COURTESY CHRIS KAM
Master Control operator Herman Kam is retiring from KITV. He joined the station in 1958.
Lots of memories to walk out the door
Close to 120 years of institutional memory are leaving KITV
, as co-workers bid three long-time employees a fond retirement today.
Master Control operator Herman Kam was hired in 1958, before the advent of color television.
Master Control technician Ned Sperling started as a director in 1969, about an hour after landing at Honolulu airport.
Chief Engineer Bill Van Keulen started in 1977, after jobs involving missile systems.
It's a big deal that all three have First-Class Radiotelephone Operator's Licenses from the Federal Communications Commission.
No longer required by the FCC, proof of such a high level of technical knowlege is reverence-worthy, nevertheless.
Kam started out as a laborer at Pearl Harbor, but passed successive civil-service tests to rise to a job where "I can sit down and work."
Eight hours of filing IBM cards made him think about getting into electronics, which meant quitting his job for school on the mainland.
"Do it," his pastor said, because if he didn't, he would look back and regret it, Kam recalls.
Once home he took a job at KULA radio, a sister-station of what is now KITV.
Kam quickly earned a spot with the TV station by fixing a problem in a piece of complex circuitry. He didn't know the chief engineer had created it as a test.
Now 78, after five decades of TV innovation, the grandfather of four said, "I'm glad I chose this career. I never regretted it." His son Chris is also a KITV master control operator.
Ned Sperling's job as a director was literally waiting for him.
"I stepped off the plane at noon and directed my first show at 1," he said.
He directed countless shows starring a who's who of Hawaii including Don Ho, Don Robbs, Betty Smyser and more -- then transitioned to engineering.
He has been a fixture at KITV -- and his tenure is emblazoned over one particular station fixture.
As KITV prepared its current South King Street studios, station operations were shifting toward having a single master-control operator on duty. So Sperling suggested the men's room be moved closer.
"They changed the floor plan," he said. Today, in the men's room a plaque denotes, "The Ned Sperling Memorial Urinal."
He hasn't decided how he'll spend retirement.
"I'm single ... I'm also an excellent cook, if anybody's looking," he laughed.
Sperling, 74, stayed so long because, "it was fun, it wasn't difficult, and the people, you know, they've been my family."
Turning 66 next week, engineer Bill Van Keulen is the whippersnapper of the trio.
After work on ballistic missile systems, Van Keulen got into cable television and moved to Hawaii in 1971 to join Oceanic.
Van Keulen eventually joined KITV and became part of the engineering team that oversaw construction of the first digital TV station in the U.S.
Van Keulen plans to focus on fishing when he moves to Washington state. The father of six has four grandchildren including one in the Seattle area.
"Twice a week he calls," to make sure grandpa has the fishing poles, he chuckled.
KITV President and General Manager Mike Rosenberg hopes they will come back for visits. "These are three guys who have put a lot of years in ... they have great institutional knowledge and you can't replace that."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com