Stan Chambers Sticks To His Knitting

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Let every
man abide in the same calling wherein he was called (I Corinthians
7:20).

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian church, he advised
men to stay in their callings. This did not necessarily mean their
occupations. A calling is a higher form of service, the most important
thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.

Yet in some cases, your calling can be your occupation. If you can
get consumers to pay you to do your best and most important work,
Paul’s advice becomes relevant for your career. Stick to your knitting.

In a world where men measure their success by a series of career
moves, either up or out, Stan Chambers is there to remind us all:
“Stick to your knitting.” When you find something you do well, and
someone is willing to pay you to do it, keep doing it.

MAKING
BIG PLANS

Stan Chambers joined TV station KTLA in 1947, when there were about
300 TV sets in the Los Angeles area. He was a reporter — not
an anchor man, a reporter. He is still there, still reporting. If
there is a multi-vehicle car wreck on a major freeway, Stan Chambers
will be there, telling viewers all about it.

He is among my earliest memories of television. Sometime around
1949, I watched a local TV show called (I think) “A Day at the Beach.”
KTLA sent a crew to the beach on the weekend to cover an entire
day of its personalities doing essentially nothing in the sand.
Whether the show was weekly or a one-timer, I do not recall. If
it was weekly, then we get some idea of TV in 1949.

One of the personalities that day was Stan Chambers. He and his
female co-host were dressed in swim suits. They had a special event
planned. They would later go up in a hot air balloon. The balloon
was being filled.

I don’t know how long that day’s show lasted. Four hours, minimum,
I think. It may have been longer. I cannot imagine that I watched
it from start to finish. I must have done channel-flipping —
preparation for adult life — but coming back periodically to
see that promised hot air balloon event. This much, I do remember:
that balloon never did fill. They ended the show with the balloon
flapping in the breeze, just as it had when the show began.

For a seven-year-old, that show was a good lesson for life. Plans
don’t always work out, especially when everyone is watching.

A
LIFETIME CAREER

Because of the immense amount of capital that has been invested
over the past two centuries, the modern world has an amazing range
of occupations. Each additional unit of capital must fund something
for which there was no previous capital available. This means that
markets become increasingly specialized. New products, new services,
and new careers spring up daily.

As occupations get more specialized, men find that they can match
their unique talents, skills, and interests with consumers’ desire
to buy. Consumers want ever-more specialized products to purchase.
Producers seek to supply these.

The result is the phenomenon of career specialization. Men get promoted.
They leave employers. They move away. They change careers. This
is considered normal. Constant change is a way of life.

Except for Stan Chambers. For him, it is the same old job, doing
the same old things. Yet he covers the news, so each event is not
quite the same. There is constant change around him and constant
change around his viewers. He is the one visible constant.

There are viewers in Los Angeles whose earliest memories of television
are of Stan Chambers on-screen. They are now approaching retirement.
From kindergarten to Medicare, they have seen him reporting on car
wrecks or riots in South Central Los Angeles.

This is simply unheard of, or, in his case, unseen of.

There is something emotionally comforting about his career. We rarely
see stability like this. We do not see a man hone his skills, doing
the same job, decade after decade. TV celebrities come and go. Tom
Brokaw was a TV anchorman in Los Angeles in 1977. He is now retired.
Stan Chambers was on-screen three decades before Brokaw. He is still
on-screen.

He outlasted Huntley and Brinkley. He outlasted Walter Cronkite
and Cronkite’s replacement. He outlasted everyone.

There is that old line, “I’ll dance on your grave.” Stan Chambers
did not dance on anyone’s grave. But I suspect that he reported
on the traffic jams caused by a lot of celebrity funerals.

THE
CASE FOR STABILITY

His career illustrates a strategy: start at the bottom in a new
industry and ride it all the way up. KTLA in 1947 looked a lot like
that hot air balloon. Some people thought it would fill, but nobody
knew when.

You don’t have to get promoted to have influence. You don’t have
to move up or out. You can identify an area of service and then
stick with it. Stan Chambers spotted his opportunity to serve consumers
in 1947 and saw no reason to quit. Viewers came and went; station
owners (including Gene Autry) came and went. He stayed put.

But did he make a difference? With respect to this or that car wreck,
no. Anyone could have done what he did. With respect to a career
model, I cannot think of a better example of sticking to your knitting.
There, he has made a difference. There, he has become a legend,
“of which there is no whicher.”

If you find a niche early in life where you and consumers can work
out a deal, why go looking for something new?

If you start out in your community, and you keep making contributions
to your community, you will gain influence in your community. The
fact that you stay put, stick to your knitting, do a serviceable
job, and bear your share of responsibility, without leaving your
neighbors behind in a personal quest for significance, will itself
make you significant. Why? Because hardly anyone does this any more.

Stan Chambers is living proof that it can be done and should be
done by those who have an opportunity to do it.

So, to Stan Chambers, I say: “Thanks for the memories, even if the
only clear one I have is a hot air balloon that did not fill in
the time allotted for the show.”

The shows must go on.

September
19, 2005

Gary
North [send him mail] is the
author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible
.

Gary
North Archives

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