Memories of Cy Tuma...
Here is a KTUL story from R.L. Bullock - former engineer there, later at CBS as a part of the "KTUL bunch goes West", now in VA Beach, VA at CBN.
"(This is) about the time someone walked into Audio Control room B which overlooked the old news studio from the second floor; turned on the lights and found several guys leaning over the console, looking thru the window above the grid & watching the Clarke's Good Clothes models changing clothes in studio B. (Must have been when they were using the young models, not the grannies who did modeling for Clarke's). Madge Clarke looked up from the studio floor to see all those shining faces. By the time GM Tom Goodgame got up to the audio room, the only person left was Cy Tuma in there. Cy was laughing so hard he couldn't roll his wheelchair out the door. Cy was totally innocent since he couldn't have gotten his wheelchair around the console for a peek.".
The late Cy Tuma was Jack Morris' competition for a long time. Cy started at 6 then Jimmy Leake wooed him to 8 for then big salary (rumored at $25-30,000 a year in 1960's dollars), then 8 pulled him from the air. Some said that because Cy was a polio victim - it gave the wrong image. This is stupid because Cy had polio as a kid and had a successful career as a musician in radio before doing TV news. Leake relegated Tuma to the KTUL announce booth - where several of us worked with him.
Cy Tuma - I never knew when and why he went from being a news anchor to being relegated to the "voice" of KTUL and a booth announcer/audio engineer. I was told he got to keep his then "enormous" for the 1960's salary of $25,000 a year for this change "in station".
He was an anchor not a reporter - his polio slowed him down a bit but not much. He overcame a lot in his life to get where he did.
Considering KTUL was not then and probably not now ADA compliant - Cy would hoist himself up/down the stairs twice a day. An elevator was on the building plans but never built to run between floors. In the 70's - Jimmy Leake bought him a high-powered/high-priced electric wheelchair (for mis-guided reasons I guess) that Cy fell in love with. Normally he used a walker to get around. After hours and with Cy out of the building - some of the staff would steal Cy's chair and race around the second floor in it. Cy would come in the next morning and say, "All right - who is the $%#@#$# that left me with a chair with a dead battery!!!" We'd plug the chair in, get Cy a cuppa coffee and he'd be a happy boy again!
Cy started as a clarinetist in a band. He came from Grand Island, NE so always had mixed loyalties when OU and Nebraska played football. I think he started playing on radio stations up there. Don't know if that is how he first came to KTUL but he told me one time that his band played at the Hotel Tulsa (as seen in the movie, "Tulsa") and he lived there. Unlike Wayne Johnson at KOTV who still practiced and played from time to time - Cy loved good jazz but I think once he stopped doing music - never went back to it.
I think he said he met his wife Monte at the Hotel Tulsa and she may have worked there, too. (yeah - we used to kid him about life in "the halls of Monte Tuma").
We met his niece once - think she is in advertising or TV somewhere now.
Definitely an interesting character! I lost track of him in the 80's - former KTUL announcer then projectionist Matt Bunyan used to see him in the neighborhood by the old Delman Theatre and report back on how he was doing.
In the 80's and 90's I worked security at both KTUL and KOTV and got to meet many of the people I had been watching in some cases for years. Cy Tuma was still alive and working at KTUL when I worked there and one of the last duties every shift was to make sure he got into the building and upstairs without any mishaps. Even with all his physical problems he always had a smile and a joke every morning.
I want to talk about Cy Tuma.
I've contributed a few things that indicate my interest in broadcasting from an early age. I also had a deep interest in local politics from an early age. It is REMARKABLE who and what I had the chance to experience along the way. Cy Tuma was no LITTLE part of it.
I remember him SO vividly when he was the MAIN MAN of local TV news. He was a handsome man. Resonating and authoritative voice. (I would have killed to have his voice!) My mother trusted him more than Americans trusted Walter Cronkite. I remember as if it were yesterday the night the tornado sirens malfunctioned at a most inopportune time (when there was bad weather in the area -- and remember -- we didn't have ANYTHING like Doppler!). Sirens were screaming. Rain and hail and wind was all around. My dad was at work. I was at home with my mom. She was terrified. I was in her bed with piles of sheets, blankets and pillows. We were terrified because the tornado sirens were wailing! CY TUMA came on the air -- live. He let us know that the sirens were due to an electrical failure. He stayed on the air (as I recall) reassuring us all. I was in my mother's arms and I KNOW that her blood pressure and anxiety level fell to acceptable levels because she believed and trusted Cy.
What a blessing I had working with him later at KTUL-TV. We developed an incredible relationship. Much beyond our broadcasting interest... he had run for Mayor of Tulsa in 1966 against Jim Maxwell.
Now, you must know that Jim Maxwell was my absolute political hero. I interviewed him when I was in the 6th grade as a part of a Tulsa history study section at Holmes Elementary School. Jim Maxwell and my mother and my uncle all went to Central High and all knew each other. So, when I went to interview Maxwell, I went in with the mind-set that I KNEW HIM WELL. Maxwell told me at that interview that he DID know my mother and uncle. And it was THAT day that I decided I wanted to be Mayor of Tulsa when I grew up. (I recognize that there are those who believe I became Mayor BEFORE I grew up...but that's another article altogether!).
While I worked at Channel 8, Cy Tuma and I became incredibly close as a result of him being a TV idol of mine and because of his mayoral aspirations combined with the fact that Jim Maxwell was a political idol of mine and MY mayoral aspirations. Cy was also one HELL of a clarinetist, too -- all despite the long-lasting paralytic effect of polio. His brother-in-law was one HELL of a violinist who also was my barber for most of the first 20 years of my life.
Cy lived to see me elected Mayor. I went to his funeral service in Owasso. If I were to submit one of those "Most Unforgettable Character" pieces to Reader's Digest, Cy would be one of mine. You miss people like him who influenced your formative years...but you miss people like him because there aren't any more of them. You can canonize Clayton Vaughn and Betty Boyd and Bob Hower... but you could get to know Cy Tuma.
Just a brief addition to Terry's remarks about Cy Tuma: I doubt if many people know that Cy worked as a staff announcer at KVOO radio under the name "Paul Shepherd." Of course, he also played clarinet with the Eggs at Eight combo, which included Tubby Young on bass.
KVOOs Eggs at Eight featured, not only Frank Simms and Walter Teas, but also the Entertaining Eight, the Tune Toasters, and Edie Washburn singing. Frank and Walter would always tease her, introducing her as Edie Washbucket or Edie Sideburn. She always took the bait and complained. Tubby Young played bass and did the weather. Lorraine Bynum played the harp. Joe ONeill directed. Cy Tuma played clarinet for the Tune Toasters, and Simms sang with the Entertaining Eight. It was quite a production, five days a week for 45 minutes each day.
How did you find TTM? One of my sons forwarded to me re: his dad, Frank
Frank was at KVOO while still at TU, signing on and sometimes signing off. Frank did the daily remotes from Cain's with Johnnie Lee Wills, as well as the Saturday night hour at Cain's. He and Walter Teas wrote and performed "Eggs at Eight" until we moved to the East coast in late 1952.
We were running Bush's Beans spots at KTUL and Cy Tuma - who was relegated to "the voice of KTUL" - started to talk in rapture about Bush's Showboat Beans.
He hadn't had any in a long time and it triggered a "gotta have" in him. The Safeway at 15th and Lewis was in his neighborhood and I guess the manager knew him. Also that because of his need to use a walker - getting around in the store wasn't easy for him in these pre-ADA days.
So Tuma called in a favor, the manager at Safeway had a CASE of the beans waiting for him with a bag boy when Cy got off duty - drive-up grocery shopping. And for the next few weeks Cy would tell us all about Bush's Beans whenever a spot ran....
We didn't run the movie, "Tulsa" at 8 but I think someone had it on cable and Cy told us that the hotel used in the movie was where he met his wife. He was playing clarinet in a combo there I guess in some restaurant or club and she worked in the coffee shop. Back in those days a struggling musician from Grand Island, NE could afford to stay there.
Cy Tuma came to work one Monday afternoon in early l957 wearing a two-and-a-half day growth of beard in addition to his trademark moustache. He chuckled as he informed George Arnold (successor to Roger McGovern) and me in the newsroom that he planned to raise a beard in connection with the 50th anniversary celebration of Oklahoma statehood.
Raising a beard is a favorite "stunt" for "Pioneer Days" celebrations across the country, but although it was beginning to be picked up in Oklahoma's rural areas, "sophisticated" Tulsa wasn't having much of it.
George and I told Cy that the newly-arrived financiers from Corinthian probably wouldn't like it, either.
Cy went on into the manager's office. He came out chuckling, saying, "They didn't like it for (expletive).
But Cy stuck by his guns; he went on the 6 p.m. news, explaining why he hadn't shaved--and he didn't (except for beard trims) for the next five or six months. In November, when the state anniversary celebration ended, he had a nice, full beard to shave off, and a very nice "thank you" letter from the statehood anniversary committee.
Speaking of audio tags on spots: one day I was in the booth with Cy Tuma and he had just cut a cart with the tag..."available at all TG&Y stores"...for about the 4 millionth time.
He said..."You know, one day, Bob..about 5 billion years from now...when the earth is nothing but a scorched cinder...some Martians are going to land here. As they are walking around one of them will kick some dust and, lo and behold, there will be a cart. They will play that cart, and on it will be me saying..."available at all TG&Y stores" and they are going to wonder what in the hell was that all about....."
Tuma and the now deceased Cal Clopton (we called CLOMPton) - the KTUL transmitter engineer used to "violate" FCC rules by having 2 way conversations over the color bars test time a half hour before KTUL officially started its broadcast day some times in the days of 8 live doing the John Chick 7am show. The engineers at the transmitter in Coweta had a small audio board - for testing and in case of emergencies - so Cy would say howdy to Cal and he would burble something back.
My mother was a elevator operator at the Philtower Building in the late 50's and early 60's. Every day, Cy Tuma would get on her elevator and she would always say "Floor, please", which she knew, but she used to get a big kick out of Mr. Tuma saying, "now Ada, you know which floor I get off on".
Now one story she used to tell me about was one day Mr. Tuma got on with some big wigs from the network. One said to my mother after she said floor please, "Boy, you must have your ups and downs every day, don't you?" To which my mother replied, "it's not the ups and downs that bothers me so much as it is the jerks". At which time Mr. Tuma started laughing and he laughed all the way to their floor.
I have had sooooo much fun reading and remembering.
When I was young and dumb, Cy called me to come up to the control room. At that time I was working with Pauline Thurmond in traffic. I went up and Cy said he was feeling blue and needed a little kiss on the cheek. I bent down to give him one and as fast as you can imagine out came the sly Cy's tongue. I was so shocked. He laughed and I ran back down and told Pauline. Boy did Cy get in trouble...Pauline was after him in a heartbeat. We had lots of laughs about that during the years. He called me his golden flame. I loved him, and all the guys upstairs...
(Sue was seen in several late 70s "8's The Place" promos...see photo at right)
My all time favorite news personality is Cy Tuma!!!! Like him, I also had polio. I of course had more options than he ever did due in large to the many fund-raising benefits he hosted for polio research.
When I was a child, I appeared with him in a few benefits, and he was extremely caring and gracious. When I started dancing on Dance Party, he was thrilled for me because I had overcome the effects of my polio and could dance so well.
He was sooo great!!! They should never have taken him off camera and put him in the backroom station work. He was handsome, dedicated, professional and had the best voice I've ever heard since on air.
More KTUL memories from the late '70s.
We used to run the Little Rascals every afternoon coming out of Uncle Zeb. The Rascals had an open that had to be read live by the booth announcer at the beginning of each show. We had a director named Bob Grissom who used to like to try and break up Cy Tuma as he read the open. He would yell incredible things that I can't repeat here through the headset into Cy's ear, yet Tuma never missed a beat and read each open perfectly. As soon as he was finished reading, he would close the mic and roar with laughter. He thought that it was enormously funny....which it was.
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