College ‘was for the rich’, says Dianne who instead joined ZBM
As a child, Dianne Carlson thought she had found paradise.
She was living on Agar’s Island in the Great Sound, where her grandfather, James DeSilva, was the caretaker.
“We went swimming every day and there were caves to explore,” she said.
Television captured her imagination once her parents, John and Violet DeSilva, moved the family back to the mainland in the late 1950s.
They were one of the first in the neighbourhood to get a set.
“I was about 12 or 13 when my father brought home this black and white set,” she said. “Suddenly, we were very popular with the neighbours.”
She never imagined she would one day be on television herself. In 1960, aged 16, she found a job at ZBM co-ordinating scripts for different broadcasts.
“College was for the rich,” she said. “If ZBM liked you, they would train you.”
Despite that, her parents were less than thrilled.
“They almost had a heart attack,” she laughed. “In those days ZBM had a terrible reputation. They had all these Canadian announcers and everyone knew they were party animals. Anyone associated with it was therefore also a party person.”
Back then ZBM was on Par-la-Ville Road, above what is now International Imports.
Commercials were recorded live in the studio every day at 3pm. Ms Carlson would often be called upon to demonstrate a kitchen gadget. Once she was doing this when another employee unfolded a picture of a naked lady off-camera but so that she could see it.
“I had to contain myself so I did not show my embarrassment,” she said. She gave the man an earful when the cameras stopped rolling.
She stayed at ZBM for four years. Then one day she got into an argument with the manager, Ken Belton, and quit.
Ms Carlson bumped around through different jobs and was working in sales at the Hamilton Princess Hotel when ZBM came calling.
“At that point Walter Staskow was the manager,” she said. “He got investors to buy the property in Prospect. They had some real sales challenges and they wanted me to come back and help.”
She was reluctant because going back to ZBM meant a reduction in pay.
“But then Walter said he wanted someone he could trust,” she said. “So I said ‘yes’.”
Staff often had to double up on duties. It fell to Ms Carlson to cover the opening of the Southampton Princess Hotel in 1971. There was to be a big dinner and Frankie Avalon was scheduled to perform.
“There was no planning, I was just told to go up there,” she said.
In 1987, Ms Carlson was recruited to work in sales in Bermuda’s New York tourism office.
“I was the senior marketing manager of group and incentive sales North America,” she said. “I intended to stay one year and get things in order but ended up staying 14 years.
“I developed a lot of relationships with different companies so I could get their survey data for nothing. We did very well in who we should target. We tracked and measured everything we did – which was unheard of in government circles.”
She often took clients out to dinner before any business was officially discussed.
“By the time they got to my office we had a relationship and they were relaxed,” she said. “I have a gift with people. If I went to a restaurant I would always ask the waiter their name and thank them for serving us. If I entertained a group of 20 or 30 people I always brought out the restaurant manager and introduced them to my clients. My role was important, and so was theirs.”
Today, she is very proud of what she accomplished in New York.
“We won many awards for service to the industry,” she said.
In 2001 Ms Carlson, who has a son named Jeffrey, returned to Bermuda. In the years since, she has worked as a DJ at DeFontes Broadcasting Company.
“I was blessed to have a lot of interesting jobs in my life,” she said.
Today, she enjoys hanging out with friends at Bermy Cuisine. She loves the staff there.
“It is good to get out of the house for a time,” she said. “I love to read the newspaper. And I am looking for a part-time job,” Ms Carlson said.
Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them