YEAR 1959

Sabotage, sadness & show biz

By Larry Chabot
Baseball fans were upset: the World Series was starting but TV screens in the channel 6 viewing area were dark! It was early October 1959 and calls and letters were pouring in (“none of them complimentary,” said a station employee). The signal cutoff had irritated viewers and cost the station many thousands of dollars.
The cause of the outage was so elusive that the station lost programming for several days, which included the first three World Series games, before the mystery was solved. A probe by the station, police, and others narrowed the search to a microwave relay tower in Lathrop in Delta County, 50 miles from the station, where they found evidence of sabotage. “Only a TV engineer or technician would have the knowledge to do something like this,” said one of the investigators. And they were right.
On October 5, the story broke on page one of the Mining Journal: “Sabotage Of TV Operations Here Brings Arrest.” The day before, Harold William Lindgren had been arrested at his Marquette home on charges of damaging the tower. In a signed confession, he admitted driving to Lathrop in the dark, climbing a fence, and placing a device “smaller than a baseball” in the microwave station, which disrupted the relay from Green Bay. According to the Journal story, Lindgren, an engineer at WLUC-TV, had been fired on Sept. 10 for insubordination and sought revenge by blacking out the World Series. Rumor had it that the device was a Brillo pad.
Despite his signed confession, Lindgren hired a lawyer and pled not guilty. He was released on $5,000 bond and ordered to have a mental exam. His wife told the court that she was taking him to the Veterans Administration office in Milwaukee. Lindgren, who had three children, was reportedly an ex-serviceman on disability pension.
While all this was going on, station manager John Brogen announced that broadcasting would start at 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, beginning with Captain Kangaroo. The station had previously waited until 3 p.m. to go on the air. It was a busy year for the station: the call letters were changed from WDMJ to WLUC and the operation moved from downtown Marquette to Negaunee Township.

Thinking he was at the dump, the stowaway con decided to make a run for it. (Mike McKinney illustration)

A garbage truck leaving the Marquette Branch Prison was hiding inmate Mike Gisondi, who avoided the sharp spears the guards used to poke the stink pile to make sure guys like Mike weren’t hiding there. Gisondi had crawled beneath a steel sheet at the bottom of the pile, so the spears just clanked off his steel shield. Once outside the gate, a barrel toppled off the truck and the inmate driver stopped to put it back. Gisondi thought they had reached the dump so he jumped out and ran into the woods behind the prison. He eventually found a gas station where he stole money, snacks, and a pickup truck. Eight days later, he was caught climbing out the window of a cabin in western Marquette. The penalty for escaping was more time in prison for him and a buddy who had helped him flee…

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