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September 14, 2019 9:00 pm  #1

Instant Replay: Local Broadcast Firsts & Lasts

Everybody starts somewhere. And if they’re really lucky, they’ll be there a long time. But some go way too early. This week’s installment takes a look at the beginnings and endings of people you know on stations you’ve heard. And how amazing it is that those legacies often started with a simple one line announcement.
First Thing In The Morning
For a very long time, it seemed like CFRB morning man Wally Crouter had been around forever. He lasted an incredible 50 years before his retirement and subsequent death several years later. But here’s where Wally first surfaced in April 1946.

He must have done his job well, because this announcement followed just over a year later.

Which came first: the traffic guy or the morning man? Turns out, in Jan. 1945, it was the guy who would wind up a household traffic name. Although did anyone ever call him just “Ed?”

Jack Dennett would become a household name across Canada for his work on Hockey Night In Canada. But local listeners also knew him as one of the best newsmen to ever open a radio mic. That amazing voice was first heard here in November 1943.

Sadly Dennett would leave the airwaves and the world way too soon in August 1975.

Before Dennett made his mark, there was a famous CFRB newsman named Jim Hunter. You may not have heard his name, but you might be familiar with his intro. For decades, “Hunter’s Horn” was used to introduce several of 1010’s most prominent newscasts. He was a household name back then, including in Feb. 1947, when he made news as much as reported on it.

Hunter left a huge void for the station and the city when he passed away suddenly in 1949. But the horn lived on.

A Familiar CHUM
This rather limited notice was posted in October 1957, just months after CHUM officially went Top 40. Little did they know then the impact Al Boliska would have in this market.

Shuffling Off To Buffalo

It seems like WBEN-AM has been around forever. But as it turns out, The Buffalo Evening News took its first broadcasting plunge back in the 1930s.

 Other stations came to the Queen City much, much later – like 1973.

 Turning On The TV
Turning to the tube, did you know that one of the first – if not THE first – TV image ever broadcast in a test was a ceramic Felix The Cat?

He became not only a TV icon, but later a half hour TV cartoon many of us here watched on Saturday mornings over WGR-TV

Most of us probably viewed it in black and white, but WBEN-TV had long been experimenting with a more colourful future, as far back as the early 50s.

By 1965, it was common in the U.S. But Canada typically managed to refuse the hues until 1966.

You have to go back a long way to remember a time when Channel 17 was not only a commercial TV station – but owned by NBC. The network bought the low powered facility in the 50s, using the call letters WBUF, believing UHF would be the next big thing.
They were wrong and by 1958, the place was going down for the count.
By 1959, NBC gave up altogether and the station died a sad death. It would be resurrected as the educational outlet we know today.

So what happened to the NBC affiliation in Buffalo? It went to WGR-TV, which had been airing low rated ABC shows, and paved the way for the creation of WKBW to pick up that network.

Meanwhile, Back In T.O….
Back home, CFTO TV, the flagship of CTV, first went on the air to great fanfare in 1961. But did the CFL wind up creating the now #1 network in Canada? This piece from March 1961 seems to hint that was the case.

For years, Channel 17 was the only station here on UHF, which was always considered the poor cousin of the mighty VHF band. But here’s what might have been in Toronto TV if things had worked out differently in 1968.

You can only imagine former CHIC employees shuddering at the thought of either Allan brother getting hold of a television licence. It didn’t happen, of course, and by 1971, Toronto finally got its first commercial UHF station. It’s still around today. Who knew folk great Sylvia Tyson was an original shareholder?

It Was A Big Deal Then
It is a sad commentary to think that Bill Cosby’s appearance on “I Spy” was considered a breakthrough for African-Americans on TV. But a TV show centered around a black woman as the star focus? Impossible! But it happened in 1968, when Diahann Carroll became “Julia."

Trekking Into History
If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, you might be aware the show only lasted three short years, before it was reborn in a series of big screen movies. Ever wonder what the last original Trek was that aired on NBC in 1969? Here’s the answer from June 3rd of that year.

“Price” Fixing
It seems like it’s been on forever but the new version of The Price Is Right had to start somewhere. That date was Sept. 4, 1972. It’s been on ever since and has now been airing for more than four decades. I’d put the exact number, but I don’t want to go over and blow the Showcase.

Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends
It started as filler animated shorts on Fox’s Tracey Ullman Show. It eventually got a shot at its own half hour, the first real animated program on network prime time in decades. Who knew that The Simpsons would span generations and still be on the air more than 30 years later? Here’s how it was first introduced to the world in a TV Guide ad on Jan. 7, 1990.

Carson’s Tonight Finds No More Tomorrows
What were you watching on May 22, 1982? Chances are you – and millions of others – were up late watching the very last Johnny Carson hosted Tonight show. It was a bittersweet look back at an amazing near 30-years at the helm of the highest rated late night show in TV history.
Carson ended his reign on a low key note by simply telling his audience that if he found anything else he’d like to do, he might come back someday. But other than a surprise guest walk on at The David Letterman Show (notably on CBS) and a voiceover gig for The Simpsons, Carson never came back.

The following Monday, Jay Leno, after months of drama wrestling for control of the show with Letterman, officially took over that famous desk.

I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together
Finally, a sad last.
With a tug on the ear lobe and a few on the heart strings, Carol Burnett and the variety show format disappeared from TV for good in March 1978. A few attempts at reviving the television staple have been made over the years, but no one has ever done it like the multi-talented entertainer – and given the state of the industry, it’s unlikely anyone ever will.

Next week: Some Odds & Ends, Part 1