for Central Illinois' First TV Station
On April 14th 1953
the FCC announced that the TV Freeze would be lifted
on July 1, 1952. The FCC was once again to grant TV licenses to
applicants across the country. This time, they would be granting
permits for television station owners to build television facilities to
broadcast on the new ultra high frequency band. In fact, the new
rules would allow for 617 Very High Frequency (VHF), 1436 Ultra High
Frequency (UHF) stations and would establish zones with mileage
requirements for separation of stations along with establish antenna
In September of 1952, the first commercial UHF
station went on the air
in Portland, Oregon on channel 27. It would be less than a year
later that central Illinois would not only see it’s first TV station,
but it would be one of the new UHF stations on channel 17 broadcasting
from Decatur. On December 16, 1952 it was announced that the
Prairie Television Company of Decatur, Illinois applied and received
permission to build central Illinois’ first TV station. W.L.
Shellabarger, who said the facility would be built with a budget
$250,000, headed the company. Even though the FCC approved the
original license with the station broadcasting from a 350-foot tower,
the license was modified and later approved for a 600-foot broadcasting
WTVP, Channel 17 test pattern printed in the Decatur Herald and Review)
By February of 1953, the man who would be General
announced, Harold G. Cowgill.
In an interview, said that he
hoped to pick up network programs from a microwave link which was
under construction between Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis. The
link would include a series of microwave towers which would run on a
path which would take it west of Springfield. From a repeater
there, it would be microwaved to another link which would take it to
the studios of the new Decatur station. He also stated that the
station would air programs from CBS, NBC, DuMont and ABC. He
continued, “TV stations unlike radio, do not need to contract for
exclusive use of one network.” He also would soon announce the
plans for the building of the actual facility in Decatur.
left: photo of WTVP antenna on the ground before being mounted on the
broadcast tower at the rear of the studio on South Lake Shore Drive in
Decatur. From the Decatur Herald and Review)
from the Decatur Herald and Review
to be on WTVP Formal Opening Sunday
"Mayor Robert E. Willis will appear
WTVP at 5pm Sunday to formerly open the Decatur TV station's regular
"This was announced yesterday by Harold G.
Cowgill, WTVP general manager.
Cowgill said the opening
program will be a 15 minute show during which Mayor Willis will
welcome Decatur's first television station on the air.
station officials will appear with the major.
program will follow the opening show. One will be a dramatic film
based on the Bible, titled “Living Book,” and the other will be
the first in a series of programs by Decatur churches."
will continue with regular programs until 11pm Sunday.
Monday the station will be on the air daily at 4pm. Programs will
run to 11pm Sunday through Thursday and late shows will be presented
on Friday and Saturday nights.
During the last week, WTVP has
been showing its test pattern to viewers in Central Illinois. Cowgill
said morning and afternoon test patterns probably will
continue for a while after regular programs begin."
servicemen use the patterns to make adjustments in TV sets."
Television Set Sales Increase
sky-rocketing all over the territory(Central Illinois),” R.R. Crum
of Crum Distributing Company, Decatur appliance wholesalers, said
Crum, the only TV set wholesaler in
Decatur, said shipments to dealers have “tripled” since Station
WTVP actually put it's signal on the air.
Dealers in Mattoon,
Taylorville, Lincoln and Monticello report that reception of the
Decatur ultra high frequency station is “perfect” with an Aerial,
Most sets sold until recently have been
very high frequency but Crum reports now “it is almost impossible
to sell a set that does not pick up UHF.”
signal put out during the testing of Station WTVP, Crum said, “It
is a better picture than I've ever seen on any TV station—and I've
seen a lot of them”
WTVP Sign-On Staff
By March, the station announced the hiring of 28 year old James C.
Wulliman, originally of Tuscola as Chief Engineer. He came
Decatur from Connersville, Indiana where he was an engineer at WCNB
AM/FM for five years. Before that, he did broadcast engineering
for the military, as well as engineering at WDZ, Tuscola in his early
days. (continued text below)
from the Decatur Herald and Review:
WTVP Antenna is Lifted from Truck August
"The 52-foot antenna for station WTVP is
hosted from a truck at the station yesterday afternoon following it's
delayed arrival. The antenna will remain on display until a special
crew arrives to place atop the 550-foot tower. The station expects
to have the antenna in place by Tuesday."
WTVP Open House Sunday
Television Station WTVP will hold an
open house from 10am to 3pm Sunday at its station on Route 47 just
west of the junction with Route 51, south of the city.
There will be no actual programming
during the open house, but visitors will be able to see themselves on
closed circuit television.
organization has been completed
and all equipment for the opening of the station has been received.
station will go on the air after
installation and testing of the antenna, which arrived yesterday and
final inspection by the Federal Communications Commission."
from the Decatur Herald and Review:
Antenna Cracks Rig; New Lifting Effort
Workmen will make a second attempt
today to raise the WTVP-TV antenna to the top of the station’s
Hundreds of persons watched yesterday
afternoon as the antenna was hoisted about half of the way up the
The work was delayed when a gin pole at
the top of the tower appeared to be cracking under the strain. Workmen
felt it would be too risky to raise the antenna the rest of
A new gin pole, or telephone pole, was
put on top of the tower late yesterday afternoon in preparation for
today's antenna raising operations.
Work is expected to resume
about 8am and the antenna should be on it's way up the tower by 11am,
a WTVP spokesman said.
The antenna, delayed several times
because of tests at the manufacturers, tested “perfectly” on the
ground Friday night, station officials said.
After it is
installed the antenna will be tested again. Then the station will
begin its test pattern.
Harold G. Cowgill, vice president
and general manager of WTVP said the station hopes to be on the air
with a test pattern Monday night.
All tests must be completed
before the Federal Communications Commission will grant approval for
the station to go on the air with regular programming, Cowgill said.
While antenna work was going on
yesterday afternoon Station WTVP was playing host to about 500
persons at a private opening party.
Guests were shown through the station
building and entertainment was provided by Jim Ameche, star of the
Silver Eagle network television show and Chet Roble and “Studs”
Turkel, who began a network TV show in Chicago this week.
among the special guests was Franklin Wait, chief writer for the
Welcome Travelers radio and television shows. He is a son of Arthur
Wait of Decatur.
Today the television station located on
Southside Drive, will have an open house for the public from 10am to
to right: James C. Wulliman, chief engineer; Paul Taff, program
director; Harold G. Cowgill, vice-president and general manager; and
Crocker, account executive; Steven French, account executive; and
Downey Hewey, commercial manager
(Mr. Hewey is a
contributor to this website. His recollections are below)
Wulliman, chief engineer with Charles Marden, Engineer
Leonard, producer-director with Maureen Sullivan, art director
Barley, projectionist and Delores Ryan, women's director
Scales, film editor; Elinor Owens, traffic manager; Bill Hayduck, set
designer; Marion Bort, continuity director
Pianka, assistant chief engineer; Nils Hunt, engineer
Scales, film director
P. Burley, projectionist is shown behind a couple of 16mm film
projectors which were used to air programming. The film
projectors would face a series of mirrors that would send the images
into one video camera. The mirrors allowed the correct video to
be switched into the video camera.
unidentified WTVP staff engineer is shown in front of a number of rack
panels of equipment, including an audio tape deck at the far left.
shot is taken from the control room looking through the window into the
actual studio. The cameraman is visible at the lower left.
Taff holding a meeting to discuss upcoming show at WTVP:
Left to right: John Buckstaff, assistant director; Lee Scales, film
director; William Leonard, producer-director; Bill Heyduck, property;
C.H. Logan, producer-director; and Elinor Owen, traffic.
Stewart, porter; and Downey Hewey, commerical manager(and a contributor to this website, see his
Buckstaff, floor manager; Sue Sullen, receptionist; C.H. Logan,
Gennetis, book keeper; Tony Parker, sports director; Kity LeMar,
(left) from the
Decatur Herald & Review:
Placed on Weather Tower
Lakeview High School maintenance engineer is shown installing
instruments on the new Lakeview Weather Station Tower. Watching
the operation are left to right, Loren F. Boatman, teacher of the
meteorology class which will study weather observation, and Supt. K.V.
Henninger. Installation of the tower on the school roof completes
the weather station. Students will gather weather data for
Station WTVP programs. A 12-conduit cable connects the low
voltage instruments to indicators in a first floor classroom.
|Steven French, account executive; Mary Wagner,
receptionist; Paul Taff, program manager; and John Crockey, local sales
pictures above are from the Decatur Herald and Review)
Prairie Television Company
Decatur Herald & Review:
Shellabarger is Major Stockholder of
stockholder in Decatur Prairie
Television Company, owners of Station WTVP is William L.
Shellabarger, president and treasurer.
well-known in Decatur
in the grain business in which he has been associated many years. Last
year he sold his Shellabarger Mills, Inc., including several
rural elevators, to the Ralston-Purina Company which now operates the
firm as the Checkerboard Soybean Company.
president owns 68.75 percent of the television company's stock.
David, also well known in
the grain business, is secretary of the company. He owns 1.25
percent of the stock.
stockholder is Harold G.
Cowgill, vice president and general manager of the station.
Cowgill owns 5 percent of the stock. He is a Decatur native, a graduate
of Decatur schools and a law
graduate of George Washington University. For many years he
was with the Federal Communications Commission and prior to his
joining the TV company as with a Washington D.C. Legal firm.
Mueller, chairman of the
board of the Mueller Company, also wons 5 percent of the company
stock. His wife Claribel, owns another 1.25 percent.
Wagner, president of Wagner Malleable Iron Company, owns 2.5 percent
of Prairie's stock. The two Shellabargers, Cowgill, Mueller and
Wagner make up the company's board of directors.
stockholders, their Decatur
business connections, and the percentage of WTVP stock owned include:
Mrs. Gladys L. Burns, widow of W.W.
(Bill) Burns of Bill Burns Chevrolet Company, 2.5
W.Curtis Busher, president of Emerson
Piano House 1.25
Thomas W. Samuels, Decatur attorney,
Dr. A.C. Simon, Decatur physician, 3;
Mrs. Willetta G. Simon, wife of Dr.
Harvey E. Steinhoff, vice president,
Wagner Malleable iron Company 1.25
J.L. Tallman, Decatur Cadillac dealer
W. Meredith Weck, treasurer, Haines &
Essick Company, 1.25
(pictures at left are
from the Decatur Herald & Review, top: a aerial view of the WTVP
facility taken from over Southside Drive on Decatur's far south
side. Below: The WTVP Prairie Television logo consisting of a
horse and wagon, as Central Illinois first TV station, it was truly a
New WTVP Studios on Southside Drive, Decatur
picture of floor plan, left, and article below from the Decatur
Herald & Review:
Compact Unit Houses WTVP South of City
A compact, one
story, 118 by 87-foot
building houses the operation of Prairie Television Company and its
station WTVP on South Side Drive. Activities in the building as
in all TV
station buildings centers around the studio where programs which
originates in Decatur will be put on.
As anyone who
has visited the station
at its open houses has noted, the building is laid out in such a
manner that all paths lead to the studio, not be impaired by other
station operations. The studio is huge, compared with radio
studios in the area. It measures 53 by 36 feet. Naturally a TV
station studio must be larger than a radio studio, because of sets,
cameras, lights and assorted gear.
The studio, according to
station officials, was also made especially large so that local
audience participation shows might someday be held there. At
present, there are no seating arrangements for audiences, except a
small “clients booth” off one corner.
activities in the studio are planned for one corner, the southwest
where a permanent kitchen set has been installed and where a
semi-permanent “living room” is also located. By putting
activities in this corner, officials have effectively taken care of
what could be called “spectator distraction.”
directors and engineers in
the control room have an unobstructed view of the scene in progress. So
has the announcer who is station in a booth on the east of the
studio. However, the spectators in the client's booth or
standing along the hallway which has the company offices on one
side,and glass wall to the studio on the other, do not get a full
view of the action.
Everything that goes on in the studio in
the camera's eye is also recorded on monitors in the control room,
announcer's booth and the client's booth. A monitor is also located
in the production booth and the client's booth. A monitor is also
located in the projection room which is further down the hall and
around the corner. To the west of the studio is a large
storage room for keeping of sets, advertising products, and what ever
else is needed. This is a two story room. Doors leading into
the storage room from the outside and into the studio from the
storage room allow things as large as automobiles or elephants to be
brought into the studio.
administrative offices are
located along the front (south) side of the building. Along
the east side of the building are the offices for news, programming,
artists, dressing rooms for performers, and a canteen. The north side
of the building is taken up with engineering offices and equipment. The
building is completely air-conditioned.
and slides to be telecast over
WTVP are handled in this room by William P. Burley, projectionist.
Burley makes an adjustment to one projection machine as another is in
operation. The film is projected into a mirror and reflected into
the camera, the machine at Burley's right. Slides are projected from
the machine at right which throws the image directly into the camera.
The number one
television camera for
Station WTVP is this huge, complicated affair being checked by Edwin
Pianks, assistant chief engineer. The camera can be moved to any
part of the studio by means of a wheeled tripod. The cameraman gets
his directions from the director who is housed in the room in the
background. Under actual operations the cameraman wears earphones as
he receives the detailed info from the director.
(above from the Decatur Herald &
Review: William P. Burley, WTVP projectionist)
for a local TV show
illustrates television programming techniques. The cameramen and
director wear headsets to hear from the director in the control room
how things are progressing. The kitchen setup is one of the
permanent sets at WTVP. The wall at left, just beyond the microphone
handler can be moved to make the kitchen larger or smaller as needed.
administrative and operations
personnel for Station WTVP gather in President W.L. Shellabarger's
office for a conference. Left to right are James C. Wulliman, chief
engineer; Paul Taff, program director; Harold G. Cowgill, vice
president of Prairie Television Company and general manager of WTVP;
and Shellabarger, Prairie Television owns WTVP.
Decatur Herald &
Goes on the Air with Test Pattern
Area Viewers Report
Station WTVP went on the air
with its test pattern about 9:50pm yesterday. General Manager
Harold G. Cowgill said
that within 20 minutes the station received about 40 calls from
television viewers reporting reception was good. Some of the
calls came from communities outside Decatur including Springfield,
Tuscola and Warrensburg, he said. “We are pleased with the
the initial test pattern,” he said.
Paul K. Taff, WTVP program director,
made the first live appearance on the station about 11:20pm. He
appeared briefly to welcome viewers and invite them to report the
quality of their reception. No regular test pattern schedule
will be announced until the job of checking and adjusting station
equipment is completed. Cowgill said the test pattern will
probably will be on again tonight.
Workmen climbed the
station's 550-foot tower again yesterday to remove the gin pole and
cable used to raise the antenna Sunday. The pole and cable
caused trouble in tests of the equipment Monday night, Cowgill
The test pattern must run a few days on a regular
schedule before the Federal Communications Commission will give it's
approval for regular programming.
Decatur Herald & Review:
Programs in Two Months in
network programs by the
first of October is the aim of Station WTVP, Decatur and Central
Illinois first television station.
first start their programming
at WTVP, the network shows must of necessity be on film because no
coaxial cable or microwave hookup with the national networks is
available. But a microwave setup is now in
operation between Chicago and St.Louis and by October 1 American
Telephone and Telegraph Company expects to have a leg of the circuit
“bouncing” the networks to Decatur.
the microwave system, the
programs are beamed from tower to tower. At each tower the waves are
“re-charged” and reflected on to the next tower.
A tower for bringing the system to
Decatur is now under construction.
from August 16, 1953
The First Broadcast Day of WTVP
PM Living Book(local
Cowboy G-Men*(syndicated low budget
30-minute western produced in 1952)
6:30 PM This
is the Life(syndicated
30-minute religious themed film drama produced
Story Theater(syndicated off network[NBC/Dumont]
Honor Your Partner(unknown program)
G.E. Theater(CBS originated-kinescope)
Dollar a Second(Dumont originated-kinescope)
Favorite Story(syndicated 30-minute dramatic anthology)
The Visitor(syndicated title for NBC's "The Doctor"
10:30 PM Sports
There were no live
network feeds before October 1953 at WTVP.
Screen grabs from TV shows airing on WTVP's first day are below.
|"Cowboy G-Men" was a low budget
western 30-minute syndicated series produced in 1952.*
the 30-minute anthology series sponsored by General Electric. "G.E. Theater" ran on CBS from 1953
to 1962. This was the series hosted by former president Ronald
Reagan beginning in 1954.*
|"Dollar a Second"
ran on Dumont during the end of 1953 when the show appeared on
WTVP. It originated on DuMont and was shown via kinescope
on Channel 17.
(continued from above)
On June 6th, 1953 testing began from their new studios and broadcasting
site located on Route 47, about one mile south of Decatur (now
Southside Drive). The Studio was reported being 95% completed and
the tower erection was taking place, having just over 100-feet of it’s
planned 600-foot completed. The RCA transmitter had arrived the
previous week from the factory in Camden, New Jersey. At that
time, a few more facts about the station were released. First of
all, the call letters of the new TV station were to be WTVP, which
would broadcast a signal of 17,100 watts. It was estimated that
the station would reach out between 40 and 60 miles across central
Illinois. It’s assumed the call letters WTVP stood for “T V
In June and/or July, Prairie Broadcasting filed an objection
with the FCC over the placement of the tower of Champaign's first TV
station, WCIA and Midwest Television. Their objection basically
stated that the proximity of WCIA's tower to Decatur could pose a
hardship to the financial development of WTVP. The term
used was "invasion and encroachment" of WTVP's territory. To
avoid delays in the construction, another site was chosen by Midwest
Television which engineers determined a minimal change in the proposed
coverage area for WCIA. That site was the current tower site of
WCIA near Seymour along Illinois route 10 west of Champaign.
Illinois' First TV Station Signs On
By 4PM, Sunday,
August 16th, 1953, WTVP signed on the air to a central
Illinois TV audience in which only about 25-percent of the household
TV’s were equipped to receive the new UHF station, and there was still
a very low percentage of homes which even had TV in central
Illinois. Based on some of the national figures, probably only
25% of the total households had a TV. The reception reports were
all favorable, with one of the most distant reports from
Champaign-Urbana as being “almost perfect.” The relatively small
number of households with TV at the time was probably one very large
problem, for Sales Manager Downey
Hewey in trying to show advertisers that the station had a large
number of viewers in Decatur and across central Illinois.
WTVP would end up being a full time ABC affiliate,
as the original plan
by GM Harold Cowgill
was a bit
overstated. The chances of WTVP or
any other station being able to pick and choose programming from all of
the networks were slim, unless there were no other stations
available. Being a primary network affiliate gave the station a
direct line to each ad agency, and an exclusive opportunity to air
network programming. If the network couldn't purchase time on the
affiliate, then they would be locked out of offering the programming to
a competing station. But, if the affiliate refused to air a
particular program after it was offered, then the network could shop
other stations in the market.
In reality, stations didn't pick programs, instead the advertising
agencies whose products sponsored syndicated and network programs
stations from which they would buy "time." This allowed for
bidding to take place in which a station would perhaps lose a program
to a competitor which would offer time on their station for less money.
Agency buyers would have to consider the number of households
reached by each station and justify a buy with the cost of reaching a
thousand households. Surely, if the goal of the agency was to
reach the largest number of households then WCIA was most surely the
most expensive choice but could also offer a cheaper cost per thousand
households compared to the other stations....but if a buyer didn't have
the budget for the
higher rates, then the smaller UHF stations in the market would have to
do. In order to get similar total households, a buyer might buy
time on more than one station in the market, especially when there was
no overlap of signals. That is one reason why there were a number
of programs which were seen on different stations within the central
In this case, the chances of increased competition
from other stations that were already under construction in central
Illinois set the wheels in motion to network exclusivity
between these stations. WTVP was one of the original 19 ABC
One of the major technical problems for these early
TV stations, was
the inability to receive live network programming. (See WCIA and
the lengths that that facility went through to receive network
programming) The microwave system which would give WTVP an
opportunity to receive ABC programming, was still a couple of months in
There was no “coax cable” which could take the signal to Decatur.
fact the closest one known to exist went through, of all places,
Danville. Based on maps which showed AT & T network TV cables
which were in operation in 1951, the Danville connection existed
because the cable was routed between Chicago, Danville, Terre Haute
then Evansville and St Louis. (see the Decatur Herald and Review
story above: "Live Programs in Two Months")
The solution to the network problem, was one which
many stations were
forced to utilize. They would “bicycle” kinescopes from the
network to individual stations for airing. That process, would
require the network to film from a TV screen at New York, process the
film, process a number of duplicate films of live broadcasts, then ship
them to their affiliates. Most of these would air either the next
week or perhaps two weeks later than the original broadcasts. So,
WTVP would show films and kinescopes of the ABC shows until the
microwave link was established. In the meantime, the station
would also rely on local live productions and during the early years,
WTVP had plenty. During those very early days, none of the
central Illinois stations broadcast an extensive network
schedule. It appears that in order to be considered for a program
"purchase" a station had to prove itself as a reliable outlet for the
advertising dollars being spent by the ad agencies that
controlled many of the network programs. Many of the budgets were
already set in late 1952, so many stations were not considered as part
of the network "buy" and were not obligated to air the network
programming. Stations in that situation may have had the
opportunity to air the network programs gratis. It appears that
most did not, choosing instead to air either syndicated progamming
which brought in adversting dollars, or featured locally produced
programs which brought in at least some local ad dollars...and helped
to increase the local TV audience.
It didn’t take too long for WTVP to finally
broadcast ABC programming
live from the network. By early October 1953, it’s believed that
the link was complete to provide network programming to the Decatur
station. This same microwave link also fed stations in
Springfield and Peoria. In just a short time, WTVP was able to
broadcast CBS programming live from the network. How this
came about technically is unknown.
By January of 1954, WTVP wasn’t alone in
broadcasting to central
Illinois. WICS, Channel 20 in Springfield joined the list on
September 30th, 1953, and on November 13th, 1953 WCIA, Channel 3 in
on the air. WBLN, Channel 15 in Bloomington was added on December
11th and December 19th, 1953, WDAN, Channel 24 in
Danville wrapped up the roster of heritage central Illinois TV stations.
Because of the coverage area of the UHF stations
limited, compared to that of the lone VHF station, WCIA, the network
affiliations fell into place. Due to some shrewd planning
and negotiations WCIA ended up in the “cat bird seat” with CBS
(primary), DuMont (secondary) and NBC (secondary). Since WCIA’s
coverage put Springfield in the fringe, WICS was granted a primary
affiliation with NBC(primary) and ABC (secondary) with DuMont
There were documented occasions, though, in which WICS broadcast
programming from CBS and ABC. WTVP with it’s proximity to both
WICS, was restricted to being an ABC primary affiliate with DuMont
(secondary), but again, there were occasions in which WTVP broadcast
CBS programming. That also placed WBLN and WDAN as being
in the ABC column, although it would be a time before WBLN was able to
receive ABC network live. Even though it seemed that the network
scorecard was set, there was still a number of programs from one
network, which would show up on another network’s affiliate. This
had to be very confusing for the viewers, as network promotional
announcements had to appear from time to time on opposing stations.
differences" take WTVP and Gene Autry off the air in January 1954
On January 20, 1954 Gene Autry was booked for a personal appearance at
Decatur's Kintner Gym. This appearance would attract hundreds of
local kids and their parents for Autry's western show. The
performance included a few songs from the famous western movie matinée
idol as well as other performers, cowboy trick artists and more.
After his appearance at Kintner, Gene Autry was scheduled to appear
during a local telecast of a short Polio telethon which was produced at
WTVP. Unfortunately, his appearance at Channel 17 also
occurred at the same time as the TV station was facing a major
January of 1954, Prairie Broadcasting faced
the reality of costs
versus revenue. It appears from the series of newspaper articles
that describe the goings on at the Decatur station that a major change
in policy and direction was about to happen. On January 20, 1954,
WTVP didn’t sign on the air. It was said that “personnel and
mechanical troubles” kept the station from going on the air that day,
and that WTVP was expected to return to the air within 48 hours.
This episode ended up being a rather earth
shattering event in the
history of WTVP! It was announced that Station Manager Howard
“Harry” Cowgill, Chief Engineer James
Wulliman and Program Director Paul
resigned. The trio later stated to the press, that
they were asked to quit. Meanwhile, Prairie Broadcasting
President Shellabarger denied
the three managers were asked to quit,
but also said that a number of other staff members didn’t show up for
work that day either. The AWOL employees included Sports Director
Director Deloris Ryan and
another person Dick
Shaugnessy, whose title was not stated but hosted a show on
afternoons (see schedule below).
absent employees forced a partial cancellation of a network TV Polio
benefit show which was hosted by Gene
Autry. A technical problem
was also part of the situation, as the station finally returned to the
air by evening, but without video, just audio of the broadcast.
In that later interview with now former WTVP
Station Manager Cowgill,
“irreconcilable differences in views and
positions” between himself along with Taff
and Wulliman and Shellabarger.
Above and above left: from the Decatur Herald & Review, two ads for the appearance of Gene
Autry in Decatur and later at WTVP.
also assumed, part of the problem between the
station’s department heads and the President of the company was the
number of employees, presumably hired by the Cowgill
and the department
heads. The WTVP staff consisted of 47 employees, more than twice
the number of staff members at WCIA or WICS! Just look at
the number of employees shown above on this page, or listed below at
the bottom. It was obvious that the number of employees was
excessive for a TV station with a broadcast day of less than 12
in an interview, said
that the “stockholders thought we were tremendously over burdened by
expense of this large staff and wanted to reduce it.” It ended up
being a “black Friday” firing of 20 employees, including News Director James E. Crowell.
A few days later Harold Cowgill
showed up again in the headlines, as
saying he intended to file an application for Channel 23 in
Decatur. He also said he could be on the air with the new station
in as little as 90 days. His alliance with his former workers at
WTVP was evident when he went on to say he hoped that some of his
former WTVP staff would follow him to his new station. Whether or
not, the application went forward from there is unknown, but as
research continues, there’s no indication it was ever granted or it
ever was filed with the FCC.
Names the Same" with guest Al Pigg
WTVP’s Farm Director, Al Pigg was booked for an
appearance on The Names the Same
a national TV game show hosted
by Robert Q. Lewis from Goodson-Todman Productions. This show
would bring on a guest with an unusual name who would have some ironic
tie in with their name. A celebrity panel would then guess the
name and the irony. In his case, he was a Farm Director, by the
name of “Pigg.” He was to appear on the show, broadcast live from
New York on February 9th, 1954 at 9:30pm CT. It was fortunate
that The Names the Same was
broadcast on ABC where it would appear on
Names the Same" game show *
from January 22, 1954
PM Feature Film
3:00 PM Dick
Shaugnessy(since he was fired
this, his show probably wasn't on)
3:30 PM A
Woman's World(again, with the
the hostess, Dorothy Ryan probably was a no show)
4:30 PM Prairie
5:00 PM School Program
5:30 PM Headlines From the Past(old newsreels
5:45 PM Triple Streak(unknown program-unknown
6:00 PM Farm
6:15 PM John
6:30 PM Film
PM Dangerous Assignment(syndicated 30-minute film drama)
7:30 PM All
Star Theater(unknown program,
8:00 PM Pride
of the Family(ABC-filmed
sitcom-live from network)
8:30 PM Come
Back Story(ABC-live from
9:00 PM Hollywood Half Hour(probably
a former ABC network series via kinescope)
9:30 PM Amateur Hour(probably a kinescope
from NBC's broadcast)
10:00 PM Weather-Mr. Esquire(unknown who/what
is Mr. Esquire?)
10:15 PM News
10:30 PM Sports
10:45 PM Movie
grabs from TV shows airing on WTVP on Jan 22, 1954 are below.
Assignment" was a
30 minute spy adventure series starring Brian Donlevy.*
day sitcom, "Pride of the Family" aired on ABC from 1953-54.
Included in the cast was a very young Natalie Wood.*
Original Amateur Hour" aired on NBC through September 1954. I
would assume this was a kinescope of the long running talent variety
October of 1953, WTVP was able to receive programming live from
ABC. The ABC network schedule differed a great deal from that of
the WTVP schedule above. Differences included: The Stewart Erwin
Show(6:30pm), Ozzie and Harriet(7pm), Pepsi-Cola Playhouse(7:30pm) and
the Chevrolet Showroom(9pm). The question is: Why didn't WTVP air
these shows? Probably because the time was not purchased on WTVP
from the ad agencies which controlled those network shows.
It's amazing how I've heard from some of the very early staff members
of WTVP from the early to mid 1950's. Among those is the original
Sales Manager of the station, Downey Hewey. What follows are some
of his recollections:
"I was there for the sign-on, Doug. I recall Bill
Pownall being hired to do the opening party with an appearance by Studs
Terkel who was doing an early Chicago TV show - he was there to play
the piano! Opening rates were super-cheap: my best
recollection (remember that at 80 that's not too good) we averaged
about $20 prime, $15 daytime locally, with national rates at about
$40-$50. Don't remember too many advertisers by name
anymore: there was a Ford Dealer on the north side who featured a
cute young lady doing the spots who was rumored to be an excellent
friend of the sales manager - the furniture store that loved Al Pigg's
pitches for them - Kelly Potato Chips was there - H Post and
Sons. That's about all I recall."
"I moved on to WEEK-TV in
Peoria after a year where I made a career error, jumping back and forth
from sales to on-the-air as a 'utility man', doing Chick Hearn's sports
show and anchoring newscasts when the main guys were on vacation or
gone. Circled back to radio after some arguments about my future
with the Kerr ownership people. Pulled Senator Dirksen off a
toilet seat as a part of our prankster program - my top political
achievement! Circled back to radio with WPEO as news director
when RnR hit, back to Decatur at WSOY from '58 to '68, winding up as Station Manager."
thing that might be of interest to all of us Illinoisan: The two
newspaper families fought over the WCIA VHF Channel 3 dial
position. It looked as if the FCC might take as long as 3-4 years
to decide on whether or not the Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers (owners of
the Courier in Champaign-Urbana) would win out as the best operators
over the D. W. Stevick family (News Gazette)."
Mr. Hewey also described the situation of licensing WCIA...
"Neither wanted such a
long term fight, especially when it would allow the UHFs to establish
set penetration and network affiliations. They both also knew that
Senator Dirksen might favor either chain at a time when politicians
were suspect in their close influence with the commission.
Stevick also would probably have to discard WDWS Radio - and get some
kind of FCC approval for owning a newspaper and a TV (station) in
the same market. They did the wise thing and had (what) was then
called a "marriage", typical in many markets the time. The
competing interests did a 'Solomon' and cut the grant in half by
forming a convenient partnership. Any group who managed to
get a VHF grant became instant millionaires at the time; it was
a wise and immensely profitable move."
Mr. Hewey also told of a particular experience on a plane with WCIA
owner August Meyers...and the early days of flying Ozark
Airlines. I let him tell his story in his own words...
"The Augie Myers story w/Ozark was like this. I
was flying from Decatur to Chicago w(ith) a first stop in
The plane was filled to capacity. This was in the first days of
Ozarks existence. Augie got on board across the aisle from
me. He seemed nervous, looking around a lot. As we were all
buckling up, he adjusted his hearing aids and asked the stewardess if
they'd carried "this many passengers before?" She responded that the
even required that the DC-3 could fly with a full load on only one
"We left the terminal. On the way out, he asked her again:
"have you carried this many people before?" She again answered
'yes' and tried to calm him, carefully checking his seatbelt. We
got to the end of the runway where in those ancient days they used to
rev the engines up as a test before taking off. When the first
acceleration came, he unfastened his seat belt, got up and said he
wasn't going, he didn't think it was safe. There was a lot of
fuss. She rushed to the cabin and told the pilot....the co-pilot
came out and talked with him, but he refused to sit down. He went
back into the cabin and shortly after we returned to the
terminal. Augie got off. We taxied back out to the
runway....they revved up the engines again and some wag in the back (I
wish I could say it was me) said loudly "Do you suppose he knew
something we don't?" There must have been a lot of white knuckles
after that - but of course nothing happened. I've often wondered
if Ozark ever let him back on a plane."
---Many thanks to
Downey Hewey for his contribution!!!
Programming from 1953-1959
|The early days of
WTVP consisted of many hours of locally
produced programs. Most of these early local TV shows were simple
productions covering topics such as women’s general interest features,
local church services or presentations. The list of subjects also
include local school panel shows covering subjects such as the school
calendar of events or school music and drama productions, farm news,
children’s participation cartoon shows locally produced variety shows
as well as local news, weather and sports.
In 1954 WTVP used the slogan, “The Best is Seen on 17. ” By 1954
WTVP produced shows with titles like “A
Woman’s World,” “Prairie Ranch House,” “Uncle Al’s Corral,” “Triple
Streak,” “Kim’s Korner,” “Farm News,” “Teen Time,” “Romper Room”,
“Fore-d” and “Decatur
Churches.” The subjects and hosts, other than the ones
listed as part of the title, are unknown and have been
lost in history. Among those shows, a little more information is
known about “Kim’s Korner”
hosted by longtime local TV celebrity, Kim Wilson, and “Uncle Al’s Corral” a children’s
show with WTVP Farm Director Al Pigg.
A 1954 TV Guide had this description of the new weekday at 4:30 PM
local program for kids, Uncle Al’s Corral: “Emcee of the show is Al
Pigg, long-time favorite with frontier fledglings. Featured are
“Hiram, the Hollywood Horse” and a starling of uncertain ancestry
called “Commonsense Bird.” Uncle Al’s Corral is complete with
feature length shoot-em-ups.” In just a few years, Al Pigg was
listed as the host of Farm News on WICS. It’s assumed he left
WTVP by 1957 to go to WICS in Springfield. He did return to WTVP,
but the exact date of his return is still unknown.
Also in the Fall of 1954, “Downstate
Jamboree” was seen on Wednesday nights at 8:30-9:30 PM on
WTVP. It was a local production that was conceived by WTVP
Program Director Bob Wright. Once again, according to a 1954 TV
Guide, he began to cast the local evening show in March of
1954. He figured that Decatur was right for a western music
television show, and evidently he was right. Even after one
telecast the station received over 350 pieces of mail from viewers of
“Downstate Jamboree.” The stars of the show were “The Rhythm
Supplemental Information: I received some additional
information from Bill Burns, the leader of the "Rhythm Wranglers"
mentioned above as one of the original live performers at WTVP.
He is the last living member of the group, and saw the mention of his
group on this website.
He wrote, "This is Bill
Burns. I was the leader of the Rhythm
Wranglers on WTVP in the early days of TV in Decatur. All of them are
dead now but me & I'm 79 so I'll be joining them again shortly. I
was reading your report on the early TV days of WTVP on the internet
and saw my name and the rest of the Wranglers. Bob Wright did not
discover us in a bar though. I got a sponsor for us to do a show and he
had to listen to us. He discovered us in his own studios after we did
the show. We had a contract before leaving the station that day."
"I'm surprised your report
didn't mention the country group of Jack
Carson, Ralph Drake, Fred Bear & son who were appearing in the same
era on your station in Champaign. Jack asked us to join him over there
but we figured we had a better setup to do our own thing on WTVP what
with the stars from WLS, KMOX and the Midwestern Hayride on WCKY in
Cincinnati. We played all the local fairs and the state fair for
International Harvester where they did a square dance with tractors
& implements were used as partners. The tent they did it in was the
largest one on the Fair Grounds with seating capacity of 1000 people.
We did 5 shows a day for 9 days (45,000 people) When we'd take a break,
we;d go over to the tent where Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers from
WLS were appearing and catch their show. That's where I picked up a lot
of stuff I used MCing our show".
"Al Pigg only did our show
a few times, then we had another guy for a
few more, then I started doing it. We were on the air for two years.
Well all this prattle isn't of much interest in general but I thought
you might enjoy hearing from someone who was there."
Thanks to 70 year old Bill Burns, the last remaining member of the
"Rhythm Wranglers" from the early days at WTVP!
They were a trio, when they were
discovered in a
local bar “in which beer bottles have been used as instruments of
combat.” The Wrangles consisted of Bill Burns, Gene Eckes and Rio
Diall and have added Leon Brontin. Their lead female singer,
Dorothy Hargus, left the group to audition for a Chicago TV Show.
Even though the show revolves around the Rhythm Wranglers, there a few
guest stars including Red Blachard and Homer and Jethro. The
emcee, by the way, is non other than Al
Pigg, WTVP’s Farm
host of “Uncle Al’s Corral.”
There were other,
presumably, local shows on the limited schedule of
WTVP in 1954, including “Music Box”
(a variety show-the content and source are
unknown), “Decatur Churches”
(this one was local, but exact content and format is unknown), “The Christian Fellowship Hour” (a
local religious show-airing Sunday evenings at 6pm in 1956), “Mayor of the Town” (a local
production-again, content unknown), “Studio
Party” (hosted by a person named O’Shane-format unknown, content
unknown), “The Decatur Story”
(a local production-again content, format, host unknown), “Old Scrapbook” (a music program, I
assume it was a local production, but nothing is known about this
production), and “What’s New”
(was hosted by Kim Wilson on Wednesday nights at 10:10 PM, but again
format and content is unknown). By 1957, children’s programming
included “Jingles Menagerie”(again,
nothing is known about this entry to the schedule other than it was for
kids), “Music Box Revue”(no
information is known about this weekend Saturday night 9 PM music
program), and “Channel 17 Calling”(nothing
is known about this weekday afternoon local show from 1957).
During the late Summer of 1956, WTVP also listed “Little League Baseball” with Earl
Hickerson as commentator, probably covering the local Little League
Baseball standings from 5:45 to 6 PM on Mondays, with “Kiddie Pops” (listed as a music
show) on Tuesdays, “Let’s Play Ball”
with Hickerson on Wednesdays, “The
Jerry Booth Show” (unknown program, unknown source) on
Thursdays and “Look
Ma I’m Dancing”(again,
unknown program, unknown source) on Fridays. Also in 1956 Friday
nights at 9 PM included an hour long show, assuming locally produced
called, “Centennial Hoedown.”
One can only assume it was another of WTVP’s Program Director,Bob
Wright’s local country music shows.
In 1956 “Kim’s Korner” was
increased from a 30-minute show to an hour followed by “Uncle Al and his Friends.”
The expanded “Kim’s Korner”
would include new segments and special get acquainted sessions for new
residents of Decatur but appeared to consist mostly of homemaking
segments and recipes. A locally produced musical variety show was
included in the 1958 prime time schedule, Monday’s at 7:30pm, called
“Frank Monte Show.”
By 1957 WTVP’s News Director was Dale
Coleman. His exact tenure
span at Channel 17 is unknown, but in the early 60's it appears
that he moved on
WICS as news anchor and News Director. But, in 1957 while at
WTVP, he offered air time to each of the five candidates seeking
positions as circuit judges in the forthcoming elections. Locally
produced interviews were offered during the 10pm newscasts starting in
mid to late May. The schedule of interviews include Judge Charles
E. Keller incumbent of Champaign appeared on May 16th, Piatt County
Judge B.E. Morgan appeared on May 21st and Incumbent Circuit Judge
Martin E. Morthland of Decatur appeared on May 23rd. Tuscola
attorney Harry Pate, the only Democrat was seen on May 28th and
Moultrie County Judge Rodney A. Scott appeared on May 31st. Out
of the bunch, four would be chosen to serve as 6th Circuit Judge on the
elections of June 3rd. It’s unknown which of the four actually
won the election.
Also in 1957 WTVP hosted it’s own teen dance show called “TV Record Hop” from 5 to 5:30pm on
Saturday’s. It's unknown who hosted this record hop formated
program. Another version of the dance program appeared at
least some time after "TV Record Hop"
and had the name of "Marty's
Dance Party." This pre-dates the WCIA version called “The Hop” which didn’t appear for
several more years.
“Romper Room” was a
nationally syndicated concept show which was produced locally by
stations in virtually every market in the country beginning in the mid
1950’s. It usually featured a half dozen or so, five or six year
old children in a classroom setting in which they would do art
projects, hear stories read by the teacher and generally learn how to
conduct themselves. The phrase “Don’t be a don’t be, be a do be”
was used to direct the behavior of the kids. The show would air
generally during the mornings around 9am, although in 1957 the show
aired on WTVP live at Noon with Miss
Ruth as the station didn’t sign-on
until the mid day.
It was the golden
age of syndicated programming, as the network
schedules of the time didn’t cover the broadcast day as they do
today. Advertising agencies owned many programming concepts and
would produce programming, many of which were thirty-minute low budget
productions with B-movie actors. Production companies would sign
sponsors to their shows and with a lineup of local affiliate stations
they were able to reach households in many markets across the
country. Some of these syndicated shows on WTVP included “Abbott and Costello” “This is the Life” (30 minute
religious moral dramas which ran through the 1960’s on all three
stations in the market), “The
Adventures of Kit Carson”starring
Bill Williams and Don Diamond (kids western), “David Niven”(dramatic
anthology), “China Smith”
with Dan Duryea. Syndication also included national religious
shows like “A.A. Allen” “Bishop Fulton
Sheen” and “Oral Roberts”
which were probably purchased by their respective
producers. Other syndicated shows of the mid to late 1950’s
included: “Stage 7” (drama
starring John Loder). Adventure shows included “Orient Express,” “The Dick Powell
Theater,” “Sea Hunt”(with Lloyd Bridges) and “Ramar of the Jungle.” World
War II newsreels were popular, and WTVP broadcast “Victory at Sea” during prime time
Wednesdays at 8PM in 1958 as well as other military and government
produced films such as “The Big
Picture” throughout the 1950’s. Country and Western music
played a big part in the history of WTVP, with not only “Downstate Jubilee” but also the
syndicated from Springfield, Missouri “Ozark
Jubilee” which starred Red Foley, Brenda Lee, the Marksmen, and
Bill Wimberly’s Country Rhythm Boys. In 1956 a Sunday afternoon
may have included a kids show produced out of Chicago called “Super Circus” with Ringmaster
Claude Kirchner with Mary Hartline. The episode which ran on
August 21st, 1956 included The Atomics, tumblers; a clown sketch;
Cockattos, valentine birds; Ted and Flo Vallet, baton twirlers; Bernie
Hoffman, super menagerie; and the Dresler Brothers,
motorcyclists. It’s unknown whether this show was done live or
was on film, but WTVP was the only station which broadcast it in the
edition of TV Guide that week, which would hint at it being a
kinescope, as opposed to coming off the network live.
|right: "Marty's Dance Party" was WTVP's
My information shows that Marty Roberts hosted a similar program on
WICS for time during the late 1950's, but at sometime he moved the
concept to WTVP. Here he is pictured with his wife.
This is a scan of a post
card which was sent to those teen age participants of the show telling
them where and when to show up for the live broadcast.
(picture from Marty
Schopp, Marty Roberts son)
Personal Note: It
was my privilige to work with Marty when he was the farm director at
WTAX in Springfield during the mid 1970's. I followed him on WTAX
each afternoon, and at the time I didn't know of his background.
He didn't hang around long at the station, as he was always dressed for
the golf course on his way out of the studios, but he was a true
professional broadcaster. I only wish I could have spent some
time with him to learn more about his history. He passed away in
Off network shows
began to appear on local TV station schedules as the backlog of network
programs began to increase and
WTVP was no exception. Even in 1954, reruns of off network “Dragnet” episodes showed up on the
schedules of both WTVP and WICS as “Badge
714.” “The Honeymooners” the 30-minute filmed sit-com
ended up on the Sunday prime time schedule at 7:30pm on Sundays during
1958. “The Life of
Riley” (off network NBC show) was shown on WTVP as well as “Mama” starring Peggy Wood which
appeared Friday nights at 7PM in 1958. Other off network
syndicated series on WTVP by 1959 included “My Hero” starring Bob Cummings(an
off network NBC show from 1952-53) “Amos
and Andy,” “Our Miss Brooks,” “Burns and Allen” and “Hoot Gibson.”
Daytime programming during the first few years of
WTVP was fairly
sparse. Even though the station broadcast the Don McNeill’s
from Chicago off of the ABC network from 8 to 9AM, the station would
sign off or run a test pattern until 3 in the afternoon when
programming would resume. It wasn’t until the very late 1950's
that the weekday afternoon schedule began to expand inward. By
1958, the daytime schedule would begin to fill out with locally run
movies, local interest shows and eventually programming from ABC, such
as “American Bandstand” with
Dick Clark. Also in that year the late afternoon lineup would
include “Bandstand” followed
at 5PM with “Fun at Five” (presumably
a kids show with cartoons), Local News at 6PM, then the ABC Network News with John Daley.
ABC added “Woody Woodpecker”
to the afternoon schedule in 1958-59.
nothing real notable about a novelty premium given away to customers of
a particular business, but this prize relic from the early days of WTVP
is one which has
obviously cared for over the years.
style notebook was called
Shell Press Pass" included
a couple of
ID cards and calendars from
the years of
1958 and 1959.
probably given out to various
of local TV productions as
advertising clients in the mid
are courtesy of the
It’s also interesting to note that the network
schedule and the lineup
of network affiliates were somewhat blurred during the 50’s. WCIA
was regarded as being a CBS primary affiliate, but their schedule
included the broadcast of local news at 6:30pm, which shifted the
airing of the CBS shows at 6:30pm CT to WTVP. Among the CBS
shows which ended up on the WTVP schedule were “Robin Hood” and “Willy”, a 30-minute sit com
starring June Havoc and Denny Richards Jr.. On Sunday
nights, “Lassie” aired on CBS at 6PM, but was not carried by
WCIA. Instead “Lassie”
was broadcast on WTVP, while WCIA aired a kinescope “Zorro” which was broadcast on ABC
the week before! At least during the Fall of 1954, a program ran
Thursday nights at 8:30-9:30 PM CT, "NBC
Ford Theater" (named for the sponsor), which was broadcast in
central Illinois on all three of the major stations and stations in the
surrounding markets: WCIA, KSD-TV(St. Louis), WGEM-TV(Quincy), WTVP and
WICS! In 1957, a Saturday afternoon ABC feature called “Five Star Comedy” which starred
ventriloquist Paul Winchell and dummy Jerry Mahoney was shown by both
WTVP and WICS.
Many shows of one network, ended up being shown
either live or via
kinescope on other affiliates later in the week. Programming
would either come live from a network coax, or would be a kinescope of
the network program which would be shipped to the station by
mail. It appears that WTVP received it’s CBS programming
live from coax at least by 1958, as the station broadcast Saturday
afternoon baseball at least in 1958 along with CBS programming at 6:30
PM weekdays. During the baseball season at least in 1958,
WTVP broadcast the same CBS game broadcast on WCIA announced by Dizzy
Dean and Buddy Blattner. The baseball
game would be followed by “All Star
Golf” hosted by Dick Danehe and broadcast by stations of all
three networks. Why the CBS exclusive affiliation contract
allowed this to happen is unknown.
In 1958 ABC
broadcast the “Thanksgiving
Day Parade” from Detroit sponsored by the J.L. Hudson Department
Store. Bob Keeshan as CBS’s Captain Kangaroo anchored the parade
coverage on ABC! It was also sponsored by Chrysler Corporation’s
Forward Look” which was a marketing slogan used to describe their newly
designed models which featured a lower body style, and a longer and
wider wheel base. The broadcast of this department store
sponsored parade went head to head with the annual NBC broadcast of the
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York.
Above: TV Guide
listing with WCIA(3)CBS, KHQA(7)CBS, WTVP(17)ABC, WMBD(31)CBS from
1958. One of the "blurring" of the network affiliate situations
that was common during the early days of the 1950's with the simulcast
of the Yankees Vs. Tigers game. WAND took the CBS
feed of the game along with WCIA.
This is an in
studio produced commercial for
an unknown local
advertiser, featuring an
talent. This photo was taken at
the WTVP studios
and shows the window
looking over the
studio from Production Control.
For a larger view
of PC, see the photo at the far right.
of Elmer Ruple )
Here is the subject of a locally produced commercial, a 1959 Rambler
Classic is pictured among a "western" setting at WTVP for the local
(photo courtesy of Elmer Ruple)
This photo is a
blow up of the Production Control window at the WTVP studios taken from
the picture at the far left. It shows the floor director giving
cues, the camera #2 "camera man" as well as figures in the Production
Control. The identities of all of these WTVP employees are
unknown. If you have knowledge of any unidentified persons
pictured, please contact me via e-mail!
courtesy of Elmer Ruple)
Crane Potato Chips was a local product, produced in Decatur.
Crane Potato Chips were best known as the distributor of the Major
League Baseball collectible pins. Each pin represented a Major
League team from both the American and National League. It was
quite an accomplishment if you as a young boy had collected an entire
set of pins. You would receive 2 pins wrapped in cellophane
each double bag of Crane Potato Chips. Now that you've gotten my
background on the product.....here's the production of a WTVP
commercial for Crane Potato Chips featuring an unknown spokesperson and
a cast of four local children on a set constructed within the studios
of WTVP. The "slate" pictured above right identifies the
commercial video taping took place on July 27, 1961.
At least a couple of these kids are about my age....if you know who
they are, or if you're one of them.....please contact me.
(photos courtesy of Elmer Ruple)
Schlitz Beer was one of the regional-national accounts which depended
on local TV commercial production at WTVP. Here a bottle of
Schlitz was photographed for a local commercial.
(Top middle picture): Here is one of a series of
photos taken at the Decatur American Business Club(now AMBUCS) and the
Decatur Home Builders Association Home Show during the Spring of
1961 or 62. WTVP produced it's local news from the Home Show live
obviously featured a live commercial during the broadcast for what must
have been a major client, Schlitz Beer. Behind the podium are
pictures of various ABC shows which were broadcast on WTVP during the
1961-62 season. The pictures include, starting at the top left:
The Detectives, Starring Robert Taylor", Gardner McKay in "Adventures
in Paradise", "American Bandstand"
"77 Sunset Strip" "The Roaring 20's" "Wagon Train" "My Three Sons" and
at the lower right "The Real McCoys."
(photo courtesy of Elmer Ruple )
During the Spring of 1962, WTVP produced a series of live remote
broadcasts from the American Business Club and Decatur Home Builders
Home Show which took place at the Armory. Here is a segment with
a demonstration of something relatively new, a remote controlled
motorized garage door opener from Overhead Door of Decatur. The
identities of the three gentlemen are unknown. If you know who
any of these people are, please contact me via e-mail!
(photo courtesy of Elmer Ruple)
Very early TV commercials existed in several different
were broadcast as live productions, or film slides, or filmed
productions with either recorded or live announcer audio. The
assumption is made that virtually all of the local commercial
productions have been lost to the ages. There may be a few
slides, or film clips, kinescopes or audio transcriptions that have
been stashed into a box by an account executive, or master control
operator over the years....with most being discarded at sometime during
the last 45 years. But....there’s also a chance that someone
still has some material which was aired as part of a commercial
production of WTVP like those above, or any other broadcast station and
what it is....or what it’s purpose was. If you know of any
material which exists from an earlier era of broadcasting, please turn
it over to your local historical society...explain what the material
is, and if there’s any question of it’s historical value or worth, have
them get in touch with me! I’ll explain it to them!
Probably one of the most remembered local sponsors on WTVP/WAND over
the years was local Oldsmobile dealer Paul
Weidenbacher, dressed in his trench coat, sunglasses and dress hat
would describe a new Oldsmobile or used car from the parking lot behind
the TV station. His commercials on WTVP during the 1950's, 60's
and 70's made his name and face one of the most recognized in central
Illinois. He, evidently, saw the need for local TV to build his
business, by his effort to drive one of his vehicles to the TV
station EVERY day during the dinner hour for a live TV commercial
Other major local advertisers through the early 1960's included: El
Bauer Chevrolet, Cohen Furniture, Good’s Furniture, TV Tom, Crane
Potato Chips, H Post and
Millikin Bank, Tollie Foods, Heinkel Packing and Dawson and Wikoff
Funeral Home. There were alot more, but those were the one's
which come to mind.
New Manager...more wattage
It was also in late
January 1954 that Prairie Broadcasting announced
the hiring of a new Station Manager, Steve
Pozhay of Neenah, Wisconsin,
where he held a position at WNAM-TV. His hiring took place as
WTVP was looking to the future and an increased coverage area.
Another new key staff member was announced during the Winter of 1954 to
take control of the engineering of the station. H.F. Abfalter was
then the new Chief Engineer.
In early July 1954, a modification of the station’s
license allowed the
station to increase it’s power. A new transmitter was ordered
from RCA which would take the power of the station from 17,000 watts to
213,000 watts. It was stated that it would increase the radius of
the signal from 40 miles to nearly 75 miles.
By October 30th, 1954, WTVP was on the air with
213,000 watts from
their 600 foot tower on Southside Drive in south Decatur.
Reception reports came in from Paris (83 miles), Farmer City,
Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Effingham and Gibson City. WTVP
reported they were watchable in 140,000 TV homes across central
Illinois. By this time, the station continued to air a mixture of
local shows of interest to farmers, housewives, children, along with
local news and shows from ABC.
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