50 Years in Journalism
A Long and Busy Career
I began my career as a newspaper reporter
on August 30, 1967, at The Evening Sentinel in Ansonia, Conn., although I had spent 1965 and 1966 as a school page writer at the Waterbury, Conn., Sunday Republican. I spent my senior year in high school as The Sentinel's correspondent for Southbury, Conn., then a town of 5,100 with one flashing traffic light at Route 67 and Main Street. The major story of that year was Heritage Village, one of the first age-restricted communities in the Northeastern United States, which was built on what had been entertainer Victor Borge's chicken ranch and attracted well-to-do retirees from New York City. I spent the next five years at The Sentinel as a summer intern, reporting and editing, and learning the business from such veteran newsmen as managing editor Eugene R. Miller, a former editor of the Stars and Stripes and The New York Times, and Charles Flynn, the legendary editor and editorial writer. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I worked for A.M. Learned at the HWS News Bureau. Learned was managing editor of the Geneva, N.Y., Times and the Schnectady, N.Y. , Union-Star. After college, I was a reporter and editor at The Danbury, Conn., News-Times; the Nyack, N.Y., Journal-News; The Harford, Conn., Courant, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, from which I retired as the residential real estate and home improvement columnist in 2017.
In November 1967, I had a tryout
at WOWW, a daytime radio station in Naugatuck, Conn., for a job as the Sunday morning announcer. The tryout went well; the first day on the job did not, and station manager Brad Drawbridge later told me that had I not done such a good job on the final newscast of the morning, it would have been my first and last day at the station. I got my third-class engineering license from the FCC, and spent the rest of the year as the Saturday and Sunday afternoon announcer earning $1.50 a hour. I also subbed for other announcers on vacation and holidays, and always found work on my school vacations, doing color on sports broadcasts and other special projects. I worked at my college station WEOS-FM, (right, 45 years later); at WMBO/WRLX in Auburn, New York, and WSFW AM & FM in Seneca Falls, N.Y., among others.
I've always tried to get the most out of the job
On the left is a photo of my tryout as the Maytag repairman at Caroline's Comedy Club in Manhattan in February 2007. It was for a story, of course, but it brought me a lot of notoriety and was an early effort to make use of the Internet. On the right, I demonstrate new products on The Discovery Channel's Home Matters program with co-host Chris McWatt. I was "The Gadgeteer" on the program for its last three seasons. In 2011, "Al's Place" was filmed for Philly.com, the website of The Philadelphia Inquirer, from my home workshop. I also appeared regularly on Philadelphia-area radio and television programs, especially after my first book, What No One Ever Tells You About Renovating Your Home, was published in 2005. Here's a clip from a March 10, 2005 NPR interview with Scott Simon of Weekend Edition about my Maytag tryout.