Leonard and Larry return to WTVR 60 years after their last day of work: 'Sort of like a dream'

Posted at 1:51 PM, Jun 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-06 16:58:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- It had been nearly 60 years since Leonard Sandridge and Larry Boppe stepped foot inside WTVR when they arrived to the CBS 6 studio on West Broad Street on May 17.

“I just didn’t think we’d ever have the opportunity to come back in here,” Sandridge, retired executive vice president and chief operating officer at the University of Virginia, said.

In September 1963, both men began working at WTVR-TV to help pay their tuition at the University of Richmond.

“The best part-time job ever,” Boppe, the former president and CEO of plastic container manufacturer Toter Inc., said.

Sandridge was hired first, to work in the control room.

“I would switch from local to national network and put the 16-millimeter film reels on the machine,” Sandridge said.

He recruited his friend, who found a place on the studio floor.

Leonard and Larry

“Operating a TV camera was so much easier and simpler than what Leonard was doing,” said Boppe.

Within a short amount of time, these broadcast beginners became an integral part of the small team that kept “The South’s First Television Station” up and running.

“This was cutting edge,” said Sandridge. “To go back to Crozet and Albemarle County and say that I worked at WTVR-TV, that was an eye opener.”

Though it had been 15 years since Channel 6 first signed on, this industry was still in its infancy, and employees had to be jacks of all trades.

“People were doing multiple tasks, they would do whatever was necessary,” said Sandridge. “It wasn’t perfect, but we kept it on the air.”

Sometimes those behind the camera would have to get in front of it.

“Dal [Burnette] said to me one day, ‘Larry, we’ve got to fill three minutes, grab a puppet,’” said Boppe. “I got down behind the set, held the alligator up, and my name was Al the Alligator.”

Leonard and Larry

But while most of their recollections of this place are filled with joy and laughter, these men can also recall the time our nation was brought to tears.

Two months after Sandridge and Boppe’s television journey began, a gunman brought the life of an American president to an end.

“Both of us were here during the time following Kennedy’s assassination and the coverage that was provided there,” said Sandridge, who still has some of the original scripts, and the actual teletype that came in the night Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. “You could sense in the station that everyone knew this was important.”

“I would stand in the doorway and just watch all the network monitors, and I felt like it was so intense,” said Boppe. “It didn’t matter what your political feelings were, the country became so sober.”

Though they have memories that have lasted a lifetime, Leonard Sandridge and Larry Boppe only stayed at WTVR for about nine months.

Leonard and Larry

Both joined the Army in 1964, and never had the opportunity to work in television again.

But six decades later, their feelings haven’t changed about the greatest part-time job they ever had.

“It’s like that station’s part of your family,” said Boppe. “Just to be a part of television, it was great fun.”

“It was exciting, it was new, it was real-time stuff,” said Sandridge. “It was sort of like a dream.”

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