Retired television technician parks memories on his driveway

YOU COULD SAY John Sater's work followed him home to Union Bridge.

Parked in Sater's driveway is a 1947 Baltimore Transit bus.


But instead of carrying people from one place to another, the vehicle served as the remote unit for WMAR television station, where Sater worked as an electronics technician.

His interest in electronics goes back to his high school years. He attended the Boys Vocational School, where he took up machine shop practice in downtown Baltimore from 1936 to 1939.


"While I was there, I took a correspondence course in radio and electronics," Sater said. "It was a well-known radio correspondence course based in Washington."

He joined the Army Air Forces and served as an airborne radio operator from 1942 to 1944. He served in the Maryland Air National Guard for three years during the Korean War and another three years during the Vietnam War. He was called up for duty in 1968 during the riots in Baltimore after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

After his World War II service, Sater worked at Bendix, where he met Carl Nopper, who later hired him to work at WMAR.

"I was supposed to install FM radios in Baltimore Transit buses to receive WMAR-FM music," Sater said. "But the project got negative public response and was canceled."

Fortunately for Sater, that wasn't the end of his career with WMAR.

"After that I was assigned to make equipment for the projection room," he said. "We had to make our own equipment back then. I made an opaque projector, which held two pictures that could be electrically switched. The news crews would take pictures with a 4-inch-by-5-inch Graflex. The pictures were then projected onto a film camera."

Sater smiles when he thinks back to the way the television station had to do things then.

"All the audio and stills were brought to us in the vehicle and then beamed through a microwave transmitter and received at the studio station," Sater said. "After the Sunpapers moved to Calvert Street, we got a permanent studio in the old Sunpapers Building on Baltimore and Redwood streets. That was in the 1950s."


Sater worked for WMAR for 37 years and retired in 1985. Looking back, he said the introduction of color television was one of the biggest changes in the industry.

"And when transistor radios came in and replaced the old tubes, that was really big," he added. "That's when everything started to change really fast."

When he retired, he decided to try to buy the old 1947 bus.

"It was something I was attached to," he said. "I bought it from the station for $500."

Sater retired from WMAR 15 years ago, but he is as active as ever.

Besides restoring his Civil War-era home, Sater devotes many hours a week volunteering at the Railroad Museum in Union Bridge and with Carroll County General Hospital's Hospice Program.


"I'm giving back what they gave to me," said Sater of the hospice program. "My wife, Ruth, was in the program. She died of leukemia in 1991. She was my first patient. My mother, Emma Sater, was my second patient, and she died in 1992."

His third patient was an 83-year-old woman, who, when she realized the end was near for her and that she would have to take her cats to the Humane Society, broke down and cried. The cats disappeared.

"After she died, the cats came back, and I ended up taking them in," he said.

New Windsor Days

If you're looking for a great family day, head toward New Windsor this weekend. New Windsor Days will be held from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Firemen's Carnival Grounds.

The day will feature a variety of children's activities, including pony rides, a magic show and antique firetruck rides, said LaRue Sipes, committee chairman of New Windsor Days.


"We'll have the toilet paper toss for the children again this year," Sipes said. "They have to toss a roll of toilet paper into a toilet. I'm told it's a big hit with the children."

Sipes said a football toss competition will be held.

"You have to throw a football into a tire," she added. "That's for the big boys, though."

New Windsor Days is organized by the Sulphur Springs Lions Club.

"We've been doing it for about 18 years," Sipes said. "The recreation council in New Windsor organized it more than 20 years ago. They gave it up and we took it over. But a number of our members are getting older and we could use some help."

Sipes said students may earn community service hours by volunteering for the event.


For car buffs, the day will feature the second Charity Antique Car Show.

And weather permitting, hot-air balloon rides will be held.

Information: 410-635-6232.

Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.