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Weathering the storm

George Maupin's goal in broadcast news is to be a "regular person who happens to be on TV." (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
George Maupin's goal in broadcast news is to be a "regular person who happens to be on TV." (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Maupin’s tuned in to survival

At 67, George Maupin is the oldest person on camera in “local” television.

The weatherman is part of the team on KHQ’s morning news show, which airs Monday through Friday.

KHQ is owned by Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review, but that’s not why Maupin was asked to do a Wise Words interview.

The Vietnam veteran – and mainstay in TV news, an industry that loves its young – knows a thing or two about survival.

• My mother was born in Arkansas. Mom had two sisters and two brothers. Their father had died. They got a truck and put all the kids in and a few pieces of furniture, and they drove to California like the “Grapes of Wrath.”

I had that background going for me. You go through hard times and they can disrupt families and make you leave your home, but if you work hard and stick to it and you have family, you can survive anything.

• My dad was born in Missouri and met my mom in Los Angeles. My dad drove a bus and eventually became a supervisor. My mother was a supermarket checker. My best friend’s dad worked at a steel mill.

I had this group of young guys my age in our neighborhood. I look back on it fondly as having a home, having stability and having good friends. It was the best of times.

• My voice got real deep at a very young age. I would be boxing groceries at 14 and people would say, “You ought to be on the radio with that voice.” It stuck in my head.

• I was so without direction in high school. The teachers used to say, “If you don’t know what to be, take business administration.” So I took Accounting I in three different colleges and hated it. But I wasn’t smart enough to take some other major. I plugged away at stuff I wasn’t interested in.

• I dropped out of college and got immediately drafted. Kids my age just disappeared.

• When I got out of basic training, I was (assigned to) infantry, and I knew I was going to die. But they eventually put me in supply, probably because I’d worked in a supermarket and they figured this guy knows how to stack shelves.

• As long as I was in Cam Ranh Bay, I was safe. It was the major supply thing north of Saigon. The only time I got close was with my friend Joe. He was a truck driver and one day he said, “Why don’t you ride shotgun with me?” We got to this town a day’s trip away.

We’re at the bar and lights and alarms go off and people said it’s red alert and that means they are inside the perimeter. We go out and get under our truck. They were shooting off these phosphorus flares to make light. It was like some John Wayne movie from World War II. You’d see people running at you. You’d shoot. I was never afraid until it was over.

• What did I learn about survival that day? Fickleness. A few inches, it could have been me. You can persevere, but you can never account for that fickleness. You can walk across the street and get hit by a car. That day I knew part of it was just chance. But I also knew under stress I could be all right.

• After Vietnam, all I wanted to do was get a job in a newsroom. This was the Woodward-Bernstein era. I thought, “This is a job that can change the world.”

• My first job in Palm Springs, I worked all day and night. I wrote. I would shoot. I would edit. Eventually, I did sports. It was a really cheesy operation. I loved it.

• When I first started doing sports in Palm Springs, the guy running the station wanted me to wear an eye patch. I said, “What if I forget and put it on the wrong eye?” He wanted to change my name to Rock or Biff. I didn’t do it.

I decided instead to approach TV like I was in a bar and talking to one person and they’d say, “You saw the game last night, what happened?” And I’d say, “Oh man, you should have seen it.”

• I still try to be as honest as I can. People want real people.

• I did sports for quite a while in Las Vegas. I got cocky. I was announcing when big (sports) events were on the competition. The general manager cornered me and said he didn’t want me to do that. I said, “Yeah, well, don’t tell me how to do sports.” About three or four days later, they said, “You’re gone.”

• Getting fired made me focus on what was important. I wasn’t Mr. Big Shot just because I was on TV.

• I was 47 when my son was born. My wife was 37. Nancy and I worked together in Las Vegas. She was the producer, and I was doing sports. I admired and respected her, and she was a knockout, too.

• We moved to Spokane when our son Will was 2. I came here for a producer job. I did that for 10 years. It’s now been close to 10 years we’ve been together (on the morning show). I’m so lucky to have a job I look forward to.

I read science books because I want to know what I’m talking about. It’s 2 1/2 hours, which is a long time for a TV show. It flies by. I like and respect everyone I work with. I’ve got a gift from heaven here.

• I get up at 1:30 in the morning. I’m down here at 2:30. I could walk in just before the show starts and have my coat and tie on and I could jabber. But I’d feel like I was faking it. If you have a job you want to do, you want to do it as well as you can.

• If you can afford to go to college, don’t worry about what you’re majoring in at first. You’ll find something you like. If you know what you want to do, fight for it. When you are young, you can mess up. I did.

• What do I hope our society learns from the downturn? It doesn’t seem like we ever learn a damn thing.

• When people come up to me, they don’t talk about the weather much. They want to size you up and see if you’re the person you appear on TV. But people are interested in weather, too. We’re more mobile than we ever were. We can get around, see the world.

• I remember when we got our first TV. I was 5 or 6. My dad and his friend, and my mother and the friend’s wife, were there. Milton Berle was going to come on. They were in front of the TV working on the Indian head test pattern. They spent a half hour getting it just right. And then Milton Berle came on, and it was such a production. Now we have everything in our pocket.

• The world is incredible. We can’t screw it up. Just imagine what the future could be.

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