Interview Date: July 11, 2000
Interview Location: Junction City, KS
Interviewer: Liz Burke
Collection: Hauser Collection
BURKE: Good afternoon. Welcome. We are here for the Hauser Oral and Video History Foundation and today we’re recording a live interview on July 11th, 2000 in Junction City, Kansas. I am Liz Burke and I’m here interviewing Bob Weary at his law office in Junction City. We’re recording his history as a cable pioneer and highlighting some of his contributions. This project is proudly sponsored under the leadership of The Cable Center of Denver, Colorado. It is funded by The Hauser Oral and Video History Project.
We’ll start with what Bob Weary is doing today and then we’ll look back at his impact on the cable industry, where he’s been, and things that he’s continuing to influence, what are some of the important turning points in this man’s career and in the cable industry that he has been involved with since shortly after World War II. We’ll look at the three phases of the cable history. The first phase started in the late ’40s. This was the era that began with the concept of basic cable. There was a group of channels assembled over-air broadcast and sold at a fixed monthly price. Then a second era began sometime around 1975, and that was the dawn of the satellite distribution age. This was the time when Home Box Office, and shortly thereafter, WTBS, carried television signals on a geostationary satellite. That particular period is highlighted by the founding of a large number of both basic and pay television cable networks. Many of them are still around today. Then the third era began in about 1992 with the digital and internet age and also the deregulation of cable. Digital television recording, storage, transmission and reception techniques have been developed. Set top subscriber boxes and pure digital networks have also occurred during this timeframe.
We’re going to go back first to the early years of cable. Bob, can you tell us when and how you first became interested in cable television?
WEARY: Well, I’d served as a fighter pilot in World War II and started practicing law in Kansas City, and then unfortunately I got recalled into the Air Force during the Korean War and when I got out after that in about 1955 I either was going to go back with my old law firm, which was a large firm in Kansas City, or I’d kind of decided I had an interest in getting into business on the side and I couldn’t really do it in a big law firm. My father was a lawyer out here practicing by himself so I decided to gamble and come out here and go into practice with him and see what I could do. One of the first things that we spotted was cable television. There wasn’t very much in the way of cable television then; that was in late 1957 and there were no systems in Kansas that I know of unless perhaps in Liberal, Kansas. They had one of the early systems there, but they had a system down in Fayetteville, Arkansas and one in Giman, Oklahoma. We went down to visit – I and Bud Weir, who joined together to look at this – so we flew down to Fayetteville and talked to a gentleman there. I can’t remember his name, although he was one of the early presidents of NCTA. He had built this system himself, built his own amplifiers and put a pole up on one of the small mountains there and ran this down to the city. He was providing, I think, five channels of television there and he’d been in the radio business and was still in, so he built his own amplifiers because there was very little in the way of equipment, cable equipment, being manufactured then. We picked his brain and came back and debated whether cable television would work here because we had one signal off the air that was free and they didn’t have any down in Fayetteville. After debating that at some length we decided maybe it would work. We had to get signals – there was only one station in Topeka and there were three in Kansas City, and so we were going to have to get these signals in from Kansas City. So we started looking around. The only equipment manufacturer as I remember was Enron back then and they manufactured a little five-channel amplifier. This fellow, Kurt Ferris, who had the system down in Diamond was their sales representative in this area. So we contacted him and had him come up here and the first problem was to figure out how tall a tower it was going to take to get these Kansas City signals because that was 115 miles away. The way we did that was he took some equipment up to measure the signal strength in his airplane. He had an airplane too, so he flew that at various levels to determine where we might get a signal that was strong enough to pick up. So he determined that that was 500 feet. So we then had to dig up some financing, so I put together some projections and we visited with a head of a bank in Kansas City that I was acquainted with because our law firm had represented him there. We took this projection down and nobody then really had heard about cable television in this area and bankers certainly knew nothing about it. So anyway, I presented this projection to him and we explained it to him and he was kind of a kind-hearted banker. He decided he’d lend us $60,000. So then we came back and got a franchise, and in those days getting franchises was pretty simple. You know, you’d just go in and ask the city and they’d give you one because they all thought you were crazy anyway, that this wouldn’t work. And so we got the franchise and then ordered some Enron equipment and started building the system and we would hook up customers as soon as we got a section built so we could get a little revenue and I think we were charging $6.50 per month for these signals. But anyway, we finally got the system built and it did pretty well and then we started looking for additional franchises in this area. So we got a number of franchises in Kansas, in Manhattan, and in Salina, and in Hutchison, Kansas. Back then we didn’t really figure places like Topeka and Wichita were viable because they had all three networks off the air, and so we basically collected franchises in communities ranging from 5,000 to about 50,000. We kept building the company up until we were by far the largest operator in Kansas and started expanding to other states.
BURKE: What was that timeframe when you were just building?
WEARY: Well, we started in ’58 and I would guess by the late ’60s we had a number of towns.
BURKE: And how many channels were you providing for your customers?
WEARY: Shortly after we got the system built here and before we built any others, we decided we had to get some signals in by microwave, and so Larry Boggs, one of the early pioneers, while he operated out of Oklahoma he had some systems up in Kansas in our area. So we made a deal with Larry to build this microwave system and so we microwaved in all of the Kansas City stations which greatly increased the quality of our signals, and then we microwaved in the Wichita stations. So when we got through with all that we were furnishing way more television than you could get in Kansas City or Wichita or anyplace else. Then we continued to expand that system on out into western Kansas, so we kind of splattered microwave all over the state. It ran east and west and north and south and the microwave company is still in existence and still supplying these signals.
BURKE: Do you still have your first tower?
WEARY: We still have our first tower.
BURKE: How did you manage having locations all over the state? How did you deal with that? Did you have centralized or have someone in every system?
WEARY: Yeah, we centralized. Most of the towns or cities we were in were big enough to justify a local office of fairly good size, and so we had local offices in all those towns and centralized management here.
BURKE: And how involved were you in all that?
WEARY: Well, I was pretty involved. We hired people to do the day-to-day operations. I guess the major part of my time I spent in putting together the financing for all these things as we expanded them, but I kept a close eye on what was going on.
BURKE: So did you still practice law during that time?
BURKE: So you had a lot of irons in the fire.
WEARY: Right, I was pretty busy in those days.
BURKE: Did you have any special training or skills? You’re a practicing lawyer, but what were some of the other things that helped you understand the industry you were getting in to?
WEARY: Well, I don’t know that I had a lot of other skills; I just learned as we went along and during this entire period of time the cable television industry was changing very rapidly. To start out with there was absolutely no regulatory or legal framework for the cable business, and of course that gradually started to develop and so I did all the legal work for our corporations and did a lot of lobbying back in Washington. In those days, our big opponent was the broadcasters who didn’t seem to like us for some reason, and they were very powerful in Washington, however the industry in those days consisted of a lot of little operators like us scattered all over the country in smaller communities. It really hadn’t gotten into the big cities yet. So we were very effective in that all of these small owners scattered around the country all knew their senators and congressmen, and so when we would go back there in large groups we had people that personally knew them all, and so we were able to lobby pretty effectively as against the broadcasters who had consolidated and were large companies by then.
BURKE: Were there some particular things that you worried about or felt that needed to be changed in those early years that were significant barriers?
WEARY: Well, probably the biggest issue we had in the early days was the copyright issue, and the question was can we carry these signals without permission from the owners of the copyright and without paying the owners of the copyright, and that got us involved with the movie industry and they were of course very aggressive in trying to subject us to the copyright laws. I guess that legally the question boiled down to whether we were rebroadcasting or retransmitting or whether we were just providing an antenna service, which we maintained was what we were doing, and so that eventually wound its way into the courts and Strat Smith along with one other lawyer led litigation for us. Strat had gotten involved in cable law in the very early days and so fortunately we were successful in that litigation. As soon as we won that lawsuit, the movie industry was able to get legislation proposed and the question was what sort of form that legislation was going to take, and if we had to negotiate that legislation after having lost that copyright case we would have been in very serious trouble. So NCTA at that time appointed a committee to negotiate the first copyright law and I served on that committee with two or three others and we negotiated a law which we felt worked fairly well for us and would let us proceed as an industry. So that probably was the biggest issue we had.
BURKE: Probably the first of many though.
WEARY: The first of many. Then they began to get into wanting to regulate our rates and developed a regulatory framework for the industry. So being a lawyer this was a very interesting period for me because I could see this legal and regulatory framework develop from nothing to what we have today and it’s been through a lot of changes.
BURKE: Did you have a lot of contacts at the FCC, or how did you work through the system?
WEARY: Well, we spent a lot of time working with the FCC and I think initially it seemed like they were reasonably sympathetic to us because we were a little industry trying to grow and the movie industry and the broadcast industry were both well established and very strong and so we were kind of the underdogs and I think we got a fair amount of sympathy from the FCC in those days. So it was a combination of trying to convince the FCC staff of our points of view and then lobbying with the members of Congress to see that they weren’t overwhelmed by the movie industry and the broadcasters.
BURKE: So it seems like maybe one of the things you liked about the industry is it was a bunch of little operators that were underdogs and you could effect some interesting changes. Were there some other things that were exciting about the early cable days?
WEARY: Well, of course things kept changing, you know. We started out with these five-channel amplifiers and then we went to twelve-channel amplifiers, so the technology itself was changing very rapidly and what you could do with the technology, and then satellites came along and everything kept changing. In fact, it seemed like the speed of change picked up and I think it’s still rolling pretty fast.
BURKE: High speed of change. What would you say some of the keys were to building such a large and successful cable system here in Kansas?
WEARY: I guess one of the key things was that we got there first and were able to put together a pretty good sized company pretty quickly.
BURKE: That probably involved a lot of energy from a lot of people.
WEARY: Right. We had all of the medium sized towns in Kansas in our group. You have to bear in mind that Kansas doesn’t have a lot of big cities and we didn’t really want to go into anything smaller than towns of about 5,000-8,000 in population, but we had outside of the far western part of Kansas, why I think we had virtually all of the towns in that category between 5,000-8,000 and 50,000.
BURKE: Did you have any responsibilities for hiring and training people to go into this new industry?
WEARY: Well, we had to hire people.
BURKE: It was so new – how did you find people to even work for you?
WEARY: The first technician we had was a fellow that served in the Army out at Fort Riley and he was in the Signal Corps and things were fairly simple then, you know, we just had that five-channel amplifier and we started out with him and he sort of grew with the industry. Then we hired some people from the power industry here in Kansas and technicians were beginning to develop then.
BURKE: So in a way they almost had to train themselves.
WEARY: They had to train themselves, yeah. There just wasn’t a lot of experience in this at that time.
BURKE: Was there ongoing need for financing along with all the training and hiring and legislative… As you grew, did you finance from just more subscribers or did you have to go back and borrow more money?
WEARY: No, we had to go back and borrow more money.
BURKE: You had to.
WEARY: So we started out financing our systems in Kansas City. That market was a pretty conservative market so we moved to Chicago and then kind of all over the country – Boston…
BURKE: Of course during that time cable was growing everywhere.
WEARY: Right, but you know, they were locked in to the major money center banks. They developed quite a bit of expertise in financing cable systems by then. It wasn’t like when we first started out.
BURKE: Well, apart from serving as a fighter pilot and getting out and coming back here, was there anything else that helped you decide to take such a risk in such a new industry? This is not a job that’s for the risk averse.
WEARY: No, it was just kind of a gamble. It looked to me like it might work and it was something new. We certainly didn’t envision that the industry was going to grow the way it did, and for a good part of that additional period of course the satellite business didn’t exist so it looked like it was going to be pretty limited to these smaller communities that didn’t have a lot of television, but once we got the satellites, why, that changed things completely.
BURKE: Is that when you saw the really big growth, with the advent of all the channels that could come across the satellite or were you growing at a big pace just as you developed?
WEARY: We were growing at a pretty good pace. Then Mr. Weir, he decided that he wanted to get out of the business and retire, so we wound up selling our company then to Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin.
BURKE: And when did that happen?
WEARY: That happened in ’78.
BURKE: So you were pretty big by then. A lot had happened.
WEARY: Yeah, a lot had happened.
BURKE: Now along the way, you got very involved in a lot of organizations. Tell us why you picked those organizations and what some of your goals were.
WEARY: Well, I guess the first organization that I got involved in was the Mid-America Cable Association and a couple of lawyers down in Oklahoma had started a state association down there and I guess they got tired of doing that. Anyway, they wanted to quit and I’d gotten acquainted with them and they wanted us to take the thing over. So I organized a regional Mid-America Cable Association, which included initially Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and later Nebraska, and we hired Rob Marshall as our first executive director and he has been with them every since. It was a very successful organization for years and we took care of doing all the lobbying work in those states and supervising it. Then gradually there became more and more emphasis on regulations in the states and all the states developed associations and then the job became one of supporting and supervising those state associations.
BURKE: Of course the Mid-America Association is still alive and well and having their annual growing membership. Who were some of the players back then when you started and are you in contact with all the people at Mid-America still?
WEARY: Well, pretty much. Of course a lot of them have left the industry now, and I guess of the people that were there when we started there aren’t very many of them.
BURKE: Who were some of those original founders?
WEARY: I don’t know. We, of course, had the biggest company and I really can’t remember, unfortunately.
BURKE: And then at some point, a group of you decided that you needed to do something with programming and that was another organization you got involved in. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
WEARY: Well, yeah, the smaller operators were all trying to grow their organizations and the big disadvantage we operated under was that we couldn’t negotiate near as good programming rates as the bigger companies could, and of course we kept our eye on TCI who was the biggest, and Time Warner, and we knew what discounts they were getting which were based on the number of subscribers they had, so we were a little naïve but we had this idea that if can assemble a bunch of small operators and we can represent the same number of subscribers we can get the same discounts.
BURKE: Of course that turned into quite a success story because you were a founder for the National Television Co-op.
WEARY: Right, this was the Co-op and we kind of struggled when we were going, but we kept supporting it and got it so it was going fairly well and started negotiating these programming contracts. We were getting some discounts and initially our approach was, well, we’d like to get the same discounts for the same number of subscribers that these other companies were, and we kind of had our eye on TCI. We kind of liked their discounts. So we started negotiating with all the various programmers and they raised a number of problems. The first argument that they had was, well, we just get one bill from TCI and we’re going to get a jillion of them from you guys. So we said, well, fine, we’ll take care of that. We’ll present you one bill from all of our members so you’ll just get one bill. Then they thought about that awhile and they said, well, we know we’re going to get paid by TCI but we don’t know whether we’re going to get paid by you guys. And so we said, well, we’ll take care of that, we’ll collect in advance a month’s fees. So not only will we have the money to pay you, but we’ll pay you faster than TCI does. So we just kept working away at it and finally we got the programmers to feel like there was going to be some benefit in this.
BURKE: Of course, I think today there’s over 80 programmers involved in that Co-op.
WEARY: Right, right, and I think they represent about 13 million subscribers now.
BURKE: I heard it was over 20 million a month. So from the beginning, probably here in your office, that idea grew to be quite a large project.
WEARY: It’s been very successful and far exceeded our expectations. I don’t know whether they finally got a contract with HBO or not. Of course there weren’t as many programming sources then so HBO was one of the first ones that we tackled, and so we went back and negotiated with Joe Collins and all those guys and kind of thought we’d talked them into a deal, and so we went home and they later contacted us and said, no, that was going to cost them too much money and so they just couldn’t do it. So we never did get a contract worked out with HBO unless…
BURKE: I think eventually they did.
WEARY: I think eventually they did – it’s just been in the last couple years.
BURKE: It took a long time.
WEARY: Of course now the NCTC is a strong organization.
BURKE: Probably national and international by now. Well, programming was one of the major obstacles but it sounds like you really helped mastermind the solution. Are there some other major obstacles in cable that needed to be overcome or still need to be overcome?
WEARY: Well, I don’t know. I’ve pretty much gotten out of the cable business now. As I see it now, there’s going to be lots of competition from all sources and you’re going to have wireless, you’re going to have cable, you’re going to have telephone companies, you’ve got the internet which is of course growing very rapidly. So everybody’s going to be in competing with that business and what used to be a group of monopolies or semi-monopolies are really going to gradually disappear, I think, and it’s going to be a very competitive world out there.
BURKE: There’s still a lot of change ahead.
WEARY: Still a lot of changes ahead, yes.
BURKE: Have you been involved in other media entities?
WEARY: Yes. After we sold CSI, our original company, why, I wasn’t really ready to quit, so I organized another cable company called Cable World and sold it.
BURKE: Cable World is still operating, right?
WEARY: Well, I sold it to Marc Nathanson and I think they’re still… I don’t know. I know he’s still in business unless he’s… I don’t know whether he’s sold out or not.
BURKE: Right, and is that in Kansas?
WEARY: That was basically in Missouri.
BURKE: And in Missouri, too.
WEARY: And then I organized another cable company after I sold that called WK Communications and eventually sold it. We were in the cellular radio business for awhile. We bid on these RSAs on all of them and we got one just northwest of Indianapolis, and we’d figured on just selling the franchise but we couldn’t get anybody to buy it so we decided, well, we’ll go operate it. So we did and operated that and it proved very successful. It seemed to work pretty well in that rural area.
BURKE: So did you have to go out and reinvent the wheel again to get that to work?
WEARY: No, we just had to go buy the equipment and get it going.
BURKE: So what were the years that you were involved in that?
WEARY: That was in the late ’80s or early ’90s, and then we sold that to Bell South, and then I guess the other major thing I’ve been in was radio, and after we sold CSI in ’78 the radio business looked pretty good to me and it looked pretty stable after fighting all this regulatory change with the cable industry the radio looked to me like it had a niche market and there weren’t many changes, so that looked pretty good to me.
BURKE: So did you have to build anything in connection with that?
WEARY: No, we just bought stations. So I had stations principally in the Sunbelt, in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, Dallas and San Antone.
BURKE: So then you got to traveling and come back here again.
WEARY: Yeah, so I had the radio stations until they opened up the markets and said you can have multiple ownership, then the prices tripled and I was about 75 so I decided that was a good time to sell.
BURKE: You’ve also been involved in a lot of civic activities here, so you’re not running your businesses, you’re busy in the community. What are some of your favorite organizations you’ve been involved with?
WEARY: Well, I guess one of the things that we developed here and that I’ve supported and has been very successful is our local YMCA, and that kind of struggled to start out with and then I hired a director to run it who’s still here and been very successful. I’ve been president of our local chamber of commerce and serve on the investment committee for the Kansas State University Foundation, and serve on several committees at Harvard.
BURKE: Have your Harvard contacts helped you throughout your changing businesses.
WEARY: Well, yeah.
BURKE: They have? It sounds like you have a history of hiring good people and keeping them. Is there a secret there?
WEARY: I think that’s one of the secrets.
BURKE: That is the secret.
WEARY: You can’t do everything yourself and you can’t do anything without good people, so the ability, I think, to pick good people and keep them satisfied is important.
BURKE: So other than hiring good people what were some of the other useful skills that you developed during your years at the beginning of the cable industry? Probably a lot of negotiations.
WEARY: A lot of negotiations, yeah, and I spent a lot of time negotiating with banks and negotiating franchises and it seemed like everything involved negotiations with somebody. In all of these things, they were certainly not risk free and so I guess you had to kind of be a little bit of a gambler to do all these things. I got a lot of fun out of it.
BURKE: Are there any things that you would like to see happen to ensure that some of the organizations that you’ve worked with will continue? Do you have some ideas for these groups that you’ve worked with?
WEARY: Well, I don’t know. They’re all pretty well established now and I’m getting so old I guess they’ll have to survive without me.
BURKE: I look around and I see that you certainly enjoy flying and fish. So are those your main hobbies?
WEARY: Well, I have a lot of hobbies. I love to fly and I like to fish. I’ve made a lot of exotic fishing trips, and I like to sail. We have a lake just outside of Junction City, in fact it’s the biggest lake in Kansas, and so I got interested in sailing. And I like to hunt, too. I have too many hobbies.
BURKE: You’ve got a lot of hobbies. You’ve been honored many times. Going back to 1972, you were already a Pioneer then. You’ve also been involved with your family in education. What are some of the highlights of those years in which you were running the business and raising your family? What comes to mind as things that you really remember about that period?
WEARY: Well, I remember that raising children is a hard job, but they have all done very well. In fact, our daughter, who is a professor at Ohio State, just gave one of their distinguished lectures. I think they’ve only had ten, so we’re pretty proud of that young lady. They’ve all done fairly well.
BURKE: It sounds like they’ve all been very well educated.
WEARY: Yeah, educated, and they all seem to be happy.
BURKE: Be happy and enjoyed success. And not just with your own family – you’ve been very involved in education in general. Is there a scholarship that you’ve set up?
WEARY: We’ve set up scholarship programs at Kansas University and Kansas State University and at Harvard University and endowed a professorship at Harvard in the humanities.
BURKE: So it’s more than fair to say that education’s been a top priority for you.
WEARY: Education, yes, it’s something that I feel is very important and we have a family foundation that we run now that most of its funding is devoted to granting scholarships to students going to college and particularly we try to emphasize assisting minorities.
BURKE: That’s a wonderful legacy.
WEARY: That’s been rewarding, and then I’ve interviewed, ever since I came back here, everybody that applies to go to Harvard from Junction City to the western end of the state, and that’s been an interesting experience. You know, you get to talk to these young kids that are very challenging and very ambitious, and I usually keep track of how they do.
BURKE: You went to both undergrad and graduate school at Harvard, so you had a lot of years there. Now you’re seeing younger people going there. That must be very rewarding.
WEARY: It keeps me young.
BURKE: How about Junction City Television? Is that still going?
WEARY: Yes, it’s still going and now all of our systems, they went first to Lear and Yorkin and then they went to TCI, and then to Multimedia, which was operated out of Wichita and purchased by Gannett and now they’ve recently been acquired by Cox.
BURKE: So you’ve seen tremendous consolidation of all the companies you were involved in. Going briefly through your resume, you’ve been involved with Communication Services, Junction City Television, Fort Riley Cable Television, the Manhattan Cable Television, the Salina Cable Television, Wamego Community Antenna, the Mid-Kansas Incorporate, the Cowlie Cable Television, the Seymour Television of Yoakum, Beeville Cable Television, Green Hills Development. You founded an abstract and title company; I believe that’s in this building. You’ve been very busy. You’re a director of the Ark City Cable Television, the First Bank of Junction City – so you’ve been involved in banking – the Wilson State Bank, the Holyrude State Bank, and of course we’re sitting here in your law office. You’ve packed a lot into your lifetime.
WEARY: I was even in the hog business once.
BURKE: Now those are stubborn animals. Maybe that was good training for cable television.
WEARY: We used to have a facility out here and we used to raise 28,000 pigs a year. So I’ve been in lots of businesses. It’s all been fun. You look at the things and see whether you think they’ll work or not.
BURKE: When you sold your cable company it was the 30th largest cable television company in size in 1979. What do you attribute that amount of growth to?
WEARY: Well, just in we got started early. Some of the people got started late and grew quite a bit faster. If we hadn’t of sold our company I think we could have grown it to a much larger size. I can remember when Bud Hostetter started his company.
BURKE: At the same time?
WEARY: Well, he started after we did by quite a while.
BURKE: Those were times of tremendous growth and tremendous building.
WEARY: In ’78 we had our company postured to really start growing and so I really hated to sell the thing.
BURKE: One of the asides is you were involved in the invisible fence company. There’s a wireless technology!
WEARY: Well, that’s true.
BURKE: And are you still involved in that?
WEARY: Yes, I still own most of that.
BURKE: Do you have dogs?
WEARY: Yes. I had this Brittany for a hunting dog and the dang thing would never stay in. We had a fence and he’d dig under the fence or go over the fence, and my brother had started this invisible fence company back in Philadelphia, so I got one of those things and it kept that dog in. That’s the only thing that ever worked.
BURKE: That’s great. I also understand you were recently appointed by the Kansas State Governor on a telecommunications subcommittee. Are you still serving on that?
WEARY: Well, that’s terminated now, but I served on that for the period of time that it was in existence.
BURKE: Are there things coming out of that that you feel are significant for the future?
WEARY: It really was kind of the first time they got really involved in this multimedia planning in the state, and so a number of problems were thrashed out and they may have to reform that again. I think there are other issues coming up that are going to need to be dealt with, but we worked about two years trying to develop an overall plan for telecommunications in Kansas.
BURKE: That would be government and private?
BURKE: And then you’ve of course been very involved in the university as well, so hopefully Kansas will be ready for the future and you’re part of that.
WEARY: Well, I guess we’ll find out.
BURKE: Well, I know there are other things that you might want to share. Are there some specific recollections or specific advice that you’d like to give people about the cable industry that is important to you?
WEARY: Well, I don’t know about advice, but I have a lot of very fond recollections, particularly of people that were in the business in the early days. It’s been a great industry with really great people. It’s grown so large now there are lots of people in it I don’t know, but in the early days I think I knew about everybody in the business and I served on the NCTA board for a number of years. So I have a lot of fond memories of a lot of great people.
BURKE: I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to have the opportunity to sit here and interview you and talk about your recollections going back to the very early days of the industry and I’d just like to thank you very much for your time.
WEARY: Well, I’ve enjoyed the interview. I don’t know how enlightening it’s been.
BURKE: We can take a break. There might be some other things you’d like to add.
WEARY: I have a lot of things here in the office that are sort of relics of my past history. I have a couple of little sailboat models here that were given to me reflecting my interest in sailing, which I’ve had for quite a while. Then I’ve got a collage of pictures here. This is my grandson, he caught a little fish. Here’s a picture of Dan Aaron taken at one of the conventions when he was active with Comcast and we were both serving on the board at the same time of NCTA.
BURKE: This looks like an old picture – 1924.
WEARY: That’s a picture of my mother and father and some of the family.
BURKE: One of those has to be you.
WEARY: One of those has to be me, yeah. I think this fellow over here. I don’t know what I’m doing, but…
BURKE: Mighty pensive.
WEARY: Yeah, I was thinking, I guess.
BURKE: And then down here you’re thinking again. 1982. What were you doing then.
WEARY: I don’t know what I was doing then.
BURKE: You had a lot of experience under your belt by then. Here’s one of WK Communications. That would have been May 1995. You’ve got a Kansas…
WEARY: That’s a Kansas Centennial thing I had back in one of the years. This is an old airplane model. I don’t know whether it’s supposed to be the Wright Brothers first airplane or not, but somebody had given it to me. This is an old clock that my wife gave me but I haven’t kept it operating, an antique. And then I’ve got an antique gun that someone made for me. Here’s an old model of a P-38.
BURKE: Now is that what you flew?
WEARY: That’s what I flew, yeah. You could see some more pictures of P-38s over on the other side of the room.
BURKE: Of course in between we’ve got another 100 million dollar deal on the table. Capital Partners. These all look like pretty high risk occupations.
WEARY: Well, risk is a lot of fun. Here’s a picture of me playing golf and that was taken recently. Shifting over here…
BURKE: You’ve got to get a picture of the two fish.
WEARY: This fish is a Nordic Char that I caught up on the Tree River in northern Alaska. That river empties into the ocean on the north side of Alaska, and this is a lake trout that I caught in Great Bear Lake. Great Bear Lake is the biggest lake up in Canada. It’s north of the Artic Circle and it’s so big you can’t see across it. In fact, if you get out in the middle you can’t see shore. Then these are pictures of my children and grandchildren. This is my daughter that’s the professor at Ohio State, and she was the youngest tenured professor at Ohio State at the time she was tenured. This is a picture of my other daughter, Dale Ann, and her two children when they were little. This is my granddaughter, she’s now going to Kansas University. This is a picture of one of my grandsons in his skiing gear. This is a picture of my wife, you can’t really see it too well, before we were married. We were going together then and she was the May Queen at Belmont. So mostly these are just mementos. This is a picture with the dean of the Harvard Law School. Then I’ve got a number of plaques here. This is the Distinguished Service Award given by our local Rotary Club. This is another picture of my family, and this is a picture of when I was young just before I took off to go to Harvard. Over here I have a lot of different awards and plaques that I’ve been given. Here’s one from NCTA that I received for being on the board of the National Cable Television Association. That was back in ’76 and ’77.
BURKE: Those were early years.
WEARY: I’ve really got too much junk here.
BURKE: You have a lot of plaques – the YMCA, the Boy Scouts.
WEARY: A lot of plaques and awards. I used to play a lot of tennis and I have a plaque there for winning our local country club tennis tournament.
BURKE: I see the Civil Air Patrol and the Williams Educational Fund. A lot of things for the Kansas University.
WEARY: This is a presentation I received from Kansas State University where I participate on their investment advisory committee and a trustee for their foundation.
BURKE: I see that’s covering up the “boss of the year” plaque from the JCs. You have a great variety here. Here’s your Cable Pioneer plaque. That was in 1972. You’ve got a lot of things to be proud of here.
WEARY: I’ve got too many plaques to keep here. Over here I’ve got a profile that was written by one of the cable magazines a long time ago. Let’s see if that has a date on it – yeah, 1972.
BURKE: Then you’ve got a shot of all your diplomas over here. A well-educated man who believes in education.
WEARY: Here’s a picture that was taken, I think, down at one of the Mid-America meetings with a couple of people who’ve been in the cable business for a long time. One’s Wendell Woody and I can’t remember the name of the other. Getting too old, it’s hard to remember all these names. I’ve got an award here that I received as the businessperson of the year from our local chamber of commerce. I’ve got some pictures of some old P-38s that I have a lot of fond memories of flying. I’ve got various and sundry plaques over here. I won’t go through all of them.
BURKE: A very impressive collection.
WEARY: I’ve got just a lot of bric-a-brac here.
BURKE: A large award from the National Cable Television Co-op for your service to them.
WEARY: Yes, I received this award from them. It’s an organization that I’m really proud of because we got it started with just a couple of us guys that thought it was something we ought to do and might turn into a great organization and it really has.
BURKE: It’s still going strong.
WEARY: Mike Pandzik and Dave Clark and the rest of them have really done a great job with it.
BURKE: Well, thanks again for sharing all if this information. There are a lot of memories you have here.
WEARY: Over here are pictures of P-38s and that photograph of me when I was a little younger was taken on Clarks Fields in the Philippines. The autographed picture with the P-38 came from one of the reunions that we had and at that particular reunion Charles Lindbergh attended it and he’s autographed that. They sent Mr. Lindbergh over to fly with our fighter group and to show us how to extend the range of the P-38. It’s normal range is about 4 ½ hours and he was able to show us how we could fly the plane and get about an eight hour range out of it, which was important over there in the southwest Pacific. We were flying over lots of water, long distances, and so I have a lot of fond memories of the old fighter group and we’ve been very active since the war. We have had reunions every two years and now we’re having them every year because all of them are beginning to die off. So we’re probably one of the most active units that is still carrying on. We put out a history of our fighter group. In fact, we’ve got a couple of them. It covers what the group did in World War II over in the Pacific.
BURKE: There’s your plane right on the cover.
WEARY: That’s the old P-38, a great airplane.