Interview Date: 2002
Interview Location: Unknown, PA USA
Panelists: David Batalsky, Jim Bailey, Walt Mecleary, Bob Bilodeau, John Zawojski, Mac Qurashi, Caywood Cooley, John Kurpinski
Moderator: Brian Lockman
Note: Tribute to Milton J. Shapp
LOCKMAN: First of all, this should continue to be freeform. Just because the tape is rolling now, don’t…
(____?): It’ll be free.
(____?): You don’t want to say that, not with this group.
LOCKMAN: It probably won’t be too difficult, but this would work better if it was going back and forth so much that I could just get up and leave and it would keep going, so don’t wait ‘til I ask you a question before you start talking, and don’t be shy.
LOCKMAN: And also, if you told a story upstairs, tell it again down here because the tape wasn’t rolling up there.
BATALSKY: If you look at us and think about it, and also some of the people in the audience, we were in the entrepreneurial days and the bare knuckle days of cable, and anything could be done. We didn’t know we couldn’t do it. We didn’t have MBAs, we didn’t have Harvard people, we didn’t have guys who smoked books, we just worked.
LOCKMAN: What were those years? What years were you there?
BATALSKY: I started in ’64.
ZAWOJSK: I was there in ’55, I started.
LOCKMAN: Walt, when did you start?
(____?): Three channels.
MACLEARY: And we had three channels.
(____?): Wait a minute, Johnny was at ’55.
QURASHI: I was working on six when I got there.
(____?): I came in just as they were making the jump from six to twelve.
BATALSKY: One of the things that you forget is that we were not number one in those years. There were other companies – Entron, SKL, Ameco. Ameco had the first solid state amplifiers out there out of Phoenix.
(____?): Well, no, Viking, that’s a different story.
(____?): That’s because they were copycats.
BATALSKY: Oh, yeah, that’s a different story.
BATALSKY: And then some of our own engineers from Jerrold left and copied the same amplifiers we made and called them Telesystems, and sold them against us. Fred Lieberman’s group, remember? Remember when Fred did that with the SCA-213?
(____?): Well, we copied the SKL amplifier.
(____?): Yeah, well we copies SKL and Entron. Who cares?
QURASHI: No, we didn’t copy SKL. SKL copied our module in the housing.
BATALSKY: SKL copied us. Yeah. They made it identical almost.
QURASHI: And then it didn’t work!
BATALSKY: They’d copied all the things that we made mistakes with!
QURASHI: If we had a problem with Starline One transistor burning, they had the same problem.
(____?): They copied the mistakes.
(____?): There was another company in there called Amplivision that made a distributed amp they primarily sold to the phone company as a market, as did SKL.
QURASHI: But we also sold to the phone companies. I remember those days.
(____?): What did we call them? Leasebacks! Leaseback systems.
QURASHI: Yeah, but there was a huge, big system with almost about 24 tubes in it.
(____?): It was a broadband amplifier.
LOCKMAN: The BDA?
BATALSKY: No, no, no. The SCA-213.
LOCKMAN: Oh, the SCA-213.
QURASHI: I don’t remember the model number.
(____?): That was a distributed amplifier.
QURASHI: All I remember is that I was working in the laboratory, and I used to assemble all the prototypes, so Frank Ragone and George Doodey walks up to me and says here’s a print and we want you to make this chassis. Having a college degree before, I was utterly bored, so what I used to do was count. I put 5,200 rivets in that thing; I still remember that, so there’s no leakage.
COOLEY: But David jumped right out into, what was it? 1960-something?
BATALSKY: Yeah, ’64.
COOLEY: You got to remember this all started really sometime in 1951.
COOLEY: Because I went to work for Milt when he was just doing master antenna systems, and I was working at Philco. Philco was looking for Jerrold to sell more amplifiers than apartment houses, and Jerrold was looking to Philco for distribution. So, one day Milt called me down into the office – I hadn’t been there but three or four months – and he said he wanted me to go up to Lansford, Pennsylvania to meet a guy by the name of Tarlton because he’s buying more apartment amplifiers than there are apartment houses in Lansford.
(____?): There’s one apartment house; he owned it. Three groups.
COOLEY: He was putting those amplifiers on the poles and they worked good to about three or four amplifiers, and then it was gone, and you know why. But looking back at that time, in 1950, but for World War II and some of the surplus that was available after World War II, the start that Jerrold got wouldn’t have happened.
(____?): You mean with the cable?
(____?): The RG-59.
(____?): The SK-11.
COOLEY: RG-11 and RG-8, miles of it, and you have to remember that the services trained hundreds, if not thousands of electronic technicians. So we had a real source of manpower that just needed to convert from what was defense into television, and that’s what really was the handspring of the whole deal.
BATALSKY: I remember a meeting once with Beiswinger and Doug Fife about the model shop. They were making a splitter and it never got past the model shop, so the model shop was making these things 25 at a time and we’re using hundreds a month. And so whenever they used to buy from this guy Doug Fife who had the machine shop, they’d order 25 at a time, he would charge them $3 a piece for these housings. The housing’s worth like .11 cents. This was going on for seven years, and somebody in auditing caught it and so they had this big meeting, and Beiswinger said, “How much you charging us for these?” He said, “You’re ordering 25 units a piece, $3 a piece.” He said, “You’ve been doing this for seven years?” He said, “That’s right.” He said, “How much does it cost you to make these?” He said, “It’s not your business, but I’ll tell you – .11 cents.” So Beiswinger says, “We want a credit back.” He says, “You’re not going to get a credit back,” he says, “But I’ll sell them to you for $3 a piece for 25 units, or I’ll give them to you for nothing for seven years.” So Beiswinger says, “Well, I can’t get them for nothing,” and he says, “Good, they’re $3 a piece,” and he walked out of the office.
(____?): Everything went on like that there.
MECLEARY: Wasn’t Philco doing Escohoney at that same time that Lancer was going in? Joe Conawald was in Escohoney and he had signal down to the bottom of the mountain, had pictures, and we were still screwing around trying to get good pictures to the bottom.
COOLEY: I don’t think at that time. I think the other guy with John Walsonovich…
MECLEARY: Johnny Walson.
COOLEY: Yeah, Johnny Walson.
(____?): He didn’t say Walsonovich.
(____?): Yeah, he was Service Electric.
(____?): Okay, sorry about that.
(____?): He was coming down on 300 ohm ribbon down through the trees.
(____?): But he was in Mahanoy City. That had nothing to do with Lansford and Escohoney.
COOLEY: That’s another thing that was so important. The reason that Tarlton got a head start is that was the only telephone system that wasn’t owned by Bell or somebody else. It was an independent telephone system in Lansford, so he had immediate access to the poles for 12 bucks a year, and everybody thought that was great, that and the excess surplus RG-11 U and our apartment amplifiers got him started.
MECLEARY: Well, we go the apartment amplifier from Don Kirk, didn’t we, in Annapolis?
COOLEY: Oh, no.
MECLEARY: It came out of Annapolis, Maryland.
COOLEY: Oh, he created them there, he designed them there, but they were built at 26 and Lehigh.
MECLEARY: No, 26 and Dickinson.
COOLEY: 26 and Dickinson, thank you.
(____?): Yeah, then we moved.
(____?): But Kirk was basically the guy that made the amplifier.
(____?): He designed it.
COOLEY: Yeah, Don Kirk was really the genius in the beginning.
MECLEARY: So Milt used to buy from him.
COOLEY: As things moved on, the whole thing that made this thing possible is the test equipment that came out of World War II because where would we find siliscopes in those days but for the war, and then we had these single generators that you could buy real cheap, and that got us started, and then Ken Simons came along.
(____?): There you go, Ken Simons.
BATALSKY: Ken Simons
(____?): Ken Simons!
BATALSKY: He was a god!
(____?): Ken Simons came along and built all the test equipment we ever needed.
BATALSKY: He never looked at pictures.
ZAWOJSK: You’re selling your focal outfit short 7008.
MECLEARY: The problem that I had as a salesman being a known engineering type, all right, was that I looked at pictures and that’s what sold.
(____?): That’s right.
MECLEARY: And the engineers looked at signals.
(____?): I used to say, “Hey, Ken, I don’t care what your spec says. It doesn’t work. Come out to this field and I’ll show you pictures that didn’t work,” and he would come out and go,
“Oh, well, yeah, we’ve got to modify that.” I can’t tell that to my customer, right? Joe Gans would say, “Hey, take that.”
COOLEY: Remember, Ken built a pretty good VHF attenuator with switches on it.
MECLEARY: Yeah, AV-75.
COOLEY: That’s when we got smart because you could take that attenuator and put it after an amplifier and put a decent TV set on it, and the name of the game is to put as much attenuation there is until it died.
(____?): I bet you burned a lot of those out in the field.
(____?): Johnny, the gutless wonders you used to walk in? The GE gutless wonder? The TV?
BATALSKY: The GE gutless wonder?
BILODEAU: Oh, the GE TV set.
(____?): That was the Munce.
BATALSKY: No, no, a little portable GE gutless wonder because Johnny used to tell me, one day he walked into a guy’s house and a little Italian man was complaining about the pictures, and John comes in with the 704 and he says, “Look at that, there’s channel 3, there’s channel 4, there’s channel 6,” on the meter, and the guys says, “I don’t pay for meter movement.” So he
went out and he bought a GE television, a little portable, brought it in, put it in and showed him clear pictures, the guy says, “I guess I need a new television.”
(____?): Oh, yeah.
BATALSKY: Black and white, the old gutless wonder.
QURASHI: The most difficult design we had was designing the transformer, the back of the TV set.
QURASHI: The most difficult because it has to be strong enough where somebody could pull it and pull the TV behind it, and yet it has to work and sell for pennies. That was the biggest difficult design that we had.
(____?): What were we paying for cable?
(____?): $3.95 a month.
(____?): $3.95, yeah.
QURASHI: I know.
BILODEAU: One of the questions that on the material that was sent out by The Center was what really distinguished Jerrold from other companies in terms of its eventual dominant position in the industry. Now, Caywood has mentioned that the test equipment that came out of World War II had played a role in that, but here’s an example of both sides of that question. Dumont Laboratories had the leg up on all the siliscope manufacturing developed during the war and they came out of the war and they built a company but failed four or five years later. So here’s Jerrold not failing and growing and becoming very successful in its field, and Dumont failing in its field. So it isn’t just a technical answer. You just can’t say Ken Simons made test equipment and that’s what… So there’s not a simple answer to that, but I thought about it, and to me, the reason that Jerrold grew and maintained a dominance in the industry is because of people out there in field making contact with the customers. I was a cable operator in the ‘50s, and who called on me? Lieberman, Mel Gray, and they took care of your problems and they told you what you needed and what you didn’t need, and they dropped out of the sky. SKL didn’t have
anybody like that. I couldn’t call up any other company and get that kind of assistance. Mel Gray got me into the company as an employee as well, that was my contact and my entrée into Jerrold when I came to work for them. So I think it was the field engineers and the field sales people, and I was just revealing some stuff… Over the years I saved these newspaper clippings from
different grand openings of turnkey cable systems and the systems operating division would send out a team to help you open the system and turn it on and do print copy and to write copy…
BAILEY: But even before that, Bob, Jerrold was the first company to stand up there and say we will build your system for you. All you have to do is show us a franchise, nothing else!
(____?): No money down.
(____?): That’s right!
(____?): And no money down!
BAILEY: They would take that franchise, they would design the system, they’d build it for you, they’d proof it and they’d turn it over to you. At that time you couldn’t get the system until it was fully built.
QURASHI: Not only that, they helped get franchise, too.
BAILEY: They’d help you with franchise; they’d help you with the opening. Remember when Beiswinger would come up there and say we’re going to open – I guess it was the Valley at the time – and we put on the marketing campaign for it, we went out and we’d set up… remember when we set up the 12 channels in the thing and everybody would come in and they’d start looking at the pictures that they were going to get, and the signups were like that!
COOLEY: You remember, though, in the early days you had a good picture if you could tell the difference between a horse and a woman.
(____?): That was the distinguishing factor.
COOLEY: That went away and pretty soon we had to learn the skill and the techniques and the engineering of what makes a system work, and here’s a list of all the guys… I still think the test equipment that came later – Bob, you’re prominent in this thing – and if you need a list of all the people who worked on it, on the back of that book there is all of the articles that were written about test equipment.
BAILEY: But the thing about it is that because of the turnkey, not only did we build the system, we trained the people and they didn’t know anything else in the way of what to do. As
soon as they had a problem, they’re first call was to Jerrold, right? “I want to do this, I want to do this, what do I have to do to do it and when can you do it for us?”
LOCKMAN: Why did Jerrold do it that way instead of just coming in and saying we’re going to build a cable system and own it and run it.
(____?): They did.
BAILEY: We tried that.
(____?): It was an anti-trust issue.
BAILEY: We tried that, and actually in 1965, I guess it was more than that, we had our own systems. We were the largest MSO in system operations, and finally we sold it out in, I guess in ’68 when General Instruments came along because the customers were starting to tell us that you are now becoming our biggest competitor.
BATALSKY: We had the largest cable system in the United States at one time, which was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
BILODEAU: But Jim and Dave, before that there was a legitimate court case. Milt Shapp attempted to take a percentage of revenue from supply and hardware, and that was an anti-trust issue.
(____?): In ’58.
(____?): That was.
COOLEY: That was the Jerrold Service Corporation because I helped start it like in 1953.
(____?): There you go.
(____?): I think that was before my time!
(____?): Get the handcuffs, get the handcuffs!
BATALSKY: Where’s the federal marshal? Let’s get him!
COOLEY: We were getting .25 cents a customer per month, and the government shut that down.
BATALSKY: Our governor!
LOCKMAN: Can you explain how that worked?
COOLEY: Well, we were going to provide them with field engineering service when they got in trouble. Anytime they called we had somebody there. And you know, another thing about the early days is that when I joined Jerrold I was their chief field engineer because there was only one and that was me. I was chief.
BATALSKY: That’s how he got the title!
COOLEY: But then I went out and hired everybody I knew in the Navy and Philco, everywhere, anybody that I had, and pretty soon we have a covey of half a dozen, a dozen guys, and then we started a school.
(____?): Who picked up with it after I let it down?
BATALSKY: Vic Nicholson.
QURASHI: Vic Nicholson picked it up.
COOLEY: And then Len Ecker.
(____?): Len Ecker, yeah.
COOLEY: But I had schools of six-seven hours a day, five days a week over months training guys about what a decibel was, and what it wasn’t, and how you could use it to figure out how things were going, and that’s where we started. Remember, later on when Scientific Atlanta came out with the dishes and all that, they did exactly the same thing. I’m sure some of us went to those seminars that Scientific Atlanta had.
BAILEY: Well, I remember when Scientific Atlanta came out they were making government equipment at the time, and they got into this business because it had dropped off. It was the first serious thing…
QURASHI: They bought SKL.
BAILEY: They said their biggest problem was that they had to make a heterodyne processor for $3,000 and not $30,000 or more. That was their biggest thing to overcome.
QURASHI: AL used to be in that business, remember? And they hired me after I left Jerrold, started my own company. They hired me to reduce cost of their amplifiers. So I said, “Okay, it’s going to cost you $25,000,” and that was ’74. The guy said, okay, we’re going to give it to you. I took all their prints, changed them from mill spec to commercial specs. That’s all I had to do. The price dropped by $150.
BATALSKY: You go back to what Caywood said, some of the stuff, and what Bob was saying. One of the things that made Jerrold the success it was was the dedication of the sales engineers and the field engineers. We were there in the trenches with the people. We never left their customers out, no matter what happened. Most of us felt we didn’t work for Jerrold, but worked for the operators. A lot of the operators in the room won’t believe us because we wanted to get paid once in a while and we asked for money from them. They found that to be an objectionable thing at times.
QURASHI: Well, taking on that, when I came back with Jerrold in ’73, Lee Zemnick said, “Your job is there is about eight to nine million dollars outstanding on turnkey contracts. I want you to go collect them. So, hear me out, this one system, there were two guys, they were living there for two years, fixing the system constantly and wouldn’t leave. So I went there and I said,
“What is the problem?” They said, “Well, the system doesn’t work so I have not given you the acceptance certificate,” which was required. So what’s the problem? “Well, it leaks all over the place.” So I read the contract and went back to him, and I said, “Guess what? Tonight I’m going to shut the system down.” He said, “You can’t do that!” I said, “Yeah, but we own it. No money down! Turnkey.” So what we have to do is shut it down, they called the subscribers down and checked where the leak is. So we made a deal and finished that.
BAILEY: But that was the thing that we learned from it. By building the systems, by being involved in every segment of it, we saw where the fallacies were and made corrections to it, and in turn started developing new technologies for it.
(____?): But you know, all the technology in the world…
ZAWOJSK: A lot of it was feedback from customers, too.
(____?): Oh, we should get into that, yeah.
(____?): Oh, absolutely!
COOLEY: We needed the technology, and the fact is that in 1955 we were selling more equipment and more systems than we could design and there was no end to it. We were just getting backlogged more and more and more and more, and about the same time along comes
Hewlett Packard with a programmable calculator, and we had three guys… all the designers had three calculators and were going slow as molasses as January and we took these programmable calculators and made computer aided design systems out of them, and we tripled our design capability in a hurry. What would have happened if we didn’t have those things? We’d have been backlogged forever.
(____?): We would’ve died.
COOLEY: And what would’ve happened, even if we did that, when all we could pick up was off-air signals. Along came HBO. Now that was…
(____?): You had Dolan ahead of time.
(____?): Along comes satellite.
BATALSKY: Well, Dolan started Sterling Information in New York.
(____?): You’re jumping ahead.
BATALSKY: Things that started even before that was the ability for Jerrold to send somebody out and help, in fact, one of the things that a guy named Kip Fletcher, who used to be in charge
of a turnkey did one time, one of the systems… at that time there was no real standard about radiation, so if you were smart you could take a piece of 300 ohm cable, throw it over the cable system wire, and attach it to the back of your TV and you could get the signal because everything leaked. So there was a big sporting event on Friday night – Friday night used to be the fight night – and Kip rented a bunch of vans and put signal generating equipment, actually jamming equipment, and spaced it all over the city, and at five minutes to eight everybody turned on their signal generators. So anybody that was stealing signal couldn’t get it because it wasn’t on the coax coming into the home, and everything was jammed. He said on Saturday the phones were ringing like crazy with people signing up. So we even helped get subscribers because we couldn’t prevent the leaking from the system so we just jammed it.
BAILEY: When you got to the point where you say there wasn’t anything that we couldn’t overcome, I remember when the FCC decided that they were going to take over the management of the cable TV industry, and they gave a grandfather rule, right?
(____?): Oh, jeez!
BAILEY: And all of the sudden we had, what? Six months to get everything running. And all these people said, well, I want a system. The rules required that you had a headend of a
couple of channels and fifty customers. We became the greatest people of throwing up a couple of channels on a pole and running cable to an apartment house…
BATALSKY: And then strand, and strand all over the city – no cable – just miles and miles and miles of strand.
BAILEY: And there were like 500 systems that were put into grandfathering because we were able to do this. Nobody else was willing to step up to that.
BILODEAU: I know that one thing that prevailed throughout all of this, regardless of the technology, the marketplace, whatever, is that everybody in that company just had no concern for hours. Hours meant nothing, structure meant nothing. I never had a budget, Jerry never asked me to spend x, y, or z, he just said do it, and whatever I spent, I spent. It was like the runaway train, almost, and it’s not appropriate to say, as Shakespeare said, that some ships come to port that are otherwise not steered because it had a direction, and it’s just that it couldn’t keep up with the activity. The pace was so fast. I worked, many times, six, seven days a week, week after week, and go out and see the guys, go home, travel or and there. If any of you remember John Orasiki worked like an animal. John submitted a T&E once to downstairs, there was a guy downstairs who looked over…
(____?): Yeah, Nick George.
(____?): Nick George.
BILODEAU: And then Nick said, “John, how could you be in Chicago and in Dallas on the same night?” He submitted airline tickets showing that he was because he’d get on a plane at 3:00 in the morning and go set up a show in Dallas and then come back…
(____?): He’d never sleep.
(____?): It was amazing.
BATALSKY: John was a nut.
BILODEAU: Yeah, and John used to quit once a week. He would embarrass me for the time he put in. He would embarrass everybody just about.
BATALSKY: But John used to quit once a week. If Jerry Hastings, who was his boss at that time, would say something to John then John would quit. So one day Jerry calls me in his office and says, “John quit again.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “Go into his office, ask him for all his credit cards, and give him a box and say pack up all your personal possessions.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because I’m going to share the stuff out of him.” So I go in and I say, “John, give me your American Express, your telephone…” at that time we had a rail travel card even because we used the railroad a lot. “Give me all your credit cards. Here’s a box, pack up your personal belongings. I’m to escort you out of the building.” He started to cry, he was, “Jerry, I’ll never
quit again, I’ll never quit again. Please forgive me!” Two weeks later, he quit again. That was his way of protesting, but he never quit. The guy worked like a mule though.
LOCKMAN: Can we go around the table and have people tell some Milt Shapp stories? First of all, Caywood, when you started in 1950, how big was the company?
COOLEY: Well, it was only a couple of years old. I started on December 1, 1950, so it was not early.
LOCKMAN: What was Milt Shapp’s role then?
COOLEY: Oh, he was the chief salesman, chief cook and bottle washer. There wasn’t anything happening in the company that he didn’t have a part in. He was everything, but he was also a good casting director. He hired some pretty good guys and everybody that was there was really doing a good job at what they were doing because that’s the kind of people he hired.
LOCKMAN: What was he like as a boss?
COOLEY: Oh, he was a pushover. I mean, he was not tough on anything. That’s why he hired Zal Garfield.
QURASHI: Yeah, but I think he kind of tended to expect that you didn’t want to do anything against him. I didn’t have too much interaction with Milt. The first time I met him I was a lab technician.
LOCKMAN: John, you have a story about when he called you up into his office and you thought you were going to get fired?
ZAWOJSK: Yeah, by this time, I ran quality control in the plant area and we used to wear these green smocks because you got a lot of dust around the electronic area. So the plant manager comes up and he says, John, Milt wants to see you upstairs in his office. I said, “What for?” He said, “I don’t know. He just wants to see you.” So I’m trying to figure out why Milt wants to see me upstairs? So I figure, I know. I used to know my job and I would say to my boss, well, we’ve got to do this, do that, in various jobs that I had because I was self-confident. They were tired of this cocky, no-it-all attitude of yours, you’re going to get fired. So I figured, well, at least this is class, I’m getting fired by the president of the company, no immediate foreman. So I go up and tell the secretary, I said, “Mr. Shapp wants to see me, my name’s John Zawojski.”
“Oh, go ahead in. He’s expecting you.” So she takes me in the door and says, “John’s here,” and she stands by the doorway and Milt jumps up, shakes my hand, he says, “How about a coffee?” Now at that time we didn’t have our cafeteria. The girl had to go down and go over a block to get
a coffee at Wayland’s Drug Store. I figured I’m getting everything I can out of this company before they drop the ax. I said, “Make it a big one.” So he sends her out for coffee, and Milt says, “Sit down. Now I guess you want to know why you’re here.” I said, “I have an idea, but I’d rather hear it from you first before I voice an opinion.” He says, “It’s easy, John, what do you think’s wrong with this company?” Now I figure he’s really setting up big mouth. He really wants me to put my neck in a noose. I said, “Look, Milt. You’ve got to be kidding. You’ve got guys up here making 2, 3, 4, 5 times what I make and you’ve got to ask me what’s wrong with the company?” He said, “Let me explain something to you John. Every week we have department head meetings. I got to this guy and says how’s everything going? Oh, wonderful, couldn’t be any better. Go to this guy, it’s terrific, going great. I got around and everybody’s doing terrific, but the company’s not doing terrific. What’s wrong with the company?” So I sat there for three hours telling him what was wrong. Just on structural things, like we didn’t have a personnel director at that time, two weeks later we had the personnel director, and that’s how Milt was. He always went to the troops to find out what the hell was going on.
LOCKMAN: Did he ever act on any of your suggestions?
ZAWOJSK: Well, that’s what I’m saying. One of the things was a personnel director and in two weeks we had our first personnel director.
(____?): Then he laid him off.
ZAWOJSK: Nah, they wouldn’t do it. I kept on asking for it. I volunteered and they wouldn’t lay me off.
LOCKMAN: Any other Milt Shapp stories?
KURPINSKI: I can probably thank John for getting the personnel director because I started with Jerrold as the first employee after the purchase of K&F Electronics, which was Val Kirk and Dave Fife. I was newly married, going to electronics school at night, and he my first child, and lo and behold, no sooner was my wife home from the hospital than there was a package delivery service at the door and there was a box. What is this? We open up the box and there is a blue baby blanket for a boy, and there’s diapers, and there’s just all kinds of paraphernalia and there was a card in there “Congratulations” and it was signed by Milt Shapp. One of the things that impressed me early on, and I was only 21 years old at the time, was that Milt Shapp really cared about his people. He cared about his employees, and when I come back to look at that in the ‘60s, Milt Shapp was probably 30 years ahead of his time because Jerrold at the time had affirmative action and EEO before someone even thought to coin those phrases. I think it was the
most ethnically diverse company I’ve ever worked for. There were blacks, there were Hispanics, there were Pakistanis.
(____?): Just one.
QURASHI: How I got to see Milt, he came to the lab one day and I’m coming out of my lab and he’s walking with Mike Jeffers and Bob Beiswinger down the road, and he sticks out his hand and says my name is… I didn’t know the company very well, I’d just started. He says, “My name is Milton Shapp, who are you?” I said, “I’m Mac Qurashi.” He said, “What do you do here?” I said, “I am a technician in the model shop.” He said, “Oh, you should go to school.” I said, “Well, I have a degree from England but not in electronics.” He said, “Well, you should go. You know, we’d pay for it.” I said, “I didn’t know that.” So he told Mike Jeffers, “Could you tell him everything,” and he walked away, and then of course he sat on my company’s board after he was a governor. By that time he would sit there and the same, very nice. He used to bring his dog to the board meeting, and I would say, “Those in favor, say aye,” and I would tell his dog, “Raise your paw,” and Milt used to get a kick out of that. He guided my company, me, how to do things, and it was great.
KURPINSKI: What was the year that the FCC put the moratorium on franchising?
KURPINSKI: ’67, all right.
QURASHI: First layoff at Jerrold ever.
KURPINSKI: Exactly. We went from 1,500 people down, I think, 300.
KURPINSKI: And I was working in the factory and the union at the time, and I know one or two days a week we used to do nothing but sit down and write letters to congressmen, senators, any politician we could, and that was joint effort that was sponsored by upper management and also sanctioned by the union. It was a pretty good relationship between the union and management.
BATALSKY: Considering that the IBEU is a very, very tough union, never, ever did Jerrold have any real problems.
KURPINSKI: We never had a strike, either.
BAILEY: The only time they had any problems with guys like me and other people who got grievances for doing things like stealing parts off the exception lines and going to the warehouse and stealing stuff the customers needed.
(____?): Or doing jobs that the union wouldn’t do fast enough.
BAILEY: It’s kind of interesting because what John was saying, it was a very ethnic diverse, not only just ethnic diverse, politically diverse because we had a guy up in the lab, Eric Winston, who was on the blacklist because they thought he was a communist, and Milt gave him a job, and we were still building for the government at the time, but Milt didn’t care. He said, “Big deal, the blacklist. This guy is good.”
QURASHI: When Milt came on my board, I said, “Milt, you and I are going to disagree on only one thing. You are a democrat, I am a republican.”
(____?): George Barco said the same thing.
BILODEAU: That was a serious confrontation with George and Milt because of that.
COOLEY: Now, you’re talking about doing government work, do you know how Jerrold got into government work? Because of the test equipment. The stuff we were making for cable systems turns out to be exactly what they needed for the Bullpup missile. So I now become vice-president of sales for the Jerrold test equipment division, and working for the government is pretty tough, but I found one way to succeed. When they asked me to sign a quotation, and I had
to meet all these specifications, I took them in to Milt and I said, “Hey, look at all this stuff.” He told me, “Well, tell them where they can put it.”
COOLEY: And I went back and said, “Hey, we’ll sell it to you as is, right from our stock with our standard guarantee, and this is how much it costs, and that’s it,” and about a month later we got the whole order.
BATALSKY: But he had one bad habit. He walked around without shoes on.
(____?): And he played the violin.
(____?): Well, that was the worst part of it.
LOCKMAN: In the office?
BATALSKY: Yeah, he would walk around without his shoes. No matter what, he had his shoes off.
ZAWOJSK: We had some of the biggest Christmas parties in the world, and our company wasn’t that big at that time, and Milt would always play him violin at the Christmas party.
BATALSKY: And he played about as well as (???)
ZAWOJSK: Yeah, he was a frustrated violinist.
QURASHI: Did he try to write a play?
BATALSKY: Yeah, he tried to do a Broadway play. That went bad, too. One of the worst experiences I ever had with Milt was one of the things I used to do is put on the special events for the company, parties and so on, and Milt really got interested in politics. This is before he ran for governor. At the Bellvue Stratford Hotel, there was a county commissioners’ convention,
there are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and Milt said, “I want you set up a hospitality suite, I want you to treat these guys,” so I said, okay. So we go down there and I get the captain’s row with the guy carving, and we have a beautiful bar set up, and I’m sitting there listening to this scum of the earth, these guys who work for the county commissioners, political hacks…
(____?): Can you bleep that part?
BATALSKY: Saying the worst things they could say about Milt as they’re drinking his whiskey, eating his roast beef sandwiches. When it was all over, I said to Milt, “Whatever you run for, I’ll write a check.” Don’t ever ask me to come near any of these politicians again. I said they’re the worst people I ever met in my whole life. And that was it. But he really believed.
QURASHI: That’s not only the commissioner. ’68 convention in Boston, remember with the boat show team?
QURASHI: Showboat. So I was dressed in the showboat…
BATALSKY: We all were!
QURASHI: Yeah, and a table of ten or fifteen, and who comes in? Jim Palmer. And he brings his customers.
BATALSKY: Yeah, now this is the competitor, C-COR Electronics.
QURASHI: And he sits down and the only thing he’s saying is Milton Shapp is this and Milton Shapp is that, and Jerrold is terrible, and this and that. So I said, “Mr. Palmer, I don’t know you,” I was only in this country about six or seven years, I said, “I don’t know you very well. I’m just a technician at Jerrold, but you know, if I was eating my host’s food and I was drinking his wine, at least I’ll be gracious enough to say thank you instead of doing all that.” Immediately those customers started to talk to me. I think we got them. But Jim was funny, when I started my company he called me up, he said, “Mac, I want to build a new amplifier. Would you consult for me?” So that was ‘70s and I said, “Yeah, I’ll charge you $2,000 a day, you’ve got it.”
BATALSKY: We used to have entertainment nights at the national convention. It was open to everybody. So that’s how with Jim Palmer, and the one they were just talking about, I think Bob has some pictures from it, we all got dressed up… it was July 4th weekend, we were over July 4th weekend, it was hotter than Hades.
QURASHI: The air conditioning broke down.
BATALSKY: The air conditioning broke down at the Sheraton, and we were all dressed in these heavy costumes.
(____?): Riverboat gambler type motif, basically.
QURASHI: Sweat was pouring down the back.
BATALSKY: Colonial times. (Looking at photo) The guy in the middle was Jerry Hastings, this guy without the beard is me. Who’s the Indian?
(____?): Sal had to be up there.
BATALSKY: Bob Toner in the corner, Jack Ford, Frank Martin. I don’t know who the Indian is.
(____?): Probably Sal.
BATALSKY: Who’s the Indian?
BILODEAU: His name was Joe?
QURASHI: Joe Vargo?
ZAJOWSKI: No, he was production.
BILODEAU: We used to rehearse for weeks to get this production, and we brought all these costumes from Philadelphia, from a guy here in Philadelphia named Pierre Costin, and we put on these outrageous skits. This is in front of our customers. And have a dinner with them. And then we had to sit in these stupid costumes, which were 100% wool-polyester, so they never breathed, and entertain the evening.
QURASHI: It was hot.
BATALSKY: Some of the people here in the audience had been to those things and remember them. But the group here, part of us and the people we’re talking about, we were always hands-on. We knew our customers, we knew their families, we lived the systems, and we made mistakes. We came out, we were talking about Johnny Walson at Service Electronic, we came out with a set of equipment called Starline One, which became the first two-way equipment we ever made because we shipped it out, they shipped it back, we shipped it out, they shipped it back… that’s Jimmy’s line there. But Johnny Walson comes down to see Milt and Bob
Beiswinger says, “I want to buy Starline equipment, Starline One, but I don’t want the housings.” Now the engineers at the lab said this stuff works, and Johnny looked at it and said, “It’ll never work.” He was buying it without the aluminum housings because he knew it’d overheat, and he was putting it in the old weather-proof housings up in Allentown at Service Electronic, until all these came back and got corrected and got fixed, and then Starline 20 came out.
BILODEAU: They didn’t all come back. There’s still some of them out there.
BATALSKY: The further north you went, the better they worked. As long as they weren’t in the sun they were fine.
QURASHI: In defense of ??? the problem was that RCA gave us the wrong…
BAILEY: You also talk about the things Caywood was referring to, we had schools and we trained our customers on the equipment, but I believe a lot of them really came because as part of the training process – there was a week long school? We’d take them to the Latin Casino over in Jersey, right? And they’d come back and say, “Wait a minute, this is like the fifth time you’ve been back.” He said, “Yeah, I know but I haven’t seen the show.”
BATALSKY: We were at the Latin Casino one night with a whole group of people, and it shows you how the times were, how gullible people could be at the time, there was a group of young women celebrating an engagement party or something, a bachelorette party, and they were taking all these pictures. Somebody next to me said, “Go ahead, do it.” I said, “Okay.” So I walk over, and we were all in suits and ties at the time, we were supposed to be gentlemen, and I walk over to these young women and said, “You took pictures of our table, I’m very sorry, we can’t have our pictures taken. Can I have all your cameras? We’ll have the film developed and
whatever has to be airbrushed out, we’ll do it and return them to you.” I got seven cameras. They handed me all the cameras! They made me give them back though, I couldn’t understand why.
LOCKMAN: Can you talk about some of the systems you worked on and you were out in the field building?
BATALSKY: Oh, could we ever!
BAILEY: Again, some of the ingenuities, there was a company in Virginia that was a small MSO and they asked us to build a system in South Carolina, and they gave us… they said, “Look, we’re not going to tell you how to do it, we’re just going to give you… we have the franchise, we’re going to give you the maps,” and they gave us the maps. We designed it, we engineered it, we set up for the construction of it, we did everything, we laid it all out. And at the end of it, the chairman said to us, he said, “I like your presentation but I have one question. We
need this done by a certain time,” we’re sitting there going, well, we designed it, we’ve engineered it, we’re set for construction, we put in the rain days and everything, and said we’ll get it there on time. And he said, “Then I want one condition on the contract,” and we said, “What’s that?” He said, “Well, it’s done in four phases and every phase that you don’t meet the timeline, I want a penalty of $100,000.” So I bring all this back, and at this time we had a new president and he was trying to show that he was going to be a hands-on type president, and he’s looking at this and he’s got all of the people that are heads of the different divisions, and he’s
saying, “Is this a good contract?” We said, “Well, we’ve designed it, we’ve done this,” “And this penalty of $100,000?” “Well, no problem, we’ll make it.” So he’s getting ready to sign it and before he does he says, “Okay, you’re the salesman, is there any reason I shouldn’t sign this contract?” And I said, “No, it’s a great contract.” “Is there anything I should add to this contract?” And I said, “Just one thing.” He said, “What’s that?” I said, “The first check for $100,000,” and he went ballistic. He said, “Wait a minute. You’ve already told me we’ve done everything, why should I put the check in there for $100,000?” I said, “Because this is a turnkey system and we’re in cable. I don’t care how much we factor in there, we’re not going to be on time.” It was a system we ran into where shielding came in there and we had to redesign the fittings, the VSF fittings for the radiation shield.
QURASHI: Was that the Della Cable System in Spartanburg?
BAILEY: Yes, Spartanburg! There you go! And we had to spend about another five months and maybe a half a million dollars in developing new fittings.
QURASHI: I remember that. I was involved in that when I came back.
BAILEY: And we set up a whole industry spec on those because of the radiation…
QURASHI: See, when General Instrument got out of the construction business in 1974, and that’s when I took over, my company took over some of the contracts and we started building turnkey systems. So we built a lot of telecable turnkeys. We built United Artists turnkeys, TCI turnkeys, but I learned that at Jerrold how to do it, and that’s how we did it.
BILODEAU: Brian, there was another version of sale that Jerrold engaged in. It was called a telephone leaseback. You get a private customer who gets a franchise, builds the headend, there’s an interface, think of it as an interface physically, headend stops here, the phone company picks up at this point, and they build all the plant – we build it for them and sell it to them – and they charge a lease figure. They own it, they are charged a lease figure to the owner of the franchise.
LOCKMAN: The phone company would lease it?
BILODEAU: Um-hmm, yeah. Well, I mentioned Port Huron in the little skit. Skits are, by the way, legendary in this company. We all had skits.
(____?): We didn’t get paid much.
BILODEAU: The customer put up his headend, Michigan Bell supervised the construction of the system by insisting on certain standards and certain miles be built and so forth. We spent two
years trying to spec that system to proof it out for them because it really didn’t work. All the customers you’re hearing about all over the country who bought and paid for entire systems, they weren’t so particular. You got a picture down there, you started selling pictures, and after that they were locked in. But Michigan Bell said, “Wait a minute. When the temperature goes up and down 20 degrees it waves at the end and we want to fix that, we want to fix this.” Well, we spent two years trying to get this stuff to work, and eventually we changed it all out. But that arrangement between a private owner of a franchise, contractor, i.e. Jerrold, selling the equipment, building the system, and the relationship between the phone company and the franchise owner, it was a circle. It was a vicious circle. They always blamed the problem on each other. The telephone company blamed the headend, and the private guy would say, oh, it’s the system, and we’d say whatever.
QURASHI: Bob, that problem which came into Michigan basically woke up us in the product development end of it.