Mel Elzea, a native Vandalian, will be the guest speaker at the Vandalia Area Historical Society meeting on Friday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Elzea says that he has fond memories of his hometown and has written a book entitled “All About m.e.”
His career includes 14 years in the broadcast television industry, nine and a half years in pioneering broadcast FM radio and 25 years originating mobile units for cable networks and broadcast television stations.
He spent 10 years developing a marketing plan for the registered Mojave Slim cartoon character. Mel speaks with humor he gained from his father, George Clark Elzea, but he says it has multiplied by a 100 since working with the character.
He once was told that he didn’t talk until he was 3 years old but those who know him say “Mel hasn’t stopped since!”
Elzea promises to present stories about his first eight years of life with his brother Horton and buddy Wilfred Jackson on W. Walsh Blvd. along with other remembrances.
Profile by Charlene Teague
If you ever had the chance to talk with Mel since his leaving Vandalia, you could have bumped into him somewhere in America or even the Caribbean. This hometown boy only lived in Vandalia his first eight years but speaks as though he never left it.
Having visited the Historical Society’s two store complex, he was most complimentary and shared part of his desire to come back and spend more time to see what has been done in detail. He was back in this area experiencing a high school graduation Class of 1953 in Bowling Green, Mo. down the road a piece. He state that he would be willing to speak at one of the monthly meetings or at least to talk to those that show up. He may ask the audience more questions as he has always felt participation is better than falling asleep.
Here is the nut shell of Mel’s career that unfolded from the age of comprehension until now.
Mel was born as Melvin Lee Elzea, one block off Main and W. Walsh Blvd., on the second floor of the Miller two story southwest corner house. His life started at night, 10 minutes until 10 p.m. on the 10th day of January 1936.
His first teacher was his mom, a single room Butler country school house teacher that was north of Vandalia. His first three years of schooling were in Vandalia. The next eight years he attended Bowling Green, Mo. schools where he excelled in sports, music, and academically. Mel graduated from Bowling Green High School in the spring of 1953.
That spring, Mel moved to Palmyra, Mo. with his parents, George and Frances. That summer he erected grain storage units for Kaden’s Farm Equipment and he also worked for the Edgemore Boiler Companies project where he mixed hydrocon cement by hand for a boiler baffler at the REA power generation plant at Marion City on the Mississippi River.
Mel raised enough funds so he could enter the acting profession. He lived with his Uncle Fred until receiving a letter from home from his mother that changed the direction of his thinking that fall. Her letter was the trigger that caused Mel to spend the next 50 years working in broadcast television, pioneering that industry’s real beginning by joining in its development.
Mel and Frank developed a small communications company on the side and while doing so they both pioneered the first SCA band development with the WGEM AM-FM TV Gates-Harris of Quincy, Ill.
Part-time sales of Music by Muzak garnered him international recognition in an in-house monthly that was distributed worldwide to 242 franchises. Mel thought his opportunities were going to be limited by remaining any longer than the 14 years spent with Quincy broadcasting.
He has his friend, the Chief Engineer Frank Laughlin, that built WGEM television at the age of 25 found out about the 92.9 FM frequency. The two perfectionists filed on the FM frequency in Hannibal and won over the AM station bid because of their duopoly that would have frequencies overlapping with their Moberly FM station, which was illegal until Ronald Reagan deregulated the FCC.
This accomplishment was done when he turned 31. Missing television, they both decided to sell their part of the station and the Great River Communications Corporation to the other partners who were trying a takeover any way. Taking his first vacation in years, Mel and his wife went to Cancun and Frank and his wife and son went to Hawaii.
Because of Mel’s depth of knowledge in television in radio production, sales, and management along with Frank’s great engineering genius, it allowed them to pioneer advancements ahead of the networks. Their first mobile production unit allowed them to pioneer origination for cable in America. It became not only the only active partnership but allowed them to be the only independent privately owned mobile production company.
They, along with their sons, eventually covered the nation from Tulsa, Okla. for a record 25 years. After a great ride, they hung up their spurs in February 2003. After a year off, Mel started a cartoon caricature project that he has been working on for 10 years.
After his October visit last year to Vandalia’s Historical Society, at the persuasion of Charlene Teague, he has written a family history from his birth on W. Walsh Blvd. as he know is. And a factual true family story that his brother Horton so eloquently told about three boys in Vandalia that traversed its named streets.
Mel, being the third and youngest of the trio of adventurers, will talk about the two accompanying adventuresome stories he will complete in 2014. He promises to present those stories and some of his book that is finished but is still in the process of going to a publisher.
It is titled “All About m.e.”
The story starts when Mel was 5 years old in a church pew in Vandalia and ends in the Vandalia Historical Society in July with you, only if you make the July meeting on Friday the 18th. See you there?ˆ