2015 Gold Circle Inductee Don Wakem


When you receive an opportunity to work for just six months, don't be afraid to take it. You never know when a part-time job might just turn into a 50-year career.

In 1957 I graduated from high school in the small farming community of Cambridge, Idaho, population 350. I had written a letter to the two TV stations in Boise, asking “How do you get started in the TV business?” KBOI responded back with "We have a trainee position and we are taking applications. We would like you to apply.” I did and I got the job starting at $1 per hour. I worked in Boise until 1964, doubling my hourly rate to $2 per hour. That year I heard about an opening at KGW and applied for that position. I was told it was for six months only. The station was building a new state-of-the-art TV station because the freeway was going to be built where the current TV station was located and they needed some extra help. I got the job at KGW starting at $3.49 per hour.

In the 1950s there was a lady by the name of Dorothy Bullitt in Seattle. She understood that television was going to be the next great communication medium and she wanted to get in on the ground floor. She had a vision and she implemented it by starting up KING in Seattle, KGW in Portland and KREM in Spokane, Wash. She had a saying, “I want a 15% return on my investment” and she put the rest of the earnings into the TV business and her employees. Because of her leadership and the way she treated people, everyone wanted to work for her and KING Broadcasting Company. It was the place to be. As luck would have it, while I was working at KGW, three full-time employees left to pursue other opportunities and I was hired for one of the positions. On November 16, 2014, I completed 50 years of service at KGW.

The highlight of my career came in 1972, when Northwest Mobile TV, owned by Dorothy Bullitt, got the contract to televise the Apollo 17 Splashdown, the last Apollo mission. This took place in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Pago Pago American Samoa. I was selected to be one of the crew members for the three-week mission. I operated the camera that televised the astronauts as they stepped out of the helicopter on to the USS Ticonderoga. The astronauts had been taken from the capsule in the water by the frogmen and put in the helicopter. There are many stories to tell from that adventure, but that's for another time.

I want to thank my wife, Joan, for taking care of our three children when I couldn’t be home to help with homework, supper and putting the kids to sleep at bed time. She was my Rock of Gibraltar for holding everything together in my absence.

I want to thank my bosses, Brenda Buratti, Josy Ansley, and DJ Wilson, for their huge support and help throughout my career.