Tag Archives: KACV-TV

They were sturdy folk

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I have just about finished reading a book it took me far longer than I thought it would take to read.

The book is titled “The Worst Hard Time.” It was written by a stellar New York Times reporter, Timothy Egan, who chronicled in astonishing detail the suffering that came to the Texas Panhandle during the 1930s.

The Dust Bowl plundered the landscape made vulnerable by farming techniques that destroyed the native grasslands that kept the soil in place, preventing wind erosion. The Dust Bowl has been labeled the “worst manmade disaster in U.S. history.”

“The Worst Hard Time” tells story after story of how these sturdy residents of places like Dalhart, Perryton and, yes, Amarillo weathered the astonishing misery of that era. Black Sunday is still thought to be the most nightmarish scenario anyone ever saw, as enormous, towering clouds of dust blew in over the region.

Just how bad was it then? | High Plains Blogger

Children and old people died of “dust pneumonia.” Farmers lost crops. They couldn’t pay their bills. Livestock died by the tens of thousands of head.

Many of them moved away. Many others of them stayed. Their descendants live in Amarillo to this day. I got to know some of those Dust Bowl descendants during my time there. They are a remarkable lot.

For a time after I left the Amarillo Globe-News, I had the privilege of writing a blog for Panhandle PBS, the Amarillo College-affiliated TV station. They paid me to write about public affairs TV programming shown on KACV-TV in the Panhandle.

In March 2016, PBS broadcast a special called “The Dust Bowl,” which was put together by noted historian/documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. I wrote a blog post that talked about its airing.

‘Dust Bowl’ returns just as Panhandle dries out (panhandlepbs.org)

I do hope that PBS will show “The Dust Bowl” again. I want to witness the accounts of those individuals whose stories I read about in “The Worst Hard Time.”

Yes, it was a hard time. The worst of it was unimaginable to those of us who never lived through it.

Timothy Egan’s book only deepens my pride in my former neighbors and fellow travelers.

How is the State of the City?

Here’s an idea for the next mayor of Amarillo to ponder, although I don’t expect any immediate reaction to it.

The next mayor will take office shortly after the May 6 municipal election. So, how about crafting an annual State of the City speech?

I once pitched this notion during the time Debra McCartt served as mayor. She listened, more or less. McCartt responded by convening a session that was broadcast on Panhandle PBS (which was known then as KACV-TV). She visited with former Amarillo Economic Development Corporation CEO Buzz David and Amarillo Chamber of Commerce president Gary Molberg.

Now … think about that for a second. David at the time was paid to lead the job-creation effort for the AEDC; Molberg’s job is to be the city’s No. 1 cheerleader. What are these men going to offer in terms of the “State of the City”? The notion of talking to these two fellows — both fine men — was downright laughable if you were looking for any objective analysis.

I am hopeful that Ginger Nelson will be elected mayor this coming May — but you know that already. Whoever gets elected, though, ought to consider picking a venue to stage such an event. Then he or she should speak for about 30 minutes about the State of the City.

I believe it is helpful to hear from the city’s presiding government officer about how well he or she believes the city is working. Perhaps the mayor can limit remarks to what’s coming up, what lies in the city’s immediate future, offer some detail on ongoing projects for residents to consider.

Residents of other cities of comparable size hear from their mayors on an annual basis. Sure, I get that there could be a politicization of these events, given that we elect our mayors every other year.

I suppose the best way to avoid the accusation of a mayor using such a speech as a campaign event would be to schedule it soon after an election, say, in July or August of that year.

Such a speech from the mayor, moreover, would elevate that individual’s standing and give the mayor an additional “bully pulpit” from which to offer a vision for the city.

I get that the mayor and all four council members represent the same residents, that they’re all elected at-large. The mayor, though, is the mayor. It’s reasonable in my own mind to give the presiding City Council official a platform from which to lead.

I’m now calling myself ‘retired’

This is the latest in an occasional series of blogs commenting on retirement.

I made a decision this weekend that involves my immediate future.

I’ve decided to say that I’m retired — even though I’m still working, sort of.

The decision came from a Facebook notice that popped up. It asked me to update my employment status. I clicked on the “retired” box and then saved it. So now my Facebook profile has me listed as “retired,” although I later — at my wife’s suggestion — entered “blogger” along with it. So it says I’m a “retired blogger.”

This is a big deal in my evolution from working guy to fully retired guy.

I’m working part-time for an auto dealership here in Amarillo. It’s a customer service job; I work about 24 hours a week. My job is to welcome folks who bring their vehicles in for service or who are waiting while they purchase a vehicle. I make them feel comfortable, offer them something to drink or eat, ask if they need a ride somewhere, talk them up a little bit.

The job is so much fun I have a hard time calling it actual “work.” I spend my afternoon with individuals I like in an environment that produces little pressure. My employer asks me simply to treat people with courtesy and respect, which I am able to do.

I have another job. I write a blog for Panhandle PBS’s website. Panhandle PBS is the new name for the site for KACV-TV, the public television station based at Amarillo College. It’s a free-lance gig and, too, is a serious blast. I write about public affairs programming at Panhandle PBS/KACV. I also write about other public policy issues as I see fit. I submit the blogs — titled “A Public View” — as drafts and they’re posted by the staff at KACV.

Check it out here:


So, those are my jobs. They are more fun than I can possibly have imagined having.

My wife says it well. I am getting paid for doing something I love to do: talk to people and write.

Social Security is still down the road a bit. When that income kicks in, then I’ll be able to declare myself officially and fully “retired.”

For now, I’ll settle on pretending to be retired. I’ll get lots of practice. Who knows? When the day arrives, I’ll be proficient in all that retirement entails.

Happy 25th birthday, Panhandle PBS

I went to a birthday party this evening with my wife.

It didn’t honor a person. It honored instead a Texas Panhandle institution. The honoree tonight was Panhandle PBS, known formerly as KACV-TV. Panhandle PBS has turned 25 years young.

Here’s hoping for many more such celebrations.

Time for some full disclosure: I write a blog for PanhandlePBS.org, which is the website created for the public TV station. It’s called “A Public View with John Kanelis,” and I’ve been writing it since shortly after my 36-year career in daily print journalism came to a screeching halt in August 2012.

I am happy to affiliated with Panhandle PBS. I am even happier that public TV found its way to the Texas Panhandle in 1988. It took a good while since public TV arrived in the United States way back in 1953, when the University of Houston’s KUHT-TV went on the air. I used to watch KUHT programming when my family and I moved to Beaumont in the spring of 1984.

Public television is a valuable asset to any community. It brings intelligence, sane discussion, distinguished comedy (often of the British variety), heartwarming stories, in-depth reporting and first-rate educational programming.

Panhandle PBS broadcasts out of the Gilvin Broadcast Center at Amarillo College. It is run by a delightful and competent staff of seasoned and still-to-be-seasoned studio hands and technicians. The woman in charge is general manager Linda Pitner, who just stepped off the Amarillo school district board and is one of the smartest people I know … and I’m not just saying that because she’s my boss.

Public television occasionally gets whipped and lashed by some who think it’s too darn liberal. I beg to differ with that description. I prefer to call the Public Broadcasting Service reasonable and analytical. It might be too liberal in some folks’ eyes only because they see the world through their own bias prism.

I find public TV to be informative and worth every penny that it receives from private donors and, yes, from taxpayers such as me.

They threw a heck of bash tonight in north Amarillo. I hope to be around for the next big bash.

Happy birthday, Panhandle PBS.

Concussion plague could doom football

I’m not predicting it, but the snowballing of news about concussions among professional football players could signal an end to the game as we’ve known it since its inception.

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon — one of the game’s more colorful characters — is suffering from early-onset dementia likely caused by the many hits he took while playing the game.


He’s not alone. Many others have reported suffering similar symptoms. Their ranks are growing right along with the numbers of tragic consequences.

Should the game be declared too dangerous to continue? No. But oh brother, the debate over how to compensate these athletes is just now getting revved up.

The National Football League this week announced a settlement that provides $765 million in relief to battered players. The PBS program Frontline is set to explore the subject in detail in a two-hour special to be shown on Oct. 8 (at 8 p.m., on KACV-TV).

The concussion problem likely isn’t new. It’s been a part of the game since its founding. These days, though, the players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever. They hit harder. Human skulls, however, haven’t gotten more durable. They’re the same as they’ve always been: susceptible to damage caused by repeated blows to the head.

This national discussion is not going to fade away any time soon. Nor should it.

The men who play professional football, it now seems apparent, are putting their lives on the line when they suit up. Yes, they’re big and strong and they play the game likely understanding the consequences of getting hit repeatedly by their equally big and strong colleagues.

That doesn’t make it any easier to hear stories like the one Jim McMahon and many others are telling about their slow decline toward death.

Sports journalism takes a big hit

ESPN prides itself, we’re led to believe, on its courageous reporting on sports-related issues.

Which brings up the question: Why did the nation’s No. 1 sports network bail on a PBS project that examines the outbreak of concussion-related trauma being suffered by professional football players?

Was it pressure from the NFL, with which ESPN has a long-standing — and highly lucrative — financial partnership? It smells like it.


Frontline is an award-winning documentary series broadcast by PBS. The program, based out of WBGH-TV in Boston, is set to air a two-part series called “League of Denial,” in which it looks at the concussion rate among NFL players and examines whether playing professional football has become hazardous to the health of its participants.

The early indicators are that the concussions are becoming a grave concern.

ESPN was supposed to be a partner in the project. It backed out this past week. ESPN said the NFL applied zero pressure to the network, even though there have been reports of a extremely testy meeting between ESPN and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Two plus two still equals four, correct?

OK, the news isn’t all bad.

Frontline will present the broadcast, even without ESPN’s participation. It airs on Oct. 8 and 15, and will be shown in the Texas Panhandle on KACV-TV, the region’s public television station operating on the Amarillo College campus.

ESPN does its share of in-depth sports journalism, particularly with its “Outside the Lines” specials. They produce occasionally riveting and, if you’ll pardon the pun, hard-hitting examinations of the lives of prominent athletes.

As the network has shown, though, in cratering on the Frontline project, it is capable of missing a tackle or two.

One degree of separation from Churchill

Winston Churchill was without question one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen/warriors.

He led Great Britain through its “darkest hour,” the Blitzkrieg launched by the Nazi air force during the Battle of Britain. PBS, as it does so well, is chronicling Churchill’s life in a three-part series shown on KACV-TV, Amarillo’s public television station. The second installment airs Sunday at 7.

It tells of the Battle of Britain and how Churchill rallied the Brits to ultimate victory over the Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.


But I want to digress a bit and declare with this post that I have one degree of separation from the great British leader, which is to say a member of my family actually had a close encounter with him. I think that means I’m one degree separated from Churchill.

What the heck, if it doesn’t mean such a thing, well, it should.

My late father, Pete Kanelis, served in the Navy during World War II. Most of his combat duty occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. When he wasn’t manning an anti-aircraft gun on the deck of the ship to which he was assigned, Dad performed a number of boatswain’s mate duties.

One of them was to stand guard, along with a British marine, outside a conference room where Churchill was meeting with the Allied commander of naval forces in the Med. Dad’s guard duty was captured in a photograph published in the London Daily Mail. The picture was interesting in this regard: The Brit stood about 6-foot-4 inches tall, while Dad topped out at about 5-foot-9.

As Dad told the story, the two of them snapped to attention as the meeting broke up. Churchill came out of the conference room, chatted up the British marine, then turned to Dad, patted him on the head and said, “Well done, Yank.”

I’ve looked for many years for film footage of that event, thinking that some newsreel photographer had a camera rolling. Alas, it’s not to be.

My father, though, had a brush with one of the world’s most heroic leaders — and for that I am so very proud.