During the summer of 1997, between my Sophomore and Junior years of college, I had what I like to call my “Vermont Student Summer”. During the day I’d scoop Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, sometimes AT the Vermont Teddy Bear factory. And at the end of the day, I’d drive straight up Shelburne Road to my internship in the Sports Department at WCAX. I’d arrive during the 6p newscast (usually smelling of cream and chocolate) and be settled by the time the show was ending and the anchors were filing out of the studio.
Compared to the newsroom I see every day now, WCAX was small and and pretty plain. But at the time, it was the most exciting place I could imagine. Nobody outside of Vermont will understand this, but I saw Marselis Parsons, Sharon Meyer and JJ Cioffi every day. EVERY DAY. Sure, it seems silly now. But, like any kid in any city, I’d grown up watching the local news team every night at 6:00. It didn’t matter that they were just up I-89 in Burlington…these people were on TV.
One of my favorite stories from that summer was when I was working at Ben & Jerrys one Saturday and Marselis Parsons, 6pm anchor and known to friends & colleagues as “Div”, walked into scoop shop. I was still rather new to the station and, being a sports intern, I hadn’t had that much contact with the newsroom team. Still, I saw somebody I recognized and my reflex was to smile and say Hi. For a second, I panicked and worried that he’d think I was an over-familiar fan or worse…a complete dork. Instead, he smiled warmly and said “Hi Jessica!” and introduced me to his entire group as “the newest intern on the sports crew”. Then he said “I wondered if I’d ever bump into you here.” After I scooped their ice cream, he left a good tip and told me he’d see me Monday. It should be said that this entire time there was not one other sound in the ice cream shop. Everyone was staring (some which their mouths open) and as soon as the door shut, they (co-workers, customers) were asking me how I knew Marselis Parsons. My manager later remarked that “Robert Redford came into the shop a few years ago and didn’t get even close to that reaction.”
It’s been 10 years since I left Vermont for
the glitz & glamour of 24 hours news, but I still love watching the WCAX 6pm news when I’m home. It just sounds comforting….the opening music, the news about agriculture, the softness (or complete lack) of the letter ‘T’. Marselis’ voice is the background while I’m helping my mom set the table or sitting on the couch with my dad. Unfortunately, next time I go home, the 6 o’clock news will be a little less familiar.
Tonight, Div will say good-bye to his WCAX viewers and the people who have spent a life-time watching him. He’ll wake up tomorrow retired and not having to be somewhere at 6:00 every night. After 42 years, he’ll have absolutely no professional obligation to know what’s happening in Vermont (although something tells me he’ll never quite turn away).
Unlike the long-time anchors in bigger markets, Parsons isn’t slick or flashy. He has no need to be. He’s not some Ron Burgundy-esque blow-hard, full of ego. He doesn’t have molded hair or strangely white veneers. He’s just a guy…the guy you get your news from.
But, you know, he’s still sort of a superstar to me.
Happy Retirement Div.