This is a concentrated effort to get back on track; you know… a promise made and all that. So here it goes...
Puerto Rico has the nickname of "La Isla del Encanto" - "The Island of Enchantment" and indeed it is and has everything needed to earn that name. A beautiful speck of land in the outer Caribbean, almost out into the Atlantic Ocean. It has all that you would expect from a Caribbean island... beautiful beaches, music, local drink(s), great people, night life everywhere and great vacation spots. Also, in PR's case, it has had to historically contend with a double personality for many generations. It is a simple culture clash: the people and heritage are totally Hispanic and the economic and legal culture is totally USA. Although it may sound good, at the time of my stay there I realized that sometimes this became a dichotomy and truly impacted on the daily lives of the people. Traditionally, the cost of living was (and is) US based; the wages were Latin American style. This was not always a good combination. Today, some 40 years later this is still the case, although it is my understanding that it has improved somewhat. As part of its history, this has become a political issue and it is up to the people from this beautiful island to decide what to do and which direction to follow. It definitely is not my entitlement to make any comments on the subject.
Back to Inter American U, Tigers Nation. The Bengal tiger was then our mascot; I suppose it is still. When we came initially to the university at its Hato Rey "Campus" (house, if you prefer) it was very clear that those who were at the helm were just as green at their jobs as the just opened local branch. One of the goals of the ones in command was to make sure the students learned English as a second language. This was all well and good; however, at that time, not more than 30% of the local Puerto Rican population spoke any English at all. When these non English speaking students came to a class taught by an English speaking teacher, to say there were communication gaps would be an understatement. If we add to this the fact that some of the teachers had a very heavy southern drawl, this became a real issue. One in particular, whose name escapes me, had an accent so thick that even those of us who had just arrived from the mainland had trouble understanding him. On a one on one conversation, he came across as a nice guy and knowledgeable, but in class he was unable to pass this knowledge on to a group of students who, for the most part, sat there and stared at him. It became one of our goals, as the newly formed student "council" to help management create a class of English speaking students for this teacher. We were able to, and at least this issue was happily resolved. I have to add here that "management" was then extremely willing to listen to most anything which was reasonable and which provided a workable solution to an identified problem. This was truly commendable and I believe it was this open attitude which helped the university, and its new campus, to grow and improve over time.
Meantime, back at the ranch, I was getting to know my newly acquired family, including my father. He was working then in creating a new TV show, which would be called "TeleBingo" and would be carried by Channel 4, the main TV network on the island. What is TeleBingo, you ask? (You didn't? well I’ll tell you anyway...) This was actually a TV game show, which saw the light of day in 1965. It was fully sponsored by a major local supermarket chain and it allowed the viewers to have access to a somewhat interactive (by phone and mail, the only means at the time) participation; those who actually completed a bingo combination, did receive anywhere from a number of coupons to a week's worth of groceries. Today this may not mean much, but then it was important, especially when there were several weekly winners. The show became an instant hit and I was very glad because at last, during a while in his life, my father was able to experience the goodies that came from a successful TV enterprise. I do not mean with this he was without success at other times, he had good jobs and a good income average, but his whole life had revolved around radio and TV and now, for the first (and, unfortunately, only) time, he truly had a success story in his hands. This program and the ensuing business office it generated, gave me a job opportunity in PR, with secretaries and all. Who'da thunk it? Just a few months before I was getting my HS grad diploma in Richland, and now I had a semiprivate office with a secretary... Wow!! Welcome to the new world. Now... If I only knew what to tell her to do...
From this TV related stint came other eventual jobs. One I did manage to get into on a part time basis, while I was at the office, was that of modeling. Yes, yours truly, a TV commercial model. It was fun, although not very financially rewarding. In those years, in the PR market, there were no royalties. Today, everyone who films a commercial gets paid every time it is shown somewhere. That's where the real money is. We did get paid well for the hours of actual filming, but no royalties. I have often wondered what moneys I might have made otherwise, since I did commercials for Pepsi Cola, Pan American, and at least 4 other companies of that size. On the other hand, they were a lot of fun to do... and the female models... Wow!! (Well, I was a handsome devil of about 19 at the time... give me a break !!). Actually, I began a relationship with one of the models, who eventually (well after I left the island) became a very well known personality in that world. I was happy when I heard this; she deserved it for she was a hard worker and truly beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside.
That summer of '65 was very good indeed. After becoming friends with someone who was working at a local English language radio station, I eventually landed a job at the station. WVOZ were the call letters, I remember. Since it was the only English language station then in San Juan (other than the Armed Forces station) we had a captive audience, and it was not small. My regular gig was on the week-ends (I was still working with my father and going to the University) which were complemented with some night sub work. I loved it. I had had radio shows in Cuba, before my leaving the island and this was like a homecoming for me. I was going full throttle forward 20 hours per day, seven days per week and loving it. I even got to meet and interview Jose Feliciano, before he became known internationally; he was then a well known local musician.
Nothing could go wrong, right?
Bye for now.