Longtime Cable 8 cameraman set to retire

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After 27 years of covering government meetings for Canton Community Television — or as it was known back then, “Cable 8” — camera operator Jerry Frank is retiring.

Jerry Frank and his wife, Helene, examine the citation given to them by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Frank started as the selectmen cameraman back in 1984, when the meetings could only go out live — no repeats, back before VHS recording tape, before computers could play back the meetings 24 hours a day, and long before the internet.

The meeting took place in a room, now walled in half, that had bolted down wooden benches and a riser and table where the selectmen sat, where decades later, even after the renovation, the spot where the camera once stood is unaffected by time. The paneling still stands and the outlet to the wire that Frank’s camera plugged into to deliver the live meetings remains.

At his most active, Frank not only covered the selectmen from their small room, but the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Finance Committee, sometimes covering ZBA and FinCom at once. FinCom was a simple wide shot. He’d check on that camera, then move out to the main hall where the ZBA was meeting. And in the spring he’d cover town meeting.

He also covered parades and local events. His wife, Helene, carried the heavy recorder while Jerry shouldered the camera. Because he was everywhere, on weekend events and covering government meetings, he became a town fixture.

“People would come down and talk to the selectmen and then would remember seeing me behind the camera,” recalled Frank. “They didn’t know my name. They’d just know that I’m the guy who was filming everything. Everybody got to know me because I’m the guy from Cable 8.”

Frank said he loved working with the station because he otherwise never would have met so many people in town.

“If it wasn’t for Cable 8 getting me out there, I wouldn’t have known half the town,” he said. “The police always see me take their pictures and stuff. It got me involved. I wouldn’t have known who everybody was. I would have been just another person here in town. I am personally glad and I’ll be forever thankful for it.”

“I’m kind of sorry to see it end,” he continued. “I just feel I don’t want it to end. I still want to be out there and be with people and shoot more things for the people while I still have the energy. I just don’t know how much longer I can go.”

In recent years, as his legs weakened, Frank has slowed down and has covered only the zoning board. At his last ZBA meeting on December 15, in appreciation of his longstanding years of service, the board gave him a special commendation. With the cameras still rolling, Frank came out from behind the camera and gave an emotional “thank you” to the zoning board and Cable 8.

Attorney Paul Schneiders, who has been reminded for years by Frank to use a mic when speaking at hearings, took joy in handing him the mic so he could be heard by the cable audience. Schneiders, who has represented clients before the zoning board for even more years than Frank has been behind the camera, also praised his work. Canton Community Television’s staff and President James Aufiero were also there to wish Jerry and Helene the best of luck.

Frank will also receive a citation from Senator Brian A. Joyce and Representative Bill Galvin’s office for his many years of service to Canton, as well as recognition from the Board of Selectmen.

The praise is reflective of the impact Frank has had during his decades of service. From Paul Carroll’s reading at the close of the zoning board hearing, to ZBA secretary Velma Coffey’s planning behind the scenes for the celebration afterwards, Frank’s quiet impact is apparent.

Though officially retired, he does not plan to stop completely. He’ll fill in when regular camera operators are unable to make a meeting, and he told Canton Community TV that he has no intention of returning his weekend event camera. It will sit beside his chair at home so that, on a good day, when something in town needs covering and his legs feel good, “the guy from Cable 8” can be there.

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avatar Posted by on Dec 21 2011. Filed under News, Town Government.
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