Lee Garrett - Broadcasting Pioneer
Homer Holcomb, Jr. had just returned from WWII where he'd flown 35 missions as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. After brief radio jobs at WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA and WDBJ, he joined the staff of WROV In 1946. Since Homer was known as a WDBJ announcer he was asked to change his name. So, He and a few other station staffers together decided he would become Lee Garrett (a name, he says, was borrowed from an old Harrisonburg friend). Lee came to WROV as an announcer and in his six years there, became the program director. Lee recalls the early days of WROV: "We did everything. We had a format that you wouldn't believe. One hour I might be doing the morning sign on, a thing they called the 'Yawn Patrol.' Then somebody else would come in and pull a couple of records and do something else then next thing I might be doing a country music show, I may be doing a symphony two hours later. You know, we just ran the scale. We had a lot of fun back then, but you know radio back then was a lot of fun because you had an opportunity to get on the air and improvise and do all sorts of things and not tick the managers off that much."
Lee got his feet wet with WROV television in 1952. The studios were on the seventh floor of the Mountain Trust building on Jefferson Street. It wasn't lighted well, and had one camera, and the station had trouble getting programs and sponsors. He alternated between his radio duties and doing shows on the TV station. "We couldn't get the sponsors because we didn't have the programs and we couldn't get the programs because we didn't have the sponsors. A Catch 22. According to the DuMont Television Network, Historical Web Site; Channel 27: WROV-TV was the first UHF TV station in the United States to fold, after broadcasting for less than three months.
In 1953 Lee Garrett moved across town to WSLS-TV. While working at WSLS, Lee performed almost every duty you could think of, including playing the part of Maw Tide of the Tide Family.
At a recent WSLS reunion Herm Reavis is showing Lee Garrett a Tide Family Cookbook. All present agreed that it was Lee who played the part of Maw Tide.
Lee's wife, Charlotte, confessed that she went to Barrs Five & Dime on Grandin Road to purchase the bra that Lee used as Maw Tide. She took her daughter who may have been 8 at the time and asked the clerk if they had a "44 E" and the clerk looked at her strangely and before she could say anything, her daughter said "It's for my Dad"!
After retiring he has become involved in valley politics and an active member of most fraternal organizations in the area. Pictured below is Lee Garrett and Pat Garrett (no relation) at a recent WROV reunion.