WATERBURY TIME MACHINE III

Conclusion Of The Vintage Images Tour Of The Brass City

BRASS CITY TELEVISION

WATR was the only Waterbury radio station to venture into television. WATR-TV Channel 53 went on the air in 1953 as an ABC affiliate. The WATR-TV studio was at the transmitter site on West Peak in Meriden.

WATR 53-ABC Waterbury
April 12, 1960 Schedule

11:30 Film Feature
noon Restless Gun
12:30 Love That Bob!
1:00 About Faces
1:30 Pageant
2:00 Day in Court
2:30 Gale Storm
3:00 Beat the Clock
3:30 Who Do You Trust?
4:00 American Bandstand
5:30 Rocky & His Friends
6:00 Big Picture
6:30 Phone Your Answer
7:00 Compass
7:30 Sugarfoot
8:30 Ma Martin's Roundup
9:00 Rifleman
9:30 Colt .45
10:00 Alcoa Presents
10:30 Keep Talking

A 1955 TV Guide listing of the other TV stations you could watch in Waterbury if you had a good roof antenna. If you had only a "rabbit ears" indoor antenna, you were pretty much limited to watching only WNHC-TV Channel 8 in New Haven, which had a mix of shows from all four networks (ABC, CBS, DuMont, and NBC) until 1955. Hardly anyone could watch Channel 43 or 53 because most TV sets were not able to receive UHF channels without the use of a UHF converter.

See TV Guide program listings for these channels from 1953 (when WNHC-TV was Channel 6) and 1955. Nov. 7, 1955 TV Schedule  

 

WNHC-TV 1952 TV Guide ad

WNHC-TV 1953 newspaper ad

WNHC 8-ABC/CBS New Haven Mon, Aug 27, 1956

6:45 Sacred Heart
7:00 Good Morning Connecticut (Joe Francis/George Thompson)
9:00 Breakfast Playhouse "Operation Riviera"/"Gambler's Debt"/"Hero for an Hour"/"Vibora"/cartoon "Those Were Wonderful Days" (Tom Romano)
10:30 Yankee Peddlers
11:00 My Little Margie
11:30 Harvesters
11:45 Looney Tunes
noon News (George Thompson)
12:15 Love of Life
12:30 Search for Tomorrow
12:45 Guiding Light
1:00 Electric Show (Johnne Burnett/Joe Francis)
1:45 Channel 8 Matinee I
2:00 Channel 8 Matinee II "Serenade to an Empty House"
2:30 Linkletter's Party
3:00 Film Festival "It's Hard to Be Good"
5:00 Mickey Mouse Club
6:00 Stage 8 "The Liliac Bush"
6:30 Sports (Syd Jaffe)
6:40 Weather (Ed Caputo)
6:45 News (Joseph Burns)
7:00 Mr. District Attorney
7:30 Bold Journey
8:00 Dotty Mack
8:30 Voice of Firestone
9:00 Charles Farrell
9:30 San Francisco Beat
10:00 Studio One Summer Theater "Giulio"
11:00 News (Joseph Burns)
11:10 Weather (K. St. George)
11:15 Les Paul & Mary Ford
11:20 Nitecap Theater "North of the Lone Star"
1:00 News

 

 

 

In the early 1950s, the New York Yankees' home games were televised on WPIX, channel 11. Many were simultaneously telecast on WABD, channel 5, and WNHC, channel 6. When the Yankees were on the road, New York Giants home games were telecast on WPIX. There was no conflict because the teams were never at home at the same time. The Brooklyn Dodgers' home games were televised on WOR, channel 9. When Brooklyn played New York (it is not necessary to indicate WHICH New York team played Brooklyn during the season since it would be almost one half a century before the leagues would lose their identity to interleague play), both WPIX and WOR televised the game. Weekend Dodgers' home games were simulcast on WNHC-TV.

 

 

WGTH-TV/WHCT-TV Channel 18 (CBS) in Hartford and WKNB-TV/WNBC-TV Channel 30 (NBC) in New Britain were the other Connecticut UHF stations that hardly anyone could watch in the 1950s. WTIC-TV Channel 3 in Hartford went on the air in 1957 as an independent station and became a CBS affiliate in 1959, which caused WHCT-TV to become an independent.

WATR-TV moved from Channel 53 to Channel 20 in 1965, and became an NBC affiliate in 1966. It was sold and became WTXX-TV, an independent station, and was a UPN affiliate in the 1990s. It has been a WB Network affiliate since 2001, and is now owned and operated in Hartford by Tribune Broadcasting along with WTIC-TV, their Channel 61 Fox Network affiliate. Detailed station history   More WATR-TV history and photos 

 

DAVID KIERNAN'S 1950s WNHC-TV MEMORIES

I was a summer announcer -- or what passed for one at low wages – at WNHC-TV Channel 6 in 1949 and 1950 and then became a full time staff announcer in 1951. From 1952 to 1954 I was in service before returning to New Haven and civilian life. I shifted to the TV news side in 1956, and became News Director in 1958. Shortly before that, the station had been sold to Triangle Publications, owners of TV Guide, WFIL in Philadelphia and other smaller stations in Binghamton, Altoona and Fresno.

WNHC-TV's license was originally granted to Elm City Broadcasting, the principals of which were Aldo DeDominicis and Patrick Goode. Television was obviously a novelty in 1948 and there was probably no other station in the nation which operated in the same way. The TV transmitter was located on Mt. Gaylord in Hamden, some miles away and also the location for the projectors. A jeep made the run at least once a day from downtown New Haven to Mt Gaylord with a day full of kinescoped programs or films with local commercials spliced in. (Video tape was to come some years later.) The receipt and shipping of programs, feature films and commercials, plus editing of news film was done by a crew initially headed by Ernie Olivieri who later went to then-WTIC Channel 3 in Hartford. He was succeeded by Len Sanna aided by Jimmy Esposito and Woody Smith. That jeep and its successors made the run daily and winter snow storms came very close to causing blank screens in lower New England but like the mail, the jeep and the films came through.

 

There were really no networks as such in those very early days and Channel 6 was originally affiliated only with DuMont (Channel 5 in New York), but that did not preclude the station from running every other network's programs on kinescope. The NBC Colgate Comedy Hour used to run at 11 pm. Other programs from ABC, CBS, and NBC were similarly run at strange hours.

 

 

Here are some daily WNHC-TV DuMont schedules from early July of 1948:

Friday, July 2nd, 1948
10:00AM-12:00PM: Test Pattern
2:00PM-5:00PM: Test Pattern
6:00PM: Small Fry
6:30PM: Russ Hodge’s Scoreboard
6:45PM: Film Shorts
7:30PM: Camera Headlines
7:45PM: Film Shorts
8:00PM: Fashions on Parade

Monday, July 5th, 1948
5:00PM: Teletunes
6:00PM: Small Fry Club
6:30PM: Russ Hodge’s Scoreboard
6:45PM: Film Shorts
7:00PM: Doorway to Fame
7:30PM: Camera Headlines
7:45PM: Sylvia St. Claire
8:00PM: Film Shorts
8:30PM: Swing Into Sports

Tuesday, July 6th, 1948
5:00PM: Teletunes
6:00PM: Small Fry Club
6:30PM: Russ Hodge’s Scoreboard
6:45PM: Film Shorts
7:00PM: Alan Dale Show
7:15PM: Mary Kay and Johnny
7:30PM: Camera Headlines
7:40PM: Tele News
8:00PM: Court of Current Issues
9:00PM: Boxing, Jerome Arena

Wednesday, July 7th, 1948
5:00PM: Teletunes
6:00PM: Small Fry Club
6:30PM: Russ Hodge’s Scoreboard
6:45PM: Film Shorts
7:00PM: Photographic Horizons
7:15PM: Mary Kay and Johnny
7:30PM: Camera Headlines
7:45PM: Film Shorts
8:00PM: School Days with Happy Felton
8:30PM: To Be Announced
9:00PM: Boxing, Jamaica Arena

Sunday, July 11th, 1948
1:40PM: Baseball Fanfare
2:00PM: Yankees-Washington Baseball Game
5:00PM: Teletunes
6:00PM: Film Shorts
6:30PM: Key to the Missing

On October 5th, 1948 WNHC-TV affiliated itself with CBS in addition to DuMont. Affiliations with all four networks were in place by the Fall of 1949. 

There was little daytime programming in the earliest days and believe it or not, the station sold test pattern time in the late morning/early afternoon. The sponsor was a TV set and antenna distributor (Hatry and Young) and there was a decent audience since sets had to be individually fine tuned, and antennas properly installed and oriented so a dependable test pattern was a boon to vendors and installers.

Live programming from New York was taken off the air at a receiver site in Oxford, Connecticut and then microwave over to Mt. Gaylord for retransmission. Audio was fed in by AT&T land lines with the result that once in a while, video and audio had no relationship to one another.

 

Local daytime programming at that time consisted primarily of a few cooking shows. One was Italian cooking with the husband and wife team of Pino and Fedora Bontempi, who also did a cooking show on WOR-TV Channel 9 in New York City. Pino had a not terribly great tenor voice which used to be unleashed at the slightest provocation while Fedora cooked away. He was accompanied by the station's organist, George Palmer, a music director who couldn't read music, according to the legend, but could fake it well. One of the perks was joining with the crew after that show - or other cooking shows with Lois Malmgren or Roz Stevenson - and helping to clear away the meals that had been prepared and remember, there were two of everything - one to show how it a dish was put together and the other a final product that had been made well in advance.

 

 

 

There were some early afternoon network shows as well but the locally produced shows were what would be best described as public service. The Anti-Defamation League had a regular program and the host was named Mort Feigenbaum if I recall correctly. The Archdiocese of Hartford had its own program which featured Msgr. John Wodarski. Vivian Kellems, a Connecticut industrialist and nationally known tax reformer, had her own program which she - that is her company- sponsored. Her views were not always conventional but she was an interesting lady.

 

 

 

 

There were some kid shows on in the late afternoon. "Happy the Clown" was Joey Russell, a borscht belt comic in putty nose etc. Jean O'Brien Lynch did another kid show or worked with Joey, and Lee Hall was involved in kid programming. At the time, Lee was married to Wilson Hall who was then a student at Yale Drama School. Both went on to news roles with NBC. (I have been told Lee later married Dick Valeriani). Malley's Department Store sponsored a weekly children's show with Ann Carey, and Kit Adler had the daily Kitdoodle show.

An older kid show was produced by Sleeping Giant Films, an outfit formed by Dave Harris, a minority stockholder in Elm City Broadcasting, who used his sale proceeds as his seed money. He was joined by Tony Guarino, one of the station's engineers. The "talent" on the show was Brace Gilson, earlier known as Chuck, but when he made the switch from staff announcer to weatherman, he changed his name as well. Incidentally, he was the Atlantic Weatherman, replete with uniform shirt, visored cap and leather bow tie. (One of my friends was bitter at not getting the job, claiming he was better qualified since his father actually owned a gas station!)

As mentioned, I was on the news side. Our News Director initially was Rocky Clark who had been the radio-TV editor of the Bridgeport (CT) Post. He was assisted at one time or another by Al Sanford, John Kelly and John Quinn. Our first newscaster was Joe Burns, a rather professorial type who certainly brought an air of seriousness to our efforts. I succeeded him in 1956 and he took advantage of his newfound liberty to marry a lady lawyer who later went on to become chief Justice of the state Supreme Court. Our visuals were from several sources. We had on staff photographers headed by Jack Young and backed up by Frank Hogan and later, Bob Murray. All had started as still photographers but quickly learned 16mm Bell and Howells and later the Auricon sound camera (single system sound). There was also in somewhat later years a staff artist, Bill Colrus who was mostly committed to commercials. We had UP and INS wire services and when they merged in 1958 (?), the news budget was cut in half. Each afternoon, our jeep would go to the railroad station and pick up a packet from UP which contained 4-7 film clips with scripts and several black and white 35 mm transparencies of people or events in the news. We used them as background as we could.

When revenues failed to grow, cuts were made until the news department to cover the entire state and central and western Massachusetts consisted of me, Jack Young and the use of any enterprising stringers we could use on the cheap. It wasn't fun.

During my latter days at what was by then Channel 8 (but still WNHC-TV) a full Triangle team was running things. Howard Maschmeier was GM, John Cundiff Sales Manager, Jim Kovacs program manger, Art Stober production manager and Pete Gallagher promotion manager. I'm sure there are many more I should have remembered but you can't win them all. Some of the people I do recall were Larry McNamara, our sports guy who really had very little interest in sports, Syd Jaffe who loved sports, Kenny Wynne, one of the directors whose father was a state court judge, and Manning Heard whose father was at one time president of the Hartford Insurance Company.  

 

When I left in 1960, Jim Burns took over but left soon after to join ABC. He died shortly thereafter and I never learned the cause. George Thompson took on the news chair and held it for many years thereafter.

MY 1950s WNHC-TV MEMORIES

 

Veteran actor John Beal talked about and introduced the "World's Best Movies" in the afternoon in 1957. The first order of business the new owners of RKO Pictures did in 1955 was to sell their library of films to television. This was the first major 16 mm feature film package for television. Buyers broadcast the package under a format called MovieTime USA. WNHC-TV aired them as "World's Best Movies". The major sponsor was C & C Cola, so C & C Television Corp. a division of Cantrell and Cochrane was formed. The films were provided free of charge or for a nominal fee in return for free advertising time. The point was to sell soda. 

Industry On Parade, 15 minute films provided at no cost by the National Association of Manufacturers, contained three or four stories examining some aspect of American manufacturing and business.

Network children shows like Time for Beany and Howdy Doody were aired in the late afternoon. Joe Francis played music clips from the 1940s on Up at Joe's Place. Larry McNamara did a man-in-the-street interview show Sidewalk Interviews outside the studios after the early evening news that was sponsored by New Haven's Hull's Export Beer.

 

Creation of Connecticut Bandstand in October 1956 was prompted by the popularity of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand with teen-aged viewers on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia, which was also owned by Triangle Communications. Connecticut Bandstand was hosted by Jim Gallant, who had been a newsman at WFIL-TV in Philadelphia prior to coming to WNHC-TV. The half-hour show, which featured area high school students dancing to the latest hit records and an occasional recording artist guest who "sang" (lip-synched) their record, aired at 3:30 pm Monday to Friday immediately prior to American Bandstand. Biggie Nevins became the host in March 1960 after Gallant resigned rather than sign a sworn statement that he had never accepted gifts or money in return for playing records on the show.

 

Waterbury connection: Jim Gallant produced concerts at Marino's Danz-Er-Roll in Buckingham Hall in 1959

 

Connecticut local children's TV shows

More WNHC-TV 1950s History