The Treatments

Long ago at Cardinal, the boss summoned the writers to the general meeting area.

We were each given a college course textbook on Nursing 101.

Big Daddy told us he wanted each writer to come up with a detailed "treatment" explaining how we would present the content of this book using the DART audio-visual instructional system.

We were ordered to devise a general curricula approach (similar to Tom W's infamous "tree of learning" that he sketched for the automotive series).

With added gravitas, Big Daddy demanded that we propose teaching objectives and example storyboards for particular chapters.

Chapter One was about Body Alignment:  how nurses maintain healthy posture during the rigors of their work.  I imagined a nice model for this lesson.  Live shots of her keeping her back straight while changing  bed sheets.

Another chapter was not so attractive. It was all about Injections:  how intradermal, subcutaneous, and intramuscular shots are administered (someone suggested the use of fruit to simulate flesh). One writer went out and scored a needle one day and we jabbed it repeatedly into an orange.

The whole exercise was a Big Daddy competition. The treatment that made the most sense to him would be the blueprint for producing the a/v courses.

Apparently the client (a college, I think) was not impressed by the proposals. I suspect it was not our content (for we were a talented bunch) but instead the high costs of Cardinal production. We didn't just knock out training programs. They took months.

It was still another grand effort that failed and went nowhere in our attempt to survive.

Phoenix End Times (from Steve, aka "K")

After Wimpy flew the Phoenix coop, I was left alone with Big Daddy. We worked together for a few more years before Phoenix gradually sank back into the sodden ashes of Cardinal Associates. Here’s a bit of what I remember.

Armed Robbery on Little Rock Road

I’m not a criminal but I played one in a DART program.

Big Daddy had squeezed yet another contract out of Exxon. Our mission was to train gas station attendants in safety practices and, more importantly, how to sell tires and oil to unsuspecting customers.

We couldn’t find a station that would allow us on site during business hours so we rigged up some empty Exxon pumps on wheeled platforms and rolled them onto empty parking lots. There was a lot of sky in those shots.

For one special sequence, The Hold-up, we needed a real station. Big Daddy landed the perfect location, a seedy Gulf station on Little Rock Road. The gun-wielding, drug-addled thief would be played by me. To be on the safe side, we hired a security guard to be present on the night of the shoot. His job would be to warn approaching customers that the “robber” was only an actor and we were shooing a “movie.” Big Daddy would be on hand to make sure everything went as planned.

On the night in question, as I stood at the cash register brandishing my revolver, a woman walked in and screamed. I turned around and saw another customer ducking behind the Coke machine. I looked around for my people and realized I was on my own. I feared that the real cops would show up any second and take me down. A few minutes later, the rental cop emerged from the bathroom, zipping up his pants. Big Daddy had also stepped away--into the 7/11 next door for a six pack of beer.

Men of Steel, Revisited

Continuing our exploits in the steel industry, well-documented elsewhere by Wimpy, Big Daddy and I traveled to Georgetown, South Carolina to scope out the local steel mill. We took Big Daddy’s Winnebago and camped in Myrtle Beach State Park. After visiting the mill, about which I remember little, we returned to our campsite where Big Daddy prepared egg foo yung in the Winnebago’s tiny kitchen. After dinner, we went swimming in the ocean. Big Daddy floated out beyond the breakers, with just his head visible above the water, like Mao in the Yangtze.

Fear and Loathing at Redstone Arsenal

With his usual brio, Big Daddy snagged a Federal contract to develop a series of video training films at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. It was subcontracted to us by a minority contractor, a bit of a scam. Big Daddy had worked with video back in his Huntley-Brinkley days but was a bit rusty to say the least. I had zero experience with video.

We fired up the Big Daddy’s Winnebago, our latter-day mode of travel, and headed south, Schlitz cans jingling along the way. We found a suitably cheesy motel, where Big Daddy bribed the desk manager and his girl friend to serve as his personal attendants during our two-week stay.

Our subject matter experts, three retired Army Corps of Engineers, met us at the motel to brief us on the project. The videos we were to produce would demonstrate how to prepare the foundation for and then rapidly assemble large prefab metal buildings, for the purpose of housing military personnel or displaced citizens in the event of a nuclear attack. Big Daddy called the front desk for another bottle of Old Crow.

Each morning, as we passed through the front gate of the military reservation, Big Daddy would give the soldiers a lazy salute. In the lavishly equipped video studio, we pretended to know what we were doing but accomplished little. During breaks, we would retire to the RV for a drink.

Before long, the project got hung up on some distant bureaucratic reef. Big Daddy was getting pissed. In the end, we dumped the contract and drove home. It turned out to be Big Daddy’s last hurrah.


After Big Daddy's death, I ran Phoenix out of my home for several years. Mostly, I wrote scripts for a textbook publishing company in Ohio. But computers were making slide training technology obsolete, and I lacked Big Daddy’s ability to land new business. By 1986, the strange dream was over.

Background note:

Cardinal was my first white-collar job after college. I started in the Validation Department, where my role was to round up groups of volunteers and subject them to hands-on, audio-visual, vocational training and then to administer a post test, thereby “validating” the effectiveness of the programs. To that end, I worked with drug addicts in rehab, high school dropouts, boy scouts, and other hard-up or marginal members of the community willing to donate their time. Among other activities, I had them tuning up cars, laying courses of brick, making cuff links on a miniature metal lathe, and building foot stools with power saws. By some miracle, no one was ever injured during these adventures. Later on, I graduated to “writer/producer” and continued in the capacity through the Cardinal and Phoenix years.

DART vs. COMPAQ and Beyond

The COMPAQ portable PC from the early 1980s physically resembled Cardinal's DART programmed instruction machine from the early 1970s.

It had a small rectangular screen and came in a hardshell. Its dimensions and 'look' were similar.

The COMPAQ keyboard locked shut at the base, making it an awkward and ugly suitcase. This "portable" item weighed close to 30 pounds.

It was like lugging around a sewing machine.

DART also had a case, but the machine wasn't meant to be mobile. Its case was for extended travel only.

The COMPAQ ran on DOS, and had huge floppy drives. Even with input capability, the machine didn't really do much, in practical terms.

You could sit around and type in DOS commands all night long, boring yourself to tears, by asking the machine what time it was, or day, or what was in the directory.

Or you could simply curse at it:

C: \> dir:
C: \> date
C: \> F U

For a while, COMPAQ sold their machine with a gimmicky DOS program that enabled "conversation" between its user and the system. I can't recall the name of it (it was a "she" name, like some friendly chick shrink or something). COMPAQ promoted it as artificial intelligence. Actually it was little more than BASIC code used to generate random responses to a preset table of queries, trusting the law of averages to make it seem like the system's brain was providing a cogent response to a comment or question.

The DOS program was little better than the fortune-telling 8-Ball we used to play with as kids. You asked a question and it provided a random answer when you looked at its bottom and read the plastic indicator floating in a small sea of glycerin.

All in all, even with the addition of a text processor - primitive WordStar - the COMPAQ was junk. It didn't respond very well to users' needs, it wasn't interactive, and it didn't teach anyone much of anything. It didn't do much, period.

Except maybe instruct us to hold our cash for the next new and improved generation of PCs.

Cardinal's DART machine hardware had no operating system, of course. It was basically a filmstrip projector and audio tape player with capabilities to advance, stop, and replay on command.

With Cardinal's piggy-back cartridge "instructional unit" inserted (the 'software' or teaching program itself), the 1973 DART system was actually smarter, more versatile, and way more useful than a 1983 COMPAQ could ever hope to be.

Cardinal's system surpassed the other teaching machine klunkers (on left) of its era.

(None of our equipment or people looked as goofy, either.)

What we were doing was something very much like early CBT. Same methodology, different platform.

We were trail-blazing and largely unaware.

In its core concept, Cardinal espoused B.F. Skinner's (picture below) behavior modification theories. Skinner's book was required reading for new hires. It was kind of scary almost fascist-sounding stuff, and some of us thought it best not to over think it.

As it turned out -- putting aside Skinner and all attendant ISD methodology -- it was Cardinal's DART machine itself that was the real genius of Big Daddy's vision.

But the timing wasn't there, nor the buying customers, nor the economy and so forth. Maybe we could have done some things better, but mostly it was misfortune in the market place that did Cardinal in.

It's too bad. There was enough talent in our building to have made a real go at it. Maybe we could've even made all those millions of dollars that Big Daddy and the execs promised.

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again!

I don't know what Jones thought about Thomas Wolfe - probably not much.

This is where Conder's used to be - or close by. A yup place, as Bill says.

Beer Joints & Haunts #4

Conder's Sundries was like Cardinal's annex building, a sort of liquid cafeteria. If Big Daddy couldn't be located in the office, chances are he was there (and Jones too) having a cool one.

Boarders at the YMCA down the street also used it as a convenience store.

You could take a brief walk over the South Blvd. overpass and get a cold beer or a can of soup or chili patiently served up by Jim, the proprietor.

After I left Cardinal, Jones made a point of telling me that gentleman Jim sometimes "asked about me." He knew such a remark would always embarrass me.

Several times I met Jones there again, and on one occasion we ran into several members of the Cardinal annex crowd.

This is Jones' depiction of that day (click to expand picture).

Wm P's words are cut off, but it basically said "I didn't wanna see these f--kers." Not sure what Jones' "decision" refers to. It could be his periodic internal debate about wanting to stay employed with Cardinal.

Some other details:

  • Tom W has his empty "spoit" pipe and a "Stewart Granger" beer
  • Big Daddy is wearing his 1970s plaid pants and has an "Effete" beer
  • Morey Amsterdam (Head of Sales) is doing his cello act, and has a "Rickles" beer
  • Jones has a "Bayreuth" beer, a tribute to his Wagner opera obsession
Conder's has long since been closed and its space converted into some sort of sprawling tavern for Charlotte's Yup crowd.

Wm P's Supplement Video: Fear & Loathing in New York

(this is a companion piece to "Tom's "Fear & Loathing in NYC " video and cartoons)

This narrated video features Wm P's gnarly Tidewater accent.

Excerpt: "Tom's studies of the Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda had apparently saved his life.. "

Jones at Work

Here is Jones operating the machine that transferred slides to film strips.

He is being watched by the accusing image of O Donald. As Wm P noted in a previous post, the depiction of O Donald as stern authority figure might be a sort of shorthand for Jones' father.

I am the Tomas of various stobs.


Jones spells it "specters" which must mean something.

Something haunted the old man.

I think that's Wm P in the upper right but maybe not because the character seems a little too cheerful (even though wan).

Treplow (Manny) is there - gleefully sardonic.

O Donald is present - stern and shadowy.

I think that's K and me down at the bottom. We both seem angry - at Jones or just in general - it isn't clear. One of us says, "Nyahhhh".

Beer Joints & Haunts #3

The Boulevard Sundries on East Blvd. showed up in my old box of Cardinal pictures. I must have taken the shot when me and Jones were on a gump, driving through Dilworth.

It seemed Jones had a beer hangout in every sector of town. Barkeeps knew him and would automatically bring out a can of Schlitz.

As I recall, Boulevard Sundries was sparse and empty and beat to hell inside. There was a big counter that looked more like a food counter than a tavern bar. The heat worked pretty good though, and on a rainy winter day the place was cozy enough. Jones was hungry and scarfed down some sort of impossibly lame looking sandwich.

I went back to the location several years later, and it had been gentrified into a fine little cafe with fine old grinders and fine little micro-brews served by with-it people. Or maybe I dreamed that. Whenever I went beer-drinking in Dilworth, it was usually at the White Horse, a nice but slightly snobby white collar place with even more expensive grinders, conveniently close to Wm Wilkerson's fine old house of restoration and unabashed trendiness.

Beer Joints and Haunts #2

In the days of yore, there were two beer haunts in a two story building (since torn down) at this location on E. Morehead in Charlotte. Cardinal was located maybe a half mile to the right, toward town.

The haunt on the first floor (I don't remember the name) was the more acceptable place. We usually went there straight after work. Sometimes McGaughey and other management people joined us (or, more correctly, we joined them). There was something tartan or plaid about the place. But maybe I'm just dreaming that.

After an hour or so downstairs, we climbed the foul smelling stairs to the Upstairs Lounge. It was a topless joint and pool hall. You entered the place into the pool hall. Sometimes we played pool with the girls. A few, despite their attire (or lack thereof) were gimlet eyed pool sharks, not to be fooled with.

To the right was the place where the girls danced. For a time Jones announced the performances for free beer. Slick Eddie knew all girls. Maybe he had a professional relationship with some of them. Two were memorable, Little Miss Concord and a mountain girl whose name I don't remember. Little Miss Concord was small and exquisite. She could dance well. The mountain girl had a pretty face and large silicon breasts. She wore soiled lime green underwear. Generally the whole thing was dispiriting and sad.