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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0
Tampa Arts and Culture Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Dick Lobo Interviewed by: Suzette Berkman Location: Tampa, FL Date: April 26, 2007 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Audit Edit by: Nicole Cox Audit Edit Date: July 13, 2007 Final Edit by: Nicole Cox Final Edit Date: November 14, 2007 SB: Today, April 26, 2007. I'm interviewing Richard Lobo, Dick Lobo, who is President and CEO of WEDU, the local PBS station. Dick, thank you so much for being here today. D L: Delighted to be able to help, Suzette. SB: Well great. I know that you are a Tampa native, and I was wondering if you could fill us in, where you were born, and your ties to Tampa. DL: Sure. I'm a second generation Tampan. My parents, both my mother and my father were also born in Tampa. And my grandparents on my father's side I've been able to trace them a little bit. My paternal grandparents came to Tampa shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. We think my paternal grandfather arrived arou nd 1904 [or] 1905, and he came directly from Cuba to Ybor City. And as best we can determine, he was a young man of about 20 21 years of age. He came from a part of Cuba where they grow tobacco leaves. It's a province called Pinar Del R And it's a very famous area for growing great tobacco leaves. The great Cuban cigars, all the leaves that they use and the filler, comes from that province in Cuba. SB: Is that DL: And in fact they still grow cigar leaves there. SB: Is that the east, west? DL: It's in the south central part of the island. It's south of Havana. And it's on the other coast. It's facing south. But it's a very well known province. In any event, my paternal grandfather arrived here shortly after the tur n of the century. From what I'm told, he married my grandmother, my paternal grandmother by proxy on a telephone hook up, so that she could come over. And so they did that, and he brought her over shortly thereafter. So
2 SB: And DL: That's my father's s ide of the family. That's how they got here. SB: When would that have been? DL: That's right after he got here. SB: Okay. DL: And I know that because my dad was born in 1907. SB: Okay. DL: So if he came over in 1904, 1905, he had to work quickly. Br ing his wife over, get married, you know, and then SB: [Laughs] Right. DL: Have a child. And I'm an only child incidentally. SB: Oh, okay. I was just going to ask that. DL: And that's something that I I missed having any siblings. But times were tou gh. Times were very, very tough at that time in Ybor City. On my mother's side, my maternal grandparents also came here from Cuba. I don't know as much about them. I've never been able to track them down very much. I do know, and my mother told me this, t hat her grandfather, my maternal great grandfather, was of Mexican descent. And she thinks that they came from the Yucatan Peninsula, around Veracruz. And my maternal grandfather, who was in Cuba before he came over, looked very Mexican. In fact, I look a t pictures of him now and he looks like an Aztec warrior of some kind. He had a very typical, indigenous, native nose the way the Mayans or the Aztecs might have had in Mexico. So I've got a Cuban background on my father's side, going back to Spain before Cuba. And on my mother's side I have Spanish, Cuban, and Mexican blood. So I'm pretty Hispanic, through and through. SB: Yes, yes [laughs]. DL: Anyway, I don't know when my mother's family got here, but my dad's family got here 1904, 1905. My father the n was born in 1907 in Tampa. My mother was born in 1912. So the Lobo family and her maiden name was Nez which is N u n e z. SB: Okay. DL: They've been around quite a while.
3 SB: Yes. DL: They had an interesting childhood. My dad's father, the one t hat came over from Cuba, actually came here with a brother of his. They were a family of about eight or nine kids, and these two brothers decided to come over together to look for work and to make a better life for themselves. Subsequently, another brother came over, another great uncle. He stayed for a while and then went back. But these two brothers stayed, and that's how the Lobo, my branch of the Lobo family got to this country, and we went on from there. SB: What was the situation in Cuba at the time? DL: The situation was SB: What made DL: Tough. SB: People want to come? DL: There were issues with the economy for one thing. But there were also issues with the Spanish government having been overthrown. Cuba was a colony of Spain. And then they had that little war, the War of Independence. They would remember the [USS] Maine all of that stuff. And there was a lot of confusion and a little bit of angst over the Cubans finally overthrowing the Spaniards and having self government SB: Sure. DL: And the independence. And the jobs were plentiful here. The factories had been up and running for a while in Ybor City, and my grandparents knew from cigars, and knew tobacco. And so apparently the owners of the factories advertised in Cuba to bring worker s in SB: Okay. DL: And my grandparents took advantage of those job offers. So a great many people that came to Ybor City starting in the late 1880s then going from many years migrated here from Cuba or from Spain. And there were a lot of Italians, Sicil ians primarily, and Germans that all came together. SB: Really? DL: In both Ybor City and West Tampa. Ybor City is the best known of the Hispanic communities here in Tampa, but West Tampa was also a thriving Hispanic community, many cigar factories ther e. Ybor City was bigger, a little bigger in terms of its size, its area. It had more factories and had a more thriving center of commerce. But my father's
4 family for the most part spent a good deal of time in West Tampa. The cigar workers went where the jo bs were. And so there were factories both in Ybor City and in West Tampa. If there were no jobs in Ybor City they would move to West Tampa, and rent a house there. SB: Oh, I see. DL: If those factories closed down, or if there was a strike, they'd move back to Ybor City. So there was a lot of going back and forth. SB: But they did stay in Tampa. DL: They did stay in Tampa, however, once they put their roots down here. And so it was a very vibrant community, with all of these different cultures the Ital ians, the Germans, the Spaniards, and the Cubans all being thrown together. And a lot of the people that came over from Cuba, Suzette, were of mixed blood. There were a lot of mulattos. So although Tampa was very segregated at the time that I was born unti l the time my parents lived here, we in the Ybor City and West Tampa communities were used to living with people of color and next to people of color. SB: OK. DL: And SB: I was going to ask you to define "mulatto." DL: Yes, it was a really interest ing environment there. SB: What is that exactly? Mulatto? DL: Mulatto means "mixed blood." You have some color, some ethnic color, blood, so SB: Okay, any color. DL: Mostly any color, but brown or black, yes. SB: Okay. DL: And there were a lot of mulattos in Cuba because of the mix of Spaniards and Afro Cubans who had been brought to Cuba years ago as slaves, so SB: Sure. DL: There was a lot of intermingling of the races in Cuba. So there were a lot of mulattos that came from Cuba to the United States to work in the cigar factories along side
5 everyone else. And it made for some interesting situations because as I said, the city the City of Tampa was very [Tape paused] SB: And a little later, Suzette, I'll talk to you about what it was like gr owing up here in a segregated city but also the people that came here from Cuba and Spain and Sicily and Germany. [They] all were thrown together in Ybor City and West Tampa, and there was a lot of suspicion on the part of the white Anglo community that li ved here because they saw the people from Ybor City as kind of strange and foreigners and aliens and speaking different languages. And so we were treated with a lot of suspicion, so there was a lot of not a lot of intermingling of the people SB: You DL : The workers and the other people outside of Ybor City and West Tampa. SB: Do you have specific memories of that? DL: Oh yes, well we didn't socialize very much. SB: Okay. DL: I remember one time as a youngster, during one summer, it was very hot, t here was no air conditioners at the time, and we decided we'd heard there was a public pool of some kind. It was a springs or a lake or something that we wanted to go and cool off. And we got in our old jalopy, and went there and got there and found a sign that said, "No dogs or Cubans allowed." SB: Oh my goodness. DL: So there was that type of blatant, you know, racism and discrimination against not only people of color, but people that weren't like, you know, the people that ran the city or the power structure here. SB: Who was the power structure per your memory? DL: Well, these were people the bankers, and people in commerce, and people in agriculture, phosphate mining, shipping. Tampa was a major port city, was a major center of phosphate minin g, a big agricultural community with citrus being close by. And it was a major shipping center, and banking and commercial center. SB: Is DL: So the people that ran the city
6 SB: Sure. DL: And actually, the people that wooed the cigar factories here and the workers, were the people who also were very suspicious of them and they wanted, they kind of made it clear that we kind of should stay in our place, you know? And so we all kind of went to school together. We shopped in our own little communities, and every so often, we ventured out into the community at large. And it was not always the most receptive or pleasant place, you know? SB: But these were the white people? DL: Well yes, the white power structure. SB: I mean, they were all white at tha t time. What, they were natives? DL: Many of them were native, yes. SB: Mostly. DL: Yes. They would call us names and ethnic slurs, and we in return would refer to them as crackers Florida crackers, which is, you know, actually not a bad term SB: [ Laughs] Hysterical. DL: But it, for us, it meant those people that didn't you know, like us. SB: Somewhat of a negative term DL: Yes, there was a lot of that going on. SB: At that point. Before we leave the factory though, I did hope that you would s hare any memories you might have. Did you visit your parents in the factories? DL: Sure, yes I did. Well, let's go back to my childhood because SB: Oh, alright, sure. DL: My earliest memories of the factories were when I was pretty young. SB: Okay. DL: My dad's father, my paternal grandfather, was a smart man and very assertive. And he, after arriving in Tampa, rose through the ranks pretty quickly, and became a supervisor. The word in Spanish is, capataz Capataz. And the translation is kind of a su pervisor or overseer. You know, someone that would deal with the workers for the owners of the factory. The owners didn't want to sometimes get their hands dirty and
7 deal with the workers, so they would hire people such as my grandfather who knew the lang uage, and knew the workers, and were able to hire and fire and tell the owners, you know, what was going on in the rank and file. SB: Sure. DL: So my grandfather was respected and a powerful guy because he was a SB: Sure. DL: Supervisor. And in any event he wanted and he worked in the factories, as did my grandmother, for a long time. My mother went through seventh grade, and then, for economic reasons dropped out of school after she got her seventh grade education. My grandfather wanted more from my dad. He didn't want to have my dad work in the factories, although my dad spent summers and time working the factories. My dad went through Catholic schools here in Tampa. He went through a school that is now Jesuit High School, but it was called Sacred H eart at the time he went through it. When he was graduated from high school and he went all the way through high school, it was called Sacred Heart, and he graduated his graduating class had eight boys in it, eight young boys. And that was the graduating c lass at Sacred Heart. One of his student friends in that graduating class was Al Lopez who became a baseball legend SB: Sure. DL: The Hall of Famer. SB: Yes, of course. DL: He was in my dad's graduating class. And I think he was the last of the eight to die. SB: Oh my goodness. DL: He died just recently in Tampa. SB: Sure. DL: In any event, my mother worked in the factories from a pretty early age, as did my aunts and uncles. You know my mother's brothers and sisters, my father's sisters, many of them worked in the factories off and on. I was born in 1936, three years after my folks were married. I was born in a hospital in Ybor City called the Centro Asturiano. The Asturian Center SB: Sure. DL: And I think I was born in that hospital becaus e my parents belonged to that health club. There were like
8 SB: Oh, I have heard of that. DL: Societies. SB: Sure. DL: And you would belong with there was socialized medicine in effect in Ybor City and West Tampa. SB: Yes. DL: You would join one of these clubs and you would have a place to socialize, a place to meet people, and to be entertained, and you would also have a hospital to go to when you had health needs. And they would also have clinics with doctors able to check you out. So I was born in the Centro Asturiano Hospital, 1936, October 18. And when I was born, my mother and father were living upstairs in a two story little house in Ybor City, about three or four blocks from the hospital. And at the time, my dad was had a little coffee route. Cubans drink a lot of coffees SB: Yes. DL: Especially dark, Cuban coffee. And so everyone coffee was a staple in every household and they needed a lot of coffee. They'd drink it morning, noon, and night. And my dad and another fellow, a partner, had a v ery small, little coffee route, where they would buy bags of coffee. They had a coffee roaster, and they would roast the coffee, grind it, and then take it on a route just like a milkman or bread deliverers SB: Sure. DL: They would deliver coffee. So th at's what my dad was doing for a while when I first was born. And my mother, after she had me, stopped working for a while to raise me. But my earliest memories of growing up in Ybor City after I was about one or two years old was going downstairs to where my dad had his coffee mill, his coffee grinder, and his coffee roaster and smell these wonderful smells of coffee being roasted SB: There's nothing like it. DL: And ground up. It was amazing. And it was an interesting neighborhood, wonderful mixture of homes, very modest homes, mostly workers and some of the professional people that had shops in Ybor City. They all lived near each other. I lived about three or four blocks off Seventh Avenue, which is the main drag in Ybor City. SB: Yes, sure. DL: I al so remember as a youngster, I learned later on, that directly across the street from
9 this little two story house where I was taken right after I was born directly across the street there was a pretty big house for that neighborhood, with a little wrought i ron fence around it. And it belonged to a fellow named Charlie Wall. Now Charlie Wall is a legend in Ybor City because he was a mobster. And many, many people that have written about Ybor City and the history of Ybor City mention Charlie Wall. He kind of c ontrolled the Bolita industry, which was the gambling industry. SB: Sure. DL: He also had other interests, but he was very, very powerful, and very much an influence in life in Ybor City. I was a kid, so I didn't know, but I was kind of told to stay awa y from that house and not get too close SB: [Laughs] DL: Not play over there in that yard, or on that sidewalk. And I do remember the blinds were always pulled SB: Oh, really? DL: The drapes were always pulled in that house. You never saw much sign of activity there. SB: So, he was not Spanish? DL: Not Spanish, no, I'm not sure what his background was. SB: So was he part of the goings on the social climate? DL: No, we SB: Not at all? DL: No. He was part of kind of an underworld situation t here. But it was wide open. Ybor City, back in the early days, because as I said, the City of Tampa city fathers didn't want to have much to do with it. So they kind of, it was like the wild, wild west. SB: Oh my gosh. DL: They kind of let the people o f Ybor City police or patrol themselves. And SB: But yet DL: Unfortunately, some of the people like Charlie Wall would buy protection from the City of Tampa police, and from judges, and from the city government. So we were left alone. And Ybor City was loaded with brothels, and speakeasies during Prohibition. And
10 this gambling that the workers used to love to gamble on this kind of a lottery thing, with Bingo balls, if you will. SB: Sure, very famous. DL: And it was fun by this thing. And the workers would also they'd play almost every day on a daily basis, just, you know, a nickel perhaps. SB: Did you go to a facility, or ? DL: No, they would come to your house. SB: They would come. DL: There were runners that would come, and they would, each da y, they would come and you'd tell them what numbers you wanted to play. And the drawings were either that evening or that night, or on Saturday they'd draw some number. SB: Did you play? Were children permitted? DL: I didn't play but my mother did. I re member my mother, you know, having her petty cash drawer and SB: [Laughs] DL: Giving the fellow some numbers. And she used to love to gamble, did until she died. She was SB: Did she ever win? DL: She did. She was very, very lucky. She had a wonderfu l lucky streak. SB: What would you win? How much? DL: Oh God, if you bet you know, a nickel or so, you might win five dollars SB: Okay. DL: You know, it's a lot of money. SB: Well at that time, sure. DL: And it depends they'd divvy it up depending on how many people got the number. You know, you'd have to rely on their books, so you never knew, but you know, for them it was a good deal to win a few dollars. [Laughs]
11 SB: Oh my gosh. DL: So, and later in life, she played a lot of Bingo, she played many cards. She'd go to Bingo parlors. She also loved to play poker, and she had some girlfriends, and they'd get in their cars in the evenings and go to floating poker games. SB: Oh my gosh! DL: And they played for real money, you know, in private hom es. So she just loved to gamble. Unfortunately I never got her to Las Vegas. I think she would have liked it [laughs], but she was too sick by the time I could have taken her. But I think she would have liked it. So anyway, getting back to growing up S B: [Laughs] DL: I spent the first few years of my life at that little two story house. SB: Yes. DL: And then, after we, I guess my family accumulated a few dollars, then we moved to a little neighborhood right on the edge of Ybor City called Tampa Heig hts. And a lot of cigar workers, as they made a little bit of money, and saved up, moved to Tampa Heights, which is adjacent to Ybor City. And we moved to a rental apartment on Taliaferro Street, right near Palm Avenue. Palm Avenue runs through SB: Sure DL: Ybor City. So when I started school in Tampa, I lived at Taliaferro Street near Palm Avenue, and it was a few doors away from where my grandparents lived, my father's mother and father. They lived at the corner of Palm Avenue and Taliaferro. And I started school in Ybor City at a Catholic School called OLPH, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Very famous, and many, many, many, many of the workers kids went to that school. Although I must say, many of the families were not very religious, but they thought they should give their children kind of a religious upbringing. So they sent them to Catholic school. And so I started in kindergarten at OLPH. I was double promoted. They felt that I was smart enough that I needed to get ahead. So they made the nuns had m e skip first grade. So I went from kindergarten to second grade. And then went to third grade at OLPH, and then I'll tell you the rest of the story in a minute. But my memories of childhood when I first started school were really kind of sad because I was an only child. My mother was working in the factory, so she couldn't get off to pick me up after school. And so most of the time, I would have to get out of classes here I'm in kindergarten or second or third grade and all the kids would go home, or many o f them would go home, and they'd have brothers or sisters or aunts and uncles. I didn't have anybody, so what I would do was go across the street from the school to where the nuns had their residence. And I
12 wasn't allowed to go inside, but I'd play in the yard while the nuns were inside. So I was all by myself, sitting in this yard from two thirty or three in the afternoon until five o'clock when my mother could get out of the factory and come pick me up. It was pretty lonely. SB: Sure. DL: I must tell yo u there was not much to do didn't have any toys. I'd just sit around and SB: And it was hot! DL: Have a stick and you know, beat on a tree or something like that. DL: It was very warm. SB: Gosh. DL: Very hot, and j ust that was very SB: Wow. DL: Lonely, sad time, those few years. SB: Sure. DL: Every so often, someone would take me to the factory, a friend or someone. So that I wouldn't have to stay in the yard with the nuns. And that's when I had my first experi ence of going to the factories. SB: Okay. DL: When I was maybe seven or eight years old maybe nine years old. And I would go to a factory where my mom was working, and they would let the kids go in. It was not a big deal. And these factories were very long. Not very wide, but very long, the floors where the workers were. And the odor of tobacco, the dust the tobacco dust was everywhere. They used to have major exhaust fans when they had electricity that would try to take some of the dust out of there. B ut there was so much tobacco and so much tobacco leaf being handled. It was always very musty and the air was filled with tobacco dust. I mean you could just smell it from the minute you walked into the factory. SB: It was one room? DL: No usually there were two floors.
13 SB: Oh? DL: The first floor was where they received the leaf, the tobacco leaf. They'd bring it in by trucks. And on the first floor, they would have the people that received the leaves, and they would have specialists that would grade the leaves and put them into different barrels SB: Oh, okay. DL: For different grades of cigars that had to be made. And then they would take those leaves upstairs. And the second floor is where the actual cigars were made by hand. SB: Okay. DL: And there would be kind of like, rows of work stations. And you'd have maybe twelve people across working SB: Would there be ? DL: Making cigars in rows, and there would be thirty or forty rows of those people. SB: Wow. DL: And it was a very long, na rrow, musty, wooden kind of environment. The beams were wood, the floors were wood. There were windows that they would keep open to try to get cross ventilation going through during the summer time. But the overriding memory that I have is of the smell of tobacco when you walked into the factory. But people knew one another, and they were close. It was not a huge community, so people were very nice. And when I'd walk in, friends of my mother or my aunts who might be working the same factory would greet me. And I would go and just stand by my mother and listen to them talking, listen to the workers going back and forth and watching her make cigars. And it was very pleasant. They would grouse about the work or something, but it was nice that they had people th at they knew. [Phone rings, tape paused] DL: One of the things I remember vividly, is after my mother's shift was over, we would all leave the factory. And the women were allowed to take a few cigars home every day. They could make some extra cigars for the men folk at the home. Whether it was their father, or their husband, or the men that were living in the house. They'd have a quota. They could make a few cigars. And I remember walking out of the cigar door, and the men would just walk out, but the wo men would have to open their purses and show some of the managers, you know, how many cigars they were taking. And I also remember on Fridays it was payday stopping at a cashier's office, and my mom picking up a pay envelope, and that was a big deal. They' d have little manila pay envelopes
14 SB: Sure. DL: And they would pay the workers in cash. And it was not a lot of money, but it was a day that would signify that we might be able to go perhaps and get a hamburger at a drive in restaurant or something S B: Was that special? DL: Which is a big treat for us. Yes. There was a restaurant called the Goody Goody. And it was a drive in, and gosh, I forget. It was on Florida or Tampa Street. And it might still be there. But we used to love to go to this drive i n and have a waitress come and bring a tray to our car and hang it on the window. And we would have basically the same thing every week, my mother and father and I. A hamburger, with a slice of pie, and a Coca Cola. And that was on payday, that was SB: I think it was torn down either last year or two years ago, Dick. [Phone rings, tape paused] DL: Anyway, that was a treat for us, to be able to go there and eat one day per week on payday. And anyway, I remember the factories vividly, because it was great to see my parents and not have to be hanging around the school where the nuns were. SB: Was there a lector? I've read about the lectors. DL: There was a lector. By the time I was a kid though, they were gone. SB: Oh. DL: The lectors were very popu lar because the workers would take part of their salary; not a lot of money, but they would pool their money. And they would hire a reader, which was a lector, who would come in each day and read to the workers while they were working. And the lectors woul d sit on an elevated chair that would be above the heads of the workers. And they would dress they would dress very nicely. They were usually educated men, and the workers would tell them what they wanted the lectors to read. Usually they would start by re ading the morning newspapers, translating what was in the English press for the workers. But then later on, the workers wanted the lectors to read from the Classics. They wanted to hear what Cervantes was writing about Don Quixote They also then eventuall y started asking the lectors to read very controversial books that dealt with socialism and SB: Really? DL: The first rumblings about communism. And so these books got the workers riled up and wanted they wanted to hear more and more of that, and they wanted to start acting
15 on some of the things that they were hearing that were in these manifestos and these tomes that the lectors were reading to them. And finally, the workers said I mean the owners said, Enough. They didn't want the workers to be rising up SB: Certainly. DL: And forming unions SB: Sure. DL: And creating all these disturbances. So they finally said, Enough, and they stopped the lectors from coming in. So that was a SB: That's interesting. DL: The rise and fall of the lectors. S B: Who the social the insurance the way that they took care of the workers was it the owners? DL: No. No, no. SB: Who ? DL: There were no benefits. SB: Okay. DL: It was either the church SB: Okay. DL: Or the societies that were formed like the C entro Asturiano or the Cuban Club. SB: They provided DL: The Centro Espaol. SB: The care. DL: They provided, yes. You paid them, and it was like a fraternal thing. SB: I see, I see. DL: And they provided the hospitals. There actually were sever al hospitals. The one I was born in was the biggest one. There was another hospital actually on Bayshore
16 Boulevard called Centro Espaol which my youngest son was born in. And then there were several clinics where doctors would hold consultations with peo ple. And then there were the club houses themselves where you could go and play dominoes, or just get away from the house and go have a glass of wine or a beer after dinner, and socialize with other people. And there were also lectures and symposiums. They had meeting rooms. People would go and learn about things, have discussions. They were active socially. And then also there were regular dances. They would have great dances on the weekends when the workers were free. I remember my parents used to love th They were matinees, and they were usually on Sunday afternoon. So people could dance, get home early enough, then go to work the next day. But the matinees were very popular, and all the clubs around Ybor City and West Tampa SB : Oh, I see. DL: Would have matinee dances where they would have orchestras, full orchestras playing dance music. SB: My gosh. DL: And then the workers would go and they were young SB: Sure. DL: And if they SB: It sounds extremely organized. DL: Very organized. Very well organized. These clubs provided almost all the needs of the workers outside of the work place. They also had entertainment. T hey would bring entertainers in from Spain, folkloric groups, singers and dancers and musicians that would come directly from Spain or from Cuba to entertain the workers. Yes. SB: Where did they learn this type of organization? In Cuba, or I mean, how di d they know how to do this? DL: Yes, it existed in Cuba SB: In Cuba. DL: And it existed to some extent in Spain. SB: Okay. DL: Yes, it was
17 SB: Interesting. DL: These societies are fraternal things, you know? The Americans had fraternal organizat ions such as the Elks, and they provided some of services and some of the things, but nothing to the extent that the Latino community did. SB: Sure. DL: Yes. And those were very important parts of our lives. When I had my tonsils taken out, I went back t o the hospital where I was born, and it was all paid for. I remember whenever my mother needed a doctor, measles or something, the doctors in our community would make house calls frequently. DL: At no extra charge, and you know, t his was there would be insurance agent little health care book or something. SB: Fascinating. ealth card SB: I did see that. DL: Remember, in their collection there? SB: Yes. DL: So yes that was SB: Yes. DL: Yes. Oth and you know, it was important, because there were many strikes later on, a lot of strikes, the workers rising up, you know, against
18 SB: Do you remember that? Did you ? SB: Yes SB: What did they do then? other odd jobs. There was one time, Suzette, that was important in my life, because things were tough here in Tampa, and this was after I got out of third grade. I remember from the job perspective, things were tough, jobs we sisters, two aunts of mine, had also moved to New York to be near their parents, and they had jobs there. And they were doing okay. So when I was in when I got out of third grade, things were tough in Tampa, and my mother and father decided to pull up stakes, and we actually moved to New York City. We had visited my grandparents and my aunts he had relatives here, and we had friends here. But we went to New York when I was in starting fourth grade. And we were up there for about a year or so during the war. SB: I see. DL: And we went up to find a better life economically, my parents di d. And I remember we even had a little bit of discrimination there. This was during a time when a massive, the massive migration of Puerto Ricans was starting to come to New York. You know, West Side Story and all that. SB: Yes, of course. DL: And so the re was a lot of discrimination in New York against Puerto Ricans. So when we arrived in New York, we wanted to have an apartment in a neighborhood that was pretty nice. There were some rough neighborhoods gangs and stuff. And my parents found out about an apartment in a neighborhood in the East Eighties, called what kind of a name is tha
19 bring in all these kids, an So we ended up having to live in what is called Spanish Harlem in New York. And we found a flat, a coldwater flat, on 106 th Street and Lexington Avenue, which is right in the heart of Spanish Harlem. They call it, El Barrio. where the Spanish speaking people were supposed to live. And the people in New York equated anybody that spoke Spanish with Puerto Rica a distinction. SB: Oh my goodness. DL: You know with Cubans or with people that were born here in this country SB: Sure. DL: We were just Spanish speaking people. In any event, I spent,with my mother and father, t hree years living in Spanish Harlem in New York. And this was during fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. I went to public school there, and I had received a pretty good education from the nuns [laughter] in Tampa at OLPH. And so I really excelled in my studie s in New York because I was going to school with a lot of underprivileged kids that e lementary school career and in New York. The teachers loved me. But it was a very tough neighborhood. And I would get beat up regularly by gangs [laughs], you know SB: Oh my gosh. DL: The classic thing, my lunch money being stolen, my mittens being stol en, all of these things. It was just really smart tough kid, you know, I really was bullie d a lot and it was just [a] terrible situation. And frankly, I dreaded getting out of sixth grade, Suzette, because the next thing was having to go to middle school. And the middle school that I would have had to attend in that neighborhood was just a nigh I was very desperate not to go to that school. And so I kind of wrote a note that I wanted my parents to find because I kind of wrote a note implying that I was thinking environment.
20 SB: Sure. but as soon as that school year was over, they decided to move back to Tampa. ething. What that you did that? DL: And it was kind of an unspoken thing that guilty, but it was [a] huge step for them to take, because my dad, at this time, was working for a major banking organization in New York. And he was in charge of some collections in international business because he could speak Spanish. SB: Sure. DL: And they were doing pretty well. But they had to upr oot themselves because of their concern about my feelings and my safety. And we moved back to Tampa. And I started middle school or junior high school back here in Tampa. And at the time, we moved back to the neighborhood where we used to live before we le ft. And during that time my couple of my aunts had moved to Miami with their kids, my cousins. And my paternal grandparents wanted to be near them, because my mother and fath er had left, you know, and so SB: Yes. DL: They wanted to so SB: Sure. DL: When we got back to Tampa from New York, about a year or so later, my grandparents wanted to move to Miami. They sold my mother and father the family house, which was at the c orner of Palm Avenue and Taliaferro. They moved to Miami and we moved into the family house which was a lovely house with a porch, and almost looked like one of these houses in Hyde Park. And I went through a wonderful phase at that time, because I flouris hed after I left the streets of New York. I was able to get a bicycle here, able to be on the streets at night SB: Sure. DL: And, you know, run around. I went to playgrounds. I was able to hang out with kids without this fear of the gang violence and al l that.
21 SB: Sure. DL: And so I went through a growing spurt, and I went through this wonderful phase where I did a lot of exercise, and was out all hours of the evening, you know, much longer because in New York I would have to stay on the sidewalk, and my mother all I could do, so it was a terrible [laughs] DL: Anyway, so coming back to Tampa turned out to be a terrif ic thing. And my folks my dad never went back to the factories. He ended up working for a couple of banks here in Tampa, and for the gas company, the utility company. And my mother did work in the factories from time to time, until mechanization came. And that was in the fifties then. And the machines came and put a lot of people out of business. And the factories started closing, and there were just a few left. So factory work was not an option anymore. SB: I see. DL: But growing up on the outskirts of Ybor City and going to George Washington Junior High, which is where all the workers kids went there were schools for the workers kids in West Tampa and schools for the workers kids in Ybor City. I lived in Ybor City area, so I went through OLPH, and then Washington JHS for three years. And then ended up going to Thomas Jefferson High School which was on the fringe of Tampa the kids from West Tampa went. There was no high school in West Tampa, so they had SB: I see. DL: the kids from West Tampa and Ybor City finally in high school, but the West Tampa kids went through their own elementary schools, their own middle schools or junior high schools. We all came together. The other major high schools in Tampa at the time were Hillsborough big school in Seminole Heights, and Plant High, which was for the ritzy kids. You know, the kids from Bayshore Boule vard and Palma Ceia, which was really getting to be a major neighborhood at that time. They all went to Plant High, and frankly, the kids from Jefferson, you know, the blue collar kids, were all very envious. And we would love to, sometimes, ride around an d look at the houses, and say, parents and a wonderful life. SB: Sure. DL: But there was still a lot of class distinction back then. So I went through middle school Washington Junior High School, and then Jefferson High School. But growing up
22 in Tampa as a kid as I told you earlier, it was a very segregated community. But we had v ery modest. We would either take a trolley car my mother and her sister might go on a Franklin Street. And the trolley car ran up the middle of Franklin Street at that t ime, and they would send me to the Florida Theatre, which was across the street from the Tampa Theatre. It was a movie house. And on Saturdays they would just show a bunch of movies for children, interspersed with cartoons and serials, and animal short sub jects, and five cents, she would put me in the theatre with my cousin. And we would spend five or six hours in the movie house while she shopped with her sister or something there. And so those were my memories of downtown Tampa. And then maybe she would take us to one of the five and dime stores, Cola at the fountain or something there, that was DL: Yes. The other plac es that we would go the people from Ybor City and West Tampa, is the Courtney Campbell Causeway was relatively new. And they had, kind of, tiki huts, at the beginning there. And people could go in the evening. A family or a group of people would go after w would go crabbing. They would get fresh crabs right on the edge of the Causeway there. SB: Right there ? DL: And make crabs, yes SB: How did you cook? DL: They had these little, early early grills SB: Okay. DL: If you will. And we would get sticks and stuff, and make fires, and cook the crabs, and that was wonderful, because everyone, and family un its and friends [Tape paused] DL: People would love going out there and get some breezes off the water in the evening, and eating the crabs, and telling stories about what happened during the day in the factories and things. [End Tape 1, Side A] -[T ape 1, Side B]
23 DL: Suzette, other things that people in Ybor City and West Tampa did to entertain themselves there were also trolley cars, believe it or not, that went out Bayshore Boulevard all the way out to Ballast Point. And Ballast Point was a place that the workers loved because it was wide open, and they had playgrounds, and they had a little pier, and they had kind of, pavilions. So, large numbers of the people from the community went out there on weekends and had giant picnics, and social gatherin gs, and dances and that was a delightful place to go. SB: There were no restrictions as far as Hispanics? DL: No, by that time there were none. SB: Good. DL: No. And then the other thing is, people in the evenings would go out after dinner, and just wa common in the Caribbean to do that. And the workers used to love to do that. The homes conditioning. So after who were sitting on the porches in their rocking chairs, or actually just stroll over to Seventh Avenue. Stores would open late. People could do window shopping or actually do some shoppin g. Although shopping days were usually Saturdays, which is when any given day, yo u could find, for example, a deviled crab salesman. Some guy that would have gone out and caught crabs that morning or the previous night, and cooked with a glass displa cents, wrapped in wax paper with some hot sauce. And those were wonderful. There would also be candy salesmen some guy would make homemade candies that you could hard candies that you could suck on. And we would put them on little sticks and evening, and have a wonderful time. There was also a very famous ice cream store, Spanish ice cream, calle d Los Helados h e l a d o s. And that was right off Seventh Avenue and I think, Fourteenth Street. It was always jammed. And they would make ice creams with tropical fruit flavors. And they would actually get people would bring them papayas or mangos from the trees that they would have in their homes around Ybor City, and these people would make homemade tropical flavored ice cream. SB: How wonderful. DL: And they were wonderful, and it would be great. You know, my mother would, and my dad would take me it was just delightful! And it was very festive, and very colorful. It was still not a very wealthy place by any
24 stretch of the imagination. In fact, in many houses around Ybor City, some people had chickens and roosters in their yards SB: [Laughs] DL: I remember even, people having goats in their yards for a while. When I was in grammar school, in and around Ybor City, there were still peddlers on carts and wagons. There would be guys that would come around selling fresh fruit and vegetables off the back of a horse drawn wagon. People selling fish off the back of a wagon. There was some guy that would come with an ancient tru ck that would come and sharpen your knives and scissors, you know, around the house. So all of that was still going on. It was still kind of a working class area with a lot of people just doing whatever they could to make ends meet. But it was quite a thin g for a young person. As I involve us. There were people that kind of were asking for it if they were drinking or involved in the numbers or something like that. But it w as a very colorful place. And had quite a reputation in the country. SB: Did you have hopes and dreams about what you would be? DL: Yes. Those hopes and dreams came about actually when I was in New York during those times when I was all alone with no sib lings, and it was not safe to go out and play on the street. So my companion, when I was growing up, and even through junior high school, was my radio. Television had not come around yet, and the few people that did o see them, they were not friends of ours. But anyway, the radio was my constant companion, and it was my escape. And I would listen to all types of programs programs, and big band and music programs. And as I said, in New York, I was there for a few years during the war, and my parents and I would listen to war reports from Europe on how the war was going. And I thought the radio, and I thought communications was just wonderful, because if I could esca pe by listening to people talking to me from all It helped me be a better communicator, it helped me be a better speaker, it taught me the language. I mean, I emul ated a lot of what I heard. And so I knew that I wanted to [do] back to Tampa, after school, I would get on a bicycle, and ride into downtown Tampa and hang out at the r adio stations. WDAE was a big radio station at the time. And WFLA Radio was also big at the time. SB: They were right downtown? DL: They were in downtown Tampa. And I would hang out there and make a pest of myself, but frankly the announcers and we ca ll them disc jockeys now, but they were just announcers on radio at the time were used to seeing me, and they would let me
25 come in and watch them work. They would let me put records away for them. They would show me how the control panels, the consoles wou ld work. I would see how they cued up records. I watched them cue up tapes, audio tapes. There were wire service machines, Associated Press and United Press International. So the news came over these wire machines that had paper on them, and there would be rolls and rolls of paper. And reports home from the wire machines. And I would do that, I would take them home on my bicycle, and after dinner often times, I would t ake these wire reports, and I would create a newscast using these SB: My goodness. DL: And I would stand in front of the mirror in my bedroom, and with a hairbrush serving as a microphone SB: My goodness. DL: I would kind of become a newscaster and a reporter reading wire copy and trying to emulate their voices in stentorian tones that these announcers would have. And I just loved doing it. And it was information that I had as a kid, like thirteen, fourteen year old I was reading wire stories from all over the world. None of the kids down the block kind of knew what I was [Laughter] DL: But I thought this was something very special, that I had all this information, so I told myself that this is what I wanted to do early on. I think probably around a ge thirteen or fourteen, I knew I wanted to be in the broadcasting business. And then shortly thereafter, television started to make an appearance. And we got a television in our house. And, Suzette, the WFLA Television went on the air here while I was in high school. And they were only broadcasting a few hours per day, but one of the first things they did is people from the TV station thought they would get some of the b rightest kids from around the City of Tampa from high school, bring them into the studios and have them be kind of a panel. And the moderator would read questions that were submitted by teenagers, questions that they had about problems with their parents a t home, or with questions that were sent. So I was chosen from Jefferson High School to be on the panel one of the SB: Were you DL: First TV programs in the City of Tampa
26 SB: Were you the only one? DL: No, there were some people from the Academy of the Holy Names, there were SB: On the DL: There was someone from Plant and someone From Hillsborough [High School]. SB: But you [were] the only one from Jefferson. DL: I was the only one from Jefferson. SB: And DL: And so I was on one of the original, local public affair shows from Tampa, WFLA. SB: And this was what grade? DL: And it was fun. This was when I was in eleventh grade. SB: Gosh. nteresting. I found out later because the station had just gone on the air, and I used to wonder because nobody had televisions then later that the guy who hosted the program, who was also their sales manager, because he created the letters himself! I mean SB: Oh my gosh. created thes e phony letters, so even [Laughter] DL: First thing when starting on television, there was cheating and corruption, and I was a part of it, unknowingly SB: [Laughs] DL: I was answering these phony letters. But it was fun and I SB: But that was the format. You were asked questions or ? DL: No, he would ask
27 SB: He would, yes. DL: Questions, and I would SB: Yes. DL: He would ask the questions, and we I was a member of the panel, we would answer the questions. SB: Sure. DL: So I had the bug. But throughout high school, since I knew that I wanted to be in communication, I joined every club that I could, or every organization that involved public speaking. I was in the drama club. I was the editor of the high school newspaper. During school asse mblies I would volunteer to be the master of ceremonies. I was in the student council. I was in politics. I went to SB: My gosh. students run the government, you know, for a few days. I was involved in the Junior SB: Gosh! DL: In my senior yearbook, I think I had more activities listed than anybody else in my senior class. And I wanted to do that because I wanted to not fear talking to people or addressing people, or speaking in public, or speaking over the air or something. SB: Sure. DL: And so, that trained me pretty well. DL: And I went on to a career I pursued that in college, but that was great. And that was so I had a dream early on and SB: Sounds like you were very busy DL: I was very focused on that dream. SB: In high school. DL: And to my parents credit
28 SB: Pretty impressive. DL: You know, they allowed me to go with it. You know, they were very happ y. I was the first one in my family to finish college, so SB: Were you the first to finish high school? DL: No. You know, I had a couple of cousins that finished high school, but then they got married, had families. SB: Sure. DL: I had another one wh o was a very bright cousin, who was a newspaper guy. And he went to the University of Florida. He was a wonderful football star in Miami. He went to SB: Sure. DL: So he left after, I think, one semester. And SB: How did your parents feel about all this? DL: They were very proud. DL: Because I was their only child, and they knew that I had a gift of some kind, and my grades were pretty good. I was in the honor society, and so I made them proud. They where I would make money in that business, but they supported me. The one thing is, when I was graduated from high sc hool, they wanted me to go to the University of Tampa because it was close by, and I could be at home. And a lot of my friends from Jefferson did that. They went to they were going to study to be teachers or administrative things, you know, nothing big. So I went to the University of Tampa, a couple of semesters wanted. And I told my parents that I wanted t o transfer, and they said, you know, What So I did some research, and I went to the library, and I checked it out. And there were two schools that had pretty decent radio and television departments at the time. Thi s was in Coral Gables, which is close, and there was another one called Emerson, Emerson
29 College in Boston that had really, very good radio and television. And I proposed to my ford to get you commuter school. We did have relatives in Miami, so they said, Okay, you can go to Miami if you can get h also worked down there. So [I] moved to Miami for my second year of college and transferred to the University of Miami. And I did various things. I worked in the summer in a perfume factory. In Hialeah, they make perfumes SB: Gosh. perfumes i them up [Laughter] I had a whole bunch of palettes on this forklift, and I hit somethin g and they all fell over! SB: Oh no. just SB: Oh gosh. another cousin in Miami who w as a sports writer for the Miami Herald. And he got me a job as a copy boy. And that was wonderful, and so I really enjoyed that. SB: Sure. DL: And that kinda started my professional media career going. And so I went to the University of Miami, studied radio and television, had a fine education there. Hated living with my relatives they had a very tiny house and they were very fussy about my schedule. So I told them that I was at school a lot, but what I was doing many nights was sleeping in my car.
30 SB: Oh my. DL: I would be in parking lots at the University of Miami, sleeping in my car. So after a ith my grandparents. And so again, they said, Okay. And we found an inexpensive dormitory room. So my final two years of college, I could live in a dormitory. But [I was] doing very well, and doing all sorts of radio and TV things on campus, becoming inv olved in many shows, doing internships at the television stations there. And an icon in television news, both in Florida and around the rest of the country, he was my pro fessor. And he taught me television news writing and news producing. What he used to like to do is find out who the brightest students were and offer them part time jobs working for him at the commercial television station in Miami. And SB: Which one was that? DL: WTVJ. WTVJ was the CBS affiliate in Miami. I had done an internship there. He was the news director and anchorman the first anchorman in Florida, and it was first licensed SB: Oh, interesting. DL: Television station in Florida. So he was ver y well known. And he decided that, you know, I had a future. So he offered me a job as a television news reporter while I was still a junior in college in 1957 DL: working on weekends. Very rare. And that was a big break That was my first paid Miami Herald for doing some writing for the newspaper, and that, but this was my first professional TV job. Then I also needed more money, because I was paying my way, and my parents. A nd I working at this TV job. And I met a young woman while I was selling shoes, she wa s a cashier, and she sold hosiery, and I sold shoes. And anyway, this was my first wife, and I got to know her and married her the following year, the year that I was being graduated. S B: Sure. DL: They gave you a ring, they ring, you know they pinned you or whatever
31 SB: [Laughs] DL: And then, so I was on this fast track and then SB: How old were you? DL: I was twenty one? Twenty one. SB: Oh, so young. DL: Yes. SB: Yes. DL: SB: What was her name? DL: Her name was Jackie Jacquelyn. Jacquelyn. And she was a native of Kentucky, and had moved to Miami to be near her aunt. She wanted to get away from the rural part of Kentucky, and she was living with her aunt in North Miami Beach. And anyway, in 1958 we were married, and I was still in school. And then I graduated that year, and I had to do thing. Went o ff to the military, went to Indianapolis, Indiana to Fort Benjamin Harrison, where I was a Second Lieutenant. And I studied publicity and public relations, which were allied, you know, to SB: Sure. DL: The radio TV field. And I spent six months there, a nd then I came back to Miami, and by this time, I had a son now. Lance had just been born. This was at the end of 1958. And I came back to Miami, and I went to work for the competing TV station. I had worked for the CBS affiliate SB: Yes. DL: When I cam e back, the NBC affiliate in Miami hired me. And this was now 1959. And in 1959 is when the Revolution of Cuba took place. And I was a TV reporter in Miami, and at the time, I was the only TV reporter in the City of Miami that could speak Spanish. You know I was totally bilingual because SB: The only one? DL: The only TV reporter who could speak Spanish. So of course, my news director took advantage of that, and now I was twenty two years old twenty three years old? And I was covering stories in Latin America by myself. I would go off with my own camera. I
32 was a reporter and photographer. I would go off and cover stories in Latin America, by myself. And this was amazing. And DL: During that period I became an expert in Latin American covera ge, because there was so much interest in Miami and Latin America. I got to meet Senator Smathers, who was the senator from Florida who was an expert on Latin America. And I accompanied him on a tour of Latin America once. He was able to get me through his connections an interview with Trujillo, who was the dictator of the Dominican Republic, and with Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti. These were exclusive interviews, nobody had ever interviewed them for American television. Also on my own, I got an interview with Fidel Castro. SB: How did you do that? DL: Well, I found out through my Spanish language contacts, where he was going to be. I mean, and it was some Air Force installation and I went there, and I knew where he was SB: Gosh. DL: And they kind of tip ped me off that he was coming out. So I kind of stopped him and did an interview with him. SB: And he was open? And he answered? DL: He was. I spoke to him in Spanish, which appealed to him SB: Which helped of course. DL: Which helps. But all of these interviews, the Castro interview, the one with Trujillo, and the one with Duvalier, got used in this country on the Today Show, and on Huntley Brinkley. SB: Oh my gosh. DL: And so these were major things. SB: And you were DL: And I was still very y oung. SB: You were now, what, twenty two? DL: Well this was 1960 now
33 SB: Oh, okay. DL: So I was born in thirty six [I was] twenty four. SB: Sure. DL: Twenty four. And it was pretty heady stuff, you know? DL: And I was also c overing all sorts of stories in Miami city government, county government, plane crashes, hurricanes and stuff. All of the education, and all of the right school. Eve rything happened it was good karma for me SB: So at this point DL: In terms of my career. SB: You really enjoyed being a reporter. DL: Yes, very much, very much. SB: Did you at all envision any other aspect? DL: Nothing at the moment, no. SB: No thing, okay. DL: I was living a wonderful life, because it was so exciting. Every day was different the assignments were different everyday. I also went around Latin America with a guy named Farris Bryant, who was a Democratic governor of Florida, and was going to do a five or six countries. And I was with him throughout the thing, and he was very impressed with the way I was covering this. And by this time, I had a secon d child. My and he was represented his speechwriters and his public relations people were here in Tampa. And there was an ad agency being run by a guy named Louis Benito. Louis Benito was a very fine man who had a very successful advertising agency here. And he handled a lot of political people, including Sam Gibbons and others. Bu t he handled Governor Farris Bryant. When Farris Bryant got back from this trip to Latin America, he in Miami, and he would be really someone that you might want to ta you, and I would like to talk to you about coming here and joining my agency, and
34 working with me on representing not only Governor Bryant, but some oth er state agencies that I handle. I think I could use you with your writing and public relations but the money that he was offering me, and the title and everything wa s very tempting. So I pulled up stake through Miami, and I moved my wife and two kids here, and went to work for Louis Benito. And stayed with him for about a year, and handled things like the Florida Turnpike Authority, Governor Bryant, the Florida Development Commission. These were all accounts that Benito had. And I was his Director of Public Relations. So I was busy doing y it very much. There were nice people, and wonderful people, and it was a great learning experience. So after about a year or so, I decided to leave advertising, and I went to Channel 13 here in Tampa, and I told them I wanted to get back into television. SB: Yes. DL: And all they could offer me at the time was a job writing in their promotion department, creating and producing promotions and writing for them, and being a creative person. And the money was also very good. And so I went to work for them, and while I was working for them, I had my third child. SB: Oh my goodness. DL: So I had three children within the span of about four years. And that position was fun. I was in Tampa, struggling to feed, you know, a wife and three kids on my own, and do ing well, and managing. And as luck would have it, the fellow who was the news director at WTVT and I were friends. He was offered a position in New York to go run the CBS local news operation in New York City, which is WCBS TV, Channel 2. And he offered me a position as a television news reporter in New York. SB: Oh my gosh. DL: He saw the work that I had done in Miami SB: Wow. DL: And what I had done for Louis Benito and what I was doing at WTVT, and he thought I would be perfect in his new news d epartment. And this was now in the summer of 1963. And I said SB: What an opportunity. SB: Sure.
35 DL: So I told my wife that I wanted to go to New York. And she was a southern girl from Kentucky and M going from the Tampa market to New York as a reporter. So [we] picked up and we put the family in the car it actually had a little trailer in the back and moved to New York City with th ree children and a wife. SB: In a far different circumstance than that Spanish Harlem. DL: And far different circumstances, yes. We went to a really, pretty nice middle class neighborhood in Queens, New York Rego Park, Queens where we had a comfortabl e two very much in New York. SB: Sure. nearby, and it left me off. And I went to work f or CBS in New York this was in 1963 and met some wonderful people at CBS. I stayed there seven years. SB: As an anchor? DL: As a reporter, not an anchor. SB: Okay. DL: But a street reporter. Robert Trout, who is an institution at CBS, an old radio guy was the anchorman for Channel 2 when I got there, and got to meet him. Then later, Jim Jensen, who joined CBS in New York while I was there stayed on that job twenty five [to] thirty years was there. Anyway, I got to meet Frank Gifford who was a football great SB: Sure. DL: and was a sportscaster. [He] worked with me, and I got to cover some incredible stories in New York City during the sixties while I was a reporter. I was a general assignment reporter, which means I did everything, and I had a spec ialty in politics. So while I was there, and while I was SB: Was that of your choice, Dick? DL: No, that was
36 SB: Okay. DL: They felt I was capab le of doing all sorts of things. So while I was there, some of the highlights of my job at Channel 2 in New York I covered the Beatles in 1964 when they came to America. SB: Oh my gosh. Wow. DL: I interviewed Malcolm X many times up in Harlem when he was in his in his heyday. I had an interview with Dr. Martin Luther King when he came through New York after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I covered Barbra Streisand when she was getting ready to do Funny Girl on Broadway. I covered urban riots in the sixtie s all over New York, Brooklyn, New Jersey covered peace demonstrations at the United Nations, Columbia University. Covered the whole hippie movement and everything in Greenwich Village. It was an amazing time to be in news, and an amazing city to be involv ed in. So it was quite an education for me. I covered Governor Rockefeller who was governor of New York at the time, and Mayor Lindsay who was mayor of New York. For a while I covered Mayor Wagner. I covered Bobby Kennedy when he moved to New York and beca me senator, New York senator. It was great. And this was on top of my having covered all these Latin American dictators, you know, a few years earlier. And so while I was still very young, a lot of what I did had won major journalism awards, and a lot of national recognition. So the sky was the limit for me. SB: My gosh. DL: And then I got my comeuppance a few years after I got to New York. The fellow that hired me, who was from Tampa, got fired, and the guy that replaced him called me in some months af [Laughter] is make you an editor. SB: How did you feel about that? DL: Well, I felt crestfall en. You know SB: Of course. DL: I had done such great things. But in retrospect, Suzette, he was absolutely right. It was one of the best moves off SB: Gosh.
37 DL: From in front of the camera SB: Sure. dreadful. But ever since he put me into management, which was now in nineteen at the end of 1966 anager I SB: Absolutely. DL: So he had a good instinct about what I could do best, and he felt that I could manage people, make good decisions, run organizations, and SB: Yes. DL: And pu t things together. SB: And what type of management position was it? DL: Well, I started by becoming an assignment editor an assignment manager which is the equivalent of a city editor in a newspaper. So here I was in CBS as an assignment manager, with m aybe twenty reporters reporting to me, that many film crews, couriers that were bringing film back from the field SB: Which you decided DL: And I was in the middle of the newsroom listening to police scanners answering I ines SB: You decided what stories SB: Would be covered. DL: Yes. SB: Yes. DL: Myself and the producers these stories. But during the day as news would break, news tear everything up and set things up. So
38 DL: Really incredible logistical decisions, trying to like, move chess pieces all around New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and trying to beat t he competition, and get the stories first, get the stories best. SB: Wow. DL: So that was wonderful. That was very heady stuff. And I was really very, very good at that. And so from then on I was in management the rest of my career. SB: Yes. And how ma ny years were you there? DL: Well, CBS I left in 1970. The fellow that took me off the air and made me a manager SB: Yes. DL: Got fired. SB: Oh. DL: And then his successor came in and wanted to bring in his own people. And by this time I was the Exec utive Producer of the newscast. Which means I was SB: Sure. DL: The number two guy in the news department. And we were number one in news in uncommon. New people come in, they want to bring their own people. So I left CBS, and I ended up at WOR, which is a big independent station in New York, Channel 9. And I ready to be a news director. As I got there and I presented my credentials to the general have a job open as a about programming. I came through sales, and I know programming. You know news. quite an opportunity.
39 SB: Wow. DL: And it got me off the beach, you know, I was, I had DL: Been fired at CBS, so SB: Talk ab out timing. DL: And it was good because this station had been in trouble with the FCC. They had not been doing a lot of news and public affairs, and they needed to reform the station. And I came in as kind of a reform movement with this general manager. SB: Gosh. DL: Anyway, believe it or not, that only lasted a year. We were reforming the station so [Laughter] DL: So a year after I joined it, they fired us the general manager and myself, and severa l other people. SB: Gosh. DL: And that was also a fortuitous thing because I ended up at NBC, and this was 1971 the end of seventy was SB: In New York? DL: In New York. And I was back d 4, WNBC TV, which is their flagship station, as the assignment manager. I spend three years doing that, then, they promoted me to be a bureau manager, bureau chief, and a news director in Cleveland. NBC o wned a big station in Cleveland. I went there, and I started a new breed of local newscasts, had a great time. Did that for three years, and then I became a news director in Denver. SB: Oh my gosh. DL: In Denver, Colorado. And SB: And how many years t here?
40 DL: That was a year a little over a year. I ended up not liking Denver. I liked the skiing, came to Chicago after that at NBC and became a program director doing documentaries and specials. That was my task. And I spent three years doing that SB: How did DL: Did some wonderful shows SB: How did you feel about programming versus news? DL: At this time, the programming that I was doing was kind of public aff airs and documentary work, so it was quasi news SB: Okay. things that the news department would normally be doing, but the general manager at this station decided to le t the program department do it, since my background was news. And Chicago, was the guy that originally told me I stunk on the air. SB: Oh my goodness! DL: He was now a general manager! But we became very good friends. DL: And he hired me in Chicago. And so I became a program director there and did a really good job. After three years there, I got a promotion and was sent back to New York, as the station manager, which is the number two job at WNBC TV, which is the biggest and richest television station in the country. So here I was, and this was in 1980, the end of 1980, back in New York as the station manager. SB: This is now with still wi th wife number one? SB: Okay. DL: This is now on wife number two. Wife number two I met trying to figure out when that was while I was still with NBC. I was still with NBC. They took me off the air, and my wife number one had had working so hard and doing all of these things, covering SB: Yes.
41 DL: Riots and stuff day and night, that it was not really good. So she wanted to get out of leave and go back. So it was not a good situation. So she left and went to Memphis, which is near where her parents live. SB: I see. DL: Not too far from Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, I met wife number two SB: Caren? DL: No, Patricia, this is wife num ber two. Patricia, and she was in an unhappy marriage. I had just gone through a divorce, and she got divorced, and she ended up going to law husband who was not very helped put her through law school while I was at CBS, and then WOR and NBC. And then we got married, and she went with me when I went to Cleveland, and then to Denver, and then to Chicago. Now sh e had gone through law school and taken bar exams in New York, Ohio, and Colorado. And I kept getting transferred. SB: Oh, gosh. SB: Yes, sure. you these g and we were trying to commute back and forth SB: Sure. DL: And it was getting harder and harder. And then I moved to New York, took my Denver was just dissolving because she wanted a law career SB: Sure. DL: I wanted a career.
42 SB: How many years was that second [marriage]? DL: The second marriag e well, we got married in 1970, and we divorced in 1980. Which is the year I first met Caren. SB: Who is your current wife? DL: Who is Mrs. Lobo number three! SB: Yes. DL: My current wife. SB: Yes. DL: And I met her when I moved to New York and bec ame the WNBC TV station manager. The second wife ultimately became a judge. She works for the social security administration. DL: And I SB: She really likes it. DL: I talk to her from time to time, yes. She regrets not stayin g in the marriage she regrets not keeping it together and not leaving Denver, but you know, she understands what I had to do SB: Sure. DL: Was not happy for the marriage to have been dissolved, but DL: Both career people met Caren, and she was in theatre. She was running an off Broadway theatre, and I met her quite by accident. And we fell in love pretty quickly, and we were inseparable. And after a few years of being together in New York, I got transferred to Cleveland, as I mentioned. And this was as a general manager. It was my first vice presidency. And poor Caren had just moved to New York from Pittsburgh.
43 SB: Oh my. DL: She had gone to college in Pittsburgh, and was running a theatre in Pittsburgh and Rust Belt and move to New York. So she had just been living in New York a couple of years when I met her, and ed in your second marriage, so I want DL: So she did move to Cleveland with me, and we had a wonderful time. And I was running that station, and very successfully not happy to leave New York, I resisted going there but NBC kind of said, You got to go. And while we were in Cleveland, we got married, Caren and I. And that was in 1984. I lasted two years in Cleveland this time around, and had been so successful. And then there was a job open in Chi cago as a general manager. In Chicago, where I had been program director. And got transferred to Chicago. This was a great thing for both of us. We were happy to leave Cleveland, and go to Chicago, and we had a wonderful life there. It was just wonderful. I was doing great things at the TV station, very involved in community activities there, especially with the Hispanic community. I was one of their heroes SB: Like what? SB: Okay. DL: And w hen they discovered that I was Hispanic, they embraced me and they just thought I would be a champion for them. And so I brought a lot of Hispanic reporters and anchor forgotten they gave me several awards for that. SB: Terrific. DL: And anyway, then, three years into the Chicago experience, NBC, which was now owned by General Electric, decided to buy a television station in Miami. And it was the television station where I star ted my entire career. They bought WTVJ, and it was still a CBS affiliate, but NBC bought it, and were going to turn it into an NBC station. And going to send me to Miami. twenty Hispanic. I know that market, and th
44 bought the station, they let the general manager go, and asked me to go run it. And I was really kind of adamant, beca twice. And then the third time, I got a call one evening at home from the President of NBC, a gentleman named Bob have much of a choice. So, [we] packed up and we moved to Miami. And this was in the summer of 1988. SB: Di d you have a reputation then? Of turning these stations around? DL: Yes, I was SB: You were a troubleshooter. we had had a lot of success at each of the stations wh ere they had sent me, and that was a blessing, but because I got a lot of promotions but it also meant being transferred and uprooted a lot. SB: Moving again. DL: So here we are in Miami now, in 1988, at a major station transition. It was one of the big gest network affiliation switches in the history of the country at that time. A great old CBS station becoming an NBC station, and they wanted me to engineer the switch and make it all happen. So I spent the first five or six months getting that switch rea dy. I was an NBC executive running a CBS station for the first SB: Oh my gosh. DL: Five or six months. SB: [Laughs] DL: Anyway, stayed there for let me see SB: Is there a huge difference? DL: Of the two companies? SB: Yes. many, many years.
45 SB: Is it the people? Is it the way they program? me see that was 1988. And the n we had a kind of a trauma in our life in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami. Caren and I were living there. We had a home in Coconut Grove, right near the water, near Biscayne Bay. And we evacuated our home on it was a Sunday afternoon, and went to th e TV station with our cats we had three cats, four cats at the time. And the storm hit and we knew it was going to be bad, but not how bad it was really going to be. And anyway, our home had really been hurt, we had six feet of sea water come through our h ouse a big storm surge right near where we lived, and a lot of damage all around us. So we had to find a [End Tape 1, Side B] -[Tape 2, Side A] DL: So here we are in Miami after Hurricane Andrew, and there was some good news, because the coverage that our television station provided for the people of South Florida during that storm was extraordinary. We had a meteorologist who had prepared our station for such a disaster. He was a specialist in hurricanes, and he knew the big one was going to hit somet ime. So we had all the right equipment. We had everything prepared at the station. And as luck would have it, our tower did not go down. We stayed on the air during the entire storm. So people that had portable radios or portable televisions could watch us or hear us SB: Thank goodness. DL: During the whole storm, and the whole evening. SB: Were you the only ones? made plans to simulcast, so if you lost your television set, you could turn on a portable radio and still hear our coverage. So we were on nonstop. We started, of course, that day, and in fact we started the night before, Saturday. And we were on the air, I think [for] four days straight without commercials, w ithout stopping. SB: Oh my gosh. DL: So we kind of the station turned out to be the hero of the storm, and our meteorologist was the hero of the storm. SB: Oh gosh. DL: He was made the grand marshal of the Orange Bowl Parade that following January.
46 SB : Oh! DL: And NBC actually did a movie of the week about our coverage of the hurricane, about how this television station saved so many lives. SB: What was it called? Do you remember the name? DL: God it was just called Hurricane Andrew something. And it was a terrible movie! [Laughs] DL: But it was on national television. SB: Sure. DL: And WTVJ won every major coveted journalism award. The Peabody, the duPont, the Edward R. Murrow, Sigma Delta Chi. SB: Incredible. D L: We won all the major awards for our coverage. SB: Certainly deserve DL: But it took its toll. I mean, it just traumatized and it took years for the city to bounce back. We were out of our home for eight months before Caren could get it fixed up and l ivable again. But she did a marvelous job, and got us back in there. But by that time, we were kind of fried from that experience. And frankly, Miami might seem exotic e market was something that and Chicago, and had some much better media experiences than the one we had in Miami. So there came a time in nineteen at the end of 1993 when they were offering some early retirement packages at NBC. And I was kind of getting tired, and wanted getting antsy. And I think the company was feeling the same way. So we parted company at the end of 1993. And I got a terrific severance and retirement package from them. And I was ready to do something else, and as much as I loved the broadcasting business, by the programming that was the network was providing. I thought that the ownership of the television networks by these major multinational companies, NBC and Disney and Viacom, was hurting the quality of the broadcasting business. I got into it when the bus that. And they had a they felt they had an obligation to the public and to provide programming in the public interest. But these new companies were primarily interested in
47 the bottom line, and in ratings, and pleasing shareholders on Wall Street. So the business was not what I had bargained for when I got into it in 1957 at WTVJ. So I was kind of d I So the announcement of my retirement was published in the Miami Herald, the day it was the day after it was announced to the staff. And the day after the story appeared in the Miami Herald, I received a call from Washington, from someone in the White House who was in charge of Latino affairs for the Clinton administration. This was now the end of ninety three, the beginning of ninety four. And they said that they had read about my leaving NBC, and that there was a position in Washington that they thought I would be do at the time. And I asked them about the position, and the job was the Dir ector of the Information Agency, and it was headquartered in Washington, but there was also a major office and a bureau in Miami, and this was overseeing the operations of radio and Television Mart named after Jose Mart the Cuban liberator. And it was a very controversial operation because it was established to provide ostensibly unfettered, uncensored news and information to the people of Cuba that were living in a very tightly censored island. However, the people that had been running radio and TV Mart had agendas, and were not being objective and were not putting on the type of programming that this country wanted the people of Cuba to hear which was programming free of any bias, pro Cuban or anti Cuban or whatever. So they thought someone the government thought that someone with my credentials could bring North American journalism morals and ethics and principles to the Radio and TV Mart newsroom. So I asked some of my ould be fun living onths to vet me. They the security clearances, the Secret Service and the FBI they talked to everybody They interviewed all my neighbors, all my friends, and they di d all sorts of clearance and security searches on me. SB: Very interesting. DL: As it turned out, I already had a security clearance because I was an officer in the US Army. Remember I had gone DL: into the army, and I had a securit y clearance. SB: A long time ago.
48 DL: But they still had to investigate me. And after a lot of investigation, they finally offered me a job. And so we accepted, and on February 14, 1994, I was sworn in by the head of the United States Information Agency to the job of Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. And it was very heady stuff, because I was in charge of this wonderful operation that had a twenty five million dollar budget, and that was supposed to give the people of Cuba, who really were not getting good information, some solid news and public affairs. SB: How many employees? DL: I had about 150. SB: My gosh. DL: Yes. Most of them DL: In Washington SB: Compiling DL: But you know, about thirty or forty in Miami. SB: Compiling news, editing DL: Yes, we had a twenty four hour radio operation that was both on shortwave and on AM. And then we produced three or four hours of television that we tried to get in there everyday. So I had a radio and television operation going. So these were writers, producers, researchers, technicians, managers, the whole gamut. And it was an incredible operation. We had a great for example, a great research facility in Washington. One of the best libraries and research facilities, with all sorts of Cuban history and information. We had some very learned people, PhDs and scholars, on Cuba. The only problem is that many in the Cuban American community in Miami thought it was their station that they owned it. Because they were the ones that lobbied hard for President Reagan to establish meant to help get free information to Cuba, the information ha d to be uncensored, it editorially what was on the air. The government said, No, we need to control it. And so there was a lot of friction, a lot of controversy. They were con stantly investigating the programming that was going on.
49 SB: I see. DL: And also SB: This is DL: You know, the Republicans, generally are hardliners on the Cuba issue. They y were against this agency that I was running, and I was a Democrat, appointed by a Democrat. no friends. SB: [Laughs] DL: Because the Republicans and the Miami c ommunity, and then the Congress were asking me to be very hard line, and the Democrats wanted to do away with this whole agency. So I SB: Under both administrations, were these broadcasts able to get through to the people? DL: Many of them, radio espec ially. Radio was very successful. Even though the Cuban government jammed the signals and they still jam the signals. The Cuban people did receive radio Mart signals on shortwave pretty easy. Most of them have shortwave radios bean, and they can get radios around the world. And they were not able to jam the shortwave signals effectively. DL: And what we would do, Suzette, is switch from one transmitter to another, and we would tell the people of Cuba when we were switching, so we would go to different gigantic transmitters [that] were around the northern hemisphere to try to upset the Cuban jammers. SB: Very interesting. DL: Yes, it was a cat and mouse game. They pretty effectively jammed our AM sig nals, which were from the Florida Keys, and our TV signal into Cuba was done using a big weather balloon. We had a TV transmitter on a weather balloon, and at night down in the Florida Keys, we would let this balloon up into the air on a tether, and we got it up far enough so it could overlook the curvature of the earth, and SB: My gosh. DL: Have a direct line of sight into Cuba. And then we would broadcast material, which was on tape. We would tape it early in the day, and then at night o start
50 an international incident. So we would air our telecast at night. And the Cuban government TV signals are pretty easy to jam, so they jammed them pretty effectively. So not that many people were able to see the TV signals. And that was another bone of contention. SB: What kind of programming would it be? DL: Well, just everything. We had comedy programs. We had music programs. But the programs that they really wanted to hear were roundtable discussions. SB: Oh, okay. DL: Discussions about issu es SB: They being? DL: The Cubans. SB: The Cubans. primarily behind the Iron Cur DL: Because we would SB: Did you have dialogue? DL: Do focus groups, yes. SB: Okay. DL: When people came over either people that we re fleeing Cuba on rafts when they got here we would go talk to them, [and ask] Did you hear us? Did you listen? What did and in this country, and we would have many, amount of research, When can you hear us? When were your neighbors listening? SB: Okay. DL: What was it like where did you live? Where could the signal be heard the best? We had very, very meticulous research.
51 SB: It DL: And what we would do is, we would respond to what they wanted to hear. DL: No. I mean SB: And the government propaganda before I got there, but my job was to make sure that it was SB: Okay. [Tape paused] DL: It was a very controversial job. There were many investigations going on all the time. I think at one point there were thirty some different investigations going on surrounding Radio and Television Mart SB: Investigations by the government ? DL: By the Congress, different agencies investigating our coverage, that type of thing. There were just mostly nuisance things but we had to spend a lot of time answering questions from congressional committees or from particular congressmen who were q uestioning certain things. It was pretty heady stuff because I would be invited to the White House from time to time to strategize about Cuba, and when they needed to get information from us regarding Cuba, we would provide it so they could make policy dec isions. We frequently went to the State Department for briefings on Latin American affairs. We were in constant communication with the Cuba Desk. There was a special desk of specialists in Cuba that had intelligence and information about Cuba that we would share and they would give us information. I had a secure phone in my office, so if diplomatic relations, but we had an office in Cuba, and I could talk to the people there and they could tell me some of the news that was going on to help us. They would also tell us sometimes that, you know, that people, were listening.
52 There was one example of something we did that I was very proud of, Suzette. Congressman Rangel, who was a very prominent African American congressman from Harlem in New York, who is not a supporter of the embargo to Cuba, not a supporter of our Cuba policy, called for congressional hearings on the question of the Cuba embargo. He was his committee was going to hold some hearings. And he was asking people from all over, from different points of view to come and testify before his committee on cover these hearings li think the Cuban people want to hear. The American Congress holding hearings about their life and their that is opposed to the Anyway, of course people on the staff at Radio Mart leaked to the Cuban communi ty that I was planning to cover these hearings. So the leaders of the Cuban American community, the political leaders were furious that I would be giving airtime that would go into Cuba and they would be hearing this congressman speaking against the embarg o. And so I would get calls from the people in Miami saying, Are you sure you know what on for about twelve hours. They started at like eight in the morning and they ended late that evening. And there were dozens of people testifying before the committee. And we did a fabulous job of covering. We had live coverage throughout the day. We had b atteries of translators that would relieve one another, and they would translate every bit of testimony that was being presented. And it was just a monumental, logistical effort and DL: I was very proud of the staff, and I told th em that. And after the day was over, they kind of felt that they had done something special. And not too long afterwards we received a call from the Cuban interest section in Havana telling us that it was an incredibly exceptional bit of programming, that it was probably the single most important thing that Radio Mart had ever done. That throughout the island, when people the word got out that this was being broadcast, that almost everything came to a stop on the island, because they wanted to hear this. SB: Gosh. DL: This unfettered, congressional testimony. They even got word from their sources in Havana that the Cuban government, the highest levels of government stopped business to listen to this testimony.
53 SB: Oh my gosh. DL: And they told us thi s on the telephone. And shortly thereafter, the head of the United States Information Agency got a letter from the Secretary of State who was Warren Christopher at the time saying that the work of Radio Mart and such and such a date, by beaming into Cuba, these hearings from congress, was an exceptional piece of work, letter, saying it was just, one of the best things that Radio Mart had ever done. SB: Extraordinary. DL : So at least I did something that was appreciated DL: And I think, made a difference. So that was really nice. The other thing that I did that I was kind of proud of with my staff, is help the administration out. While I was running Radio and TV Mart the government the American government changed its policy with respect to Cuban people fleeing the country. It used to be that they got out on rafts or boats and we picked them up. Then we would bring them over here The proportions. And at one point, the government had picked up I think over forty thousand people that were on boats and rafts SB: Oh my gosh. DL: They had left Cuba. And they put them in Guantanamo at the naval air base there. by surprise t he number of people. So here, the government picked up these poor refugees up. They put them in this naval base that was not prepared for them. They had a city, it was a city of people forty thousand men, women, and children. And there was no idea what to this encampment, the Cubans, were very antsy, and it was getting very hairy. And so our government was hearing from the people at Guantanamo that this thing could erupt, you know, unless the government did something. So my staff my staff and I were asked by could dif actually it was a small jet that flew a bunch of us down, my deputy and I from Radio Mart and some people from the White House. And we got down to Guantanamo, and we went into t he camp, and we talked to these people, told them who we were. We were heroes to them because they believed in Radio Mart SB: Sure.
54 DL: So they opened up to us. And what they told us was that they were glad to be safe, but they were disappointed that bothered them more than anything was their families back in Cuba, not knowing what these people had drowned or what their status was. But the first thing they wanted to do was make sure that their loved ones back in Cuba which were on the island, they were just a quick SB: Sure. Right there. DL: And knew what was going on. So we told them that what we would do is get all their names, and then have day and night, we would broadcast their names from Radio Mart into the islands, so the relatives could know, you know, where they were, that they were in Guantanamo. And the other thing they wanted to know is, what was going on between the US government and other countries about where these people would end up. So we said, Okay. So we talked to the military people that were running Guantanamo, camp people set up their own communication system, and we got them the equivalent of a mimeograph machine SB: Oh my gosh. DL: And they started their own newspaper. And w e, our government, gave them information about the negotiations going on with Panama and other countries that we were hoping to send them to. And we also bought thousands of little cheap transistor radios, and we spread them out all over the camp so that t hey could hear. They would provide their own little radio stations. So we just set up a little small transmitter for them, and that way we were able to keep them informed and let them know what was going on. And so any threat of a riot went away. So we kin d of stopped this, what could have been a horrendous scene. SB: At that point, could they not go back into the island? DL: No, they fled SB: They were afraid. DL: They risked their lives. SB: They were afraid
55 DL: They were afraid to go back. SB: Of the repercussions. DL: Yes they the repercussions. SB: Sure. DL: Exactly. But SB: What a horrible thing, to not know where DL: So I went down to Guantanamo a couple of times to work on that p roject and that stuff SB: What became of them? DL: They were shipped to all different countries and they spent several years there, and they ultimately all worked their way into the United States. DL: Yes. SB: To have DL: It is SB: Accomplished that. Incredible. DL: Yes. So that was an exciting chapter in my life, where I was doing a type of SB: You were involved in politics too at this point, inadvertently. DL: Well I was a Democrat yes. I always supported Democrats, but while I was a general manager of a commercial TV station, I never openly spoke of my politics because we were owned by corporations SB: So your DL: And SB: Right.
56 DL: I had commercial news departments. And s anchorman, or their news people are putting on biased news. SB: And you were covering politicians and political issues. DL: Yes. SB: But when did this intense interest in the political atmosphere really develop ? DL: I think it started while I was on the streets in New York, in the sixties, seeing the social upheaval. Seeing the Civil Rights Movement unfold. I was part of the Civil Rights Movement. You know, I did some marching myself, and I did a few things dur ing the Civil Rights Movement. And because of the discrimination that I told you, that our community SB: Oh yes. DL: You know, as a family, observed we as a family litical Civil Rights Movements in the sixties got something changed. So that politicized me, and I really loved the Kennedy brothers. I was very fond of Jack and I got to as I told you earlier interview and got to know Bobby Kennedy, who ran for [the] sena te in New York. And if Bobby Kennedy had not been assassinated and had gone to Washington, I probably would have given up my career to go work for him. I was that motivated. e the points in my life where I really became more politicized, in the sixties and seventies. Later on, in the eighties and nineties, I was involved in supporting people, but not to the extent that I am now or that I was back then. SB: So your career was Radio Mart DL: No that was journalism to me, that was a broadcasting and journalism mandate, where they asked me to be a journalist and a broadcaster, and bring some of my experience and expertise into a new s department that had kind of become prostituted if you will, and corrupted. SB: Sure. DL: Yes. SB: You must be very proud of that period. DL: Well, I know that I did as much as I could SB: Amazing.
57 DL: I finally got out of there after a couple of SB: What happened? by everyone. We had no real support. We were the target of so much criticism, and I l that I was making a contribution of any consequence. SB: Is the situation still the same? SB: Worse. DL: Yes. DL: I was the one attempt that they made at having a good professional broadcaster go in t DL: As it should be. SB: Certainly has potential. wanted me to do. SB: I see. DL: And we loved living in Washington. Caren and I had wonderful times there. We had great friends, old friends from NBC days and stuff. But after a couple of years I said, SB: What did you do in Miami? DL: Well, we said SB: And why? I mean you were kind of anxious to get DL: Well, because we still had our home there, we had an office there, so we
58 SB: Oh, okay. e there. And I had to go [to] Miami a lot because we had a Radio TV Mart bureau there. So after I left the government, then I really had no career move left. And we made a g to I love the West Coast of Florida, I was born and raised because we used to go there during NBC conferences SB: Okay, I see. DL: Executive management conferences. We said, you know SB: So you had knowledge of it. something, make an impact on that community. And so we moved to Sarasota in 1996, sold our home in Miami, which was quite beautiful and we loved it. And after the hurricane, we restored it to its original splendor it was an old historic Spanish house. od friends, but [we were] happy to get on with our life, and so we moved to Sarasota. The intention was, I wanted to buy a little radio station if I could find one, and program it myself and put on news and public affairs, and maybe jazz things that I li ked. Or, publisher and have a column every week, and try to cover news that I thought was important. And so we moved to Sarasota. Caren went to work remodeling ou r house and getting feathering our nest, while I looked at the opportunities that were involving radio stations and newspapers. And I tried to buy a couple of little newspapers. I tried to buy a couple of radio stations. But the deals never worked out. The prices were exorbitant, and wonderful part of Sarasota that was in financial distress, and we ended up buying that store and making it into a wonderful caf bookstore European type of retail sensibility. wonderful marketing skills and instincts, she developed a reading festival in the City of Sarasota, a big event every winter a one day r eading event. SB: What is the name of it? What was developed primarily Caren, through some partnerships the Palm Literary Society, which is a luncheon group that meets fo sponsored by the Northern Trust Bank, and the Sarasota Herald Tribune and our old
59 uthor, and a question and answer session and a book signing. SB: But the name of the store? DL: Our store was called Sarasota News and Books. SB: Okay. DL: Yes, and there was a big newsstand. It was a European caf, and an independent new bookstore. We also had greeting cards, and gifts and things. It was just a great little store. DL: Right in the heart of downtown on Main Street and Palm Avenue. SB: Very popular. DL: Very, very popular. We knew noth ing about retailing, but we knew how to produce shows. We kind of created this bookstore as if it were a production a stage production with great lighting and great colors, and music and stuff. So we created a set. And we learned as quickly as we could abo ut books. We both liked to read. And it was not brain surgery, but again, we did it at the right time and the people responded. SB: Who were some of the authors you imported? DL: Well, we had Amy Tan, which was a very famous author, she came through. W e had Jimmy Carter, [he] came to our bookstore and did a novel. We had Frank Rich, the columnist for the New York Times came through. John Jakes has been through several times. There have been hundreds of them, Suzette, just literally hundreds of them. SB : Over what period of time? DL: Well, we opened the bookstore in October of 1997, and we finally sold it at the end of 2005. SB: What made you sell it? DL: Well [Tape paused] DL: What made us sell the bookstore? Well, in 2002, I was approached by an executive recruiter, a headhunter, while I was living in Sarasota and helping with the bookstore with Caren, and I was approached by an executive recruiter
60 [Tape paused] DL: So I was approached by this executive recruiter who had found me through a mutual the 1960s when I worked at CBS. This fellow worked with me. And now he was an n Sarasota, and he told me that he was trying to find a president and CEO for WEDU in Tampa, that he was on a search, and he was doing a national search. He was at the end of the search, but somebody told him that I was in Sarasota, and would I be interest ed in the community? And SB: And again you have this reputation as a troubleshooter. correct. And he knew about it. And he thought that I would be perfect for the job. So anyway, I talked to Caren about it because we had the bookstore, and we had it, hat in the to the search committee at WEDU, and they were a little uncertain I think about me, because of my age primarily, and whether I had the stamina maybe, or th e current knowledge of the business, you know, to maybe run a television station. And I was interviewed by the search committee and by the board I think they had eight candidates. There were originally seventy or eighty people that had applied and that wer e being looked at for the job. They narrowed it down to eight. I was asked to come to Tampa and be interviewed. I was interviewed by the board and then they narrowed it to four, and I was part of the last four. And then another interview, and then ultimate ly they offered me the job. And so in June of 2002, I was offered the position at WEDU, and I accepted, and recall, the first time was after my first year of college, [I] went off to study broadcasting. Then I was in Tampa for a short period of time as a public relations executive, and a promotion department writer. And so DL: An incredible story. And I come back to Tampa, and so for a few years I was commuting back and forth, because we still had the bookstore and things were really going well there. And there came a time when Caren,
61 bookstore. We felt we owed it to that community to try to keep it running. So, Suzette, as luck would have it, we were approached by a real estate official in a real nd buyer that wants to buy both. And so long story short, we put out a price out there, and they accepted. And so we found someone that bought the building and the bookst ore, and young professionals that job with it. And I, in the meantime will be going SB: Do you still consult at all for the operations? of the authors that Caren still brings to Sarasota for some o ther venues and let them sell books. But no, we kind of cut the cord so to make sure they were on their own. But in the meantime, in another month or so, it will be my fifth anniversary at WEDU. SB: Extraordinary. DL: And the time has really flown by. I must give this board credit, because they offered me this position when I was sixty five years old. And now I just turned seventy and a DL: to a represents more of the future for broadcasting than some of the commercial entities, kind of looking alike with all of this terrible entertainment programming, and kind of shallow news and shallow public affairs work, if any. And I feel that WEDU is now More relevant programming, and covering things that none of the commercial stations are even and very heartening. And if my health holds out, you know, I will be doing this for another few years hopefully. And will be able to see SB: Could you explain about that? DL: Sure. Several years ago, because of technological changes in the world, digital has become overriding. Everythin g has gone digital, and broadcasting is no exception. Since
62 worked out satisfactorily. But through digital broadcasting now, we can use a different spectrum and use it mo re effectively. In fact, we will be given space on a digital spectrum where we can have three or four channels of television, if you will, instead of just one. different types of SB: Sure. DL: Services to the community. The government started this thing more than ten years ago, started this move towards digital. For WEDU, starting in April of 2003, we started our multi programming for the moment. And in February of 2009, the deadline takes place. And at that time, the entire country all the stations, both PBS and commercial stations, will be giving up their analog signal. It will be strictly broadcasting on digital. And preparing for that. SB: You were mandated to make the switch. DL: Mandated by the FCC SB: Yes. DL: To do this, all stations were. SB: Were you ahead of the curve? Did you do it ahead of time? DL: WEDU was, yes. There wa s a very successful capital campaign that WEDU where we combined money that we received from state and federal agencies, some wonderful grants from some foundations, including the Kresge Foundation. And then some very generous contributions from donors and from members. And so we were able to amass putting things into place, but we bought some land, we built a gigantic tower, we bought some new transmitters, we bough t all sorts of high definition and digital equipment for February of 2009 deadline. DL: And a brand new world. And at the same time that t platforms. Wireless devices are coming up, and people are looking at television on world out there, and we have to find a niche for oursel ves. We have to find out where
63 future. I see a convergence, if you will, of Internet and television where people will SB: How will PBS play a role? noncommercial. So programming, for alternative programming to the entertainment that the commercial stations will pr demand things, like the commercial know, on some also do so mething extraordinary, which is we at WEDU, and most PBS stations do at SB: [Laughs] DL: All of those things. And we have really educated a generation or more of children and grandchildren. SB: A bsolutely. putting on great quality programming for children. So I have that to worry about and to ession planning so someone in place that can take over so the station will not miss a beat. SB: I happen to know that when you took the station over, it was not on sound fiscal footin g. SB: It is DL: I was told that a year or so before I took over the job, the station was close to being bankrupt, that they were close to having to close their doors because their cash flow was rate. So there were some Draconian cuts in staff, and Draconian cuts in budget. And because of, I think good planning and good
64 borrow money or ask or beg for money to make up our operational budget. And another practice, and we have an end owment campaign that we have just kicked off. And it looks like we have, right now, in our endowment and this is fiscal year 2007 probably five million and something in our endowment. DL: And this is good SB: You have to be ve ry proud of that. month DL: And we now, I think are sustainable. We have some wonderful things that I think responding to, local programming, which is what I really institutions, museums, nongovernmental agencies, libraries, performing arts venues. And ting things over the last five years. Won awards with them, and have just done great, great local programs. SB: You have to be very proud. I think we have turned it a round. I think we have one of the better positioned PBS direction right now. SB: WEDU serves how many counties? DL: We serve an enormous coverage area, at least six teen counties, and we reach people over the air by broadcast, or through satellite or cable. The majority of people reach us and see us with cable and satellite, not over the air. That probably [End Tape 2, Side A] -[Tape 2, Side B] DL: A fourth of th SB: Do the commercial stations reach how far
65 DL: The ones in the Tampa area, pretty close to that amount. SB: Pretty close. DL: Yes. We are operating at full power. And most of the TV stations in the Tampa Bay market do have full power. Our signal goes to the eastern most parts of Polk County on the east. We go up around, past Hernando to the north. And to the south, we go down to television market right now is ranked twelfth in the nation, right below Detroit, and right above Phoenix. When I got to WEDU, almost five years ago, we were ranked fifteen th. are. Orlando is ranked twentieth. And our market is growing tremendously, and it should playing DL: Leapfrog with the Phoenix market. SB: How does WEDU compare to other PBS stations in terms DL: Well, we are SB: [Of] quality in reader and listenership? audience, because our audience here in West Central Florida is a unique PBS audience. Generally, PBS stations attract a n older demographic, a more literate group of viewers and listeners, because a lot of our programming has to do with cultural affairs and cultural events. So we have a more literate, better educated, more affluent, older population. And that exists here in large numbers. drives, we get really good results and people are very supportive. Now that they see that e just enjoying a good deal of buzz and popularity right now. We are the biggest PBS station in the state of Florida, and as you television stations. We do a lot of thin gs that attract attention from the other PBS stations
66 in the country. A lot of the things that we do are being emulated by other stations. So in that respect, we are an admired station. w if other PBS stations do that. revenue streams coming in from different parts of the operation. We were relying too heavily on the membership department, trying to get peop le to give us money through pledge drives. We were presenting so many pledge nights, that it was making people a little unhappy, because we would interrupt their normal programming so many days out ar the number of days that we do we celebrate and honor some of the nonprofit agencies in our coverage area, and we have a wonderful luncheon each year, satisfying thing. SB: And very popular, I know. DL : And then we created a gala, a wonderful event just have done it two years in a row. Monroe and Suzette Berkman were the SB: Oh my, imagine that! [Laughs] DL: Were the hosts, and the chairs of the first one, which wa s beautiful and elaborate and gorgeous. And we just had our second one in St. Petersburg this past February, and the next one, which will be next winter, will be during our fiftieth anniversary. WEDU will celebrating that all year long during the year 2008. DL: Sojourn SB: Do you have a theme? Or do you want to keep that a secret at this point? the first year we did South Americ a, Latin America. We did wines and foods from Chile and Argentina. And then the second year, we did the New World, which was New Zealand and Australia, wines of the New Fren ch, which has a great cuisine and great wines, or doing the Mediterranean totally, SB: Will be exciting.
67 d we have other events with special donors, like broadcaster circle event people that contribute at least a thousand [dollars] annually. We do special concerts, as we did the other night with Andr Rieu, where we had a bunch of people come to the station f or a party and SB: I know. years in a row, and it has meant maybe a quarter of a million dollars to the station DL: If not more to have that SB: Just very imaginative and creative. station, just rely slowly on membership drives. SB: Well our local programs that we created, such as the Gulf C oast Journal with Jack Perkins down in Sarasota. We also do wonderful community stuff. During Black History Month this year, we did a celebration of a black neighborhood in Tampa called Central Avenue. It was the heart of the African American community in Tampa when I was growing up. And we did a little historical piece with the Tampa Poet Laureate, James E. Tokley Sr., American who grew up there. Beautiful, beautiful little documentary. A couple of years ago, we did a special on the first Iraqi Medal of Honor winner, who was a sergeant who died in Iraq who happened to be from Tampa. And we did a tribute to him and his family, and it was a beautiful piece. We did that. We do political debates now. We just did the Governor of Florida, Gover nor Crist on his just doing an exciting number of things. We also do outreach. Peop le just think we do Learn." And we have one full time staff member and some part timers that are out in our coverage area all the time, dealing primarily with Pre K childr en and their caregivers or their parents, trying to interest these children in reading and being attracted to good PBS
68 educational programs. And we provide them with books and learning material so that ared to learn, and they will be able SB: What is the name of that? DL: Ready To Learn, Ready to Learn. SB: And DL: And not every PBS station do es it. But SB: But you use the TV as a learning tool. DL: Exactly, exactly. SB: Absolu tely. A lot of my friends from high school and college are still here in Tampa, have come out SB: You have come full circle. also been very satisfying. DL: Some of t
69 DL: They were presented to me. you know. And I have five grandchildren four of them have been raised in Florida, one of them is in Colorado, so SB: Are any in broadcasting? DL: None in broadcasting. None of the kids or grandkids were that interested in the business, which is okay, b soprano okay. SB: A variety. DL: A variety. SB: You must be very proud. SB: Yes, yes of course. DL: Great grandkids are doing. SB: And what you have done in your life. some good things in my business. DL: They were very proud. thing back to this community. And also this is a great way to help the University of South Florida Special Collections area
70 SB: Sure, yes. ough these stories and through the SB: Very much so. DL: Collections that they have. SB: Very much so. SB: Well, we thank you again, and you take care and keep doing good works! DL: Thank you, Suzette, thank yo u. SB: Thank you. [End of interview]
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interviewed by Suzette Berkman.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (151 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa arts and culture oral history project
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Interview conducted on April 26, 2007.
Richard "Dick" Lobo, President and CEO of WEDU (Tampa's local PBS television station), discusses his Cuban heritage and growing up in Tampa's Ybor City and New York's Spanish Harlem. He discusses his career as a news reporter for an NBC television affiliate in Miami (1959) when he had the opportunity to interview numerous political figures, including Rafael Trujillo, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and Fidel Castro. Mr. Lobo also discusses his career at CBS in New York from 1963 to 1970 where he interviewed political figures such as Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. The interview ends with a lengthy discussion of WEDU, its programming, its audience, and its role in the Tampa Bay community.
WEDU (Television station : Tampa, Fla.)
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS