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Very Early Days of TV

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WAND, Channel 17, Decatur, Illinois: Part 1


The First 10 Years of Channel 17 as WTVP

Last to File, First to Go

In late October 1952, Prairie Television Company filed an application to broadcast on channel 17 in Decatur, Illinois. The details on the application stated the video power at 18.03kw(kilo-watt) from an antenna which would be 352-feet above average terrain. The cost of building the facility would be set at $181,230 with a first year operating cost at $184,000. The expected revenue from advertising placed on the television station would be $360,000.

Even though the official address of Prairie Television was stated at 250 North Water, the owners decided to construct a building which would be designed for use by the station. The decision would also designate the station as the only central Illinois station which began broadcasting from a home which was built solely to serve as a television station. The site was located 1.35 miles south west of Lake Decatur's dam and 0.3 miles west of the intersection of Illinois Route 47 and U.S. 51. The actual address would place the station, its studio and transmitter/tower on a hill on the north side of South Side Drive. A location which serves as the home of its descendant station today, WAND(TV), Channel 17.


 

(Courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)




An 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. This shot is taken from the control room looking through the window into the actual studio.  The cameraman is visible at the lower left. Paul 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.
William Burley Lee Scales
William P. Burley, projectionist is shown behind a couple of 16mm film projectors which were used to air programming.

Leroy Scales, film director
(pictures above from
the Decatur Herald-Review)

(Above): An aerial shot of the
WTVP studios and tower located on South Side Drive in Decatur, Illinois.

(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)

 
(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)


 
(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)
(Above): H.O. Cusing, 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.


Prairie Television was primarily owned by William L. Shellabarger. He was the previous owner of Shellabarger Mills, Inc. a grain elevator and soy bean processing business in Decatur. He had just sold his grain business to Ralston-Purina. Other owners of Prairie included Harold G. Cowgill (10% owner), David S. Shellabarger (2%).

Harold “Harry” Cowgill was a Decatur native and a graduate of the Decatur schools and of Washington University. He entered government service as an employee of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1929. He moved to a position with the FCC in 1935, then joined the law firm of Segal, Smith and Hennessey in 1944. In 1952 he left the firm to be general manager of his
hometown television station, WTVP. David Shellabarger, bother of William, was a supervisor of investments and secretary as well as a manager of Shellabarger, Mills, Inc..
Wulliman, TAff, Cowgill and Shellabarger
(Above): Harold G. Cowgill, vice-president and general manager of WTVP
(from B-T)


left to right: James C. Wulliman, chief engineer; Paul Taff, program director; Harold G. Cowgill, vice-president and general manager; and W.L. Shellabarger

On December 16, 1952, it was announced that Prairie Television was granted to operate a television station on channel 17 in Decatur. Shellabarger in an interview with the Decatur Herald stated that the station would be built for a $250,000 investment. He also stated that the original plans for a 350-foot tower was already modified to be a 600-foot tower. The 17-kw power output would give WTVP a range of 40 to 60 miles from the transmitter point south of Decatur. It was also in December of 1952, Prairie Television placed an order with RCA for a major amount of the needed broadcast equipment inventory.

The staff of WTVP was beginning to take shape under the guidance of general manager, Harold G. Cowgill. In an interview he stated that he hoped to pick up network programs from a microwave link currently under construction between Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis. The microwave link would include a series of towers and antenna which would take it west of Springfield. From a repeater there, it would be microwaved to another link taking it to the studios of WTVP. He also continued, “TV stations unlike radio, do not need to contract for exclusive use of one network.”

By March of 1953, a change in ownership name would take place to change the name of the company to Decatur Prairie TV Company. It would also change the share amount of William Shellabarger from 80% to 68.25%. The 10% share of Harold Cowgill would fall to 5% with the change in stockholders. Others taken in to the company included Lucien W. Mueller, chairman of the board of the Meuller Company at 5%, while his wife Clarabell would pick up a 1.25% stake in ownership. The president of Wagner Malleable Iron Company, John A Wagner, would own 2.5% of Prairie's stock as well. The others, William and David, the two Shellabarger brothers along with Harold Cowgill, Lucien Mueller and John Wagner would make up the board of directors of the company.

Other minor stockholders included Mrs. Gladys L. Burns, widow of W.W. (Bill) Burns of Bill Burns Chevrolet Company at 2.5%; W. Curtis Busher, president of Emerson Piano House at 1.25%; Thomas W. Samuels, a Decatur attorney at 1.25%; Dr. A.C. Simon, a Decatur Physician at 3%; Mrs. Willetta G. Simon, wife of Dr. Simon at 2%; Harvey E. Steinhoff a vice president of Wagner Malleable Iron Company at 1.25%, J.L. Tallman, Decatur Cadillac dealer at 2.5% and W. Meredith Weck, treasurer of Haines & Essick Company(a Decatur department store) at 1.25%.

I assume that with the change in plans of a downtown studio and building top mounted antenna, the construction of a TV facility south of town along with a tall tower would necessitate additional building capitol. All of a sudden the plans of a $250,000 television station would double to a half a million dollars.


Also in March, it was announced the hiring of 28 year old James C. Wulliman, originally of Tuscola as chief engineer. He arrived in 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 Radio in Tuscola. Others members of the management team included Paul Taff as program director and Downey Hewey as sales manager. Downey Hewey was suggested to Harold Cowgill and supported by his experience at WSOY as a 25-year old sales manager. He previously spent time in radio sales at WJBC in Bloomington, Illinois and WDWS in Champaign, Illinois.

Also a member of the original staff meteorologist Loren Boatman. Mr. Boatman a science teacher at Lakeview High School in Decatur would use the opportunity as station weathercaster to teach earth science to his class with the installation of a weather station at the school. From there the class would contribute weather information for use by Boatman. A short tower to support a variety of weather instruments was placed on the roof of the school and would connect to the classroom by cable and a series of weather dials monitoring winds, barometric pressure and temperature. Even though a weather station was installed at the school, another similar set up was in place at WTVP as well. “Boats” as he was called, would continue to teach at Lakeview for years, while serving as Channel 17 weathercaster.

In late May and early June, the call letters of the new Decatur TV station was announced as WTVP. It was said to stand for TV(easy...television) then “P” for Prairie (the name of the company). It's quite by coincidence that TVP is a name of the product in the soybean processing industry, an industry very important to the Decatur area!


May of 1953 was the month the transmitter arrived from RCA. By June, the studio facility itself was reported at 95% complete and the tower erection was taking place, having just over 100-feet of its planned 550 foot structure completed. The remaining 52 feet would be the antenna, taking the total to 602-feet. When the tower was completed and the transmitter in place, the wait was on for the arrival of the antenna, which wouldn't occur for several more weeks. The original sign on date in late July was becoming more an more unlikely.

Other than the delay on the arrival of the antenna, the pieces of the puzzle were quickly falling into place with the assignment of George W. Clark, Inc. as the national sales representative for WTVP. In June of 1953, WTVP signed to be an affiliate of the American Broadcasting Company, making Channel 17 affiliate number 116.

It was also in early June it was reported the studio was 95-percent complete. One-hundred twelve feet of the six-hundred foot tower was erected, and the wait now was for the arrival of the antenna from RCA.

In July the news was eventually released that the initial sign-on date of WTVP would be delayed as RCA would not be able to deliver the antenna for the station on time. Plans were that WTVP would sign on with a test pattern on July 14, 1953 with commercial programming to begin on Thursday, July 16, 1953. In spite of a seemingly well organized effort to achieve the projected sign-on, the air date was going to be later than planned.

Not Yet, But Soon

In late June of 1953, the RCA transmitter arrived from the RCA factory at Camden, New Jersey. At that time the studio building was nearing completion while testing of equipment was being installed and tested.

The 52-foot RCA antenna finally arrived at South Side Drive in early August 1953. It was brought in on a long bed trailer, but would remain on the trailer for several days until arrangements could be made to have the tower crew there to install the antenna. During that time, the antenna itself became a public draw. Visitors to the station would have the opportunity to examine the antenna before it would be placed atop the 600-foot tower and become a Decatur landmark for decades. It was stated that the delay was due to the antenna failure of several tests at the RCA factory in New Jersey. When the antenna arrived, it was put through several “on the ground” tests and performed “perfectly” according to the WTVP engineers.


Crocker, French and Hewey
John 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, Marden Leonard, Sullivan
James Wulliman, chief engineer with Charles Marden, Engineer Bill Leonard, producer-director with Maureen Sullivan, art director
Barley, Ryan

Pianka, Hunt
Bill Barley, projectionist and Delores Ryan, women's director Ed Pianka, assistant chief engineer; Nils Hunt, engineer
Scales, Owens, Hayduck, Bort
Leroy Scales, film editor; Elinor Owens, traffic manager; Bill Hayduck, set designer; Marion Bort, continuity director
Elton Stewart, porter; and Downey Hewey, commerical manager(and a contributor to this website, see his comments below) John Buckstaff, floor manager; Sue Sullen, receptionist; C.H. Logan, producer-director
French, Wagner, Taff, Crockey
B.C. Gennetis, book keeper; Tony Parker, sports director; Kity LeMar, Secretary Steven French, account executive; Mary Wagner, receptionist; Paul Taff, program manager; and John Crockey, local sales manager.



(all staff pictures from the Decatur Herald-Review)

Helen Shellabarger, stenographer


WTVP Open House in August 1953


In anticipation of the sign-on of WTVP and before a public open house was held, the station hosted a VIP Private Open House on Saturday, August 8, 1953, which was attended by about 500 persons. Bill Pownall and his Decatur advertising agency was hired to organize the VIP party. During the event, work was underway at the rear of the studios on the tower.

Earlier during the afternoon of the VIP event, the time came to raise the WTVP antenna to the top of the station's 550-foot tower(with the antenna completing the 600-foot height). Hundreds of people watched as the crew hoisted the antenna from a wooden gin pole suspended from the top of the tower.

Slowly the antenna rode a cable up the side of the tower, slowly and carefully when there were several objectionable sounds coming from the wooden gin pole. According to the tower crew, the gin pole appeared to be cracking under the weight of the antenna. A decision was made to slowly lower the antenna to the ground once again with the possibility of a re-installation of a new gin pole before the end of the day. Another attempt would be tried on Sunday morning, before the planned public Open House.

Meanwhile, guests at the VIP event were shown the TV station building while entertainment was provided by Jim Ameche. Jim Ameche was the star of the “The Silver Eagle” one of the syndicated TV shows on the WTVP program schedule and brother of Don Ameche.  Other celebrities during the event included Chet Roble and “Studs” Turkel. “Studs” Turkel would in the future become an author, actor, historian and winner of a Pulitzer Prize. He was to begin a regular Chicago TV show the next week. At this event he played the piano. Another local celebrity was Franklin Wait, chief writer for the “Welcome Travelers” radio and television shows. Wait was the son of Arthur Wait of Decatur.

Ad placed by WTVP in the Decatur
Herald inviting potential area viewers to
their Open House.

The company responsible for the erection of the WTVP broadcast tower was Electrical Tower Service of Peoria. The crew foreman was Jack Streamer. Streamer said the actual raising of the antenna from the ground to the top would take two and half hours. Several hours additionally were needed to prepare for the actual raising, after losing time on Saturday when the gin pole cracked.


The following day work on raising the antenna would begin at 8am with plans to have the antenna in position at the top of the 550-foot tower by 11am. The following day would be used for the installation of the transmission line from the RCA transmitter to the antenna up the tower. The three hour window for the antenna raising was underestimated. It's unknown what problems the crew encountered, but it took much longer than expected.


Just a few hours after the work began on the installation of the antenna the first of two public open houses was conducted. The first Open House would host thousands of central Illinois potential viewers to the studio from 10am to 3pm. Since the station wasn't officially broadcasting yet, those attending would be granted the opportunity to see themselves on closed circuit television as part of the tour of the new television station, as well as check out the work being done at the same time on the tower. The event would be interrupted twice by the tower crew as the building was evacuated as a safety measure while the antenna was installed.

It appears the transmission line installation went according to plan. That allowed the station to contact the FCC which immediately granted permission for WTVP to go on the air with a test pattern via a telegram. After a couple of days of broadcasting a test pattern, the FCC would once again review the engineers findings and obtain approval for regular commercial telecasting. WTVP met all broadcast standings in fine form after the gin pole was removed on Tuesday August 11, and would go on the air with regular programming on Sunday, August 16. In the meantime, the station would broadcast an irregular schedule of the station test pattern.

The broadcast of the test pattern was getting some attention. Within twenty minutes of cranking up the transmitter with the test pattern, about 40 calls were received from viewers reporting good reception. Communities represented with those calls included of course Decatur with those outside communities being Springfield, Tuscola and Warrensburg. Paul K. Taff, WTVP program director made the first live appearance on the station late Tuesday night. He appeared briefly to welcome viewers and invited them to contact the station to report how the reception was.

The next week, on August 16, 1953 a second open house was planned when Channel 17 would finally go on-air officially. The hours of that open house would be 9am to Noon so, as the advertising of the event stated, “...in order that the studios may be used in the afternoon for program rehearsals.” It was reported that 10,000 people attended the open house and the antenna raising. Among those, at least 7,000 toured the interior of the studios. Many observers were there all day watching the crew install the antenna that took over seven hours. Six men were on the crew to install the antenna. An additional man was needed the next day on Monday to install the transmission line.

During these early weeks of August, the staff of WTVP was assembled and was “on the clock” even though the station hadn't aired its first paying commercial! The stresses of management and ownership had to be tremendous.


Two of the stages of antenna construction....first on the ground then later being taken to the top by crane.

(above photo from Decatur Herald-Review)

(lower photo courtesy of Carol Barnes and WAND)

WTVP Your Community Television Station


Eye Witness:   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 WTVP, Downey Hewey.  What follows are a few of his recollections from 60 years ago!

"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 (Rock and Roll) hit, back to Decatur at WSOY from '58 to '68, winding up as Station Manager."

Mr. Hewey also described the situation of licensing WCIA...

"One 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)."

"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."

--Thanks to Downey Hewey, a true broadcast pioneer!



picture of floor plan, top and article below from the Decatur Herald & Review; bottom exterior studio picture courtesy of Carol Barnes and WAND

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.


At present, 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.”

The program 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. Sales and 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.


Central Illinois (or at least a part of it) Sees Local Television for the First Time

Following the second WTVP Open House, the studios at WTVP were most certainly a busy place. Rehearsals were taking place with what was to be a fifteen minute formal grand opening for Channel 17 scheduled at 4:45pm. The WTVP kick-off program was to feature Decatur Mayor Robert E. Willis for the 5pm show. Willis would welcome Decatur's first television station. Most of the station officials would also appear including Willliam Shellabarger, Harold Cowgill, Paul Taff and James Wulliman.

Even though programming would be limited to the late afternoon and evening hours, general manager Harold Cowgill said that the broadcast of the stations test pattern would continue to allow television installers and technicians to adjust television sets. During that first evening of commercial broadcasting, among the reception reports was one from Champaign describing the reception as being “almost perfect.”

That first day of broadcasting was certainly an exciting day for those involved, but the reality was that less than 25-percent of homes had a working television, with only about 25-percent of those having the ability to receive UHF stations!

The initial official broadcast of WTVP would begin with the Grand Opening Show at 4:45pm, followed by "Living Book" a locally produced religious program.  At 5:30pm, the station would pull and 180 and bring on the cowboys with "The Cowboy G-Men" a syndicated western action series edited from the Saturday afternoon movie serials.  This series starred Russell Hayden, Jackie Coogan and Phil Arnold.  AT 6pm, it was back to religion with a program hosted by the areas churches, "Decatur Churches."  That would be followed by "This is the Life" the long running religious program anthology drama.  At 7:30pm it was "Honor Your Partner."  The details of "Honor Your Partner" are as of now unknown.  It may have been a game show, but so far I've not been able to track down any information.  The "General Electric Theater" was scheduled at 8pm.  The long running CBS series would be shown from film or kinescope.   The game show "Dollar a Second" hosted by Jan Murray would follow at 8:30, then it would be a syndicated drama anthology "Favorite Story" hosted by Adophe Menjou.  "The Visitor" would air at 9:30pm.  It was also a syndicated anthology.  WTVP would then produce a local weather-cast at 10pm hosted by either Loren Boatman and/or Max Bolen, both weathercasters at WTVP.  The news was called the "Weekly Newsreel" and would follow at 10:15pm anchored by Bob Shade, WTVP news editor.  Sports anchored by Tony Parker would end the news block running from 10:30 to 10:45pm.  The last program of the first day of WTVP would be "Yesterday's Newsreel" probably a film news feature prepared by a syndicator for distribution to local TV stations.

Mayor of Decatur at WTVP Opening on Aug 16, 1953
August 16, 1953   WTVP, Channel 17's first broadcast day

5:00  pm    Living Book(local religion)
5:30  pm    Cowboy G-Men
6:00  pm    Decatur Churches
6:30  pm    This is the Life
7:00  pm    Story Theater
7:30  pm    Honor Your Partner
8:00  pm    G.E. Theater
8:30  pm    Dollar a Second
9:00  pm    Favorite Story
9:30  pm    The Visitor
10:00  pm  Weather
10:15  pm  Weekly Newsreel
10:30  pm  Sports
10:45  pm  Yesterday's Newsreel

"Cowboy G-Men" was a syndicated western action series edited from the movie serial produced in the 1940's. It starred Russell Hayden and Jackie Coogan.
This was 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.

The Fight Begins with WCIA

As you will see in the history of WCIA, all was not friendly between those early television pioneers in central Illinois. In the future, there would be many disputes between the stations, but the first one came up in July of 1953 as WCIA, central Illinois' first VHF station was being built. The original plan was for WCIA to build its 700- foot tower about 2.4 miles northwest of downtown Champaign. The application was changed later to place an antenna about 10 miles west of Champaign, near Seymour, Illinois just south of Illinois Route 10.

After the first amended filing, Midwest Television applied for yet another facility change which would place the broadcast tower 14 miles from Champaign on a particularly high piece of ground located just north of While Heath, Illinois. This would have placed the station nearer to Decatur and would have certainly increased the signal levels into Decatur, although realistically the added signal strength probably would not have been that noticeable there. Where it would have been noticeable was in Springfield, Illinois. Not only would the signal level been stronger, but the higher antenna would have secured at least a “B” grade signal into the Illinois State capitol, while maintaining a city grade signal over Champaign-Urbana.

It was that action which triggered a petition to the FCC against that transmitter/tower location change. Decatur Prairie TV argued that the tower location change of WCIA would result in a financial hardship on Channel 17 and was an “invasion and encroachment” of the territory primarily served by WTVP.

This filing would have certainly delayed the completion date of Channel 3 if it was go reaching hearing status within the FCC. In fact, any delay to hearing would have probably set WCIA back weeks, if not months. It was reported that the foundation to the 1,000 foot tower was already constructed near White Heath and curing of the concrete was taking place when the Prairie petition was filed.

In late July before WTVP was even to go to air, an agreement between Prairie and Midwest Television would bring about a second change in the tower location of WCIA The original site near Seymour would be selected once again. The battle was won by Decatur Prairie TV and WTVP but the war would go on for years.


The Primary Network would be ABC

WTVP would end up being a full time ABC affiliate, as the original plan of being an affiliate of all networks by general manager Harold Cowgill was a bit overstated. There were some select examples of WTVP carrying programs from CBS. It may have come from an attempt to become a secondary affiliate of CBS. It fact, the eventual denial of WTVP to becoming a secondary CBS affiliate was used as proof of a financial loss by WTVP when the station filed against WCIA in the placement of the Channel 3 transmitter/tower/antenna. In reality, 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. More on the scheduling of network programming later.

Growing Up ABC

ABC was the upstart television network at the time. Even though the American Broadcasting Company can trace its history back to 1943, it wasn't until 1948 that ABC television went on the air with a number of big city affiliates in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and its own stations in New York, Chicago, Detroit and later Los Angeles and San Francisco. During the freeze, ABC was loosing money and was near bankruptcy when a partner was found in United Paramount Theaters. After a long battle with the FCC the merger was finally approved in 1953.

The network was in building mode during the period from 1953 to 1960 and gradually became more of a contender with the other networks, but still was regarded as a third place network. In spite of its positioning as a weak programmer, the network did a 15-minute nightly news program which was anchored by John Daley during much of the 1950's. Even though, the TV network would rely on the news department of its radio arm, ABC news would continue to grow into a full fledged network source of world and national news.





Is it Live or Kinescope?

The biggest obstacle for many early stations was receiving live network programming. For WTVP, it was particularly difficult. Being in central Illinois there was no network video coax nearby. The closest run was 90 miles to the east in Danville. Meanwhile a microwave repeater system was being constructed from August to September 1953 by A.T. & T. to connect Chicago to Peoria to St. Louis. It's path would run south from Peoria to St. Louis just west of Springfield. This necessitated a “leg” which would beam video via another set of microwave towers from a point west of Springfield eastward to just west of Decatur, then a short “hop” to the studios on the cities south side. It's unknown if that final hop was a microwave link or a short coax run.

When WTVP went to air in August of 1953, even though it was an ABC station, network programming was aired from either filmed productions or through the use of kinescopes sent to stations which were on “live” on the network. The network and syndicators would “bicycle” kinescopes from the network from station to station. The station would receive the film usually by transport or by using the areas bus lines to send and receive parcels. They would air the film, then send it on to another station in the loop. The station with a kinescope affiliation would receive network shows a week or several weeks later than its original live network airing. Syndicated shows would be rotated at no set schedule sometimes months after its final production.



(from TV Guide, Doug Quick Collection)

Even though WTVP had an affiliation with ABC it didn't mean it would air the entire ABC prime time network schedule.
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


By October 1, 1953, it was going to be possible that Channel 17 would be able to broadcast a live programs from ABC through the facilities of American Telephone and Telegraph. It would involve a leg of microwave relays that would send the signals originating from any of the national broadcast networks to Decatur and WTVP. In August and September of 1953, construction was underway on a series of towers between a point west of Springfield to Decatur.

Another consideration for a live network feed was the cost. It's unknown exactly what WTVP was paying for a network line, but it was costly. For example, in Danville, WDAN-TV was just a couple of blocks away from the passing of a major coaxial line from Chicago to Terre Haute and Evansville, and that stations costs were exceeding $4,000 a month! Network compensation wasn't coming close to covering the cost of the line to A.T. & T.

WTVP and WDAN-TV wasn't alone in its exorbitant costs of the network coaxial feed. Later in the mid 50's, there were protests filed with the FCC on behalf of television broadcasters against the A.T. & T..


WTVP Was First With University of Illinois Basketball Broadcasts

The first University of Illinois “Fighting Illini” basketball game was telecast on WTVP on December 9, 1953 as Butler University visited Huff Gym. Whereas, WTVP negotiated the broadcast of the home games with the University of Illinois and worked out the logistics of getting the signal to Decatur, WCIA had yet to work out the schedule of the games and the logistics. That allowed Channel 17 to get a jump on WCIA's tradition of broadcasting Illini basketball.

It wasn't long before WCIA began to broadcast the games on a regular basis. WCIA would broadcast their first game on December 12, 1953. All broadcasts were to be Monday and Saturday evenings.

The broadcast of the games was not an exclusive arrangement like today, because plans were still being made for future basketball broadcasts of the Illini on WTVP. It was reported that a portable microwave tower and repeater was used to relay the Illini Football broadcasts to Danville and the coaxial network which would then send the signal to Chicago and the network switchboard.

The portable microwave tower and transmitter was moved from its location about 3 miles southeast of Ogden, Illinois to its new location 2 miles north and one mile west of Bement, Illinois. The portable tower was 78-feet originally, but after it was moved to Bement it was extended to a taller 102-feet.

Another relay system was located either on the Citizen's Bank Building in downtown Decatur or atop the Staley Manufacturing Office Building on Eldorado Street in Decatur. It appears in reports the relay site in Decatur was not set in stone and could be moved to and from both sites. From either of these locations, the signal was relayed again to the receiver on the broadcast tower of WTVP on Decatur's south side.

The audio for the games were sent via phone phone lines. The video for the games, whether it was for WTVP or WCIA or any other stations or networks was provided and produced by the University of Illinois Motion Picture Picture and Television Unit, while the local stations provided their own announcers and audio. For WTVP, that play by play announcer would be Tony Parker.









"3 Bosses Resign at Station WTVP in Sudden Move"

were the headlines from the Decatur Herald and Review






Irreconcilable Differences”
take WTVP and Gene Autry Off the Air

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 this management crisis.

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. WTVP did return to air a broadcast of the telethon that evening, but it aired only the audio of the event. This technical problem would force the station to call in an engineer with RCA to try to resolve the problem.

This episode ended up being a rather earth shattering event in the history of WTVP! It was announced that station general manager
Howard Cowgill, chief engineer James Wulliman and program director Paul Taff had resigned. The trio later stated to the press, that they were asked to quit. Meanwhile, Decatur Prairie TV 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 Tony Parker, Woman’s Director Deloris Ryan and station air personality Dick Shaugnessy, who hosted a show on weekday afternoons.


Gene Autry's appearance was the closest thing to a superstar Decatur and central Illinois fans would ever see!  Along with his appearance for the Polio Telethon, it was also a commercial appearance on behalf of Holsum Bread company of Springfield.


In that later interview with now former WTVP station manager Cowgill, he blamed “irreconcilable differences in views and positions” between himself along with Taff and Wulliman and Shellabarger.

It’s 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! It was obvious that the number of employees was excessive for a TV station with a broadcast day of less than 12 hours.
Shellabarger, 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.

One can assume that many of the disgruntled employees were including the firing, as many were on-air key people that probably would not have been cut from the payroll ordinarily. The only member of management that continued with the station was sales manager Downy Hewey, who was in New York making sales calls that week.

A few days later
Harold Cowgill made an appearance in the Decatur Herald headlines, 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. There was never any indication that any application for channel 23 was ever made by Cowgill.

Harold Cowgill would exit Decatur to become the Chief of the FCC Common Carrier Bureau in December of 1954. By May of 1957 he was named chief of the FCC Broadcast Bureau succeeding Edward F. Kenehan who resigned to join a Washington law firm.

On January 22, 1954 WTVP would resume its regular broadcast schedule, without 20 former employees, including the stations general manager. Shellabarger would say he and other members of the board of directors had decided to trim the 47 person staff . He would make this statement, “stockholders thought we were tremendously overburdened by expense of this large staff and wanted to reduce it.”


ABC Shows on WTVP from 1953-1956
"This is ABC Television Network" "Pride of the Family" "Peter Potter Show"
aka "Jukebox Jury"
Liberace" "Super Circus"
"The Name's the Same" "Mark Saber" "Ford Theatre" "Break the Bank" "The Danny Thomas Show"
"Stop the Music" "Ozark Jubilee" "Disneyland" "Lawrence Welk" "Voice of Firestone"
"Wyatt Earp" "The Lone Ranger" "Crossroads" "Original Amateur Hour" "Warner Brothers Presents..." "Cheyenne"
Syndicated Shows on WTVP from 1953-1956
"Cowboy G-Men" "Abbott and Costeloo Show" "Dangerous Assignment" "Hopilong Cassidy" "Dick Tracy"
"Roller Derby" "Sky King" 1 "The Goldbergs" 1 "Badge 714"
aka "Dragnet" 2
"The Big Picture"
"Heart of the City"
aka "Big Town" 2
"Boston Blackie" "The Life of Riley" 1 "Mystery Theater" "WTVP, Ch 17"
"Mr. District Attorney" "Front Page Detective" "Faith for Today" "The Falcon" "The Adventures of Kit Carson"
"Federal Men"
aka "Treasury Men in Action" 2
"Foreign Intrigue"
aka "Crosspoint"
    "Dollar A Second"
from DuMont Network 3
1 off network series in station syndication
2 off network series in station syndication but known with a different name in syndication
3 kinescope from DuMont











When WTVP went on the air this

ABC logo was being used associated
with the few ABC Shows included
in the schedule.


Here is another version of the early to
mid 1950's version of the ABC logo


"Treasury Men in Action" was hosted by Walter Greaza and featured a crime story of the week in this anthology series, sponsored by Chevrolet.












"The Danny Thomas Show" was one of the
first ABC series to be included in the schedule of WTVP.  This clip features the "first family" consisting of Jean Hagen and Sherry Jackson.
The openings may not be the original as it may
have been altered for syndication.


"Disneyland" was the first television feature from Walt Disney.  The series would consist of animated features (as this one is), but live action produced stories were also included.


"Abbott and Costello" was a syndicated series consisting of a number of skits, many included situations of the down and out duo and also featured many of the play on words routines featured in vaudeville and in their many movies.


Schedule of Programming on WTVP, Channel 17 for the week of September 11-17, 1954
Saturday, Sept 11, 1954

12:30 pm World News-unknown source/format
12:45 pm Film  1
1:00 pm   Baseball Warm Up (CBS)
1:15 pm   Baseball Game of the Week (CBS) Yankees at Chicago White Sox, Comiskey Park
4:00 pm   Sports Revues-unknown source/format
4:30 pm   Western Theater-
5:30 pm   Dick Tracy
6:00 pm   Farm News- Al Pigg
6:15 pm   News and Weather
6:30 pm   Dotty Mack Show (ABC) musical variety starring Dotty Mack
7:00 pm   to be announced
7:30 pm  Greatest Sports Athletes (ABC) sports news
8:00 pm  Saturday Night Fights (ABC) boxing with Jack Gregson from Cincinnati Music Hall
8:45 pm  Fight Talk (ABC)
9:00 pm  Life of Riley-syn, sit com,  off NBC network
9:30 pm  Miss America Pageant (special-ABC), pageant hosted by John Daley and Bess Myerson-sponsored by Philco Corporation
11:00 pm Weather
11:10 pm Film
11:15 pm Weekly News Review 2
11:30 pm Sports
11:45 pm Feature Theater-Movie (title not listed)

Sunday, Sept 12, 1954

2:00 pm   Christophers syn, religion
2:15 pm   Weekly News Review- 2
2:30 pm   Herald of Truth, syn, religion
3:00 pm   Film
3:30 pm   Sleepy Joe syn, kids show 3
4:00 pm   Matinee Movie (not listed)
5:00 pm   Music Box Review-unknown source/format
5:30 pm   Cowboy G-Men-syn, western movie series
6:00 pm   Decatur Churches- religion
6:30 pm   Film
7:00 pm   Feature Theater (not listed)
8:15 pm   Martha Wright Show[Packard Show Room] (ABC) musical variety, starring Martha Wright
8:30 pm   Favorite Story syn dramatic anthology hosted by Adolphe Menjou
9:00 pm  Break the Bank (ABC) game, hosted by Burt Parks
9:30 pm   Douglas Fairbanks syn, dramatic anthology
10:00 pm World News Report  unknown source
10:15pm  Church of God  religion, unknown source

Monday-Friday, September 13-17, 1954 sign-on to 6pm

8:00 am   Don McNeill's Breakfast Club (ABC) variety live from Chicago
9:00 am   no listings 4
3:30 pm  Studio Party  unknown source/format
4:00 pm  Kim's Korner variety hosted by Kim Wilson
4:30 pm  Uncle Al and his Friends kids hosted by Al Pigg
5:30 pm  Crusader Rabbit and Adventure Time syn cartoon serial, strung together to fill the half hour 5


Monday, September 13, 1954

6:00 pm  Farm News-Al Pigg  local farm report
6:15 pm  ABC News-John Daley
6:30 pm  Weather and Sports
7:00 pm  Family Theater  unknown source/format
8:00 pm  Junior Press Conference (ABC) college students interview Sir Pierson Dixon of the UN representing Great Britain
8:30 pm  Boxing Preliminaries  (ABC) boxing
9:00 pm  Boxing (ABC) boxing from Eastern Parkway Arena, Brooklyn NY with Fred Sayles and Tommy Loughran
10:00 pm Weather-Max Bolen
10:10 pm  What's New?  unknown format
10:15 pm  World News
10:30 pm  Sports
10:45 pm  Ringside with the Rasslers syn wrestling unknown source

Tuesday, Sept 14, 1954

6:00 pm    Farm News-Al Pigg
6:15 pm    ABC News- John Daley
6:30 pm    Weather and Sports
6:45 pm    Old Scrapbook- unknown source/format
7:00 pm    Jackson and Jill- unknown source/format
7:15 pm    Public Prosecutor syn, crime drama, off DuMont network
7:30 pm   Liberace syn, musical variety hosted by Liberace
8:00 pm   Danny Thomas Show (ABC) sit com, starring Danny Thomas, Jean Hagen, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Jackson
8:30 pm   Badge 714[Dragnet] syn, crime drama starring Jack Webb
9:00 pm   Mr. District Attorney syn, legan drama, starring Jay Jostyn
9:30 pm  Stop the Music (ABC) musical quiz
10:00 pm Weather-Max Bolen
10:10 pm Mr Esquire-unknown source/format
10:15 pm World News
10:30 pm Sports
10:45 pm Feature Theater- Movie (not listed)


Wednesday, Sept 15, 1954

6:00 pm   Farm News-Al Pigg
6:15 pm   ABC News-John Daley
6:30 pm   Weather and Sports
6:45 pm   Public Prosecutor syn, crime drama, off DuMont network
7:00 pm   Soldier Parade (ABC) talent show with military members, hosted by Gisele MacKenzie
7:30 pm   Boston Blackie syn, crime drama, starring Kent Taylor, produced by ZIV
8:00 pm   Front Page Detective  syn, crime drama, off DuMont network, starring Edmund Lowe
8:30 pm   Westinghouse Party unknown source/format
9:00 pm   Film
9:30 pm   The Big Picture syn, military supplied film
10:00 pm  Weather-Max Bolen
10:10 pm  What's New
10:15 pm  World News
10:30 pm  Sports
10:45 pm  Feature Theater-Movie (not listed)


Thursday, Sept 16, 1954

6:00 pm  
Farm News-Al Pigg
6:15 pm   ABC News-John Daley
6:30 pm   Weather and Sports
6:45 pm   Industry on Parade syn, documentary supplied by National Association of Manufactures
7:00 pm   They Stand Accused (ABC) legal drama, anthology
8:00 pm    This is the Life syn, religion
8:30 pm    Ford Theater (NBC) dramatic anthology 6
9:00 pm    Heart of the City[Big Town] syn, crime drama, starring various actors playing the leads, off CBS/NBC network
9:30 pm    Counterpoint unknown source/format
10:00 pm  Weather-Max Bolen
10:10 pm  What's New
10:15 pm  World News
10:30 pm  Sports
10:45 pm  Feature Theater-Movie (not listed)

Friday, Sept 17, 1954

6:00 pm   Farm News-Al Pigg
6:15 pm   ABC News-John Daley
6:30 pm   Weather and Sports
6:45 pm   Paradise Island syn, musical variety
7:00 pm   All Star Theater 7
7:30 pm   Sports Thrills-unknown source/format
8:00 pm   Pride of the Family (ABC) sit com, starring Leon Ames
8:30 pm   Abbott and Costello, syn, comedy with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
9:00 pm   The Falcon syn, crime drama, starring Charles McGraw
9:30 pm   Hollywood Half Hour-unknown source/format
10:00 pm Weather-Max Bolen
10:10 pm Mr Esquire-unknown source/format
10:15 pm World News
10:30 pm Sports
10:45 pm Feature Theater- Movie (not listed)

Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics

1 Film could have been travel log, educational film, promotional film, etc. not specified
2 "Weekly News Review" is assumed to be a syndicated news reel edited news of the week or week before
3 "Sleepy Joe" was an incredibly politically incorrect syndicated series based off of a radio program of the same title.  This one was a puppet program with Jimmy Scribner as a black-faced character who spun yarns at the request of a little girl, played by his daughter. This was syndicated from its off network run with ABC in the late 1940's.
4 no listings, either test pattern or signed-off
5 Crusader Rabbit was one of the first cartoons created for television from the Jay Ward production unit
6 "Ford Theater" shifted through the years of 1949-1957 among  CBS, NBC and ABC.  At this time it was on NBC, but evidently other stations like WTVP used the separation of markets across central Illinois as an opportunity to sell the time to Ford.  It was also seen on WCIA and WICS
7 "All Star Theater" is the syndication name of an unknown off network series, it could have been the "All-Star Revue" but that was a variety show.  The use of "Theater" makes it sound more like a dramatic presentation.... so for now, it's source and format is unknown.

There were a number of ABC shows of that era that didn't turn up on WTVP's schedule.  Evidently, ABC did not see the benefit of placing those shows(and paying the network compensation) to WTVP.  Among the ABC shows not included on the schedule were:  "You Asked for It," "Jamie," "Of Many Things," "U.S. Steel Hour," "Inspector Mark Saber," "At Issue," "Through the Curtain," "America in View," "Lone Ranger," "Quick as a Flash," "Where's Raymond," "Back That Fact," "Kraft Television Theater," "Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," "Comeback Story," "Showcase Theater," "Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club," "Leave it to the Girls" and "Music at the Meadowbrook."

(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)

Eye Witness:  I received some additional information from Bill Burns, the leader of the "Rhythm Wranglers" mentioned 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(WCIA). 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!



(Above): The title of "The Name's the Same" game show in which Al Pigg made an appearance.



(Right): From TV Guide announcing the premiere of "Uncle Al's Corral" the weekday afternoon kids program hosted by Mr. Pigg.
(from TV Guide-Doug Quick Collection)



Al Pigg on “The Name's the Same”

One of ABC's early offerings was a Goodson-Todman produced television game show hosted by Robert Q. Lewis called “The Name's the Same.” The concept was simple, a guest with an unusual name would appear as a contestant. It wasn't just an unusual name that made it interesting. The name had to ironically have something to do with that person's appearance or perhaps how me/she made a living. A celebrity panel would guess the name and the irony.

In this case, the contestant was Al Pigg, the farm reporter of WTVP. That's the irony. A TV farm reporter named “Pigg.” His appearance was live in New York on ABC and WTVP on February 9th, 1954 at 9:30pm Central Time. It's unknown how long he stumped the panel or how much money he won, but it certainly helped make Al Pigg a household name for Decatur area central Illinois viewers.

Al would hold the position at WTVP until April of 1955. At that time it was announced Ford Rush as farm director of WTVP. Rush was described as a “western personality.”

June of 1955 Al Pigg would be named farm director at WICS in Springfield. He would later return to WTVP in the early 1960's, where once again he would also host a children's show for a time as well as continue as the stations farm director.


(Top): from the Doug Quick TV Guide Collection

(Bottom): Al Pigg pictured with some local talent during "Uncle Al's Corral" Show on WTVP in the mid 1950's.

(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)


Making Hay with McCarthy

Between April and June of 1954 the Army-McCarthy hearings were taking place before the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Investigations to investigate accusations between the U.S. Army and Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. The hearings were covered gavel to gavel on live television by DuMont and ABC.


ABC and DuMont had no daytime broadcast schedule of programs to pre-empt during the hearings so it was a natural for the networks to achieve some viewership for itself and its affiliates. ABC reported a total of 54 stations broadcasting a total of 78 hours of coverage between the start of the hearings in April through the third week of May.

Among those stations broadcasting the hearings across mid Illinois were WTVP; WTVH, Peoria and WTVI, St. Louis. The network offered commercial time avails during the coverage to local stations as a bonus and all of the local stations took advantage of the opportunity. At Channel 17, the Army-McCarthy hearings were sponsored by a local Philco TV dealer.








Paul Weidenbacher was a mainstay of most 6pm newscasts advertising his car(s) of the day from the 1960's.


We've Got to Air the Commercials!

Very early TV commercials existed in just a couple of different formats. They were broadcast as live productions, or would include a series of film slides with live announcer audio. The assumption is made that virtually all of the local commercial productions have been lost to the ages.

Probably one of the most remembered local sponsors on WTVP over the years was local Oldsmobile dealer Paul Weidenbacher. Mr. Weidenbacher, dressed in his trench coat, sunglasses and his Fedora 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 (or at least his hat and sunglasses) 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: Tallman Cadillac, El Bauer Chevrolet, Cohen Furniture, Good’s Furniture, TV Tom, Crane Potato Chips, H Post and Sons, The Millikin Bank, Tolly Foods, Heinkel Packing and Dawson and Wikoff Funeral Home.


Stephen W. Pozgay, WTVP general manager in 1955.
(from B-T)


New Leadership....No Wait....New Leadership

After the dismissal of Harold Cowgill and the now legendary exodus in January of 1954, WTVP would welcome his replacement. He many have been a temporary general manager, or perhaps he was hired as a permanent replacement. Very little is known or mentioned in the local press or even in the national media press. That may indicate perhaps he was temporary. Perhaps a big announcement was too soon and would serve as a reminder of the rather embarrassing way the year began at WTVP.

The name of George Clark(George Clark was the national sales representative and the firm had his name as the title)  was found to be between that of general manager Harold Cowgill and a future station manager, Stephen W. Pozgay mentioned below.  About the only thing that has come up in regards to Mr. Clark, was that he was a former national sales account executive from Chicago and his time at WTVP was very brief. There may have been an overlapping of the time that Clark was general manager and Steve Pozgay was station manager. Clark left WTVP very soon after the appointing of Pozgay to station manager. It was said Clark didn't like Decatur and left on his own accord.

So after a very short tenure of general manager George Clark, by late January 1954 Decatur Prairie TV announced the hiring of a new station manager, Stephen W. Pozgay of Neenah, Wisconsin, where he held the same 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 early months of 1954 to take control of the engineering of the station. H.F. Abfalter was appointed the new chief engineer, along with the already mentioned Bob Wright as WTVP program director.

Bill Leonard, WTVP producer-director soon left as well. In February he was hired at WLWD-TV in Dayton, Ohio.

Shawn F. Murphy was appointed WTVP general manager
(from B-T)



No Wait....Another Leader Takes Control

A year after the appointment of Stephen W. Pozgay to general manager, Decatur Prairie TV and William Shellabarger appoints Shawn F. Murphy as station manager of WTVP during January of 1955. Murphy was a former sales manager at WFIE-TV in Evansville, Indiana.

Stephen Pozgay left the station and was appointed TV director and account executive at Biddle Advertising Company in Bloomington, Illinois.

The First Power Increase

In early August, an application was received by the FCC to change the effective radiated power of WTVP from 17,000 watts to 158,000 watts. Soon after the application was filed, it was amended to change the output power of the station up to 213,000 watts.

An ad placed in an October 1954 Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine, the power of WTVP was touted at 213,000. That increased power output was estimated to take the broadcast radius of Channel 17 from 40 miles to nearly 75 miles. In November a mention in Broadcasting-Telecasting told of RCA shipping a transmitter on October 29, 1954 to WTVP.

It would take until Halloween of 1954 for the approval and installation of the new transmitter to be delivered and installed. Ultimately the power was increased again to 540,000 watts by the end of the year. It was reported by H.F. Abfalter, WTVP chief engineer, that reports were coming in on additional viewers of Channel 17. Reception reports were coming in from Paris, Farmer City, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Effingham and Gibson City, Illinois. The additional coverage area would bring the coverage of WTVP to 140,000 homes. Reception reports came in from Paris (83 miles), Farmer City, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Effingham and Gibson City.





(from broadcasting-telecasting)

Eye Witness:  Over the years I have heard from many people who "were there" in those very early days of central Illinois television broadcasting.  Here is the story of Darrell Blue as he described his experience at WTVP.  He was there in 1959 for a couple of years.  He would leave WTVP to go to WCIA.  See his story on the History of WCIA

"At WTVP, I was a member of the production crew and did a little bit of everything.  That included running camera, announcing, sweeping the floors and so forth.  I did have a couple of on-air assignments.  One was doing a 15 minute program at 11:45 am called 'Fun Facts.'  It was essentially public service announcements, interviews and some trivia.  At that time, the station signed on for the day just before noon."

"Later when Frank Monty went off to the Army, I took over the job of hosting the teen dance show called "The Coke Show."  It ran on Saturday afternoons following American Bandstand and was much like 'The Hop' on Channel 3."

---Many thanks to Darrell Blue for his story!


ABC Shows on WTVP from 1957-1959    (not already shown above)
"The Mike Wallace Interview" "American Bandstand" "Keep it in the Family" "Circus Time" "The Real McCoys"
"The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom" "Lawrence Welk's Top Tunes and New Talent" "Mickey Mouse Club" "Date with the Angels" "The Navy Log"
"Leave it to Beaver" "Circus Boy" "Broken Arrow" "Frank Sinatra Show" "The Rifleman"
"The Walter Winchell File" "The Ray Anthony Show" "The Adventures of Superman" "Tombstone Territory" "This is ABC"
"Telephone Time" "The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show" "Who Do You Trust"    
"Cheyenne" "Maverick" "Conflict"  
Syndicated Shows Airing on WTVP 1957-1959 (not already shown above)
"Jungle Jim" "The Sheriff of Cochise" "Ramar of the Jungle" "The Hoot Gibson Show" "Sea Hunt"
"The Honeymoones"  "China Smith" "Highway Patrol" "Code 3" "Mama" 1


"The Amos and Andy Show"  "Our Miss Brooks"      "The Rifleman" 










In 1958, ABC adopted the "Big A" logo.  Here is one example of how it was used within "Do You Trust Your Life" which starred Johnny Carson.  It was used to cure the local stations for a station ID insertion.



ABC ran a special about Disneyland and pre-empted a show sponsored by the Ralston-Purina company.  Here the special is closed out with the ABC "Big A" logo and is followed by a slide-promo for "The Rifleman" from 1959


"The Real McCoys" premiered on ABC in 1957 and ran on the network until September of 1962 when it was picked up by CBS.  Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna, Kathleen Nolan, Andy Clyde and Michael Winkleman starred.












Nick Adams starred as Johnny Yuma, "The Rebel" on ABC in 1959-1961.  Reruns were picked up by NBC during the summer of 1962.



  Produced by Desilu (Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball) it was included as part of the "Westinghouse Theater-Desilu Playhouse."  It starred Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Abel Fernandez, Nick Georgiade and Bruce Gordon. 
 

"Adventures in Paradise" was created by James A. Michener, although he would drop out of the project in protest to the lack of quality of scripts and production.  The series was produced by 20th Century Fox and starred Gardner McKay.






(Left): The WTVP-17 "Snack Wagon" evidently traveled throughout the area passing out products of participating sponsors....a promotional idea which was used by both radio and evidently TV stations during era and later into the 60s and 70s.

(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes and WAND)



ABC Shows Not Seen on WTVP

Because of the arrangement between network and affiliate being different than today, many programs carried by the networks were actually more like infomercials  purchased by the program owners-being the ad agencies.   Because of the size of the Decatur market being small it was a low priority, especially during the early days.  It's difficult to determine how many shows from ABC were not initially shown, because they may have actually later shown up on the schedule of WTVP.

One major series, was one of the top ABC shows of the era,  "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" was not seen on WTVP until the early 1960's.  As far as I can determine, the reason was as follows:  The sponsors of "Ozzie and Harriet" were Kodak and Coca-Cola.  The show was essentially owned by Ozzie Nelson and the advertising agency representing those two major advertisers.  Somehow it was determined that the audience of WTVP was not sufficient enough to warrart the purchase of time on Channel 17.   So, the agency purchased time instead on WCIA, the markets only VHF station.  WCIA would show the episode of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" from a 16mm film which would contain the program with commercials.  It would air perhaps several weeks after the initial network presentation. 

One benefit from this arrangement which probably occurred in other markets as well, was the preservation of the series for future generations as episodes have been included in DVD collections of episodes from the popular TV series!  Many of these episodes include the original commercials, commercial billboards and ABC production credits obviously from those early films which were distributed to stations.

Another series which was pulled from the ABC schedule was "Zorro."  Although the reason for it not being part of the WTVP schedule is not quite as obvious.  The Disney series would be shown instead not on the big VHF station, WCIA, but instead would show up on WICS, Channel 20 in Springfield.  There would not be any gain in audience from moving the ABC series to the NBC affiliate, so the reason is unknown.




(top left): "Ozzie and Harriet" shown on ABC affiliates KTVI, Channel 2 in St. Louis and WTVH, Channel 19 in Peoria, but not with WTVP....instead with WCIA, Channel 3 at a different time slot and by film.

(right): "Zorro" presented by ABC also not seen on WTVP instead ending up with WICS, the Springfield areas NBC affiliate.  The reason is unknown.





WTVP general manager
Ben K. West
(picture from Frank Monte Collection)


(top): Maverick being introduced in TV Guide.

(second): The Mike Wallace Interviews ad in TV Guide
(TV Guides-Doug Quick Collection)

(above): The Donna Reed Show from TV Guide
(TV Guide-Doug Quick Collection)



Yet Another New Leader With a Promotion

The new year of 1958 began with WTVP being granted a new general manager. Ben K. West, (pictured at left) former sales manager was promoted to the position. He replaced Shawn Murphy who held the position since January of 1955.  Mr. West was named commercial manager of WTVP in March of 1957 when he moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana and WINT(TV). 

The appointment of Ben West to lead the station under the ownership of William Shellabarger and Decatur Prairie TV would be a short tenure as talks would be underway to sell WTVP.




WTVP and Prairie Television Gets New Owners

In early April of 1958, William Shellabarger and his other stockholders evidently had had enough of the television business. Through contacts with a Chicago advertising agency, Tatham-Laird, one of the media directors, George Bolas assembled a group of investors who would take the TV plunge and purchase Prairie Television Company and WTVP.

The group also included a couple of board members of one of the clients of the ad agency, the Campbell Soup Company. Gilbert and W. C. Swanson were included as major stockholders of the station. The Swanson brothers were already well known, or at least their name was, as it was the brand name of the frozen dinner division of the soup company.

The new group would purchase the business and television operation and lease the land and building from Shellabarger. The new owners would purchase WTVP for $200,000 for stock and debentures plus pay a lease at $20,000 a year for five years with the option to buy the building and property for $225,000. Bolas would own 30% with both Swanson's owning 15% each. 40% would be owned by other minor stockholders who were not named in the original application. The change in ownership would be approved by the FCC on May 28, 1958.

The previous station general manager, Ben West, would continue in that position under the new ownership. By July, the company would elect officers and directors of the board. The meeting would also include a famous star as part of a banquet to celebrate the new board. Phil Harris, of the Jack Benny Show on radio during the 1940's and very early 1950's would be a guest of the board.

It appeared this change in ownership would not be pleasant phase for WTVP or its employees. When the sale took place the new owners took over a station seemingly in position for growth. Instead a business austerity program would eventually reduce the number of hours of operation for the station, production of local programs (other than local news) would end, many long time employees would leave (such as Kim Wilson, who would go to WICS).


(above): "Marty's Dance Party" was WTVP's version of
American Bandstand.  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 after the tenures of Frank Monte and Darrell Blue.  The show was retitled "Marty's Dance Party." 
 Here he is pictured with his wife. 
(picture from Marty Schopp, Marty Roberts son)
(pictured above-left to right): Officers and directors of Prairie Television Inc..  George Diefenderfer(stock holder); W. Clarke Swanson and Gilbert Swanson-Swanson Foods Div. of Campbell Soup Company; Phil Harris-entertainer; George A. Bolas(media director of Tatham-Laird Inc.,  Ben K. West-WTVP general manager; David A. Preston(stock holder).

Other stock holders not pictured: Robert T. Mahar(member of law firm of Osbourne, Scheib, Hogan and Mayer); W. J. McEdwards(NBC central division TV network sales; Philip Zimmerly, Champaign attorney, Arthur E. Tatham(board chairman of Tatham-Laird Inc.).

(picture from broadcasting-telecasting magazine)


WTVP Tries to Wage War Against WCIA

With the allocation of channel 2 in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1958, the holders of channel 10 in Terre Haute, WTHI-TV sought out the lower dial position and applied to move to channel 2. This brought about additional applications for both channel 2 and 10. Among the applications was one filed by Livesay Broadcasting. Livesay Broadcasting was a holder of WLBH Radio in Mattoon, Illinois. Seeing the prospect of additional competition in southeastern Illinois, WTVP and what was to be a future UHF TV station in Champaign, WCHU(TV) tried to intervene in the fight for channel 10.

At the same time the two UHF stations had already teamed together to file a joint petition with the FCC to light a fire against WCIA. The stations petitioned the FCC to delete the channel 3 VHF commercial allocation in Champaign and reestablish it as an educational outlet. They went on to propose moving the current educational channel 12 to Lafayette, Indiana for commercial use and allocate an additional UHF allocated frequency on channel 64. This would force WCIA to move from channel 3 to channel 21 or 27. More about this fight within the chapter covering WCIA.

WCHU even took their petition one step beyond the proposal in asking the FCC to condition the renewal of the broadcast license of WCIA on moving to the UHF band. The petitions filed by WTVP and WCHU were rejected by the FCC before the end of 1958.

Schedule of Programming on WTVP, Channel 17 for the week of May 3-9, 1958
Saturday, May 3, 1958

12:45 pm  Baseball (CBS) Kansas City Athletics at the New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
4:00 pm    Film Feature- Movie (not listed)
5:00 pm    Saturday Bandstand- local teen dance show hosted presumably by Darrell Blue
6:30 pm    Dick Clark (ABC) musical variety hosted by Dick Clark  guests: Jimmie rodgers, Wally Lewis, Ersel Hickey, The Champs and The Heartbeats, orginating in Philadelphia
7:00 pm    Country Music Jubilee (ABC) country music hosted by the Wilburn Brothers from Nashville
8:00 pm     Lawrence Welk Show (ABC) big band musical variety
9:00 pm    Billy Graham Special syn, paid religious
10:00 pm  Movie "The Assissin" (1952) starring Richard Todd, Eva Bartok


Sunday, May 4, 1958

12:45 pm  This is the Life-syn religion
1:15 pm    Christian Science-syn religion
1:30 pm    The Big Picture-syn, military supplied film
2:00 pm    Decatur Churches-local religion
2:30 pm    Oral Roberts-syn religion
3:00 pm    Heart Fund-special, local telethon hosted by Loren Boatman
3:15 pm    Film
3:30 pm    All City Orchestra-special, local musical presentation
4:00 pm    Oratorical Contest-special, local presentations of semi-finals
4:30 pm     Paul Winchell (ABC) variety, comedy starring Paul Winchell and his ventroloquist characters
5:00 pm    Movie-western (not listed)
6:00 pm   Brave Eagle syn, western, off CBS network
6:30 pm   Maverick (ABC) western, starring James Garner, Jack Kelly  from WB
7:30 pm   Sea Hunt-syn, adventure starring by Lloyd Bridges, produced by ZIV
8:00 pm   Sid Caesar (ABC) variety, comedy starring Sid Caesar
8:30 pm   Honeymooners-syn, sit com starring Jackie Gleason, off CBS network
9:00 pm   San Francisco Beat[Line-Up]-syn, crime drama starring Warner Anderson
9:30 pm   Mike Wallace Interview (ABC) interview program with Mike Wallace
10:00 pm News
10:15 pm Charles Boyer-syn, dramatic anthology hosted by Charles Boyer



Monday-Friday, May 5-9, 1958 sign-on to 6:30pm

1:15 pm  Film Short
1:30 pm   mon, wed, fri: What's Cookin'-local cooking show, unknown host
                 tue, thu: Community Service-local, unknown format
1:45 pm  Cartoon Carnival
2:00 pm   Romper Room-local educational for the pre-school set
3:00 pm    American Bandstand (ABC) teen dance hosted by Dick Clark
3:30 pm    Do You Trust Your Wife? (ABC) game hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm    American Bandstand (ABC) teen dance hosted by Dick Clark
5:00 pm   Superman (ABC) adventure starring George Reeves
5:30 pm   Mickey Mouse Club (ABC) kids, from Disney Studios
6:00 pm  News
6:15 pm  ABC News-John Daley

Monday, May 5, 1958

6:30 pm   Robin Hood (CBS) adventure, starring Richard Greene 1
7:00 pm   Frank Monte-local dance program hosted by Frank Monte
8:00 pm   Voice of Firestone (ABC) classical music concert, sponsored by Firestone Tires
8:30 pm   Top Tunes (ABC) musical variety, hosted by Lawrence Welk
9:30 pm    Dick Powell[Zane Grey Theater]-syn, anthology dramas/adventure, off CBS network
10:00 pm  News
10:30 pm  Film Feature -not listed


Tuesday, May 6, 1958

6:30 pm   Cheyenne (ABC) western, starring Clint Walker, from WB
7:30 pm   Wyatt Earp (ABC) western, starring Hugh O'Brien
8:00 pm   Broken Arrow (ABC) western, kstarring Michael Ansara, John Lupton
8:30 pm   Amos n' Andy-syn, sit com, starring Tim Moore, Spencer Williams, off CBS network
9:00 pm   West Point (ABC)  military acedemy anthology, produced by ZIV
9:30 pm   Whistler-syn, mystery anthology
10:00 pm News
10:30 pm Film Feature -not listed



Wednesday, May 7, 1958

6:30 pm    Disneyland (ABC) family fare, anthology
7:30 pm    Tombstone Territory (ABC) western, starring Pat Conway and Richard Eastham, produced by ZIV
8:00 pm    Victory at Sea-syn, war documentary from WWII.
8:30 pm    Scotland Yard (ABC) crime drama
9:00 pm    Boxing (ABC) Boxing, Joe Brown defends his lightweight crown against Ralph Dupas, Jack Drees calls the action
9:45 pm    Famous Fights syn, boxing, review of famous fights of the past
10:00 pm  News
10:30 pm  Film Feature -not listed


Thursday, May 8, 1958

6:30 pm   Circus Boy (ABC) adventure, starring Mickey Braddack, Andy Clyde 2
7:00 pm  Tolly Show- locally produced , commercial interview show
7:30 pm   Real McCoys (ABC) sit com, starring Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna
8:00 pm  Pat Boone (ABC) musical variety, starring Pat Boone
8:30 pm  Navy Log (ABC) navy drama, anthology
9:00 pm  Make Me Laugh (ABC) game, comedy
9:30 pm  I Spy-syn, spy drama anthology
10:00 pm News
10:30 pm Film Feature -not listed

Friday, May 9, 1958

6:30 pm   Our Miss Brooks-syn, sit com starring Eve Arden, Gale Gordon, Richard Crenna, off CBS network
7:00 pm   Mama-syn, sit com/drama, starring Peggy Wood, off CBS network
7:30 pm  Stars of Jazz (ABC) jazz music variety, hosted by Bobby Troup, guest: Mel Torme
8:00 pm  Frank Sinatra (ABC) music variety, starring Frank Sinatra, guest: Ella Fitzgerald
8:30 pm  Musical Varieties-unknown source/format
9:00 pm  Sheriff of Cochise, syn western, starring John Broomfield
9:30 pm  Highway Patrol-syn, crime drama, starring Broderick Crawford 3
10:00 pm News
10:30 pm Paris Precinct-syn,

Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics

1"Robin Hood" was a CBS series which was refused by WCIA as their local news ran in the 6:30pm slot.  So CBS offered it to WTVP.
2 "Circus Boy" was the first TV series of Mickey Braddack, who would become Mickey Dolenz of "The Monkees."
3 "Highway Patrol" the syndicated show produced by ZIV was also aired by WICS, with the same episode earlier in the week.

There were a number of ABC shows of that era that didn't turn up on WTVP's schedule.  Evidently, ABC did not see the benefit of placing those shows(and paying the network compensation) to WTVP.  Among the ABC shows not included on the schedule were:  "Adventure at Scott Island[Harbourmaster]," "Bold Journey," "Pantomime Quiz," "Ozzie and Hariett(see details above)," "Zorro(see details above)" and "Rin Tin Tin."

(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)





Frank Monte (Montagnino) 

Taking WTVP from celluloid film to Rock n' Roll to Sports


In 1956 Frank Montagnino was a student at Millikin University in Decatur, studying broadcasting under Edith McNabb.  Ms. McNabb as a broadcast educator, had contacts at WTVP.   It was Ms. McNabb who encouraged Frank to apply for a job as a projectionist.  After all, back in his home town of Chrisman, Illinois he was a projectionist at the movie theater there. 

After interviewing at WTVP with Jack Kussart, who was the head projectionist there, he was hired.  At the time of his hiring Frank relates that Bob Wright was the WTVP general manager, Don Coleman was news director, Earl (Hickerson) was the sports director and Loren Boatman was the weathercaster.  He also mentions Kim Wilson as on-air talent producing and hosting "The Kim Wilson Show" on weekday mornings.  Other names at the station at the time of his early employment includes Fritz Woyna, chief director; Dick Goldstein and Tom Rice, directors; Wayne Semple and Jim Cossey, engineers and Gene Bell with Jerry Weidenkeller, sales.

He relates the story of how he became an air personality at WTVP: "In the Fall of 1957 the ABC Television Network introduced a late afternoon program aimed at teenagers, 'American Bandstand' hosted by Dick Clark.  It didn't take long for WTVP's sales staff to realize they could make money by producing a local version of 'Bandstand.'  So they looked around the station in search of someone (anyone) who was reasonably presentable, spoke English and was young enough to identify with the kids and the music.  Apparently I was the only one in the building who fit the bill of particulars.  And thus I was semi-promoted to in front of the cameras, but only on show days.  The rest of the time I stayed in the projection booth."

"Since 'Decatur Bandstand' didn't have much of a ring to it, Jack Kusart, now the station's program director, was casting about for a title for the show.  My full name Frank Montagnino wasn't acceptable since no one could pronounce it, so the program went on the air under the title of  'The Frank Monte Show.'  Just like the big show on the network, we'd fill the studio with kids and let them jump around to the tunes of the day...."

"In 1958 after having graduated from Millikin, I decided it was time to fulfill my military obligation and enlisted in the Army.  My broadcasting experience slotted me into the Army Information School and that led to an assignment with American Armed Forces Radio Network in Stuttgart, Germany.  While I was in Germany, my wife Alice, who was secretary to station manager, Ben West, took on another assignment.  Dressed in all black, she portrayed Zelda, a vampiress, who along with co-hart Hugo co-hosted 'Shock Theater' a Friday night horror movie film fest.  Alice played Zelda until she came over to join me in Germany."

"By the time I finished my military hitch in 1960, the Bandstand carze had run its course, but because employers were obligated to re-hire returning veterans and because the position was open, Jack Kussart took me back on at WTVP as Sports Director."

"Viewers in central Illinois may not remember me as the bandstand host or as the sports guy, but some may recall the series of nutty commercials I did for Heinkel's Packing Company.  The Heinkels were bold enough to let me write and produce really off-the-wall (for that time) commercials that tagged me as 'The Heinkel Wiener Man' around Decatur.  The commercials caught the eye of Bob Nichols, who owned a Decatur advertising agency and he offered me a part time job as a copywriter.  I accepted and worked mornings at the agency and nights at WAND.  That continued until sometime in the mid to late 60's when I moved to the agency full time and ended my broadcast career."

"Good times at WTVP.   During my time at the station we moved the central Illinois TV experience from black and white to color and from slides and stills to video tape.  I can still remember those old three-inch wide video tapes.  Whereas now editing is done electronically with the push of a button, in those primitive days engineers had to physically splice the tape the way we spliced film in the projection booth."

On a personal note, Frank was my first local television mentor.  I remember watching him in his various on air roles at Channel 17 and thinking "I want to be like him."  I can still see some of this work and hear his voice in my head from memory.  My age then....about 4 to 10 years old.  He made quite an impression on me. 

Over the years, I had forgotten his name, even though, I remembered his work.  A relative of his mentioned his name at an event I was hosting at the Kennekuk County Park, as I'm a director on the board of the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation.   After they mentioned the name, I couldn't recall it, but I gave them one of my cards with my website information on it.  He later contacted me via e-mail and he gave me some remembrances of other details. Some months later I asked if he had some pictures of his time at WTVP and asked if he could scan them and send them to me as I was working on updating this page.

Now, that I always remembered this young man and always wondered who he was and what his role was at Channel 17.  It was always a mystery to me and one I couldn't find an answer to.    Then, Frank sent me the pictures you see here.  There he was.....he was the guy who initiated my career in broadcasting.  He didn't know it, but he was my first mentor in this business....and I was younger than 10 years old!   What a thrill it was to hear from Mr. Montagnino!   Plus to find out he was from a small town near where I live now in east central Illinois! 

Thank you Frank for your contribution to this site and my career!




 (first picture top): Frank Monte, host of the Frank Monte Show on WTVP, Channel 17 from around 1957
(second picture): Frank with WTVP station manager Ben West and big band trumpeter Harry James(once married to Betty Grable) on a visit to the station
(third picture): Frank Monte as sports director and anchor after his stint with the Army in about 1960
(bottom picture): Dancers at WTVP during the Frank Monte Show at the South Side Drive studios in Decatur, Illinois.
(pictures courtesy of Frank "Monte" Montagnino)


It seems after Frank left "The Frank Monte Show" for the Army, he was replaced by Darrell Blue (see contribution by Darrell Blue above).  Darrell also mentions the show being sponsored by Coca-Cola and was subtitled "The Coke Show."  Later after Darrell moved to WCIA, he was replaced by Marty Roberts as the show was retitled "Marty's Dance Party." 

On a personal note, it was my privilege to work with Marty at WTAX Radio in Springfield, Illinois in the mid 1970's. (Picture above)   I followed him when I filled in the afternoon shift at the MOR station owned by Sangamon Broadcasting (see Sangamon Valley Broadcasting and their quest to obtain the allocation for Springfield's channel 2).   At the time, I didn't know Marty's history as a broadcaster.  I would have loved to have talked to him about it....



Shock Theater
WTVP Scaring the Daylights out of Central Illinois Veiwers

So far very little is known about this WTVP Friday night TV movie umbrella movie feature.  What we do know is the co-hosts were named Zelda, the Vampiress, and Hugo.  Zelda was actually played by the wife of Frank "Monte" Montagnino, Alice (see above).  This would have put the production and her role in the time frame of about 1957-59. 

By Friday night, she was Zelda....but weekdays she was Alice, the secretary of WTVP general manager Ben West. 

It's not known who played the role of Hugo.  Anyone know?

Obviously "Shock Theater" featured B-movie horror and creature feature movies from the 1940's and early 1950's.

(photo from Frank "Monte" Montagnino Collection)



WTVP Sales Promotion

WTVP general manager Ben West was trying new sales promotions to drive business to Channel 17. In April of 1959 the sales management had developed a promotional brochure entitled “103 Ideas to Hypo Summer Sales” which was offered to area retailers through the WTVP sales department.

The story of the brochure itself is what makes it interesting and unique. Ben West sent out questionnaires to every TV station on the air at that time seeking information on what their clients and their respective stations had done in the past to generate business for the advertisers as well as their TV station. Of course, not all TV stations responded, but from all of the ideas they received, West and the staff chose 103 of what they considered the best promotional ideas.

The ideas were contained in a brochure or booklet and sent to all of the stations which responded to the call. Its assumed that WTVP initiated at least a few of the promotional suggestions from the brochure. Which Decatur and central Illinois clients took advantage of the ideas presented to them from the Channel 17 sales department is unknown.


There's nothing real notable about a novelty premium given away to customers of a particular business, but this prize relic (above)  from the early days of WTVP is one which has been obviously cared for over the years.  This wallet style notebook was called "The WTVP Shell Press Pass" included a couple of ID cards and calendars from the years of 1958 and 1959.  They were probably given out to various participants of local TV productions aswell as advertising clients in the mid to late 1950's.
(pictures are courtesy of the Bob Wilcott Collection)

Schedule of Programming on WTVP, Channel 17 for select dates in 1959
Monday, March 30, 1959

9:00 am   Romper Room-kids, local production, Miss Ruth
10:00 am Movie-"I Live My Life" (1935), Joan Crawford
11:30 am  Peter Lind Hayes (ABC) variety, starring Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy
12:30 pm  Play Your Hunch (ABC) game
1:00 pm    Liberace (ABC) music variety
1:30 pm    Famous Playhouse-syn, drama anthology
2:00 pm    Day In Court (ABC) courtroom reinactments
2:30 pm    Music Bingo (ABC) quiz
3:00 pm    Beat the Clock (ABC) stunts
3:30 pm    Who Do You Trust? (ABC) quiz, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm    American Bandstand (ABC) teen dance, hosted by Dick Clark
5:30 pm    Mickey Mouse Club (ABC) kids, variety
6:00 pm    News-local
6:30 pm    Polka-Go-Round (ABC) polka music variety, travel
7:30 pm    Death Valley Days-syn, western anthology
Incomplete listings...... 






Monday, August 24, 1959

9:00 am   Romper Room-kids, local production, Miss Ruth
10:00 am Movie-"Race for Life" Richard Conte
11:30 am  Center Aisle syn, drama anthology
12:00 pm  Across the Board  (ABC) game
12:30 pm  Pantomime Quiz (ABC) game
1:00 pm    Music Bingo (ABC) game
1:30 pm    Burns and Allen-syn, sit com, off CBS network
2:00 pm    Day In Court (ABC) courtroom reinactments
2:30 pm    Gale Storm Show (ABC) sit com starring Gale Storm
3:00 pm    Beat the Clock (ABC) stunts
3:30 pm    Who Do You Trust? (ABC) quiz, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm    American Bandstand (ABC) teen dance, hosted by Dick Clark
5:30 pm    Mickey Mouse Club (ABC) kids, variety
6:00 pm    News-local
Incomplete listings






Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics





listings from TV Guide and the J.R. Evans Collection

















"The Rifleman" was probably one of the most popular series ever to appear on ABC.  It's still seen today on a variety of cable channels.  Lucas McCain was played by Chuck Connors and his son Mark was played by Johnny Crawford.



Here's a collection of ABC promos for mostly the Warner Brothers series on ABC.  The series of promos include "Sugarfoot," "Cheyenne," "Maverick"  and "Surfside 6." The last promo is from 20th Century Fox, "Adventures in Paradise."


"The Flintstones" was one of a number of animated series presented by ABC from 1959 to 1962.  Originally called the "The Flagstones" it was an animated parody on "The Honeymooners" and starred the voices of Alan Reed as Fred, Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma, Mel Blanc as Barney and either Bea Benaderet or Gerry Johnson as Betty.












Long before he was Steve McGarrett on "Hawaii Five-O" he was "Stoney Burke" a professional rodeo rider.  This ABC series would air from 1962-63 on Monday nights at 8pm.



This 1964 ABC promo includes the shows:
"Twelve O'Clock High," "The Outer Limits,"
"Lawrence Welk Show," "Hollywood Palace,"
"Wagon Train," "Broadside" and the "Sunday Night Movie."


Another ABC promo from September of 1963
 including "Combat," "McHale's Navy," "Outer Limits."  


1960 Brings Another Big Change for WTVP

By January of 1960, Metropolitan Broadcasting had already purchased WTVH, in nearby Peoria from Hilltop Broadcasting. The troubled station had just a couple of years before lost the opportunity to become a full time CBS affiliate when WMBD-TV went on the air in January of 1958. WTVH was to become a full time ABC affiliate for Peoria and would go through many cost cutting moves to stay afloat including the elimination of virtually all of its local news product.

In October of 1959, WTVH would receive a life line by the name of Metropolitan Broadcasting. The station would be added to the collection at the price of $500,000. Metropolitan, which was formed by some of the “pieces” of the former DuMont Television Network was buying properties. WTVH was the third of the TV stations and the first UHF station purchased by the group.

Metropolitan already owned New York's WNEW AM/FM/TV, Cleveland's WHK AM/FM and WTTG(TV) in Washington, D.C.. How WTVH would gain the attention of Metropolitan and why that company would be interested in ownership is unknown.


Now during the first week of January of 1960, there were reports that Metropolitan was extending another life-line to another central Illinois troubled television station and was closing in negotiations to purchase WTVP, its second UHF property and its fifth broadcast property. It was just two years earlier a group led by George Bolas purchased the station for $200,000 plus a $20,000 yearly lease and an option to buy the property and facilities for $225,000.

Two weeks later, the proposed sale of WTVP was announced. The application for the ownership change to the FCC was filed the first week of February 1960. The details of the sale included a sale price of $600,000.

While the station was awaiting FCC approval, Ben West, the general manager of WTVP under Prairie Television Company would leave the station and become general manager of KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City. The new WTVP general manager, Robert King, would come from Oklahoma. A former account executive at WFAA in Dallas, Texas and more recent general manager of KSWO-TV Lawton, Oklahoma, would become Channel 17's new leader during the ownership transition.

In August of 1960 a new operations director was appointed at WTVP. He was Peter C. Kouris, a former producer-director for WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida.



Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation Comes to the Rescue

There were many articles in Broadcasting during those early days of the growth spurt of Metropolitan. Each quarter there seemed to be claims of income growth for the company and its acquisitions. In August of 1960 Metropolitan claimed it would gross $40-million in 1960 and predicted $50-million in 1961.

The chairman and president of Metropolitan, John W. Kluge spoke before the San Francisco Security Analysts Society and stated that the first half earnings of 1960 are already $2.6 million ahead of earnings from the entire preceding year of 1959. He also said half of the income is expected to come from Foster and Kleisen, a west coast outdoor advertising company which was acquired in early 1960. At that time the legal purchase of WTVP was still pending before the FCC.


It was ten months in the making, but the FCC finally approved the sale of WTVP to Metropolitan Broadcasting on September 29, 1960. The final sale price was listed at $570,000. The sale price was a reflection on what WTVP had become before the announced sale and during the transition period. The facility had been neglected and was experiencing great financial stress.

Before the end of the 1960, another broadcast property would be brought into Metropolitan. KMBC AM/TV in Kansas City, Missouri was purchased from Cook Broadcasting Company. The purchase price of that larger market property: $10.25-million.



WTVH and WTVP

Even though the origins of both WTVH and WTVP are from two different developers and owners, its difficult not to notice the similarities in the call letters and proximity in their dial positions as well as network affiliation. It is a coincidence in all cases. The call letters of WTVH came from its timing as one of the TV pioneer stations and the use of “TV” in the call letters was common. The “H” comes from the name of the original company which owned Channel 19, Hilltop Broadcasting Company.

In Decatur, WTVP also used the “TV” call letters followed by the initial of its original developing company name, “P” for Prairie Television. The stations also shared a network affiliation with ABC. Neither station had much choice in being an ABC station. WTVP was too close to Champaign and what would become WCIA central Illinois CBS affiliate. WTVP was also too close to Springfield and WICS(or what may have been WMAY-TV) both of which would have ties to NBC.

Meanwhile, WTVH even though one of the original ABC affiliates, in the very early days, would begin to sway its affiliation to CBS. This in spite of the fact that CBS and the owners of WMBD Radio, also a CBS radio affiliate, was developing a TV station and would be probably be most favored by the network as a primary affiliate.


During the ownership of WTVH and WTVP by Metropolitan, the stations would share more than just an owner. Slowly the company was merging many facets of the stations, including sharing a national sales representative. An ad in Broadcasting from January of 1961 placed by Metropolitan Broadcasting listed its properties along with the call letters of WTVH and WTVP together and the cities of license were designated as “Peoria-Decatur.”

The logos of the stations were also designed with duplicate fonts and design. Some of the newly purchased syndicated programming was shared by the stations as well. Later, in the early 1960's WTVH and WTVP would share in the syndication of the Metropolitan flag ships, WNEW produced kid show called “Wonderama” which starred Sonny Fox. Metropolitan would also produce entertainment, special interest and news programming airing on all of its stations.



(above 2): scene cards which served as station ID's and promos/commercials.  One is for "A Way of Thinking" a Sunday morning religious program, above-near, a promo for "The Debbie Drake Show" a morning syndicated exercise program
(above pictures): From the Decatur Home Show in 1960, WTVP did a complete remote broadcast with interviews of local businesses as well as staging the local newscast from the Decatur Armory.




Metropolitan Brings New Toys to WTVP

With the purchase of WTVP a major investment was made to bring the station up to date in technology with the addition of its first RCA Video Tape Recorder/Player. The tape machine was four rack panels wide and would record and playback black and white video from two-inch video tape reels.

This would enable the station to playback video taped commercials and programming produced in the studios of WTVP as well as delay network programming when necessary. The quality of playback would be near live quality and would add to the efficiency of the operation and its use of studio productions.

It was also during the time of expansion in the use of color television by primarily NBC. ABC was holding out in producing and passing color programming through the network for, as the president of ABC stated, for the public to demand it. It would be a couple of years later when the necessary equipment was installed at WTVP in 1965 to allow the station to pass network color when it did become available. The first color program aired by ABC was “The Jetsons” on September 23, 1962 but WTVP wasn't ready yet for color.

WTVP news would subscribe to “Telenews”, a news film service produced by the Hearst Metrotone News Service. This would allow WTVP to use newly gathered news film from national and world events which could be used in local news productions
.



WTVP receives an RCA TRT-1B video tape recorder/player.  In the top picture is chief engineer Huber Abfater along with two unidentified helpers unloading their new "toy."

The middle photo is with an unidentified person at the left and engineer Wayne Semple.

The bottom photo is Dean Turmin and Wayne Semple.

(thanks to Elmer Ruple and Wayne Semple
for the photos and information)



(photo courtesy of Carol Barnes at WAND)



WTVP Adds a Signal to Champaign-Urbana


In order to sell advertising competitively against a large VHF station and other UHF stations in larger cities within the same market, you must have large numbers of households. Unfortunately for WTVP, reaching households in Decatur with a grade A signal and Springfield with a grade B signal was not enough to compete. The goal was to bring in the large number of additional households in one effort to at least statistically bring the households reached by WTVP up to similar numbers used by its central Illinois UHF competitors. One way to bring in a large number would be to include Champaign-Urbana as part of the Grade A viewing area. The transmitter and tower of WTVP was too far away to achieve that, even with a substantial power upgrade, but if WTVP could operate a translator in Champaign-Urbana, they could lay claim to a much larger number of households and do more economically.

In May of 1961 a Decatur Herald included an announcement from WTVP and WTVH vice-president and general manager, Bob King, that an application had been filed with the FCC to bring ABC and WTVP programming to Champaign by use of a UHF translator station. This translator would receive the signal of Channel 17 and rebroadcast it on another designated channel which could be received with a stronger signal in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

The facility of the WTVP translator would include a 300-foot tower with a receiving antenna and transmitting antenna located just north of Champaign. At the base of the tower would be a tower shack which would contain the receiving equipment needed to complete the facility (pictured left and above right).

The original application asked for the translator to broadcast on channel 77. The application was changed after filing when it was found the newly proposed Midwest Program on Airbourne TV initiative for educational programming for schools would broadcast on channel 76. To eliminate any interference the application was changed to channel 70.

By September of 1961, testing was underway on the 1,180 watt channel 70 TV translator. The location of the tower was described at the time as being, “3 miles north-northwest of Champaign-Urbana.” A better description had the tower located one mile north of Champaign and a quarter of a mile west of Prospect Avenue Road on the Gilbert Lange Farm. Central Illinois' first translator had the call letters of W-70-AF.

The testing of Channel 70 proved to be successful as many viewers reported a “loud and clear” signal. With the testing completed, the station filed for a license and FCC approval. By a special arrangement, W-70-AF would officially go on the air just in time for the September 20, 1961 ABC broadcast of the New York-Baltimore baseball game in which Roger Maris needed 3 home runs to beat Babe Ruth's home run record. The official on-air date was set the day after, September 21, 1961 at 6pm with the broadcast of the WTVP local news.

Although W-70-AF did broadcast a class A signal across the community, in all reality reception was just as difficult with channel 70 as it was with Channel 17. Those living on the northwest area of Champaign probably had better success in receiving Channel 70, but the use of a directional antenna pointing at a 90-degree angle from the most desirable direction to receive the signal of channel 3 would be needed.

By that time WCHU was on the air broadcasting from downtown Champaign which also would necessitate an antenna rotor to direct a rooftop antenna to the preferred station. Another problem with reception was because of the frequency itself. That upper UHF frequency was prone to being blocked by moving leaves on trees and reflection which would bring about “ghosting.” Plus, many of those early UHF tuners and converter boxes were less than perfect in bringing in those upper UHF stations.


The need to employ a translator by WTVP was more of a sales necessity as regional and national advertisers were seeking large audiences at the stations from which they purchased ad time. WCIA already had the vast geographic reach that no UHF station could duplicate with one signal. WICS had already taken steps to spread its signal across mid Illinois, with the development of a potential full powered station, WCHU, Channel 33 in Champaign(even though it was more a low powered translator). WICS also added the coverage of the former WDAN-TV, with the newly assigned call letters of WICD at Channel 24.

At that time of the early 1960's, the main UHF competitor of WTVP, WICS in Springfield was able to deliver a city grade signal from Springfield to Decatur with its new tower in 1959 at Mechanicsburg, Illinois and power upgrade of its transmitter. WICS was able to cover Champaign-Urbana with Channel 33 and Danville with Channel 24.


Later another central Illinois translator would be utilized by WICS at Mattoon, on channel 75. Even with WTVP's addition of a translator at Champaign, WTVP would still fall well below the potential number of households needed to compete with the other stations in the market. WTVP would not be seen in Danville on the east end of the market, Jacksonville on the far west end and would deliver a less than desirable signal for the Charleston-Mattoon area to the southeast.

WTVH and WTVP Get New Leadership

In January of 1961 the first of many personnel changes began to take place. It is unknown if these changes were prompted by the subsequent ownership change from Prairie to Metropolitan or not. The first one of the new year was the appointment of Donald V. Lindsey as regional sales manager. WTVP would pick up a new news anchor/reporter with the hiring of Phil Petty from WGN-TV in February.

By May of 1961, less than a year from the original purchase announcement of Metropolitan, one which included the statement that there were no changes in personnel planed for WTVP, a new general manager would be named. This would be the third station manager in one year. Robert King would be replaced by John H. Bone. Bone's former position was that of commercial manager at WVUE(TV) in New Orleans. Meanwhile, WTVH would also get new leadership. George Finnegan was named WTVH general manager, being promoted from general sales manager. Clyde Dutton was promoted to general sales manager at WTVH to fill the vacancy.

Anybody know any of the WTVP studio
workers pictured above?
Let me know....

(photos above courtesy of Elmer Ruple at WAND)









WTVP News


The initial attempt of Decatur's new television station to organize a news operation was derailed by the mass exodus which took place in January of 1954.  At that time the news operation was small anyway.  The technology at that time dictated that local television news was nothing more than radio with a picture of the reader.   Having a news staff of less than a half of dozen members was common to small to medium television stations. 

That's not to say the dedication wasn't there or the men(yes virtually all male) weren't talented and capable.  They mostly were, and creative as well.  The goal was to cover news events in a way which utilized the visual aspects of television and give the story more depth that that which was available on local radio stations.   Local radio stations could go on the air at spot events much more quickly and describe a situation to the satisfaction of their audience in a way that 1950's television could never do.  The ability to broadcast a live television picture from a location other than the studio was a huge undertaking and just didn't happen under normal conditions. 

Local events could only be shown by use of snap shots/still pictures pasted on TV boards to be place before a camera and shown to the TV audience while it was being described.  It wasn't until the very late 1950's when local TV stations were equipping their news departments with film cameras.  Exposed film could be processed during the afternoons and shown on the evening newscasts as b-roll to help the newscaster explain what was going on.  Later sound on film would be added, but that wasn't until later....and certainly before electronic news gathering (ENG) would become more common in the 1970's.

The film gathered each day would be spiced together on one reel, one news event after another in the same order it was to be presented on the newscast.  Each news story would be separated by white colored plain film called "leader film."  Each film segment would then be called for by the director and shown as it was being described by the news anchor or spots anchor.

For the late news, the individual stories would be reedited in a different order, perhaps adding film from events which happened later in the day.  It was a tedious and long process.  The film editor and projectionist had tough jobs.

Many national and national stories would consist of pieces from newsreel footage from a news film subscription service which provided such film footage to local television stations.

At WTVP  names associated with the the early days included: James Crowell-news director; Bob Shade-news anchor; Tony Parker-sports director; Max Bolen and Loren Boatman-weathercasters.  After the exodus in January of 1954, the names of Crowell and Parker would be excluded from the staff.

Earl Hickerson would join the staff as sports director in 1954 and continue through 1959.  Dale Coleman became news director at WTVP in 1957.  He would remain through the early 1960's when he would move to WICS.  At some point in the late 1950's Max Bolen would exit WTVP, leaving Loren Boatman to cover  both the evening and late weathercasts.

Dave Lauerman would become sports director.  He would continue through the very early 1962 when he would be replaced by Frank Monte.

Bob Shade left sometime in 1957 when it appears he was replaced by Mr. Coleman.  Phil Petty was hired in 1959 from WGN in Chicago to be an anchor reporter, while most anchoring duties fell on Dale Coleman, Phil Petty would anchor and report from the field. 

Early newscasts would be only 15 minutes total to cover the news headlined of the day, weather and sports.  Of course that would also include commercials between segments so the camera(s) could be redirected from the anchor desk to the weather maps and back to the sports desk.

The early news half hour would be shared with the ABC News with John Daley, also just 15 minutes.  The ABC network news would not be be expanded  to a full half hour until 1965 when Peter Jennings had the honor of anchoring that newscast.

Local news on WTVP would be expanded, first the 10pm newscast then later the 6pm newscast.  At that time the ABC News was be airing at 5:45pm right before local news.

Pictures needed for the following WTVP news people:  Bob Shade, Tony Parker, Max Bolen.  Have any....please contact me!


WTVP election returns from 1960.  Pictured is Phil Petty and Dale Coleman with the latest returns.
(from the Elmer Ruple Collection)
WTVP news doing an interview at the 1962 Decatur Home Show from the Decatur Armory.  The station broadcast several commercial length programs from the show over the weekend, but also originated at least one newscast there as well, as it appears virtually all of the studio cameras were there too. Pictures below from the newscast set up
(pictures courtesy of the Elmer Ruple Collection unless otherwise noted)


The earliest picture of the WTVP news team
is from around 1959.  Here Dale Coleman is pictured with
sports director Earl Hickerson and weathercaster Loren Boatman in a TV Guide ad
(from TV Guide, The Doug Quick Collection)
News Director Dale Coleman
Phil Petty, news anchor and reporter
Sports Director, Dave Lauerman
Loren Boatman, WTVP meteorologist/weathercaster
(from WAND)
Sports Director, Frank Monte
(picture from the Frank Monte Collection)




 







"Space Angel" was a animated sci-fi adventure series produced by Cambria Productions the developer of the animated technique called Synchro-Vox which would show mostly still pictures of the characters with lip movement.   Scott McCloud was "The Space Angel" as voiced by Ned Lefebver.  The other characters were Crystal Mace and Hal Smith.  This video from You Tube includes a number of the episodes.
Keep in mind, when these episodes were shown on WTVP they were in black and white before September of 1965

"Wonderama" was produced by WNEW-TV in New York, the flagship station of Metropolitan Broadcasting (later Metromedia).  It was hosted by Sonny Fox.  It ran in all of the Metro stations including WTTG in Washington, D.C., KMBC-TV in Kansas City, KTTV in Los Angeles, WXIX-TV in Cincinnati, WTCN-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul, WTVH-TV in Peoria and WTVP in Decatur, Illinois.  This clip includes a guest: Robert F. Kennedy.

WTVP produced "Dick Tracy" which was made into a kids panel participation show with a yet to be identified host.  The show included the Dick Tracy cartoons shown here in the video and the show began with the opening as shown.  The cartoon series was notable as featuring the voices of Mel Blanc, Paul Frees and Benny Rubin among other voice over pros.
Keep in mind, when these episodes were shown on WTVP they were in black and white before September of 1965.

(all You Tube videos are from an outside
source and may be withdrawn at any time)


(picture above: Bob Wilcott Collection)


Loren "Boats" Boatman

Loren Boatman was a math/science teacher at Lakeview High School in Decatur when he was approached to be the "weatherman" at WTVP.  His recruiter told him if he could stand up in front of kids, he could stand up in front of a camera. 

He was the longest tenured weathercaster in central Illinois even longer than WCIA's Mr Roberts.  WTVP signed on the air before WCIA, so Loren Boatman held that distinction until his retirement in 1989.

He was the 43rd person in the United States to receive the American Meteorological Society's Seal of Approval for his weathercasts.














"The Lone Ranger" would continue to be a television staple as part of the Saturday morning schedule of ABC.



From Warner Brothers:  "77 Sunset Strip" one of the youth oriented "cool" shows of the late 1950's and into the 1960's.  Efram Zimblist Jr. would star with Roger Smith and Edd Byrnes. 

From Warner Brothers:  "Hawaiin Eye" shot from Warner Brothers back lot, it starred Anthony Eisley, Robert Conrad and Connie Stevens.












From Warner Brothers:  "Colt 45" premiered in 1957 and ran through 1960 on ABC.  It starred Wayde Preston and Donald May.



From Warner Brothers: "Bourbon Street Beat" starred Richard Long, Van Williams and Andrew Duggan.  It was based in New Orleans.


From Warner Brothers: "Bronco" was part of the rotation of the "Warner Brothers Presents" and "The Cheyenne Show" during the time Clint Walker was negotiating for a better contract with WB.

(all You Tube videos are from an outside
source and may be withdrawn at any time)








WAND daytime schedule 1962 as listed on the sales brochure show above:

9:00 am   Romper Room-local
10:00 am Burns and Allen (syn) off network sit com
10:30 am My Little Margie (syn) off network sit com
11:00 am Morning Court (unknown)
11:30 am Love That Bob (syn) off network sit com
12:00 pm Camouflage (ABC) game
12:30 pm Number Please (ABC) game
1:00 pm   About Faces (ABC) game
1:30 pm   The People's Choice (ABC) sit com, off network
2:00 pm   Day in Court (ABC) courtroom drama
2:30 pm   Road to Reality (unknown)
3:00 pm   Queen for a Day (ABC) game
3:30 pm   Who Do You Trust? (ABC) game
4:00 pm   American Bandstand (ABC) music/dance
5:00 pm   Highway Patrol (syn) crime drama
5:30 pm   Action/Cartoons (syn) unknown subjects




(above):  The WTVP News Mobile Studio.  With the operation of WTVP being limited in its ability to invest in capitol, this major expense of any television station was very unusual.... but thanks to ownership of Metromedia, Channel 17 would be the recipient of one of the older mobile studios used by one of the DuMont stations.  It may have been from WTTG in Washington D.C., or even WABD(WNEW) in New York. 

(brochure and pictures courtesy of Carol Barnes and WAND)

Pictures below are of the former unit used by WFAA in Dallas.  It's
restoration is profiled in the the website "The DuMont Telecruiser."
See more of the photos like the ones below which shows an exact
unit as used by WTVP in the early 1960s.





(far left): Commercial shoot in progress with evidently the local Ford dealership featuring a '62 Ford Thunderbird and an unknown talent in the foreground.


(near left): A commercial shoot from the perspective of the WTVP control room and the video switching board.

(pictures courtesy of Carol Barnes and WAND)

ABC Shows on WTVP from 1959-1964    (not already shown above)
"77 Sunset Strip" "Bronco Lane" "Hawaiian Eye" "Lawman" "The Alaskans"
"Surfside 6" "Bourbon Street Beat" "The Cheyenne Show" "The Dakotas" "The Roaring 20's"
"Sugarfoot"

All of the show titles above and to the left are from Warner Brothers Studio.  This was the result of an exclusive agreement which brought ABC the complete television catalog of Warner Brothers Television.  "Warner Brothers Presents" was the first TV show produced by Warner Brothers Pictures and appeared on ABC during the 1955-56 season.  The show was hosted by Gig Young and was an anthology type series with new stories and casts each week.  The show also used previous WB movies as story lines, reduced to a 60 minute format.  The show also took more programming time to promote the theatrical Warner Brothers movies.  It was also a time in which other movie studios were getting into TV as an economic necessity.  MGM also had a show on ABC.

By the next year, "Warner Brothers Presents" had abandoned the format and went with a rotating series featuring "Cheyenne" and "Conflict."  Since each series took more time to produce, each show had it's own production crew working to air a new program about every 2-3 weeks. This worked well as a promotion vehicle for Warners but it also helped secure major advertisers to ABC, a feat which had been difficult for the 3rd place network. The shows were well produced, sometimes using stock WB footage from old Warner's films, especially with the westerns. Most of the non-western shows were very appealing to the youth of America and helped begin the careers of many of the teen idols of the day.
"Wagon Train" "Phillip Marlowe" "Man With a Camera" "Burns and Allen"
Daytime
"Colt .45"
"Alcoa Presents" "The Donna Reed Show"
Daytime and Prime Time
"Guestward Ho!" "The Texan"  "Stoney Burke!"
"The Untouchables" "Ben Casey"
Daytime and Prime Time
"My Three Sons" "The Rebel" "Father Knows Best"
Daytime
"Number Please"
Daytime
"Queen for a Day"
Daytime
"Make That Spare?" "Adventures in Paradise" "Going My Way"
"Captain Gallant"
Daytime
"Wide World of Sports" "Follow the Sun" "Margie" "Naked City"
"The Flintstones"  "Matty's Funday Funnies" "Bugs Bunny Show"  "Bachelor Father" "The Gallant Men"
"Our Man Higgins" "The Detectives" "Love That Bob" AKA
"The Bob Cummings Show"
Daytime
"Stagecoach West" "My Friend Flicka"
Daytime
"Bus Stop" "Rocky and his Friends"
Daytime
"Room for One More" "One Step Beyond" "The Law and Mr. Jones"
"McHale's Navy" "Peter Gunn" "The New Breed" "The Gale Storm Show" AKA "My Little Margie"
Daytime
"Combat!"
"Harrigan and Son" "The Jetsons"  "About Faces"  "The Asphalt Jungle" "Sunday Night Movie"
"Beany and Cecil"
Saturday Morning
"Going My Way" "The Gale Storm Show"
Daytime and Prime Time
"Hong Kong" "I'm Dickens...He's Fenster"
"Hey Jeannie" "The Jerry Lewis Show" "The Jimmy Dean Show"  "Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show" "The Corruptors"
"Tennessee Ernie"
Daytime
"Top Cat"  "Medic" "Les Crane Show"
Late Night
"Broadside"
Syndicated Shows Airing on WTVP 1959-1964 (not already shown above)
"Hopalong Cassidy" "Deputy Dog" "How to Marry a Millionaire" "King of Diamonds" "Space Angel"
"Death Valley Days" "The Debbie Drake Show" "The Nelsons" AKA'
"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet"
"My Little Margie" "Dick Tracy"
"The Bowery Boys"
"People's Choice" "Sugarfoot"
"The Untouchables"
"The Outlaws"
"Loretta Young Show" 
"Wonderama"
"The Cheaters"
The search for the title picture continues
"Highway Patrol"
"The Mighty Hercules"
"Trail Master" AKA
"WagonTrain"
"Maverick"
"Mickey Mouse Club"
Weekday Afternoons
"Buffalo Bill Jr."
"Stoney Burke"




(above):  The ABC logo used from the mid 1950s through 1962

(right):  The new ABC logo, still used today, for the network designed
in 1962.   (courtesy Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine)

(below): This variation of the ABC logo was also used from 1959 through 1962.






Schedule of Programming on WTVP, Channel 17 for select dates in 1962-63
Monday, Jan 29, 1962

8:30 am   Science-syn, educational
9:00 am   Meditation-religion, local (tape)
9:05 am   Wonderama-syn, kids from Metropolitan Broadcasting
9:30 am   Romper Room-syn concept, kids, local (live)
10:00 am Debbie Drake-syn, exercise
10:15 am Gateway to Glamour-unknown source/format
10:30 am Burns and Allen (syn) sit com, off CBS network
11:00 am Texan (ABC) syn,  western, off CBS network
11:30 pm Yours For a Song (ABC) game, hosted by Burt Parks
12:00 pm Camouflage (ABC) game, hosted by Don Morrow 1
12:30 pm Country Journal-unknown source/format, speculation says its a local farm program
1:00 pm   Day in Court (ABC) court room reenactments
1:30 pm   Make a Face (ABC) game, hosted by Bob Clayton
2:00 pm  Jane Wyman Theater (syn), dramatic anthology, off NBC network
2:30 pm  Seven Keys (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Narz
3:00 pm  Queen for a Day (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Bailey
3:30 pm  Who Do You Trust? (ABC) game, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm American Bandstand (ABC) music, teen dancing, hosted by Dick Clark
4:50 pm American Newsstand-unknown source/format
5:00 pm  Highway Patrol (syn) crime starring Broderick Crawford
5:30 pm  Action Theater (syn) unknown format
6:00 pm  News-local
6:30 pm  Cheyenne (ABC) western, starring Clint Walker, produced by Warner Brothers
7:30 pm Rifleman (ABC) western, starring Chuck Connors
8:00 pm Surfside 6 (ABC) crime drama, starring Troy Donohue, Van Williams, produced by Warner Brothers
9:00 pm Ben Casey (ABC) medical drama, starring Vince Edwards
10:00 pm News-local
10:30 pm Nightwatch-Movie (not listed)

Friday, May 11, 1962

8:30 am   Science-syn, educational
9:00 am   Meditation-religion, local (tape)
9:05 am   Wonderama-syn, kids from Metropolitan Broadcasting
9:30 am   Romper Room-syn concept, kids, local (live)
10:00 am Debbie Drake-syn, exercise
10:15 am Gateway to Glamour-unknown source/format
10:30 am Peoples Choice  (syn) sit com, starring Jackie Cooper, off CBS network
11:00 am  Ernie Ford (ABC) syn, variety, interview
11:30 pm Yours For a Song (ABC) game, hosted by Burt Parks
12:00 pm Camouflage (ABC) game, hosted by Don Morrow 1

12:30 pm Country Journal-unknown source/format, speculation says its a local farm program
12:55 pm Life Line-unknown source/format
1:00 pm   Day in Court (ABC) court room reenactments
1:30 pm   Window Shopping (ABC) game, hosted by Bob Kennedy
2:00 pm  Jane Wyman Theater (ABC) dramatic anthology, off NBC network
2:30 pm  Seven Keys (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Narz
3:00 pm  Queen for a Day (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Bailey
3:30 pm  Who Do You Trust? (ABC) game, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm  American Bandstand (ABC) music, teen dancing, hosted by Dick Clark
4:50 pm  American Newsstand-unknown source/format
5:00 pm  Highway Patrol-syn, crime starring Broderick Crawford
5:30 pm  Action Theater-syn, unknown format
6:00 pm  News-local
6:30 pm  Margie (ABC) sit com, starring Cynthia Pepper
7:00 pm  The Nelsons-syn, sit com with Ozzie and Harriet, off ABC network 3
7:30 pm  Flintstones (ABC) animated sit com, 2
8:00 pm  77 Sunset Strip (ABC) crime drama, starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roger Smith, Edd Byrnes, produced by Warner Brothers
9:00 pm  Target: The Corruptors (ABC) newspaper drama, starring Stephen McNally, Robert Harland
10:00 pm News-local
10:30 pm Nightwatch-Movie "She Couldn't Say No"

Saturday, Sept 15, 1962

11:00 am  Wonderama-kids, hosted by Sonny Fox and produced by Metropolitin Broadcasting in New York
12:00 pm  Bug Bunny Show (ABC) kids, animated WB series
12.30 pm  Death Valley Days-western, syn
1:00 pm   Movie-(title not listed)
2:30 pm   Highway Patrol- syn, crime drama, starring Broderick Crawford
3:00 pm   Sea Hunt- syn, adventur, starring Lloyd Bridges
3:30 pm   Burns and Allen- syn, sit com, off CBS network, starring George Burns and Gracie Allen
4:00 pm   ABC Wide World of Sports (ABC) sports
5:30 pm   Mr Magoo (ABC) kids, animated  2
6:00 pm   Matties Funday Funnies (ABC) kids, animated  2
6:30 pm   Calvin and  the Colonel (ABC) kids, animated 2
7:00 pm   Room for One More (ABC) sit com starring Andrew Duggan and Peggy McCay
7:30 pm   Leave it to Beaver (ABC) sit com, starring Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow
8:00 pm  Lawrence Welk (ABC) musical variety with the Lawrence Welk ensemble cast
9:30 pm  Johnny Staccato-syn, crime drama, off NBC and ABC network, starring John Cassavetes
10:00 pm News-local
10:15 pm Nightwatch-Movie "Wagon Master"

Monday, Feb 18, 1963

8:25 am   Science-syn, educational
8:55 am   Meditation-religion, local (tape)
9:00 am   Cartoons-local origination, unspecified cartoons
10:00 am Metropolitan Hour-syn, from Metropolitan Broadcasting, unknown format
10:15 am Gateway to Glamour-unknown source/format
11:00 am Jane Wyman (syn) dramatic anthology, off network
11:30 pm Yours For a Song (ABC) game, hosted by Burt Parks
12:00 pm Ernie Ford (ABC) talk show, live
12:30 pm Country Journal-local farm, unknown anchor
1:00 pm  Action Theater-syn, unknown format
1:30 pm  Father Knows Best (ABC) sit com, off network
2:00 pm 
Day in Court (ABC) court room reenactments
2:30 pm 
Seven Keys (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Narz
3:00 pm  Queen for a Day (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Bailey
3:30 pm  Who Do You Trust? (ABC) game, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm American Bandstand (ABC) music, teen dancing, hosted by Dick Clark
4:30 pm Discovery '63 (ABC) kids, documentary and special interest
5:00 pm Dick Tracy-local origination, kids panel show with Dick Tracy cartoons, host ?
5:30 pm Space Angel-kids, cartoons, syn,
6:00 pm News-local
6:30 pm Dakotas (ABC) western, from Warner Brothers
7:30 pm Rifleman (ABC) western, starring Chuck Connors
8:00 pm Stoney Burke (ABC) drama, starring Jack Lord
9:00 pm Ben Casey (ABC) medical drama, starring Vince Edwards
10:00 pm News-local
10:30 pm M-Squad, syn, crime drama starring Lee Marvin
11:00 pm Cain's Hundred, syn-legal drama, starring Mark Richman, off NBC network

Wednesday, Feb 20, 1963

8:25 am   Science-syn, educational
8:55 am   Meditation-religion, local (tape)
9:00 am   Cartoons-local origination, unspecified cartoons
10:00 am Metropolitan Hour-syn, from Metropolitan Broadcasting, unknown format
10:15 am Gateway to Glamour-unknown source/format
11:00 am Jane Wyman (syn) dramatic anthology, off network syndication
11:30 pm Yours For a Song (ABC) game, hosted by Burt Parks
12:00 pm Ernie Ford (ABC) talk show, live
12:30 pm Country Journal-local farm, unknown anchor
1:00 pm  Action Theater-syn, unknown format
1:30 pm  Father Knows Best (ABC) sit com, off network
2:00 pm 
Day in Court (ABC) court room reenactments
2:30 pm 
Seven Keys (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Narz
3:00 pm  Queen for a Day (ABC) game, hosted by Jack Bailey
3:30 pm  Who Do You Trust? (ABC) game, hosted by Johnny Carson
4:00 pm American Bandstand (ABC) music, teen dancing, hosted by Dick Clark
4:30 pm Discovery '63 (ABC) kids, documentary and special interest

5:00 pm Dick Tracy-local origination, kids panel show with Dick Tracy cartoons, host ?
5:30 pm Space Angel-kids, cartoons, syn,
6:00 pm News-local
6:30 pm Wagon Train (ABC) western, starring Terry Wilson, Denny Miller
7:30 pm Going My Way (ABC) sit com, starring Gene Kelly, Leo G. Carroll and Dick York
8:30 pm Our Man Higgons (ABC) sit com
9:00 pm Naked City (ABC) crime drama
10:00 pm News-local
10:30 pm M-Squad, syn, crime drama, starring Lee Marvin
11:00 pm Bourbon Street Beat-syn, crime drama, off ABC network








Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics

1 "Camouflage" the ABC game show was hosted by Don Morrow.  My story of a chance meeting with Don Morrow is included on this page
2 "Mr. Magoo," "Matties Sunday Funnies," "The Flintstones," "Calvin and the Colonel" were all broadcast on ABC in color to the ABC owned and operated stations.  They were all seen in black and white on WTVP
3 "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" was not seen on WTVP, with the ad agency preferring to air the long running ABC series on WCIA.  So, probably to confuse the issue and out of retaliation, chose to air "The Nelsons" the syndicated name of the series in prime time as a weekly series
4 "Space Angel" was an animated science fiction cartoon series using the Synchro-Vox lip movement technique by Cambria Productions.  It consisted of 5 minute episodes running one after another to fill the 30-minute slot.




The TV schedules listed here are from the Champaign-Urbana Courier, with added information
from other sources

  

 

 


ABC News was just beginning to be a force in television news....but they had a long way to go before it would become equal with that of CBS and NBC. Here is a promo from 1961...


ABC promos from 1962-64 featuring "Tycoon," "Stoney Burke," "The Sunday Night Movie," "Price is Right" and the "Patty Duke Show."

One of the most frightening TV shows ever was "The Outer Limits."  Here is a series of promos from the run of the sci-fi, fantasy anthology series.

 

 

 


More ABC promos from the 1963-64 season featuring "Mickey Rooney Show," "Amos Burke," "ABC News Specials," "The Flintstones," "Donna Reed," "My Three Sons," "Bewitched," "Peyton Place," "The Jimmy Dean Show" and "Jonny Quest."



Even more ABC promos from the era with "12 O'Clock High," "The Outer Limits," "Broadsides" and "The Sunday Night Movies."


When ABC began the regular presentation of the "Sunday Night Movie" it would continue to lead the network into the top spots in the ratings.  Here is a promo from the early 1960s.

(all You Tube videos are from an outside
source and may be withdrawn at any time)





I was never quite sure what D.E.F. was all about, or what it stood for.....but "the Big One's have it!"   Metromedia(Metropolitan) invested in local news coverage with additional staff members and more resources. 

In spite of that promotional announcement, both WTVP and WTVH would suffer severe cut-backs in the operation in 1964 before its sale to LIN Broadcasting.


(from TV Guide, The Doug Quick Collection)

It's been said television news grew up after the Kennedy Assassination.  It certainly showed how ill-prepared the networks were in covering a major event of this.
Here is the way ABC covered the original reports.  The initial news bulletin was not recorded by the network from November 22, 1963.

(This is from You Tube-and as with all of the You Tube Videos above, they may be withdrawn without notice at any time)


The Stagnation of WTVP (and WTVH)

From late 1963 the future of WTVP would be short. Metromedia continued to operate WTVP only through 1965.  In spite of the fact all of the other local mid Illinois TV stations had made technical advances to broadcast at least network programming in color, WTVP remained a black and white, monochrome programming source.  Even ABC was broadcasting the animated programs in color, "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Matties Funday Funnies" and "The Bugs Bunny Show" would all be seen on WTVP in glorious monochrome. 

By September of 1964 ABC may have mandated that all of its affiliates be able to pass the network signal in color and both WTVP and WTVH met that order with the broadcast of "The Flintstones" and the other ABC shows in color at that time.  Other than that there seemed to be little progress or growth of either central Illinois ABC affiliates.  It seems Metromedia had reached a standstill in the operation of Channel 17 and its sister station in Peoria, Channel 19.   There was only one way to see WTVP and/or WTVH grow at that point, and it involved a sale of the stations.

It appeared that the efforts of Metromedia began to wain when it came to the production of local programming as well during 1964.  Even though the station was able to pass ABC color programming (what there was of it), no other local programming was broadcasting in color yet.  Local studio efforts such as  "Romper Room" were no longer produced as  was other weekday children's shows and even weekend newscasts were discontinued.   Metromedia was cutting costs and adding that savings to the bottom line to prepare for the eventual sale of the station to LIN Broadcasting. 





(Above and left):  These are TV Guide co-op ads placed by the network into local editions of TV Guide to promote the 1964-65 ABC TV season.  There were no local channels listed, as it appears the local affilaites, namely WAND and WTVH (Metromedia) as part of the "cut-backs" of the last days of Metromedia ownership decided to not participate in the co-op of the advertising, even though it probably "trade."

What a great year of TV classics for ABC.  Many of these series are seen today in rerun and others are legendary.   Thanks to retro TV services like MeTV some of these series are still seen today regularly:  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Combat!, The Fugitive, Burke's Law, Donna Reed Show and 12 O'Clock High.

ThisTV broadcasts The Addams Family.   BOOM offers The Flintstones and Jonny Quest.  Others shows in regular syndication include:  Bewitched, My Three Sons, McHale's Navy and Ben Casey.

It was generally the last black and white season for ABC, with the only color series on the schedule being "The Flintstones."





(left):  This ad was placed in TV Guide in November of 1964.  It was for the broadcast of an apparent syndicated news special.  I can only asume it was produced through the facilities of Metromedia. 





(TV Guide images from the Collection of Doug Quick)


Schedule of Programming on WTVP, Channel 17 for the week of  December 5-11, 1964
Saturday, December 5, 1964

8:30 am   Buffalo Bill Jr. (syn) western
9:00 am   Shenanigans (ABC) kids, game
9:30 am   Annie Oakley (ABC) western
10:00 am Casper (ABC) cartoon
10:30 am  Beany and Cecil (ABC) cartoon
11:00 am  Bugs Bunny (ABC) cartoon
11:30 am  Hoppity Hooper (ABC-color) cartoon
12:00 pm  Allakazam (ABC) magic
12:30 pm  American Bandstand (ABC) dance music
1:30 pm   Movie-Bowery Boys "Clipped Wings" (1953)
3:00 pm  Ringside Wrestling (syn)
4:00 pm  Wide World of Sports (ABC) sports variety
5:30 pm  Wendy and Me (ABC) sit com {replay of previous pre-emption}
6:00 pm  Bing Crosby Show (ABC) sit com {replay of previous pre-emption)
6:30 pm   Outer Limits (ABC) sci-fi, fantasy
7:30 pm   Lawrence Welk (ABC) music variety
8:30 pm   Hollywood Palace (ABC) variety
9:30 pm  Stoney Burke (syn) western, off network
10:30 pm Untouchables (syn) crime, off network
11:30 pm Nightwatch Movie "Payment on Demand" (1951)

Note:  WTVP did not broadcast a local newscast on Saturdays

Sunday, December 6, 1964

8:30 am   Wonderama (syn) from Metromedia, hosted by Sonny Fox
9:30 am   Porky Pig (ABC) cartoon
10:00 am Bullwinkle (ABC) cartoon
10:30 am Discovery '64 (ABC) documentary
11:00 am This is the Life (syn) religion
11:30 am Faith for Today (syn) religion
12:00 pm Directions '64 (ABC) religion
12:30 pm Issues and Answers (ABC) news interview
1:00 pm   Movie "The Lion and the Horse" (1952)
2:30 pm   Pro-Football (ABC) Patriots vs. Chiefs
Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman call the action
5:00 pm   All-Pro Scoreboard (ABC) sports
5:15 pm   TBA (unknown what was broadcast)
5:30 pm  Outlaws (syn) western
6:30 pm  Wagon Train (ABC) western
7:30 pm  Broadside (ABC) sit com
8:00 pm  Sunday Night Movie "The Last Time I Saw Archie" (1961)
10:00 pm  Nightwatch Movie "Drums in the Deep South" (1951)
12:00 am Under Discussion (unknown) listed as "panel"


Note: WTVP did not broadcast a local newscast on Sundays


Weekday Mornings Mon-Fri, Dec 7-11, 1964

8:25 am   Survey of the Arts (syn) education
8:55 am   Meditations (unknown) religion
9:00 am   Cartoon Playtime (syn) cartoons
9:30 am   The Price is Right (ABC) game
10:00 am Get the Message (ABC) game
10:30 am Missing Links (ABC) game
11:00 am Father Knows Best (ABC) sit com, off network
11:30 am Ernie Ford (ABC) variety
12:00 pm The Texan (ABC) western, off network
12:30 pm Farm Markets Report (local) farm, news
12:40 pm News (local) local news anchored by Bob Green
12:50 pm Panarama Showcase (local) unknown subject
1:00 pm  Loretta Young Show (syn) drama, off network
1:30 pm  Day in Court (ABC) courtroom reenactments
2:00 pm  General Hospital (ABC) serial
2:30 pm  Young Marrieds (ABC) serial
3:00 pm  Major Adams, Trailmaster (ABC) off network
4:00 pm  Mickey Mouse Club (syn) kids variety, off network
4:30 pm  The Mighty Hercules (syn) cartoons
5:00 pm  Maverick (syn) western, off network
6:00 pm  ABC News (ABC) news anchored by Ron Cochran
6:15 pm   Local News, Weather, Sports

Note: The reduction of local news to 15-minutes at 6:15pm and at 10pm


Monday, December 7, 1964

6:30  pm Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (ABC) sci-fi, adventure
7:30 pm  No Time for Sergeants (ABC) sit com
8:00 pm  Wendy and Me (ABC) sit com
8:30 pm  Bing Crosby (ABC) sit com
9:00 pm  Ben Casey (ABC) medical drama
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports (local)
10:15 pm ABC News (ABC) anchored by Bob Young
10:30 pm Les Crane (ABC) talk, variety
12:00 am The Cheaters (syn) crime
12:30 am News, Weather, Sports (local) probably a taped rebroadcast of the 10pm news

Tuesday, December 8, 1964

6:30 pm  Combat! (ABC) war drama
7:30 pm  McHale's Navy (ABC) sit com
8:00 pm  Tycoon (ABC) sit com
8:30 pm  Peyton Place (ABC) serial
9:00 pm  The Fugitive (ABC) drama
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports (local)
10:15 pm ABC News (ABC) anchored by Bob Young
10:30 pm Les Crane (ABC) talk, variety
12:00 am The Cheaters (syn) crime
12:30 am News, Weather, Sports (local) probably a taped rebroadcast of the 10pm news



Wednesday, December 9, 1964

6:30 pm   Ozzie and Harriet (ABC) sit com
7:00 pm   Patty Duke (ABC) sit com
7:30 pm   Shindig (ABC) music variety
8:00 pm   Mickey Rooney (ABC) sit com
8:30 pm   Burke's Law (ABC) crime drama
9:30 pm  Detectives (syn) crime, off network
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports (local)
10:15 pm ABC News (ABC) anchored by Bob Young
10:30 pm Les Crane (ABC) talk, variety
12:00 am The Cheaters (syn) crime
12:30 am News, Weather, Sports (local) probably a taped rebroadcast of the 10pm news

Thursday, December 10, 1964

6:30 pm   The Flintstones (ABC-color) cartoon
7:00 pm   Donna Reed (ABC) sit com
7:30 pm   My Three Sons (ABC) sit com
8:00 pm   Bewitched (ABC) sit com
8:30 pm   Peyton Place (ABC) serial
9:00 pm   Jimmy Dean Show (ABC) variety
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports (local)
10:15 pm ABC News (ABC) anchored by Bob Young
10:30 pm Les Crane (ABC) talk, variety
12:00 am The Cheaters (syn) crime
12:30 am News, Weather, Sports (local) probably a taped rebroadcast of the 10pm news


Friday, December 11, 1964

6:30 pm   Jonny Quest (ABC-color) cartoon
7:00 pm   Farmer's Daughter (ABC) sit com
7:30 pm   Addams Family (ABC) sit com
8:00 pm   Valentine's Day (ABC) sit com
8:30 pm   12 O'Clock High (ABC) war drama
9:30 pm   News Special- Harry S. Truman (ABC)
10:00 pm News, Weather, Sports (local)
10:15 pm ABC News (ABC) anchored by Bob Young
10:30 pm Les Crane (ABC) talk, variety
12:00 am Nightwatch- Movie "Back from Eternity" (1956)
1:15 am  News (local) anchor Bob Billman
Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics


(TV Guide listings from the Collection of Doug Quick)



WTVP Anchor Bob Billman rode out the cut-backs of Metromedia on WTVP.  He suffered through reductions in local newscasts during the weekdays with just 3 15-minute newscasts at 12:40pm, 6:15pm and 10pm.  All weekend newscasts were eliminated before the sale of the station to LIN Broadcasting.


(picture from Carol Barnes and WAND)


The Future of WTVP


In December of 1965, it was announced LIN Broadcasting would be taking ownership of the Decatur television station at a cost of $2-million.  It was also announced an expansion of the station to the tune of $800,000, a goodly sum in those days.  Among the planned improvements was an increase in power to a million watts of power from a taller tower.  It was assumed it would involve an increase in height from its present location on South Side Drive in Decatur.  It would in actually involve a new tower with what would be an experimental UHF antenna weighing 40-tons from a 1,300-foot tower located between Argenta and Oreana, Illinois.  RCA only manufactured three of the antenna type that would be used in the LIN expansion.  One antenna would later be used by another mid Illinois TV station, WJJY-TV in Jacksonville, Illinois and other would remain on the ground at Camden, New Jersey at the RCA factory.  You'll hear more about the antenna in 1978.

The improvements also included the conversion to a color TV studio and the ability to broadcast video tape, film and slides, live studio and network programming in full color.  The increase in signal would bring about the elimination of the UHF translator at channel 70 in Champaign-Urbana, as it was felt that the increase in power and the relocation of the tower would bring a Grade A signal to Champaign-Urbana as well as to Springfield, Lincoln, Taylorville and other communities. 

It was also announced WTVP would become WAND, Channel 17 on February 15, 1966.  The relocation of the tower and power increase would take place in October of 1966. 






(Above):  Bob Green was the WTVP Farm Director
and anchored the 12:40pm newscast in 1964.

(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)


(Above):  A TV Guide ad from early 1964 with the news team at WTVP.  Bob Billman was the anchor and news director(pictured above without his toupee),  Greg Liptak (reporter), Loren Boatman (weathercaster) and Bill
Wohlfarth(sports).

(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)


The WTVP Honor Roll                                  Employees of Prairie Television/Metropolitan Broadcasting 1953-1963
Here presented in no particular order are those
who have served at WTVP, job description/title, dates

W.L. Shellabarger-president  1953-58
Harold Cowgill-general manager 1953-54
James Wulliman-chief engineer 1953-54
Paul Taff-program director 1953-54
James Crowell-news director 1953-54
Downey Hewey-sales manager 1953-54 *
Tony Parker-sports director 1953-?
Al Pigg-farm director/program host 1953-56, 195?-196?
Dick Shaugnessy-program host 1953-54
Dorothy Ryan-program host 1953-54
Kim Wilson-program host 1954-5?
John Buckstaff-floor manager 1953-?
Sue Sullen-receptionist 1953-?
C.H. Logan-producer/director 1953-?
B.C. Gennetis-book keeper 1953-?
William P. Burley-projectionist 1953-?
Lee Scales-film director 1953-?
William Leonard-producer/director 1953-?
Bill Heyduck-property manager 1953-?
Elinor Owen-traffic 1953-?
Ed Pianka-asst. chief engineer 1953-?
Nils Hunt-engineer 1953-?
Charles Marden-engineer 1953-?



Elton Stewart-porter 1953-?
Bill Leonard-producer/director 1953-?
Maureen Sullivan-art director 1953-?
Helen Shellabarger-stenographer 1953-?
Deloris Ryan-womens editor 1953-?
Marion Bort-continuity director 1953-?
Kity LeMar-secretary 1953-?
Steven French-acct executive 1953-?
Mary Wagner-receptionist 1953-?
John Crockey-local sales manager 1953-?
Bob Shade-news anchor 1954-?
Max Bolen-weathercaster 1954-?
Loren Boatman-weathercaster 1954-198?
Phil Petty-news anchor 1959?-1963?
Earl Hickerson-sports director 1954-1960
George A. Bolas-president 195?-(1958)-19?
B.K. West-station manager 1958-1960
Jack Kussart-program manager 195?-(1958)-19?
Hubert F. Abfalter-chief engineer 195?-(1958)-19?
Steve Pozhay-general manager 1954-1959
Robert King-general manager 1960-1961
Dale Coleman-news director 1957-63
Dave Lauerman-sports director 1960-1962

Wayne Semple-engineer 195?-196?
Dean Turmin-engineer 195?-196?
Calvin Coleman-acct executive
Bob Billman-news anchor late 1960's
Jim Clayton-news anchor/program host mid 1960's



Fred Straub-reporter 1960's
Pat Alee-reporter unknown
Bill Wohlfarth-sports mid 1960's
Elmer Ruple-engineer 196?-2013
Jerry Wiedenkeller-sales/promotion 195?-1959
Don Lindsey-sales, 195?- 196?
Gene Bell-sales, 195?-196?
Dave Silvestri 1961-?
John H. Bone-general manager 1961-










* a contributor to this site
This list is by no means complete....if you are or know of a WTVP employee, sales, administration, programming, news or creative services....drop me an e-mail.
Include that persons name, title or job description and approximate dates of employment, if you know.

Sources:
Broadcasting-Telecasting Magazine
The Urbana Courier Newspaper
The News-Gazette Newspaper
The Decatur Herald-Review Newspaper
TV Guides (1954-1959) from the Doug Quick Collection
Danville Public Library
Champaign Public Library
Decatur Public Library
Urbana Free Library
Tou Tube
The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows
    by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh
Total Television by Alex McNeil

Contributors:
WAND-TV, Channel 17, Decatur, Illinois
Bob Lee for the vast majority of program titles screen grabs
Bob Wilcott for his many photo contributions on this page and other pages
Elmer Ruple and his source of many pictures of the 1950's into the 1960's
Carol Barnes
J.R. Evans
Downey Hewey
Michelle Eckes-Kaufman
Bruce Frey
Jim Wulliman
Marty Schopp for his contribution of "Marty's Dance Party"
Darrell Blue
Frank "Monte" Montagnino






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