Washington Press Club Foundation
Ruth Ashton Taylor:
Interview #5 (pp. 137-158)
May 11, 1992 in Lincoln, California
Shirley Biagi, Interviewer

Because this session was videotaped,
material from other sessions may be repeated here.

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[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Biagi: Ruth, let's start at the very beginning and talk about little Ruth Ashton Taylor, who wasn't little Ruth Ashton Taylor at that time. What was her name?

Taylor: It's hard to remember. Little Ruth was Ruth Montoya, born to Flora and Julian Montoya. My father was Spanish. My parents were separated and divorced when I was four, so my mother decided to take her maiden name back, and I didn't think that was fair, so in school I just started to write my name as Ashton, rather than Montoya at a certain point. I think it was in the third grade when I finally came to this realization that my mother was going by a different name from mine. So little Ruth Montoya suddenly dropped out of school, and a little girl named Ruth Ashton suddenly took her seat in school, writing that on her papers. That's the only way I've ever changed my name. I became Ruth Ashton, which was my mother's maiden name, Ashton, without anybody ever knowing anything about it. It did cause some confusion from time to time, but it was my decision.

Biagi: And it's been with you ever since.

Taylor: That's right.

Biagi: That was in the third grade. You were going to school where?

Taylor: I was going to school in Long Beach, California, Burnett Elementary School.

Biagi: You were born in Southern California.

Taylor: I was born in Long Beach, raised in Long Beach.

Biagi: Your mother was working the whole time?

Taylor: My mother was a housewife up until the time she got a divorce. It was not a friendly divorce, and my father dropped out of the picture. My mother had to support me, and did by working. Ultimately she got a little restaurant that had a house attached to it so that she could have me near her. I wasn't a real healthy kid, and I got less healthy when I was being shipped around from relative to relative, one aunt particularly, who could bake wonderful cakes and she'd feed me Jello and whipped cream and cake, and she didn't make me fat, but made me sick. That was an example of some of the types of things that happened to a little child who had been put wherever she could be put while her mother works.

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Mother did finally find this arrangement which worked out fine, and the arrangement she had was that she ran this little restaurant and the house was just out the back door, on the corner of the lot. That's where I grew up from the time I was about six or seven, and she still lived there when I went on to college. After college, I went on to Columbia. While I was in New York, Mother finally sold the little restaurant.

Biagi: What was it like being a child next to a restaurant in an emerging metropolis like Los Angeles at that time?

Taylor: I was not in Los Angeles; I was in an even more dangerous place. I was in Signal Hill.

Biagi: For people who don't know where that is—

Taylor: Signal Hill was a hill in the middle of Long Beach. In fact, it became incorporated and was for a long time the only little incorporated town within a city, a city within a city. Signal Hill was where great oil discoveries were made, and it used to be quite a sight because of the big derricks that they had always, even through the pumping stage in those days. So Signal Hill was just crowded with oil derricks, and all around it were all of the different kinds of businesses that fed into the oil business, oil tools business, all kinds of things. But Signal Hill was the oil business. So you had all those wonderful things. Kids would go out, and our fun would be maybe trying to walk on rotary mud, which is a little like quicksand, or climbing up old deserted oil derricks, things that don't contribute to long lives sometimes.

In commenting, I've sometimes said I may be the only person you know who was ever raised in Signal Hill and lived. It was right in the middle of the oil business, which was a great part of where my mother drew her customers from, and also in that group were employers for me while I was growing up. I worked for a lumber company from the time I was eleven, and I worked for an oil company, and I worked for a construction company. Those were things that I got to do. These were all people who were like our friends. It was very much of a man's world, which was interesting, because my father was gone and I was surrounded by men all my life, which was possibly contributing to what happened to me later in life as I became a journalist in a man's world, because it was not at all a foreign kind of situation for me.

Biagi: What jobs were you doing when you were eleven or twelve years old?

Taylor: When I was eleven, I started answering phones and I started typing invoices. Then I started keeping books. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I was doing their invoices and sending them out and keeping the books. As a matter of fact, I majored in math in high school and was always very good at it, and I cultivated the craft of bookkeeping to the extent that I was asked to come and straighten out books when I was sixteen and seventeen, which was fine. It has helped me. When I was with CBS in the early days in New York, I did a lot of plain old ordinary math work, figuring things up at conventions and election nights, things like that. It's just been a side thing of mine.

Biagi: So here you are in what is a growing community.

Taylor: Signal Hill had only so far to grow. It was packed with oil derricks, quite a sight. It didn't grow. It ultimately shut down little by little, but not while we were there. I used to think a great, beautiful sight was the moon coming up back of an oil derrick. It was! It was very pretty.

Biagi: Very picturesque.

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Taylor: But it wasn't growing. Long Beach grew, and Long Beach was the main city. Signal Hill was this confined little town within Long Beach. As I look back on it, I know there was a great deal of corruption. There was a lot of money there. Liquid gold was coming out of the ground as fast as anybody would ever want it. One little oil well in your back yard and you were in good shape. My mother profited by the fact that she was in the right place for customers, but, unfortunately, they didn't find oil in our back yard.

Biagi: Your mother's place was called—

Taylor: Sis' Café.

Biagi: It grew kind of a reputation of being a hang-out for people coming from Hollywood as they went through, and some political types, I know, dropped by.

Taylor: Clark Gable came by. The governor of Massachusetts, Governor [Leverett] Saltonstall, I went to school at Scripps with his daughter, and he came by. Actually, it was known, and has subsequently been known, kind of become legendary, as a place where many important oil deals were made and big corporate deals. Corporations were not the same as they are now. Texaco was Texaco, Richfield was Richfield. Richfield has a bad name with me because they had a refinery only a few blocks from us that blew up once. That took care of our house pretty well for a while.

Biagi: It wasn't a real fancy place, though. It was a true café, wasn't it?

Taylor: It was a little café with a long kind of horseshoe counter, and everybody sat at the counter. Everything was homemade, and my mother was an excellent cook. She had excellent cooks who worked for her. So she made a good success of it. She was a good personality, and that was important because you had to bat the repartee back and forth with the different people who came in there. Mother was good at that. She was also good at her numbers, so she was able to do pretty well. But let's face it, that was a period that went through the Depression as well, so it was very hard. It was very hard for a single mother, too, and she worked very, very long hours. I suppose I learned quite a lot about the ethic of work, because that was right in front of me all the time.

Biagi: It was pretty simple circumstances to then head from there to Scripps College. How did that happen?

Taylor: I did well in school. For some reason, it was like I just had a drive, an energetic drive, because I was in lots of activities. I also got straight As. I didn't plan to go to a major college or university; I planned to go where all my friends were going, which was Long Beach Junior College, because that's where you could have a lot more fun. But an advisor at Poly High, who knew my record, suggested that that was not a good idea, that I should apply for a scholarship, because we were not in a position financially to think of going to major institutions. It certainly was relatively little amount of money compared to what it is in the 1990s to send a child to a college or university, but it was big if you didn't have much money, and we didn't have much money. I hadn't aimed at it at all; it was Dr. Adams who wanted me to fly high. He said, "You can't go to junior college, that's all."

So we applied to Scripps and Stanford, places that sounded kind of "groovy," and I was accepted at both of them on a scholarship. I chose, though, to go to Scripps because it was closer

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to home. I had a very good scholarship, and they also provided for me to work so that I could work and have the scholarship. We were able to swing four years at Scripps College.

Biagi: You lived on campus?

Taylor: Yes. That's the way the college is set up. There are dormitories, halls on campus. There are maybe a handful of people who don't live on campus. Of course, Scripps College is in the little town of Claremont, California, where you have Pomona College and Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate School. It's a little complex that's sort of on the Oxford plan, and you can go to all of those colleges to take classes if you want to. There weren't that many colleges when I went there. Pomona College and Scripps and Claremont College were the colleges when I went to school there. It made it very difficult, because there were not enough men at Pomona to go around.

Biagi: Scripps was all women?

Taylor: All women. Still is all women. That had a lot of advantages and some disadvantages. You had to look to Cal Tech, which is twenty-six miles away, but you did, and they looked our way because they were a male college. [Laughter.] So we had a good social life, too.

Biagi: How did you get involved in journalism?

Taylor: By accident. I still liked extracurricular activities and doing things. Somebody just asked me if I would be circulation manager for the school paper at Scripps, which was called the Scripture, so that was fine. I did that. That was a little job. I did other little things, I guess, and I stayed working for the paper in a minor way. The editor's position was an elective position at Scripps, and some people didn't like the person who was running for editor, so they decided to put me up for editor when I was a junior, as a matter of fact, not because I was going to be any good, but because they didn't want this other girl. It was a political back-room deal. And I won. [Laughter.]

I became editor of the college newspaper, which I expanded and wrote a great deal of what we had in it. I expanded it to the outside world. Scripps College was sort of an ivory tower, and I took in more news from the outside, which became controversial, and we played controversy in the paper, too. Ultimately I was known for what I had done with the paper, and some of my professors, when I graduated from college, one particularly, urged me to go into journalism.

Biagi: But you didn't have any formal training in journalism per se at Scripps?

Taylor: Not at Scripps. It was all strictly practical experience. Scripps is a liberal arts college, and they didn't specialize in the professions or crafts of any kind. To go into journalism, you could go to a graduate school, and I did. I walked into the city room of the Los Angeles Times once, which was a hostile environment at that time. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Why do you say hostile?

Taylor: In the 1940s, a woman walks into the Los Angeles Times city room, and she obviously has made a mistake and come through the wrong door, you know. She should go over in "Family," which they called what now is the "View" section for the Los Angeles Times. It was called "Family." That's where a woman belonged. You could clean glue pots, maybe, or something like that. I'm sure others have different stories, but an opportunity for a woman could be seen by

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the professor who was particularly advising me, and he said that the best avenue was to go to a topnotch school of journalism and get a master's degree and go into journalism that way. That's what I did.

Biagi: Was this the advisor who helped you get there, who gave you recommendations?

Taylor: No. When I went back, after I had graduated from Scripps, I said, "What am I going to do?" The war was on at that point. I was totally useless as far as the war was concerned, but everybody wanted to do something. I was not a very healthy kid, and I still wasn't the picture of health. I was always kind of a scrawny person, so I didn't weigh enough to give blood, even, to the Red Cross. I was rejected. We had people from the WAVES and the other services for women on campus to try to recruit women into the armed services during World War II. I didn't quality for any of them physically. I really was a wreck. I could go on into journalism, but I wanted to do something that I thought had some significance. In light of some of the things that have happened in modern time, people say, "And you went into journalism with that philosophy?" Yes. I felt, and still do, that it was a profession in which you can try, anyway, to do some things that may have some positive results.

Anyway, my professor suggested that I should choose the best school I could. After I had my conversation with him, we decided that Columbia was the best. Before I even applied, because it was wartime, it was hard to get transportation. I went down and got a ticket on a train to New York. Then I applied to Columbia and applied for a scholarship. They didn't give scholarships the first semester. I managed to borrow money to go the first semester, and then I got a scholarship for the second semester.

Biagi: Did you go to New York and then apply?

Taylor: No, you had to make train reservations a long time in advance. I found out when school would be starting, and I had to have a reservation to go to New York. I made the reservation and then applied around the same time.

Biagi: So you were pretty certain about your ability to get in?

Taylor: Yes. At that stage in my life, I didn't have nearly as many doubts as I would have if I had been a realist. But it is a time, I think, when a lot of young people feel that they can do almost anything they set their mind on if they try hard enough. One of the things that my mom and my experience in growing up had put into my head was that I could do just about anything if I tried hard enough. So, okay, give it another little spurt there and you'll do it.

[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]

Biagi: Tell me what New York City was like when you arrived there. Had you ever travelled very widely before you got there?

Taylor: No. I traveled in Southern California and knew Los Angeles, Signal Hill, Long Beach, Arrowhead, but I was not very cosmopolitan. I had traveled to the Midwest quite a lot where my grandparents were, so I traveled around in the Middle West a little. Well, a lot, I said, so I can't repeat that. But I had never been east. New York, of course, was awesome, totally awesome.

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The trip by train was fascinating to me, and I think pretty fascinating to anybody still, to go across this country by train and look at the change. You know when you're in Nebraska; you know when you're in Missouri; you know when you're in Illinois. There is a change. It has a character as you travel across. For somebody who hadn't traveled, this was just exciting to me. Looking was an activity.

Of course, you go to New York, which was this fabulous city, totally different from what it is now. New York was fresh. Everything was fresh and exciting and was going on. It was happening. I know it wasn't safe in the way that there was no crime, but certainly it was so much safer that you would hop on a subway any time of night and not feel threatened, and that was a valid feeling. It was also a wonderful place to go to school if you're in journalism, because it was a great laboratory. Everything went on there. The arts, of course, had their centers there. You had dynamism in your labor activities and your politics. You had some real great crooks in politics in there.

It was exciting to go to the School of Journalism because you were actively writing, reporting, working in journalism, as we were students, along with the academic part of it, which would be history of journalism, law of libel, all those things that you did. Also your professors, all of the faculty had had firsthand experience in a major way, full-time faculty or they were in there for temporary assignments and they would be coming from working actively at that time in the New York Times and New York Herald-Tribune, all the other papers, publishers. My professor of radio journalism was Paul White, head of CBS News. The first semester professor of journalism was Phil Newsom, head of United Press Radio News.

So it was where it was, New York was. So I was excited. That was a good way to be a student. You weren't afraid. You were excited; you were stimulated. There was a tremendous amount going on. The war was on. Of course, you had that terrible feeling of urgency and depression about what was going on in the bigger scene, but for students working day to day in their milieu, it was a magnificent experience.

Biagi: Did you live near the school? Did you commute?

Taylor: When I went to school, I lived at the Teachers College dormitory, which was on a corner of the campus. Later when I happened to end up at 116th and Broadway, where the School of Journalism was located, Pulitzer School, I ultimately moved back with friends from Scripps into a wonderful apartment house at the corner of 116th and Riverside Drive, which was just a block away, because it was a great environment at that time. Grant's tomb was nearby. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Who's buried in Grant's tomb? [Laughter.]

Taylor: I forgot. [Laughter.]

Biagi: So you were getting close to graduation and you've got to look for work. What happened?

Taylor: I actually was offered two jobs. I was offered a job by United Press and I was offered a job by Paul White at CBS News when I was early into my second semester. I decided to take the CBS job, and Paul White wanted me to start to work early, which would be to divide my time as a student with my work at Columbia and my work at CBS, which made a lot of sense, because part of what you were doing in school was actually field work. Of course, my field work was real then when I started in April of that year.

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Biagi: Scheduled for a June graduation?

Taylor: Scheduled for June graduation, but I started in April and I was able to work on a show and still do my assignments. White was then a major faculty member, and he made arrangements for all these things.

I was assigned to write for Bob Trout, who was a very well-known CBS broadcast reporter, and it was a great assignment, because I, as a radio junkie in my growing-up period, had always listened to Bob Trout as he talked about conventions, as he talked about all kinds of things. He is a fantastic wordsmith. He can give you the pictures without television. They're much better when he gives them to you in words. When you actually see them, they aren't as interesting. He was a perfect person to work with. We got along. He had a wonderful sense of humor and he also was very helpful. He would pretty well read anything I wrote for him, but I'd know when he didn't think it was that great. [Laughter.]

Biagi: So you went there as a radio writer.

Taylor: I was a radio writer.

Biagi: How many people had that assignment when you were there?

Taylor: I was the only one working with Bob. He and I worked together on his program that was a fifteen-minute program on radio every afternoon Monday through Friday. In the newsroom at CBS at that time, it's hard for me to know. Twelve to twenty all told, for all shifts, probably. This does not count your analysts like Quincy Howe, who was there. William L. Shirer came later. Actually, he came probably in '44, I think. You had a radio weekly half-hour program that was going on, and they had a producer. They had little offices along the side of the newsroom, but the newsroom itself was not very large. You had every wire coming in there that there was, Reuters and Short Wave and INS [International News Service], UP [United Press], AP [Associated Press], everything was into this newsroom. It was just a hub of great activity. You had most of your major CBS reporters, journalists, overseas at that time.

Biagi: Including [Edward R.] Murrow.

Taylor: Murrow was the head of the whole crowd.

Biagi: And [Eric] Sevareid?

Taylor: Murrow, Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood, Winston Burdett, Richard Hotelett, Bill Downs, George Pope, who was in Greece. It was a star-studded crowd who have made the history of broadcast journalism.

Biagi: How many women were in that group?

Taylor: There was one other woman who had been hired by Paul White out of the school of journalism, too, named Peg Miller, who in later years became Peg White. She was writing for this weekly half-hour program. There was one other girl. I don't know where she came from. She was a writer. Beth, her name was. Then on down the line a few months after graduation from the school of journalism, another girl from my class was hired, but that was it, people working there in any kind of writing, actually practicing journalism. There weren't many.

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Biagi: When did Ed Murrow come into your life and the life of CBS News in New York?

Taylor: He came back after the war. He came back in about late 1945. He was on the air and then he became an executive in charge of news and public affairs, and he was very much in my life at that point because, through this period of time, I had taken over a broadcast that Bob Trout had started called "Feature Story," which was giving assignments to the correspondents and doing a companion piece from New York. I did that. I reported it and wrote it, did not air it, because a woman's voice was going to be too squeaky for broadcast in those days in this country. There were other countries; in England there were women broadcasting, but not in this country. Goodness! So there was a voice for me, and I also was the producer of this broadcast that had assignments out for all the different correspondents. Ed Murrow became my boss for that whole thing, and I did deal with him a lot.

Biagi: For how many years would you say you were working with him there?

Taylor: He came back and he was my boss, and it was very close. Gradually, all the correspondents came back and there were parties. Journalists are a good, happy crowd. They like to do a lot of cerebrating, and there were so many things to celebrate in those days as the war came to an end, as all kinds of things happened. We were working together, and Murrow was part of the crowd. We'd go out to parties, everybody together. At that time you could do what I did, which would be to call up Murrow and say, "I'm just all mixed up about—" whatever this was I was mixed up about. He'd say, "Well, let's go have lunch." So you'd go have lunch and you'd talk and try to get unmixed-up. He was great for that, because he was just as strong and conscientious a thinker, as a friend, as he projected he was on the air.

Biagi: What's your most vivid memory of him, if you had to think about one memory of him or one particular time?

Taylor: Of course, he did good things for me. When "Feature Story" went down, he assigned me to be on the original four-person documentary unit for CBS, things such as that. There were two things that I remember, because I carried them as lessons sort of through my life. One of them was when I had my program all arranged, "Feature Story," which had a theme every day and it meant working with correspondents far away or reporters in this country at that time. I had the show all set when Bill Downs, one of the correspondents, came up with a story that he had just gotten that he said was so moving and so important. He'd been to a veterans hospital. He just had to get it on the air. "Feature Story" was basically a correspondent's show. So Bill wanted to go on "Feature Story" and I said, "No, I can't do that today. I'll do it tomorrow, because I'm all set. We've got Collingwood, we've got all these folks coming on."

Bill was not one who, when he felt strongly about anything, to take no for an answer, and he went up to Murrow. Murrow called me and said, "Ruth, I know you're all set." He was never harsh. I never heard him bark a command, but he got what he wanted by the way he performed. He said, "But I have learned through the years that if Bill Downs is excited about something, you'd better make a place for it on the air, because it's going to be worth it." I thought of that in subsequent times about bosses who don't trust their talent to come up with ideas, or they don't know that when that person is excited about something, it's going to be worth something. That was a very important time.

The other memory is when I came back from my first documentary which had been on the peaceful uses of atomic science, and I worked with the Atomic Energy Commission at that time and the old remnants of the Manhattan Project from which the atomic bomb emerged, were still

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around, General Groves. I had also worked with [Albert] Einstein, and I'd been around talking with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer and all these people around the country. I was very full of this whole story of atomic science. One of the producers in the documentary unit, who was our mentor and the one who prescribed how we would produce our stories when we came back with our documentary, wanted to do it as kind of a fantasy, you know, Alice in Wonderland goes tromping through these places, because so much of what the promise was, was for the future.

I said, "That is trivializing this tremendously important, world-shaking story that is atomic science, atomic energy." I remember Murrow agreeing with me, again with somebody having a feeling about something. "I can see how Ruth feels. She's put all this into it. She knows what the feeling is and how important it is. She shouldn't have to see it trivialized." So he stuck with me in that case. Again, there was this person who could feel when you genuinely cared about your work, and he was back of you when you genuinely cared. It's a lesson that I wish somebody could teach to people who are in charge these days in many, many news organizations.

Biagi: Doing a lot of work and not being able to put it on the air yourself, was there ever a point at which you said, "I want to go on the air"?

Taylor: No, no. It was not in your thoughts, because nobody did it. If there would have been other women on, I probably would have been agitating, but there weren't any other women that were visible at that time on the air. However, it came up. I'll tell you about how it came up. For one thing, it was senseless, if you think of this person who was my voice on "Feature Story," for instance, there would be times when we'd be covering special events and we'd go down, and here come the tanks rumbling down Fifth Avenue, followed by the general who's being celebrated, and I would have to—with a portable typewriter—type out every word. It was radio, so you couldn't see. There was a little lag time sometimes. I would type out every description of everything that was happening on Fifth Avenue or wherever we happened to be covering this story, and pass over the papers to Harry, who would then read it. It really was very inefficient. So they finally decided to put the mouth and the words together, at least try it. They had some auditions at CBS.

Biagi: This is about what year now?

Taylor: We're talking about 1947, something like that. So they chose three of us to audition.

Biagi: Three women?

Taylor: Three women to audition. One of my bosses was Paul White, who was the boss of the newsroom at CBS. Murrow was overall upstairs in that era. He subsequently came back downstairs and did a show, but he was upstairs. This is a nice historical document you are creating here, but I will confess that it had been discovered that after hours, if I had a couple of beers, my voice got lower.

Biagi: You'd done a lot of research on this?

Taylor: I'd done research into voice. [Laughter.] And my boss knew that, so before the audition, he took me down to the downstairs bistro and ordered a beer for me. This is a true story. It turned out to be flat, just about the way I was on the audition, but so were the others, so there still were no women.

Biagi: None of you succeeded at that audition?

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Taylor: None of us succeeded. Beer, nothing helped. It took a while before women were on the air.

Biagi: So how did you get on the air? Or did you get on the air in New York?

Taylor: I didn't get on the air in New York, and I didn't miss it, because, as I say, had there been women on the air, I'm sure every other woman who was working behind the scenes would have wanted to be on the air, and there weren't many of us behind the scenes either. Women just weren't doing a whole lot at that point in the major news organizations. They still weren't doing a lot at all in the newspapers, in print journalism, either. I know I was so pleased when finally you began to see bylines by women in the Los Angeles Times. I don't remember ever seeing one at that particular time in the New York Times. But it was not until I came back out, back to Los Angeles, and ultimately they put on a news program in Los Angeles on the CBS television station. With television brand new in 1951, they didn't figure they had much to lose, so they took a chance. That's when I started.

[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]

Taylor: Somebody called me up, the news director for KNX, when I came back to Los Angeles, which had been my aim all along. In an autobiography when I was first in journalism school in New York, I had written, "I was born and raised in Southern California. I hope to live, work, and die in Southern California." Well, that was pretty dramatic, and it took me a while to make that transition, but I did come back in '49 and worked at KNX. Then I left. I had gotten married and I left for not maternity leave. They didn't give you maternity leave. When you were going to have a baby in those days, you quit. In fact, I asked them to fire me, so then I could get severance, you know, something. A woman had a baby; that was her fault. She had to go home and quit her job, which I did do.

I came back on the job, though, when the head of KNX News called. At that point, television was just on a shoestring, but CBS was going to go on the air with this television station and had been playing around with it, and they wanted to start a real live news program, a half-hour news program at ten o'clock at night.

Biagi: So it was KNX, which was CBS. Then KNXT, which was also CBS.

Taylor: It was not KNXT; I think it was called KTSL at that time. It was only a short while later that they went to KNXT as call letters.

The news director called me up and said, "We're going to put together this half-hour show and we want to do it in segments. We'll have somebody do hard news, somebody do sports, somebody do local news. We'd like to have you do the women's angle." Then they had somebody doing analysis. What I interpreted to be the women's angle was anything I wanted to do, because I was a woman, and that's the way I played it. I did fashions maybe once or twice in my life, but otherwise I did consumer things, I did events happening around town, I did whatever I felt like doing that I thought was a good story that would be in the feature area, basically. It was what I thought was a good story. And it was very successful.

Biagi: Were you on the air at KNX Radio?

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Taylor: Not at that time. I started first on television.

Biagi: So your first on-air work really was television.

Taylor: My first on-the-air work was on television starting in October 1951, and it was on this program with this bunch of guys. It was a lot of fun. We didn't have pictures; we had whatever we brought into the studio. People; I did interviews. Props. [Laughter.] They could be pretty interesting at times.

Biagi: There was a particular interesting prop I think you told me about.

Taylor: I did a story about an air show, and the people who were promoting the air show had a lot of little model airplanes of the airplanes that were going to be shown in the air show. So I surrounded myself with all these airplanes. It turned out to be kind of a comedy, because by the time I got through with all these airplanes, 100 airplanes around me, I couldn't tell a B-17 from a P-38, or whatever they were flying in those days. So it was not my most successful story.

When we started with this program and it was doing well, KNX top management decided, "They've got this woman on the air over at Channel 2. Let's audition for a woman on radio." So they had auditions. I auditioned for that, and I won those auditions. So I got a spot on radio, too, so that I did a fifteen-minute daily news program on KNX and then my little spot at night on KNXT, which by that time it was, which was a lot.

Biagi: Describe a typical day at this time in your life.

Taylor: It was pretty murderous. One thing about it, if you're preparing for one news program, out of that you may find a story that's going to be all right and that you're going to use for the nighttime show on television, which I did from time to time. However, with radio, I had to be in early. I was married and had a child at that point. I had to be in early to go through wires, to go out on stories, to go out and talk to people.

Biagi: By early, what time do you mean?

Taylor: Nine would be early, or eight, maybe. But then I would do the show, as I recall, between one and two in the afternoon. Then I would get things in shape for the night program, which would be on at ten, and I'd have to do a certain amount of preparation for that so it would be set to go when I finally came back.

Then I would go home maybe at five o'clock and put up my hair, bearing in mind that right away you find out that whatever you say is second to how you look if you're a woman, and your hair is the most important thing that you have going for you or against you. So you put up your hair and you have dinner and you take care of the family and put your baby to bed and get back to the station by nine and do a show at ten, then get home by eleven, eleven-thirty, get up and try it all over again. At that point, we were doing six days a week on television. I ultimately had somebody who came in and did my Sunday program, which was a number of months down the line.

Biagi: So for how many years did you have this killing schedule?

Taylor: I continued television for a good part of a year, but I realized it was too much and I would have to quit something. Considering that nighttime was hard time, although it was better

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for your career than the daytime, if I were a real career-driven person, I would have stayed on at night, and I certainly would in view of what the circumstances were, because I had just been sold nationally to Maxwell House Coffee, and great big presentations had been made up. It was the biggest thing that was going on around the place, because television was new and we had this national account, and it was very important. But I made up my mind that I was going to only work on the daytime show on radio and I had to give up television at night, which shows that it takes a long time to get sophisticated and bright. It took me a long time, anyway, because you just wouldn't do that. You wouldn't give up this big opportunity if you had any career sense at all.

However, I decided I couldn't work at night anymore, and on the way to the presentation involving CBS and Maxwell House Coffee and the ad agency, I told the account executive for CBS that I had decided not to work on television anymore.

Biagi: I think you'd have to explain a little bit that you'd been sold to Maxwell House Coffee. I'm not sure everybody will understand that.

Taylor: I was sponsored by Maxwell House Coffee, and I was to do the commercials. This was pretty radical in itself. Women were doing commercials at that point, but I was supposed to do commercials for Maxwell House Coffee, and they would be paid for my segment on television news. At that point in time, I decided not to continue on television news, which meant that whole account blew right out the window and it did not make me the favorite of the sales department. But I continued on radio.

Biagi: You continued on radio for how long, just doing radio?

Taylor: I continued on radio till about 1958.

Biagi: And you had a second daughter.

Taylor: I had a second daughter in the course of all that time.

Biagi: And you were just doing radio until '58.

Taylor: It was radio that was on the western network, which was forty-seven stations, so that was a lot. It was a good job, a very good job.

Biagi: Fairly regular hours?

Taylor: Yes, it was. You had to do the program several times in order to get it to all the stations at different time zones, different times that they could accept it, so you had to update it, but it was a short program. It started out as five minutes, then I did a ten-minute program called "The Ruth Ashton Show" at one time, "The Women's News Desk" at another time. It would be on at different times in the afternoon, so it was not a bad job. It was a very good job.

Biagi: You would have guests?

Taylor: I went out with a tape recorder. I was in the field a lot. I actually, with radio, was able to get out and report a lot more than I could with television, because we did not have cameras going with us at that time in the early days.

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Biagi: What are one or two of your favorite stories you did then?

Taylor: On radio?

Biagi: Yes.

Taylor: I don't remember a thing. [Laughter.]

Biagi: Does it all kind of flow together?

Taylor: I think we're talking like history, because we're talking in the fifties, and I think it's a situation that happens to reporters who are covering. I was doing the whole front page, which I had started out with, in terms of what was breaking for the day. Then I would go out and cover the news.

I do recall that among important stories that I enjoyed doing were space stories, because it was during the program, I was on the air at the time, that we got the bulletin that Sputnik had been put into orbit by the Soviet Union. What in the heck is a Sputnik, you know? I'm on the air when they hand me the bulletin. But what you sort of batted around, you don't know. You're certainly going to know by the time you do the program the next day. We, of course, were struggling in this country to get our space program going, and I spent a great deal of time at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where a lot of the work was going on, certainly a lot of the tracking of Sputnik was going on. They kept me up and they explained. A lot of the work was other places. We would always have experts out of JPL. Of course, as that went on, too, JPL became so important in putting up the probes to the moon, ultimately the spacecrafts into outer orbit, up to Mars. There were so many things that happened at JPL. So those were among favorite stories of mine.

Also, of course, a lot was happening with Israel at that time, and I was doing a great deal with a lot of people who were involved with the Israelis in trying to help get that democracy going.

A lot also was happening in the arts. I can remember doing things with Sol Hurok, who was getting some acts to the Soviet Union, things like that. It was always exciting, because if you were on the air at that time, with so much going on, it wasn't such a crowded field as it is now, so you could look around and people would come to you because there wasn't that huge crowd of talk show hosts and news shows to go to. That was fun, because we were doing things that hadn't ever been done before. Everything that was done for the first time, we were able to get a part of.

Biagi: How did you get connected with Pat Buttram?

Taylor: In the sixties, this was. I was on a radio show that went on all afternoon, twelve-thirty to five, and we did feature stories. We did one long segment, an hour show in the middle of that, but for the most part it was feature stories with two or three of us doing the stories. Pat Buttram was our comic relief. He had been the sidekick to Gene Autry, a very funny man, and he would just sit back and kibitz with us. His only organized thing was a household hints section, and he was really very funny, trying to give household hints. People would write him and he would tell them how to wash their windows, always a complete farce.

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The management decided to make a show out of Pat's household hints, and they wanted me to work with him on a fifteen-minute program where we would have call-ins and we would take one household hint a day and invite our audience to call in with suggestions. Pat, of course, would do what he does, which is to be totally outrageous, barely on the right side of the blue line sometimes, but, anyway, funny, very funny. We put on a fifteen-minute program called "The Ruth and Pat Show," which annoyed him terribly; he thought it would be "The Pat and Ruth Show." But it was "The Ruth and Pat Show." We did one household hint a day. How do you keep onions from making your refrigerator not smell so good? What do you do about coat hangers? Deep studies like that. People would call in, and we would bat them. I was the straight person. This was not the highlight of my journalistic career, but it was a highlight.

Biagi: Weren't you involved in sponsorship, too? Who sponsored that?

Taylor: I don't remember who sponsored that. At that point we had a lot of joint sponsors. We had more spots. In the early days of radio and television, you had sponsors who would sponsor a program.

Biagi: There's a picture of you with a coffee can.

Taylor: That coffee can was in the fifties. Maxwell House Coffee and I didn't make it, because I quit television, but subsequently, ironically, almost, I was sponsored by Hills Brothers Coffee to start with, and then by Folger's Coffee, which was like betrayal, because Hills and Folger's hated each other. They were both big coffee companies in San Francisco. I didn't do them at the same time, so maybe I've been forgiven.

Biagi: In 1958, you moved into television?

Taylor: No, I stayed with radio. "The Ruth and Pat Show" happened in the sixties, the "Storyline" was in the sixties, which was the long feature show. I moved back to television in 1966.

Biagi: I'm confused here. We had you in 1958.

Taylor: You asked me about "The Ruth and Pat Show," and we jumped over to the sixties. You see, if you're dealing with a century, you've got a lot of decades to play with. [Laughter.]

Biagi: [Laughter.] Get me out of the fifties.

Taylor: Get me out!

Biagi: Please. [Laughter.]

Taylor: There were a lot of program changes, and I'm not going to go into the fact that I periodically would be fairly temperamental and would quit and happily—

Biagi: Oh, go into it, Ruth. Talk about quitting.

Taylor: Nobody let me, but one time they did, and I did quit at the end of the fifties and was permitted to do that. I worked for a couple of years at the Claremont Colleges, doing some publicity, actually getting some of the people on television working up a whole show, did a movie, a lot of things for the colleges. Academic life is not for me. Excuse me, I'm discussing this with

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somebody from the academic world, but I think it's slow. So I was happy to get back to where I belong in this rat race, and did in the sixties.

Biagi: Where you could quit again?

Taylor: I quit quite a lot.

Biagi: If you had to add up all the times you quit, Ruth, how many times do you think you've quit?

Taylor: I don't want to talk about it. [Laughter.] But it gave itself to some good lunches from time to time. In fact, I was asked by some producers, "Would you please quit today? I haven't had a good lunch with the boss for a long time." You have to go out and figure out what's wrong and why you should not [quit]. But I don't think things are like that anymore. I don't know, if I were in the business full steam these days, that I would quit quite so often if I cared about the paycheck. But I was taught in journalism school a very important lesson: always have a "go to hell" fund. Because if you're in journalism, you're not going to like it a lot of times, and if you're going to keep your own conscience, you've got to be ready to say, "Go to hell." And I have.

Biagi: Now we're in the sixties.

[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]

Biagi: In the 1960s, you entered television at a busy time in Los Angeles' history. What about your life at this time?

Taylor: I had my children, who were growing up. My mother, happily, for a good part of the time in the sixties was able to be with me and help me. I had had a divorce from my first husband. Your life is very jumbled up. I think being in journalism, at least in the period I've been in, and I think it's true, your personal life and your professional life get very intermingled. So I was working hard all the time, it seems. Of course, the kids were getting bigger. I would, as a woman, feel that some of the most important time with kids is as they are in their teens, and I wish I had had more time with them as they were in their teens, but I didn't.

I was the sole breadwinner at that time, and I was working hard, working six days a week on television. The first show I did, I anchored on television. The first day I went back, I anchored a half-hour show. The director said, "Couldn't they put you on a little minute- or two-minute piece?" They didn't have minute- and two-minute pieces. Our pieces were three, four minutes, longer pieces. But at least I didn't have to do a half hour. The director was a little concerned about that. We made it, and I kept on doing the half hour for a long time, along with doing the daily reporting on the regular big news, as we had it at that time, in Los Angeles on Channel 2. We covered everything. I covered a lot of fires, because it really seemed to me, and it seemed to become quite clear to me, that covering fires is dirty work, and the guys were just as happy to have me try out for covering fires as the one woman in the bureau.

In fact, I can remember a huge fire. In fact, where I basically got to loathe the guy who became my husband, there was a big fire and it was late in the day, it was going up in the north part of the San Fernando Valley, and there wasn't a man reporter around. One was around, but he was dressed to do "Newsmakers," which was the half-hour show that was to be taped that night,

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so he couldn't possibly go on a fire. So it was my fire. On that particular fire, the Los Angeles County fire chief said, "This is the first time I've ever been interviewed on a fire line by a woman." Well, not the last. Once women got into the field, they were on all the fires. It's interesting to me that women get fires. You'll find a big part of the staff still, in the 1990s now, staff on weekends, which is not anybody's favorite time to work, will be women. Fires I don't knock down, though, because basically they're exciting and they're significant and there's a lot to cover about a lot of fires, and tragedies that we have, floods that truly do follow fires, certainly in Southern California. There is so much that's human interest, so much that is the big picture.

Biagi: That became your trademark, didn't it, floods and fires?

Taylor: Unfortunately, when people have thought of me, as in one city room where they were going to do a story about me and said, "Oh, yes, we always think of Ruth with disasters." [Laughter.] Yes, because I like to be outside, and not everybody does. A lot of people like to be more thoughtful in some of those stories. I like to be thoughtful, too, but I like to work fast and I like to get around, so I like being in the field. I worked with a cameraman once, we were on so many of these rough stories, he said, "I know you're a field reporter, but do we have to be in the field all the time?" He meant fields with grass and weeds. Yes, I did a lot of that, but I also did politics. We did everything.

Biagi: A lot of people think that television is a real glamorous profession. You're going to have to respond to that charge. Is it glamorous? Do you think it's glamorous?

Taylor: I suppose it's glamorous. It's hard to know what you mean by that. Basically, it's glamorous if you're the anchors, I guess. It's got the glamour of pretty people. I have a lot of good friends who are other female reporters, and I don't think you could accuse us of being part of the glamour part of it, though. Our hair is usually standing on end. That's the only way you can tell if the wind is really blowing. They'll send you on a windstorm in the middle of Los Angeles. What's going to blow? Your hair. You'll know that's a windstorm. There's a lot of excitement, so, in a way, that's glamour. If you're covering things, you get out, you see everybody. If you work in Los Angeles, you certainly see entertainment people a lot, you see movie stars a lot, because they're everywhere. All the people who are in the public eye, politicians, at some point everybody comes to Los Angeles. So, yes, there is a lot of glamour, if you think of it that way.

In terms of a glamorous life, maybe it is for people who are anchors. I didn't like being an anchor. I think that is a specialty of its own that I didn't like. I don't like sitting there and tied to a microphone, which, when I was on radio, I felt often as though I were tied to a microphone. I couldn't leave that room. If I left the room, there wasn't going to be anything happening on radio. It's the same with television programs that were shorter that I was on. You were tied to the microphone. You had to sit there. It's head and shoulders, though. As you get older, too, it's a lot harder to keep the head and shoulders as exciting as you'd like to.

Biagi: Is there a different standard, do you think, in television news for women and for men?

Taylor: Oh, sure.

Biagi: What's the difference?

Taylor: Take a look at your news programs. You're going to see some of the best news programs, as far as I'm concerned, in some of the outlying areas. We're in Sacramento right now.

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I think there are some good news programs up here and San Francisco. You're going to see some older men. You're going to see some men that they have great publicity about how they have been veteran anchors for twenty years or so. You know who their co-anchor is? This woman who's going to sit next to them, who is not going to be too much more than twenty years old. Basically, you can have men grow older and wiser, more mature. Women just grow older. It's still the truth. It's still the case. That's one of the reasons it's better to fog it up a little bit, go out in the field, and you don't have to be on all the time. [Laughter.]

Biagi: You worry about your hair once in a while.

Taylor: You have to sit still like this. I have done through the years regularly a half-hour panel program with a panel of three, to start with, and it got to be just me, for many years, but a question-and-answer program for a half hour called "Newsmakers." It still is on CBS Los Angeles. For that, you have to be sure that you've got something decent to wear. You wear fairly good clothes most of the time, but you know that is a cosmetic situation and you prepare for it on several levels then. You have your hair done. I didn't have my hair done too often. Actually, there have been comments about that. But you have to be more conscientious about appearance, and that bothers me. Even if I could aspire to be a raving beauty, I still would think it would bother me that that was probably more important than most things that are said to some people.

Biagi: Let's talk about some of the things that were said and the things that you covered. You seemed to like politics a lot. What were some of the more important political stories that you covered or the people that you covered?

Taylor: I followed Bobby Kennedy around a great deal, and that was like following a whirlwind. I was at the Ambassador [Hotel] when he was shot, which I couldn't believe. I wasn't in the room; I was covering another candidate just down the hall. I couldn't believe when our messenger came up and said, "Kennedy's been shot." It was like somebody just reaching into history a few years ago. "You're kidding. You can't mean that." That was certainly a memorable story.

I guess I've covered every governor we've had. I followed the Reagans around a great deal through the country. I followed Jimmy Carter, I remember, when it was, "Jimmy who?" It was interesting, because he appeared at our station when nobody even had the foggiest notion; you had to make special arrangements to get him into the parking lot. But after he finished an interview that I did with him, I remember both members of our crew saying, "I'll vote for you." So it's been interesting. I was impressed with Hubert Humphrey, who I thought was a very impressive, warm person. You have different feelings about different people who are important.

I've watched Sacramento and seen it become such a very complicated place. The problems handled in government have become so complicated.

Biagi: What about television and politics? Do they mix well?

Taylor: No, no, no. I hate the oversimplification, and I think the audience takes what it's used to. If you start oversimplifying, then that's what they're used to and you'll oversimplify. But I've felt that if you turn the camera on, not for ad nauseam, but day after day you maybe cover the legislature on a subject when they are moving (there are lots of periods when I don't even know why they're in Sacramento). I think the way it used to be, every two years, was probably great. But if you've got a subject they're moving on and you follow it every day, you've got a cast of characters for the audience to become acquainted with. If you dip in three times a year or every other month or something of that sort, nobody knows who you're talking about. Who is the speaker?

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Who is the president of the Senate? Who are these people? They have no meaning, not even enough meaning to know who to vote for. That's wrong.

It didn't used to be that way. You used to be able to turn that camera on, and people were used to it, they got interested, and they were interested. I don't think people have changed that much; we have conditioned them. We have conditioned our audience into a shorter time interest level. We can condition them the other way, too, because we know people can be much more interested in the world than we give them a chance to be. We're only giving them a capsule. I think it's going too far. I think this whole story count has to be too much.

The way it is as we're talking right now, 1992, I think it's going to change. I fight with people about that who say the technology is here to go out and do these millions of live shots, do it quick, snappy, make it all entertainment, and meld so that you don't know what's not real and what is real. I don't think so. I think there has been enough of television's influence that hasn't turned out too well. Somebody's going to have to take a good, hard look sometime and say, "Let's reevaluate." There's got to be some responsibility someplace.

Biagi: Let's talk about what television news' role should be, as you see it.

Taylor: Somebody asked my husband one time, "What is television's role?" He said, "To be used." I don't pretend I know how to prescribe what it should be, except to say that I think as with anything, as with people, as with growing up, as with anything, there should be some principles that you adhere to, a basic principle of responsibility. You're dealing with human beings; you're not just dealing with ratings and bottom line, the money. You have a responsibility to not rush into people's lives. The audience's right to know? No. It's audience curiosity, and there's a line between what people need to know that will affect their lives and what is just pure curiosity and sensation.

Responsibility and some kind of concern about your impact on the world you're talking to and talking about, the world you live in yourself. You start with your own feeling of trying to do things of quality, aim toward excellence once in a while in the product you produce. Every time there is an excuse to go on live, there's no excellence, there's no responsibility; it's just sensation. Wholesome principles about how, if you look at it objectively, the big influence television has had on the world. What should we do better? Where are we leading our audience and us? But you've got to care; that's the first thing. I can't say what, down the line, it should be, but I sure wish there were a lot more people in charge who gave a damn.

[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]

Biagi: Tell us about this photograph.

Taylor: That's my mother—"Sis," she was called, "Sis" Ashton, and me. It looks like my aunt, but it's me with her, and my first daughter, Laurie, who must be about three, four years old.

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Biagi: The year would be—

Taylor: 1953, I'd say.

Biagi: Thank you. This is Ruth about what year?

Taylor: Early fifties. I'm looking lovingly at a roll of audiotape.

Biagi: Wonderful technology.

Taylor: With one of my worst hair-dos in the entire forty years.

Biagi: [Laughter.] I kind of like it.

Taylor: It isn't me. [Laughter.]

Biagi: This would be about what year now?

Taylor: This would be right around 1952, '53. You might just guess it was a publicity photo, and I had been sponsored by Hills Brothers Coffee. "It was on my mother's shelf, my grandmother's shelf, and it's on my shelf." [Laughter.]

Biagi: The photograph or the coffee?

Taylor: That's what I used to say about it. It was on forty-seven stations, but it was a radio program, so I don't know when they ever used this, but, happily, it was not on television. It was not seen a great deal.

Biagi: This is good. I wonder how many shots you had to take to get that one.

Taylor: We did a whole bunch of them. Not on the same picture. We did a whole bunch of pictures that had Hills Brothers Coffee. They were very nice people. There was a kind of closeness with some of the sponsors, and they entertained me, had parties for me, they sent me cases of—

Biagi: When is this photograph?

Taylor: Roughly 1964. It's a picture from a magazine of Ruth and Pat, Pat Buttram, with whom I teamed for "The Ruth and Pat Show," a fifteen-minute program daily, making cracks about household hints, and people called in. It was a completely frivolous, worthless program that was a real charge and had a tremendous audience. It was fun. I can't call it news, but it was fun.

Biagi: Your hair definitely looks different on the screen than it does there. It looks almost whiter.

Taylor: I had very dark hair.

Biagi: Pat looks like a kidder.

Taylor: Have you ever seen Pat Buttram?

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Biagi: The old cowboy movies.

Taylor: What was that thing Ava Gabor did? That was in that old—

Biagi: This one is about when?

Taylor: About 1966. It's not of any great world-shaking importance; it just happened to be in the file. My husband, Jack, is shooting this picture. I'm interviewing two young women who had been in the Job Corps, which was another one of the sixties programs, and they are making a transition. They're being beautified so they can go out and get a job, and they're making a transition into a new life, hopefully.

Biagi: This would have been as a reporter?

Taylor: I was the reporter, and my husband was—he was not my husband then; he was the cameraman named Jack Taylor.

That is a picture of my two daughters and me on the SS United States, on our way to Europe in 1964. My daughter Susan is in the foreground, my daughter Laurie in the background. They both look a little seasick. That was a trip that we took, and I took a tape recorder so that I recorded a whole series of stories on the ship. In fact, we hit the edge of a hurricane, and I think I was the only one still moving around the ship at the time with my tape recorder.

Biagi: So even a vacation became work, in a sense?

Taylor: It had its advantages if you took a tape recorder. I came back and I probably had maybe twenty stories out of that and a very good deduction on my trip to Europe with my two kids.

Biagi: I'm turning you in, Ruth. [Laughter.]

Taylor: It was very interesting. The United States, I was pleased to hear the other day, someone has bought and wants to put back into service. It was truly one of the most beautiful liners, but it had no stabilizers. It was the fastest liner across the Atlantic. It had no stabilizers. In fact, there was a party in the chief engineer's quarters the night of this big storm, and we were going from side to side, and somebody said, "Why didn't you put stabilizers on this crate?" The chief engineer said, "Who needs them?" As we're hitting our heads. [Laughter.]

Biagi: There you look very Hispanic with your hands on your hips.*

Taylor: You're supposed to be subservient if you're a Hispanic woman. You're supposed to take orders, not give them. [Tape interruption.]

My husband Jack Taylor and I were a team. I was the boss as the reporter. We were getting ready for some underwater shooting, as a matter of fact, because we did a series on the ocean, and the Navy decided it would be great to put me into a submersible and sink me, which they did do. We were getting ready for that. I think something may have gone wrong at that

* In the voice-over of the video, this comment by Biagi and Taylor's response came before Taylor's explanation of the cruise picture. They pertain, however, to the submersion pictures.

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moment. At any rate, he was still the cameraman above and below water, and I was in the submersible, talking.

That's the next scene. It took us three times to get this whole thing in the submersible. The first time we came up, and everything had been terrific, and we didn't shoot more than the magazine, which would be twenty minutes on the film, too. But we came up and, of course, the housing was kind of strange, and when he opened up the housing for the camera, water got into it, which ruined the film. So we had to go back. I'm talking the United States Navy had to sink us each time, because they had all kind of support stuff there, you know, for this submersible.

We went back the second time, and the navy loaned him their gear with a camera in it, and it was a great, terrific housing that they used for all these underwater shots. Jack went under and we did it all again, because you've got to be lowered and do all this stuff. He's got to float around underneath the water. We did the whole thing. We brought it clear back to Los Angeles and had it developed, and then tried to play it. It was double sprocketed, and, furthermore, somebody had accidentally hit the button while it was in the diver's shack, and the whole thing was run out. All the film had run out before we ever shot.

Biagi: It's hurting him [the cameraman] to tell this story. [Laughter.] Ruth, how long did it take you to get down there?

Taylor: Well, there was a great deal on top of the water, like half the United States Navy, with all kinds of cranes and support ships and everything else, and they put us down. One of the PR guys, PIOs, came to me and said, "You know, we've never had a woman in one of our submersibles. How about we put you in one and sink you?" And they did.

Jack and I were with the navy at this particular point on San Clemente Island, because we were doing a series on the ocean. So it actually made a way to do bridges for the whole series. I am in that submersible talking to the engineer. Jack was taking pictures and I took the recorder inside the submersible, and I did all of my narrative for the whole series in there. He could take pictures of me talking and then we synchronized it. That's my husband out there floating around in the water. It was a good series. We almost won an Emmy.

Biagi: What year was that?

Taylor: That was about 1971. The series was made into a half-hour special used all through the country on all of the CBS-owned and operated stations, called "The Blue Zoo," which is what the divers call underwater, in some cases.

Biagi: [Referring to photograph.] That's Ruth.

Taylor: I'm wondering if that's one that you've got there in the magazine. Take a look at that.

Biagi: That's Jack Taylor from the same photograph.

Taylor: That was a picture on our "Newsmakers" talk show in 1976. It was during the election campaign, a picture with my colleagues Bill Stout and Joe Bente.

Biagi: Bill is on the right and Joe on the left.

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Taylor: Bill is on the right and Joe is on the left, talking to Jimmy Carter. I'm not sure why he's laughing, because out in the audience was Sam Donaldson, and we were trying to be as hard on him as we could, and it doesn't look like it right there, but, anyway, it was a good program.

One thing about Carter. There were so many people to interview in his family, we could make a whole career out of that—Lillian, Rosalyn.

Biagi: Do you have an idea when this was?

Taylor: I think that was around 1975-76. I covered the Reagans a great deal, and I believe it was right around that time when they were campaigning for the '76 nomination, but, as I say, I saw him a lot just in the course of covering him. This was at a luncheon thing. She gave it to me at a party somebody had for them.

That one was, I think, in the 1980s, and the city council surprised me with a proclamation honoring me, and all of a sudden all of these people popped up who were there. I had complained about covering the city council; I thought I had something better to do that day. But I was made to go down there, and my husband and I are holding the proclamation. To my left is Joy Picus, city council member who had been the one who presented it to me, and then we have Lorraine Hillman, who is the head of library, right next to Joy Picus. Also back of us is Bob Dunn, who was one of our reporters, and Mary, who was in programming, to the right of my husband, and Jess Marlow, who is an anchor in Los Angeles, was at our station at that time, one of our very close friends. He's now back at NBC. That was the Los Angeles city council doings, when they were nice.

That's a proclamation given to me in 1989 when I was supposedly retired from CBS, and kept showing up after that. They said, "Why don't you leave?" [Laughter.] At any rate, it's the Los Angeles County supervisors. My husband is in the center, and next to him is Pete Schabarum, best known now for being the sponsor and author of Prop 140. Seated is Kenneth Hahn, and shaking hands with me is Ed Edelman, three of the five supervisors. That was very nice. They gave me a very nice proclamation. That was 1989.

That was December 13, 1990, and I was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Though that's supposedly just for the glamour entertainment folks, it was fun getting it and also amazing to me that it made more of a splash and people were more excited about that than anything that's ever happened to my career, almost. But with me are Bill Welch and Johnny Grant of the Hollywood chamber of commerce; my grandson Damon; and in back of us, from the left, is Bob Hyland, general manager and vice chairman of Channel 2; Daryl Gates, who needs no further introduction; Michael Roos, who was still speaker pro tem of the assembly; my daughter Susan; my daughter Laurie; Steve Glazer of Senator Roberti's office. It was a big day. If you care to walk on Vine Street, that star is just south of Yucca.

Biagi: I think your location, the company you're in, is very important.

Taylor: Ava Gardner and Heddy Lamarr, somebody of moment, somebody who would draw you to that area. [Laughter.] And while you're there, you might look at my star. We had a whole big party and the whole big thing.

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