Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Blast From The Past

 I was interviewed by a journalist named John Strubel in June 2007, just a few years after I retired from The Post and Courier newspaper.

Stumbled across this today and thought I would share. Hey, if you recall reading it back in 2007...I am impressed!

Chuck Boyd stood in a long line. As he waited, he was thinking. The longer he waited, the more devious his thoughts were. Little did he know it would be a defining moment in his life and his career.

After graduating high school in 1957, Boyd having "no desire to go to college," joined the United States Marine Corps during peacetime. In the wake of completing boot camp, Boyd wanted no part of what was coming next: MP School. He was now looking this option straight in the eye.

"They were all set to send me to Military Police school after boot camp but I lied and told them I had been published in LIFE magazine," remembers Boyd.

Straight-faced, Boyd told the Captain, "I'm a nationally published photographer, sir."

He laughs at the memory now. "There were 23 people in front of me, 25 behind me and only one was assigned to the Camp Lejeune Base Photo Lab." That one person was Charleston native Chuck Boyd.

Then he hesitates, considering the decision he made 50 years ago and says in defense, "It wasn't really a lie, it was a premonition because, six years later, I WAS published in LIFE, the full-back page called Miscellany." (He admits in his personal blog. "I would have been a skinny, lousy military cop.")

That is a fact.

In 1962 Boyd landed at the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper as an "inside guy," a photo lab technician, but within a year, he was covering and photographing events.

In 1964, he stumbled on an interesting aerial photo assignment.

"We were flying back from the beach where we had been looking down on surfers," remembers Boyd, and I glanced down and did a double-take because there was a word carved in the ground that was large enough I could see it from the air. I hefted my Speed Graphic camera and shot two pictures as we passed over it.

QUIET. That was the word carved in the ground below me.

Back at the paper, I offered it to the photo editor and he said "Nah, we don't want that." So, as all we photographers were doing back then, we were calling TIME and LIFE," remembers Boyd. "They said send us a copy and I did. Then they called back, not mailing a written rejection slip,  and they said they need a caption! I said, "Wow, this sounds good!"

Boyd jumped in his Triumph TR3 and tried to find the site of where the word was carved. "I could not find the damn thing and had to rent a plane for $90. We circled around and I spotted it again, noting several landmarks. When we landed, I drove to the site and knocked on the man's door.."

"He asked how I found it and said I was the first to ask about it. He explained his orchard is near the end of the runway at Miramar NAS in San Diego and he was tired of the jets making noise and rattling everything in his house. 

He decided to send a message to Mirmar by plowing the word QUIET in his field. He added, he never measured it out or anything, he just eyeballed it," added Boyd.

"I think now they use it as a target to kick in the afterburners and the sound is worse, added the farmer.

Boyd informed the Tribune editors that photo was wanted by LIFE magazine and suddenly the throwaway image had a new value.

His 8-year run with the Union-Tribune placed Boyd - and his trusty camera - alongside people and in places he never imagined possible when he first started snapping family photos as a kid.

Boyd photographed President John F. Kennedy, the Beatles, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Raquel Welch, Liberace, Lyndon B. name it, if it was in San Diego in the 1960s, Boyd most likely photographed it.

He actually photographed Kennedy twice, first as a University of San Diego student photographer in 1960 and again in 1963 with the Union-Tribune.

In 1960 then Senator Kennedy campaigned for President in downtown San Diego. "I worked my way through the crowd, showed my USD ID, said I was the official photographer from the school, and asked a cop on the platform if I could come up there? Moments later I was up there on the stage with him."

Boyd paused one photo showing Kennedy at the microphone, on the computer monitor. He said "innocent times."

Boyd photographed Kennedy again in 1963 when the President received an honorary degree at San Diego State University, just five months before he traveled to Dallas.

The newspaper work was exciting and always new. Every day was another location, another subject. His most memorable assignment did not involve a celebrity, remembered Boyd. "It sounds really weird but a 4-day search for a missing boy in the desert had a happy ending! He was found alive, healthy and I was in the front row taking pictures of him and his smiling face, on the stretcher." 

After leaving the newspaper in 1969, Boyd caught on as a researcher for CBS-TV National news and was assigned to cover the Charles Manson trial in Los Angeles.

"For four months I was seated in the media front row and never wanted to make eye contact with Charlie. I was about 15-feet from him and he looked out in the courtroom crowd a lot. He was just eerie."

During his coverage for CBS, Boyd had the unenviable of seeing Manson at his worst. Boyd returned from lunch early one afternoon, making his way past the Manson Family girls parading and chanting at the entrance.

"The trial had already started and I was the only newsman back in the courtroom.

I was watching Charlie in his usual rubber shower shoes and he did something different. He kicked off the shoes and tucked one leg under his butt. Then he got his other leg under him so he was crouched sitting on his feet in the chair.

Before anyone knew it, he leaped across the defense table toward the judge with a pencil grasped in his right hand, shouting some gibberish!

"I made the mistake of standing and stepping into the aisle and was knocked aside as bailiffs rushed forward, one tackling Manson in the air, smashing him to the ground, then they hauled him out of the courtroom."

This all started when Boyd started taking family photos as a kid. Using a Kodak DuaflexII camera, Chuck snapped pictures of Mom, Dad, and his two brothers. He still has that late 50s Kodak camera.

"You'd expose a 12-shot roll of film. bring it to Walgreens and come back a week later to pick up the prints.," Boyd remembers, thinking of how far technology has advanced since his earliest photography efforts.


At Sun Nov 22, 07:06:00 AM , Blogger Maria Mansfield Richardson said...

Such interesting memories, Chuck. Our family would use the camera on Christmas or a special occasion and sometimes it would sit in the cabinet for months or even longer before another occasion that called for pictures. I recall rolls of film with 24 exposures.

My husband Terry and I are looking forward to seeing you at Joan’s on thanksgiving. We are baking a whole turkey and dressing and making the gravy. I’ll also make cranberry sauce.

Take care.


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