Scottie Stephenson as Told by Fred Fletcher

Throwback Thursday: CBC History

Many of us remember Scottie Stephenson. For new employees, Scottie was one of the founders of WRAL-TV and a long-time CBC employee – 58 years! She still has a prime parking spot beside the administrative building, something no one else possesses, even though she passed away April 15, 2002, at the age of 80. By the way, don’t dare park in that spot. You may never see your vehicle again.

For all the particulars about her accomplishments, I commend you to the CBC History website. But to know her character, we turn to Fred Fletcher, former CBC executive and WRAL General Manager, who shared a couple of “Scottie” stories showing her savvy side in his book “Tempus Fugit.”

“My neighbor on Brooks Lane, R.C. Barnes, told me one day that he had a young lady working for him in the agriculture department at State who we should talk to. So, it came to pass that we hired a perky, young girl named Louise Scott. You had to look at her employment application or her driver’s license to know that her first name was Louise. She was Scottie to everybody who knew her. Still is.

In fact, she used to complain laughingly about the paging system at the station. You would hear, “Mr. Fletcher, telephone.” Or “Mr. Reeve, telephone.” But when she got a call, it was “Scottie, telephone.” But I can’t believe that it ever really bothered her. Not many things did.

Scottie’s basic attitude toward station management was one of acceptance, so long as I let her do her job and didn’t get in her way. However, she couldn’t seem to think of any good reason why she would take a lot of guff off of me. The story of the window shade pretty well characterized our employer/employee relationship.

The story of the window shade began when Scottie was assigned to an office that had a window with an uncluttered view of the men’s restroom in the building behind us. Since the men weren’t very careful about being modest, Scottie felt that she should be. She requisitioned a window shade. When it didn’t arrive promptly, she requisitioned it again. Finally, (and you can believe either me or her about how many requisitions it took), she got her shade and pulled it to protect her Southern Girlhood modesty.

One day I passed her office and saw the shade up. Since that shade had been purchased at some expense and some effort, I took exception to the fact that it wasn’t being used. (From here on, it is Scottie’s version of the story, because she can do what she considers my management style better than I can.)

I walked in, confronted her, and asked her, “After you got your #&@! window shade, why aren’t you using it?”

She just looked up, smiled, and said, “Because the #&@! light is broken.”

I don’t think I scared her much.

Scottie’s job when she first came to WRAL was continuity writer. That means that she wrote the commercials that went into the locally produced programs, the ball games, and anything else we could sell time in. Sometimes that meant satisfying some very demanding clients.

She tells the story, for instance, of being chewed out by a publishing client for misspelling “poring” as “pouring.” It is true that the dictionary says that “to study intently” is to “pore.” However, the client didn’t seem to realize that on the radio it really doesn’t matter how she spelled it; it all comes out same.

As a continuity writer, she had to provide enough commercials for the baseball games we aired, usually one for each half-inning. That’s 18 spots, if the game doesn’t go into extra innings. If that doesn’t sound tough to you, just try writing one sentence 18 different ways. Then multiply that by the number of sentences it takes to fill up a minute.

Sometimes, Scottie had trouble coming up with the required number of minutes at air time. Since she was never one to throw in the towel, Scottie and Nan Hutchins, the other continuity writer appealed to the rain gods.

Actually, since the Episcopal denomination in which she was raised didn’t have specific rain gods, they substituted two wooden bookends that somebody had sent Nan from Africa. They called them Abercrombie and Fitch.

When it became obvious that they were not going to get Ray Reeve his required 18 minutes of commercials for an away game, Scottie and Nan would go into their rain routine. They would line up the wooden bookends, blindfold them and begin to chant and do what they considered a rain dance. Of course, nobody at the station took all this foolishness seriously. The Raleigh Capitols, however, played more make-up games because of rain outs that year than in any other season.

Scottie, who became Scottie Stephenson a few years after joining the station, is now Corporate Secretary for WRAL, a corporate officer and probably the only one who knows where a lot of things are.”

SLIDESHOW:  CBC Corporate Secretary Scottie Stephenson

Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.

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