A week ago, Friday, a group of us met at Murphys Pizza Plus to celebrate Paul Moeller. While there are many things to treasure here, Paul is considered by the community to be “Our Local Treasure.” Like a blogger, he always has his camera and takes pictures wherever he goes, a lifelong habit. But his major accomplishment, among many, since retiring here in 1964, is having founded Public Access Television in 1983. Our Board of Supervisors didn’t know what Public Access was. He had to educate them before we could get consideration in the cable contract for channel access. Paul got a studio built in 1992 when we had no money. And he produced over 3,000 shows for Calaveras Community Television, Public Access. Except for studio equipment, those shows have been shot and edited on his own equipment. I’m proud to say, I am one of the founding members of CCTV.
I wrote the reason for our celebration on the Pizza Parlor’s blackboard. The mortgage on our studio, named for him, has been paid off. None of the counties around, Amador, Tuolumne, not the big cities closest to us, Modesto or Stockton, have a studio. Only Sacramento has a studio. Our studio is considered the Jewel of the Mother Lode. We’ve had offers to rent it from Reno, Tahoe, Lodi and other entities. Claveras High School, and Columbia College at one time held video classes there. It is an exclusive and valuable asset to our community, just like Paul.
In 1992, Paul went to the carpentry class at Calaveras High and asked if our non-profit, CCTV raised the money, could the class build us a studio? Yes! The class started the foundation upon Paul’s design and volunteer Betty Deakin’s professional drawing. But then, school was out, and the kids and teachers all went home. Did I mention that Paul has a fierce work ethic, he is impatient and likes to get things done now?
Paul spoke to local Supervisor Dick Gorden and he said, “You know, we need a studio. Do you know anyone who could help us?” Gorden knew Contractor Gary Hensley, who was trying to keep his crew working when work was slow. Hensley’s first question was: “How much do you pay your people?” Paul told him, we are all volunteers, we pay nothing. “How about programs, and mileage and gas and stuff like that” Paul repeated, nothing, we don’t get mileage or gas, or video tapes. Everyone volunteers and pays for everything including their own cameras and equipment. We pay nobody. Hensley was in. With promise of help, the bank gave us a loan for $84,000 for materials, at 12% interest, secured by the County from funds from the Cable Company designated for Public Access. Hensley is the guy in the center in the white shirt with his crew around him taking a break. Paul is videotaping.
The crew would come in at 6 a.m. and work half a day for us, then go to their paid job for the rest of the day. Our only cost was to bring a load of volunteers to unload lumber, have it ready for them, provide water and bring a picnic lunch for everyone before they left. In three weeks, we had the shell of our building finished. By the way, it sits on leased land belonging to the Calaveras County Water District with a very generous lease of $1 per year guaranteed for over 25 years.
Local contractors did work, and many of them donated their time. Even PG&E returned our check for a permit to hook up.
Paul called the sheet-rockers on stilts, acrobats. Once the electrician, plumber, air conditioning and window guys were gone, the rest was up to the volunteers.
Paul installed the many spotlights. We painted and got donated pieces of used carpet that we taped to the floor like a patchwork quilt. Spray painted egg cartons became sound proofing on the ceiling. Paul found a second hand studio curtain for $700. ($5,000 new). He built a stage and sets.
None of this would have happened if the Supervisors, the local business people, the water company and the community did not believe it could be done under Paul’s tenacious and unrelenting work habits. Always punctual. Always there, wherever and whenever needed or asked. We’ve shared a lot of productive years together volunteering in this county. On Thursday, our “local treasure” was in a serious car accident. Somehow, he failed to see a red light and T boned another car at the intersection.
Paul was seriously injured and taken to Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. But, before they took him away in an ambulance, he took pictures-OF COURSE.
Before I got to his house yesterday afternoon, he had already developed and printed pictures for me to see.
Both cars were totaled. The wheel sitting in the middle of the intersection is from his car.
He had two shoots arranged for today, and was willing to cancel one, but the other he must do, he told me on the phone. Our Studio manager, Ed Lark, convinced him he would take over his shoot and Paul could edit it. Paul reluctantly agreed. He has another show on the 22nd that he expects to do.
He is soon to be 85 years old. His sternum and back have suffered major trauma. He can barely get up and down from a chair. It is even more painful to lie down and rest. He is walking with difficulty and is on major pain medications. He can lift nothing with his left arm. Could I find someone to help him with the shoot? I told him I would hire some-one to set up his camera and unload his van that he uses for location shoots. I then called his anchor person, Mearl Lucken, and asked him if HE could talk Paul into resting and let somebody else do his programs for a couple of weeks. Whatta ya’ gonna do with a guy like that? But, now you know why we have a jewel in the Motherlode, because our “local treasure” is a hard working, trusted and admired individual who never gives up.
Paul lost his wife of 65 years two years ago. He named his driveway, Martha Lane. He told me he pats her pillow every night and says goodnight to her. Now it is our turn to take care of our “Local Treasure”, if he will let us.