Lights, camera, Bellow!

Bill and Nancy Bellow

For more than 30 years, Oswego High School students have honed their broadcasting and technical skills right in the comfort of their very own high school television studio, with programming brought to viewers in school and at home by the prescience and perseverance of Mr. William H. Bellow.

Bill Bellow started out as what previous generations used to call a shop teacher. He was an Industrial Arts major at SUNY Oswego. During his early technology teaching days, he incorporated instructing his students in the fine art of operating video tape recording machines, along with editing and photographic skills. With the addition and co-operation of English teacher Tom Frawley and the support of Oswego School Superintendent Ed Garno, they were able to enlist the support of the school board in transforming a classroom into a full fledged broadcast studio, and WBUC was born.

Five days a week, students were taught to produce their own daily news and public affairs program on WBUC. It was even broadcast on the local cable tv channel. And voila! a new age in high school instruction was born and continues to this day.

Bill’s  dad was a commander in The United States Coast Guard and the family lived in  Hawaii for sometime before making their way to Oswego.  Perhaps that explains his affinity for Hawaiian shirts.  Those shirts became his fashion forte, and to this day, Nancy still buys him several per year. “Beeps” as he is  called by his friends,  still gladly sports them wherever he goes.

With his loud shirts and bearded appearance, Bill looks more like a biker club rider than a television producer. Appearances can be deceiving.

Bill was also very active in the Oswego Classroom Teacher’s Association (OCTA), the local teacher’s union, which is where I first met him. As school attorney, I was the chief contract negotiator, and Bill was on the negotiating team. He was always a forceful advocate for his cause.

Bill’s wife, Nancy, worked for the Oswego County Department of Employment and training, and was on the reverse side of the aisle when it came to employee oversight in management. She was management. He was labor. Somehow they happily maintained their ability to ride together in their classic cars and kayaks, and to enjoy each other’s company not as union vs. management, but as kindred spirits in vintage autos — a pastime they still enjoy in their Florida retirement community of  Cape Coral.

Thanks to Bill Bellow’s tutelage, hundreds of Oswego High graduates have had advanced career opportunities in broadcast, technology and performance. Three of my four daughters were involved in WBUC.

Mr. Bellow and Mr. Frawley were succeeded at WBUC by the legendary Mike McCrobie and OHS alum and teacher Stephen Cass. WBUC continues to thrive today broadcasting school events, Board of Education meetings, interviews with district leadership, public community forums and much more. Its studio now occupies a large footprint inside OHS, complete with a raised, glassed-in control room indistinguishable from our local network news affiliates.

In her later years, Nancy Potter Below moved to a position on the staff of SUNY Oswego under her mentor, Carolyn Rush, who served as Assistant to the President. She also helped create the Leadership Oswego County program which has taught leadership skills to many hundreds of  individuals who have become community leaders in their own right.  Nancy is an Oswego native  and graduate of OHS as well.

Nancy and Bill Bellow enjoy their retirement years  traveling widely in their  Winnebago type bus replete with their kayaks. There is nary a Jimmy Buffet concert they have missed.   Together, they have contributed much to the Oswego Community, The words of an old “Poco” song come to mind:

 “Give it your best. Don’t worry about what some may say. Follow your dreams. It’s really all that you can do. Give it your best, and remember that life is what you choose. So follow your dreams and do what you love to do."  Thanks Bill and Nancy for encouraging so many Oswegonians to do just that!

John T. Sullivan is a former Oswego Mayor and the author of three books, “Forks In The Road” parts I and II and an autobiography “Pee Not Your Pants — Memoirs of a small time mayor with big time ideas,” available locally in the river’s end bookstore and online.  His column appears exclusively in The Palladium-Times on the first Thursday of each month.

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