The invitation was on the front page of the Caymanian Compass for Tuesday, 28 July, 1981.
Under the headline ‘Caymanians will see Royal Wedding’, a story by Angelyn Wong publicised the invitation extended by a young technician who loved to experiment. Everard Leacock, owner of Stereo City Electronics, invited people to the parking lot of his store to view the ceremony uniting Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in marriage the next day.
“We are 90 per cent sure we will be able to view the wedding,” Mr. Leacock told the reporter.
The wedding was at 11am London time, which translated to 4am in Cayman. Mr. Leacock said he and technician Robert (Bobby) Whorms worked until 1am setting up and fine tuning. They had a scaffold at either end of the parking lot and atop each was a 25-inch RCA television set. “People came and brought their own chairs or leaned against their cars,” Mr. Leacock recalled. Hundreds showed up.
“The picture was perfect,” Mr. Leacock said. The Compass reported in its next edition that the people who turned out “were able to view the entire occasion, from the ride to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the exchange of the wedding vows, and the ride back to Buckingham Palace.
Asked about the condition of his parking lot in the light of day, he replied, “You know, I don’t recall any litter.” He does recall the many letters and thank-you notes, some accompanied by gifts of flowers or plants, from people who appreciated being able to see such an historic event live.
He kept the cards and letters, but they were damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 along with other business documents.
In 1981 Mr. Leacock was celebrating the 12th anniversary of Stereo City. He had been employed as a communications technician with Cable and Wireless, but his hobby was music technology. “Hi-fi was the thing in those days,” he said, referring to high fidelity. “I was buying and connecting systems for friends and the hobby turned into a business.”
He resigned from Cable and Wireless and devoted himself to selling, installing and servicing stereo systems. The store also sold records.
Satellite TV on
TV came later. He was reading a lot about the technology of television reception and what was happening with satellites.
“We wanted to know if we could get satellite TV on the Island because people in the industry in other countries were using it for their broadcasts,” Mr. Leacock said. He explained that signals were sent to a satellite on an up-link; people with the right reception equipment captured the signals on a down-link.
Locally, people were experimenting with different devices, some building huge signal receivers out of wood and chicken wire.
There were TV sets in Cayman at the time, but everybody who had one also had a VCR – video cassette recorder – to play programmes that had been taped. Tape clubs abounded. Some sets may have occasionally picked up signals from Cuba, but not on a regular basis, Mr. Leacock said.
“We ended up investing US$60,000 in a 20-foot fibreglass antenna and all the equipment. Then Bobby and I spent weeks testing, playing with it, trying to find a signal. When the Royal Wedding was coming up, we found out that some European channels were going to broadcast it to the United States.” That event became their target date.
They fine-tuned and began receiving transmissions. On the morning of the wedding, “the feed started to flow and we were able to lock in,” Mr. Leacock reported.
“That day was the start of where we are today,” he summarised. His first customer for the new technology paid around US$23,000 for a satellite system. “The product got better and, as we started to sell more, the prices came down. When we started, that 20-foot antenna was the smallest you could use to get a signal; today you can get it with a four-foot antenna. And the system we paid US$63,000 for – today you can get it for US$1,200.”
As Stereo City’s business grew, its product line increased and today the expanded company premises is known as Brand Source Home Gallery. Still a communications technician at heart, Mr. Leacock has a connecting office for Dish Direct TV – a dedicated satellite TV service centre.
The link between the Royal Family and television is more than just a memory for him. When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited Cayman, Mr. Leacock was asked to install a temporary satellite TV system so that the royal visitors would have access if they wished. He did the wiring and put up a 12-foot dish. Afterward, he received a beautiful plaque from then-Governor Michael Gore. It was badly damaged in Ivan, but still proclaims, “In appreciation for your contribution towards the Royal Visit”.
Television has come a long way in the last 30 years. Just ask Everard Leacock.