Gifts That Matter

This holiday season reminds me of a gift I received more than 45 years ago. It was a stopwatch. And it brings back memories every time I use it.

I was directing live news and special events at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland. WJZ is best known as the springboard for Oprah Winfrey’s phenomenal career and newscaster Jerry Turner. Jerry’s 6 PM weekday newscast regularly garnered a 50+ rating and 80+ share. Viewership numbers that will never again be seen in our fragmented media universe.

In those days, I was a brand-new director – working in a large market for the first time and learning professional directing on the job. I was like a swan – placid competence on the surface with a lot of frantic paddling under water.

One of the shows I directed was a Sunday morning talk/variety show hosted by Larry Angelo. Typical of morning talk shows from then till now, it featured a little bit of everything: interviews, music, cooking, dance, comedy, news — whatever the producers could find to book for that week.

Harriett Morganstern was one of the associate producers on that show. Harriett’s mother (Irene) ran the switchboard and reception for the station with, shall we say, a firm hand. Harriett was hard-working, conscientious, a little bit silly, and a little bit shy. But we could always count on her whenever a live show started veering off the rails. Not that this ever happened… much.

All the stories you read about the early days of live TV are true – whatever could go wrong did go wrong and at the worst possible moment – with the world watching and no safety net. (Several of the bloopers on my watch are still gaining hits on YouTube many, many years later.)

One holiday Harriett gave me a Heuer stopwatch. It became an indispensable part of my life. I used it timing the rapid-fire elements of newscasts, pre-records for talk shows, live events for the network; even today, almost five decades later, I still use it to time many of my computer performance tests.

Yes, there is a stopwatch built into my phone, but this Heuer is easier to use, fits better in my hand and provides exactly the amount of accuracy that I need. Plus, every time I pick it up it reminds me of people and times that will never come again.

All too often, we think the cost of a gift is what’s important. But that’s misleading.

A gift acknowledges that someone is important to us. To this day, I don’t know if Harriett had romantic motives in giving this expensive gift. But, to this day, I think of her and remember that show every time I pick it up.

Gifts that matter come from the heart and remind each of us that we are important to someone else. May your gifts, this holiday season, live in the hearts of those that receive them and be received equally warmly in yours.

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12 Responses to Gifts That Matter

  1. Peter Phillips says:

    Thank you for this lovely reminiscence, Larry. Happy Holidays!

  2. Brendan Deere says:

    Probably the best article of the year – thanks for all your work.
    Best regards.

  3. Merry Christmas Larry! Beautifully stated. Thank you for being the gift you are.

  4. Laura Chick says:

    Thank you Larry for this poignant reminder that the gift and the giver are important. The gift is a symbol of the valuable gift of the relationship between the giver and the receiver. Your story highlights that truth. Merry Christmas.

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Laura – and everyone:

      Thank you for your kind words!!

      I’ve thought about writing this story for years. But I could never find the right time – or the right words.

      This year, both came together.

      Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and all you love.


  5. Jackie says:

    This brightened my Christmas morning!

  6. Evan Fitzer says:

    Merry Christmas, Larry.
    What a terrific little story that brought back a flood of memories, as, I too, cut my teeth directing live News, Telethons and Talk Shows in my formative years, and I can certainly relate to that gift of a stopwatch. That you’ve kept it all these years, and still use it puts an bigger smile on my face.
    Thanks for all your articles and insight. I glean something new with every newsletter I receive.
    Cheers to you and yours…
    Evan Fitzer
    Kamloops, BC, Cdn.

  7. Dave M says:

    What a wonderful anecdote, Larry.

    I’ve heard it said more than once, and agree with my personal experience, that the best gifts are those that someone can use daily. It does take a bit of thought to suss out such a gift. More than the gift itself, it shows a real interest in, or concern for, the other person.

    Best wishes to all!

  8. Dave M says:

    The only thing better than your recollection, Larry, would be if Harriett somehow sees it, or you were to pass it along to her. It might be just the thing that brings a sparkle to her day, and could be much needed… you never know…


  9. Patrick Flaherty says:

    Larry, I love this story and I appreciate that you step away from the lessons learned in our field to take a moment to remind us of the people who make up this industry and how a simple act of gratitude and kindness has an impact on us. I am so thankful for the many gifts you have given us over the years. Happy holidays to you.
    BTW I grew up with Jerry Turner and Al Sanders both of them where a class act.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      One of the joys in my life was spending four years working with Jerry Turner and Al Sanders. They were incomparable – and just as nice in person as they were on screen. Don Scott and I still keep in touch.


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