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Windswept – Parker H. Vincent: 1916-1999

By Lala Dinsmore

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Parker Vincent

Parker Vincent, one of the major figures in the recent history of Mount Washington passed away at the Maine Medical Center in mid- October after a brief illness.

Parker had been educated as an electronics engineer, and worked in radio during his early years. In 1952, while an employee of the Rust Industrial Company, of Manchester, New Hampshire, he began to conduct a feasibility study for a group of investors interested in establishing a television transmitter facility on the summit of Mount Washington. The study took the better part of a year. Transmitting equipment arrived at the old Observatory in October of 1952, and was set up by Parker in the living room the following March. Then Chief Observer, Bruce Sloat, participated in the experimentation. At the conclusion of his assessment of television coverage from the summit, which had yielded very positive results, Parker accepted the responsibility for establishing a television station on the summit on behalf of the investment group headed by former Maine Governor, Horace Hildreth. The investment group became Mount Washington TV, Inc., and elected as its first president John W. Guider of Littleton, New Hampshire.

Though Parker's feasibility study did not overlook the difficulties of construction on Mount Washington, and anticipated problems with the harsh environment, the summer and fall of 1954 proved to be unusually bad with respect to weather. Hurricane Carol, for example, severely damaged the road over which he had to haul building supplies and equipment. It also drove his 35- man construction crew off the mountain for good. Other problems with red tape caused in part by continuing government interest in the Yankee Building, already under lease to the television company, combined to make the construction of the station a herculean task. Nevertheless, the station managed to go on the air in the fall of 1954 with the call letters WMTW-TV.

Parker, or "PV" as he came to be known, attributed his success to the "help of God" and to his independent, practical, and inventive Scottish heritage. He, as well, was a "rugged individual" in that tradition. He seemed able to accomplish whatever he set out to do, and had a reputation as a tough bargainer who could also be fair and compassionate. He helped the Observatory, and especially the summit staff, in many ways whenever he could do so without compromising either his principles or his priorities. Without Parker's cooperation, the museum could not have been established in the Yankee building. He served as a Trustee of the Observatory from 1975 to 1982, and retired as Chief Engineer of WMTW-TV in 1983.

Parker was the father of Lee Vincent, author of Ten Years on the Rockpile and Instant Legends from the Rockpile, who served as Summit Shift Supervisor for WMTW in the sixties and seventies, more or less until the time of his death in 1977.

Parker Vincent was born in Malden, Massachusetts, and spent his youth on Cape Cod where, in 1937, he married Madelyn "Pal" Bassett, who survives him. He leaves three daughters, Madelyn Huffmire, Anne Durand, and Valerie Vincent, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

 

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