Memories Of Pledge Drives Past

The late Dottie Kemps, center in red, at a KCET pledge drive in March 1980. | Photo: Cathy Bower





KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at kcet.org/50.


When I came to Los Angeles, I moved in with someone who was working for KCET at the time. I had just missed the March pledge drive and she suggested I volunteer when the next one came around. You answer phones and get free food, she said. So when the August drive was on the horizon, I signed up.

The Director of Volunteers was a wonderful woman named Dottie Kemps. She had worked for the station for many years and by the time I came into her life, she had the pledge drives running like a smooth sailing ship. Everything was handled and accounted for. If you needed more volunteers for a day on the phones, she could call an extensive list of volunteers and get them up on stage at a moment's notice.

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As promised, there was a table with snacks and desserts on it -- the Jolly Roger Pub, it was called -- and it was the social area of the sound stage. People would congregate between pledge breaks to chat and nibble on the food. The talent would hang out there, too, until years later when they were segregated into a green room. So back then, we would mingle with talent and in some cases, give them hints on how to pitch, or let them know they were doing fine.

At my first pledge drive, we must have been running a new season of the PBS show "Meeting of Minds" because Steve Allen and his wife Jayne Meadows were there. I have the distinct memory of sitting on a riser and Steve coming and sitting down on that same riser, so that he could watch his performance on the TV. As I sat there, I would look at Steve on the TV and then look at Steve sitting near me, watching himself. I remember going home that night and recounting the entire pledge experience with my boyfriend.

The boyfriend -- now the husband -- was a big fan of Allen and immediately got himself added to the volunteer list so he could join me (well, Allen). But what came out of that was a rumor that lasted for years that he and I met on the pledge set. Once, even Mario Machado (who recently passed away) announced it to the 100 volunteers on the set that evening.

Pledge began to change in the mid-'90s with the rise of virtual pledging -- less volunteers, pre-taped breaks, and such. But the friends I made and the good times we had over the years made it worthwhile. It was, after all, fundraising to support OUR public television station, KCET. It's a time I'll always cherish.

This is the first post in a series where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Today, she reminisces about her introduction to the station through pledge drives, the backbone of fundraising in public television's early years. Read more here.

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