Richard Hyatt: A local television icon signs off

August 7, 2012 

Folks called him Tom but his given name was Tom Huston, named for the snack man when he was the only puppy that got up and ate peanuts that Calvin Floyd scattered among the litter of Brittany Spaniels.

Tom became Calvin's buddy whether they were fishing or going to concerts where Tom tapped his paw to the beat. It seemed natural for him to join the cast of Calvin's pre-dawn show on WLTZ. He wasn't an entertainer though. Many mornings he napped through the whole hour.

He was a good listener though. He absorbed Al Fleming's outlandish commentaries and didn't cover his ears when a gospel singer hit a sour note. He wished Duke and The Doctor would sell something for fleas and didn't bite the politician that kicked him one morning.

Tom became a star. When he went to Walmart with the Floyds, people wanted to meet the dog -- not Calvin. "Tom, this is my wife," one shopper said, introducing him to his spouse.

His declining years were spent in what Calvin called an Old Dogs' Home. When he told viewers Tom was dead, Calvin cried.

It's just as well Tom isn't around to see what Channel 38 is doing to his buddy. After nearly 23 years, the station is canceling one of the longest running shows in local history -- second only to Rozell Fabiani.

When Calvin signs off Aug. 17, he will have done more than 6,000 shows. They aren't works of art. Mostly just Calvin being Calvin, the fellow that came to town with his belongings in the back of a 1964 Dodge Dart.

He's been an auctioneer and bought and sold antique rods, reels, plugs and lures. He owned an outdoors store and hired himself out as a fishing guide, offering campfire meals that clients remembered more than the fish they caught.

In 1989, he started "Rise 'n' Shine," a 6 a.m. show whose guests included a mortician and a daily telephone whine from floral delivery guy Paul Olson.

Calvin never promised it would be perfect and folks forgave blunders -- such as the morning rockabilly singer Curley Money was on. "He wouldn't leave," Calvin said. "I had other guests waiting, but Curley wouldn't leave."

Don't underestimate Calvin. His interviews with political candidates have uncovered things that don't show up in campaign brochures. His conversations with Superior Court candidates Roxann Daniel and Bobby Peters should be included in broadcasting classes.

Nineteen months ago the station inexplicably moved the show to noon, built a new set and renamed it "Calvin Floyd Live." It was an effort to cram a size 12 foot into a size 9 shoe.

Now a part of the community's fabric is being canned. In memory of Tom, some loyal viewers want to bring their dogs to the finale. Calvin has discouraged them. He intends to go peacefully.

But I think Tom would like that.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com.

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