-400 work orders a day, and every one of our men have the two-way radios.

KELLER: That’s here in Austin?

JACKSON: Yeah, and each one of our dispatchers assigns so many installers that he keeps up with, but it just really works smooth now. Like I said, I just go to work about 9:30 in the morning and then go play bingo from noon to 2:30 and then try to beat the 5:00 traffic. I’ve got good men working for me so I more or less am retired now.

KELLER: So you have 70 installers working in Austin for AOL Time Warner.

JACKSON: We’re doing work for AOL Time Warner.

KELLER: And you go 7 days a week, 6 days a week, 5 days?

JACKSON: 6 days a week. They don’t work on Sunday, but Saturday is our big day when everybody’s home.

KELLER: Do you get the work orders from the cable company or do you make out your own work orders?

JACKSON: No, we go the day before and there’s cards, and we go through and we’ve got from 1-100 designation on CTS stuff. Each installer has his own number and then we’ll go through all the cards of where the locations are and they’ve got the town and management areas, and we keep all the men in the same areas or close proximity to each other and we go and pull the cards on one day and set up a man’s route, and then that night they print those work orders and the work orders are printed work orders with the tasks to be done comes out the next day, and we pick them up real early in the morning and give them to each one of the individual men. But it’s pre-determined the day before as to what route he’s going to get the next day.

KELLER: What if you don’t need 70 men that day, what happens?

JACKSON: Well, we have things come up and we can usually work some of the men. Some of the men will want off that day, but they all show up. If they don’t have work we just watch that particular thing and be sure that that man has work the next day to keep our men happy.

KELLER: Are you working anyplace other than Austin?

JACKSON: The company is. I’m not.

KELLER: I mean the company.

JACKSON: Yeah, they’re doing a lot of work in Dallas and they was working in Tulsa and Cincinnati and they’ve since gone into Chicago.

KELLER: Now this is your company?

JACKSON: Well, the company that I work for. I’ve sold. It’s not in my name, I just work for the company, but it is my company that is doing that.

KELLER: So you sold your company then. How long ago?

JACKSON: About 10 or 12 years ago, and then I’ve just set here and done this ever since.

KELLER: So you’re managing Austin for that company? What is the company’s name?

JACKSON: It’s Almar Realty DBA Cable Technical Services.

KELLER: Okay, so it’s a realty company then? A real estate company?

JACKSON: That was just kind of a corporate name they had.

KELLER: What else are you doing other than doing installs or having your crews do installs and playing bingo? What else are you doing?

JACKSON: That’s about it. Well, I go to Las Vegas and New Orleans a lot, but like I said, for many years there I was on the road building these systems and some of the things that happened to me on that you wouldn’t believe.

KELLER: Tell me.

JACKSON: I’d go to build one of these little towns, start to look it over to build it and everything like that, and I’d wander about the hotels or motels or wherever we was going to stay, and lots of them you’d drive up and see an advertisement of a deluxe motel, hot water. None of them… every place we’d go they’d get maybe one channel or half a channel on the TV. I never got to watch any good TV. But the linemen, they were all quite a bunch. Here in Austin when we were still building for Johnny Campbell, every Friday afternoon we would pay the men off, line crews, and there was one little bar out on South Lamar here in town that had a little pool table with a light on it and I’d come from the main office with the checks and under the light of that pool table I’d pay everybody off and it’d be real quite for a while, and then they’d all come alive.

KELLER: After about the third drink, huh?

JACKSON: Yeah, and one day one of the boys says, Herb, do you mind if we burn some of that cable? And I said what do you mean burn it? Well, it was the script blade 408 which had a lot of copper in it, and I said, yeah, go ahead, I’ve got a mountain full of that I’ve got to figure out how to get rid of, so they come back and says, man! We burned there for about an hour and made $116. So that kind of got things rolling there and I designated a crew to start burning at noon every Friday then.

KELLER: Scraps, now?

JACKSON: Scrap cable, the tailings on reels and stuff like that. Well, they would put about a half in every once in a while if they were running a little short. They’d come back with $200 or $300 there, and I’d give it to the bartender and we really had the esprit de corps with the bunch working for us in those days.

KELLER: Where did you find the people to do this kind of work?

JACKSON: I don’t have any idea where they come from. It seems like as we started building the larger jobs you’d go in there with two crews and you needed 20, and in about a week they’d come out of nowhere. I don’t have any idea how the grapevine worked between all the linemen but they would come to you. If they didn’t, you’d know that they town next to you was doing construction and you’d figure that all of are going to be at a bar somewhere there and you’d always go in there and find one good man that was working for somebody else, talk to him for awhile and offer him a quarter an hour more, and you’d have three or four crews show up the next day on your job. We’d steal crews kind of back and forth.

KELLER: They all had to be able to climb though, right?

JACKSON: Oh, yeah. They were all climbing linemen. We didn’t have bucket trucks in those days. But they worked hard and they thought that was the greatest thing in the world is when you got an electric drill and generator where they wouldn’t have to use the breaks and bits. I tried to rig them all out with that.

KELLER: If you were to estimate, what would be the number of miles of plant that you’ve built over your years?

JACKSON: Well, I was involved with north Little Rock and Texarkana, those were some of the big ones, and then all of these little ones. I’d say 800-1000 miles.

KELLER: How many installs have you done?

JACKSON: I couldn’t tell you. I’ve had installers working for me for years. One time about 12 years ago I kind of checked out the invoices and I’d put in over 200,000.

KELLER: 200,000 drops?

JACKSON: But we had a lot of people working for a lot of time. We’d been doing that a long time. I used to have install crews that were kind of gypsies. Like I could take about five men and put them on a job and then we’d start bringing in local people and training them, and then I’d move my nucleus on to another job, but leave the job there with people local but I had this core that always was ready to do installs and I could go put them on a new job and then we’d add people local and train them and leave them, and then we’d go on to the next one.

KELLER: Did you teach them to climb then, too, if you were training them?

JACKSON: Well, yeah, we done a lot of training, or they did internally. Somebody wouldn’t be able to climb and some of them that did climb would teach them how to do it, but we had a lot of them slide down the poles and worked in clinics and everything.

KELLER: I want to go back a little bit, back to your days with Johnny Campbell building that portion of Austin that he was building. Did you ever at any time ever have any confrontations with the crews working for the opposition?

JACKSON: No. In fact, we had a good working relation with them. I’d run out of strand or something like that I could go borrow some from there or they’d come and borrow some from me.

KELLER: It seems to me that when we were talking, was it yesterday or maybe part of the panel, that you said when you were building Austin – I guess this was part of your inside information – that you tried to circle them or to contain the areas in which Capital was working, is that right?

JACKSON: Well, it did right there at first, but then they kind of got a program going after I’d left the city and had lost control of that, and then they started building in the big areas and we did too. There was a lot of joint construction. One of the funniest things is…

KELLER: When you say joint construction what do you mean, please?

JACKSON: Well, I mean where they were building and we were building.

KELLER: Oh, okay.

JACKSON: That’s what I meant. But the first time it’d ever happened is where a customer of theirs, of Capital Cable’s, got off and wanted to take our cable. Well, that really riled them up and our men went to put it in and they’d put a valve through the hole that we had.

KELLER: So there were areas of town in which you were overbuilt then, is that right?

JACKSON: Oh yeah, a lot of it.

KELLER: How much? Do you remember?

JACKSON: Oh, I’d say it was probably 75% of it. They were building away and it was a lot of it overbuilt together.

KELLER: I wasn’t aware of it. I somehow got the idea that you were building a separate section.

JACKSON: Oh, no. They planned to build the whole town, too, and then we were in that area also and then they’d come on in that area.

KELLER: Now, when you were bought out you said, I think I got the number, you had about 4,000 subscribers. How many subscribers did they have?

JACKSON: I don’t know. No one would ever know how much…

KELLER: Did they combine the plants or did they continue to use two?

JACKSON: Well, we had AMECO transistorized gear that was the script type amplifier and we built our own cans to put those in. They weren’t strand-mounted at the time. And they come in there and rebuilt and done a lot of work there and had the strand-mounted Jerrold amplifiers. They used our old plant in a lot of places but then eventually got it all stripped out and the Jerrold equipment on all of it at a later date.

KELLER: So all of the Tool Comm equipment, everything, that’s all gone? All the AMECO equipment’s all gone?

JACKSON: All gone.

KELLER: So in effect, you’re reusing the plant built by…

JACKSON: We used it until they could built over it and do it with the Jerrold equipment and their maps.

KELLER: It’s an amazing story.

JACKSON: It really was. It was something else. I eventually, later on there was a strike here in Austin of Capital Cable’s employees but they had to keep getting installs done, and that’s when I first started doing work with Capital Cable, doing installs during the strike. They’d bring us the work orders and I had contract installers and we’d go do the installs.

KELLER: For Capital?


KELLER: And you continued then to do installs, obviously, because you still are with first ATC and then…

JACKSON: Yeah, ATC bought Capital Cable out and I kept on doing installs for Capital Cable and then when it become Time Warner kept doing it for them.

KELLER: And you’re still doing it today.

JACKSON: Still doing it today.

KELLER: And perhaps even tomorrow.

JACKSON: I hope so. We have a good relation with them, and we try to do the best we can and I think we’re giving them a real good service. They don’t have too many complaints on us and stuff like that. We take care of all the problems as best we can. We handle it in a real professional way.

KELLER: Your service goes from the initial install to the time that the customer is really satisfied with the installation, he’s got a good picture, and it’s properly installed and everything.

JACKSON: Um-hmm, and they heavily inspect every drop that we put in to make sure it’s done with the… When they rebuilt the system 7 or 8 years ago and we still had a lot of your 59 wire, well, your modern day stuff has to have the 6…


JACKSON: RG-6 – and we went in there when they rebuilt the system and replaced about 90,000 drops, and I had the contract on that. But we replaced all of those drops right after the rebuild and put the proper ground loops and done all of that. So we were really in there deep as far as experience here in Austin and dealing with the system.

KELLER: But your crews are not doing work anywhere else other than Austin at this time?

JACKSON: Well, just some of the outlying towns, but it’s in the Austin bailiwick.

KELLER: Still AOL Time Warner period at this time?

JACKSON: Yep, but my crews operate out of Austin. I don’t send crews out to do installs all over the trunk line. I’ve done them everywhere from Riverside, California, Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake City, and the worst one I ever got was Gary, Indiana.

KELLER: That’s quite a town.


KELLER: Tell me about Gary.

JACKSON: Well, I had three fellas who worked for me who were good installers and when I went up to Gary to bid on the job they said to me, “I want to tell you that it’s 97% colored.” Well, I never saw the other 3%. This actually happened – one of the old guys, he was from Oklahoma, and he said Mr. Herb, “Can I come back to Texas? There’s some bad son of a guns up here.”

KELLER: The steel workers in Gary, yeah.

JACKSON: He said when you go to buy some chicken they have one of those things like the bank uses where you put it in there and it draws in there. That was kind of the way that all went. But like I said, we had a lot of experiences running around. I tried to have our own trucks. I’ve got 30 little ? and Datsuns and we furnished the trucks for the men but that got us to losing money when we was keeping all those in repair, so I just figured out about half price of what the truck was worth and sold them to the installers and let them pay me back a little bit a week, and let them have that responsibility and started making money again.

KELLER: So you don’t have your own fleet anymore.

JACKSON: We let them furnish their own truck and tools now.

KELLER: That’s great. Are you going to continue to do it, and for how long?

JACKSON: Til I die. I just enjoy life too much nowadays, and like I said, my top two men, I tell them that their main job is to see that my golden years are happy and they’re doing a real good job of that.

KELLER: That’s great. I think about this time we can probably wrap it up now, Herb.

JACKSON: Okay, it’s been good enough.

KELLER: It’s been interesting and informative and fun to talk to you. This has been the oral history of Herb Jackson, contractor extraordinaire for the cable industry here in Austin, Texas. Thanks Herb, appreciate it.

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