RETIREE NOT YET RETIRED
| by Veronica Cooper, ’13
Thomas Dawson could actually enjoy his retirement from Buckeye Cable Systems in Toledo if he wasn’t still working.
Dawson, who was the director of government and community affairs, retired in 2009 after 40 years with the Toledo Blade and Buckeye Cable System, and was hired back as a consultant essentially doing what he was doing before.
Dawson’s 50-year career in journalism and the media began in 1963 when as a sophomore at BGSU majoring in journalism, he went to work for the Findlay Courier as a full-time reporter nights, while attending BGSU full time days. He kept that schedule through graduation in 1966.
He also had worked while in high school at the Dayton Daily News and a weekly newspaper in the Dayton area.
After Graduation from BGSU, he worked as an assistant director of development at Findlay College from 1966 to 1969 when he joined The Blade as an investigative reporter. He served as regional editor, suburban editor and night city editor.
In 1977, the paper’s owners had concerns over the future direction of newspapers with their high labor costs, and expensive delivery methods, and a news cycle that was often behind the electronic media.
Dawson said the late Paul Block Jr., who was publisher, told him, “I see the day when there is a large TV screen on everyone’s wall and we will have to deliver the news electronically so that they can read it on that screen.”
Block assigned Dawson to make that happen, sending him to Buckeye to develop more advanced delivery methods for the news via cable.
“What was there, was not user friendly,” Dawson said. “What we had was very elementary at the time because the equipment wasn’t there.”
In 1986, Dawson became a permanent part of the Buckeye cable operations as the FCC was pushing viability of a wireless cable system and the establishment of a multi-channel multi-point distribution system.
According to Dawson, educational television stations had not been able to make a go of the technology and the FCC turned it over to private enterprise to see if businesses would develop it.
He said Buckeye saw this as an opportunity and gave him the job of checking it out to see if this would be a viable business.
The new system would beam the signal into hard-to-wire areas such as shopping centers that were out of Buckeye’s footprint.
Dawson saw potential and Buckeye Cable applied for a license to test use the new technology.
The FCC application was inexplicably delayed. “The communications treaty between the United States and Canada calls for each country to have oversight over communication issues within 50 miles of the border,” Dawson said.
The Buckeye Tower is 38 miles from the Canadian border in Lake Erie and the application went to Ottawa.
Dawson said Canadian officials were sitting on everything that came north from the United States until they got an answer from then-President Reagan on the acid-rain issues. “So it had nothing to do with us,” Dawson said. “It was a political thing and they wanted to okay it.”
Another project Dawson oversaw was the development of TV5, an independent station. Under his leadership, the station drew more viewers.
As to the future, Allan Block, current chairman of Block Communications and Paul Jr.’s son, asked Dawson to write a book on the history of Buckeye. “When that is finished, hopefully in the next year or so, I plan to retire for good,” Dawson said.
After that, Dawson said he will continue in his volunteer activities, plus pursue his hobbies of photography, competitive pistol shooting and ammunition reloading, and motorcycle touring.
“I’ve been riding since 1957 and would like to ride coast to coast,” Dawson said. “I have already been around Lake Superior twice, to Québec, the Blue Ridge, southwestern Tennessee and points in between on the bike.”
He said he also plans to spend time with his son and grandchildren in Virginia, his daughter in Baltimore, and do some traveling.
“My wife and I have visited all the states except Hawaii, and hope to get there, as well as do some more International travel, “ Dawson said. “To paraphrase the late Henry Ford, when you don’t have anything productive to do, you’re ready to die. And I’m not ready for that just yet.”