TELEVISION INVADES 1952/53 DENVER:
ORIGINS OF THE VIDEO REVOLUTION
Cheri de la Garza
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Cheri de la Garza
has been approved
de la Garza, Cheri (M.A., History)
Television Invades 1952/53 Denver: An Industry on Parade
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
In July 1952 Denver acquired its first television station. By the end of 1953
three more stations were broadcasting. The introduction and rapid acceptance
of TV is representative of a movement that took place in most post-World War
II U.S. cities. To the authors knowledge, there is no other study of the sudden
impact of television upon a previously TV-deprived American community.
Similar to the 1950s movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, television
"abducted" the populace, from bar patrons to prayer-meeting attendees. An
unprepared citizenry scrambled to buy TV sets and figure out how to work them,
while equally unprepared merchandisers sold the sets from used-car lots and
lumber yards. Purveyors of competitive entertainment suffered and, along with
various other industries and institutions, tried to adapt to or adopt the new
medium. Politicians both regulated and employed the industry.
A euphoric public felt that television would encourage appropriate
behavior and family togetherness and bring "culture" and educational information
to the uninitiated. A few worried and criticized. Some believed that television
rays could do anything from cause optical deterioration to change the weather and
beam in enemy bombs. Critics charged that TV was showing too much sex,
violence, and escapism.
The history of early Denver television is placed within a general history of
the early fifties the era of televisions "Golden Age," big networks, and powerful
sponsors, and the days of "I Like Ike," the Korean War, air raid drills,
McCarthyism, conservatism, consumerism, and flying saucers.
This thesis also discusses the reasons for TVs tardy arrival, the battles to
obtain the initial licenses, the troubles of UHF and educational TV, operational
methods of and problems encountered by 1950s broadcasters, national and local
programming, and the roles of women and minorities in connection with
television. The story of TV-related problems and controversies which were a part
of, but remained unresolved during, the early fifties is carried beyond that point
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Thomas J. Noel
1. ACTUAL TV PROGRAMS
(Introduction) .......................................... 1
2. THE LARGEST TELEBLIND CITY IN THE U.S.
(Pre-Television Denver).................................. 3
3. DEALERS OF ILL-REPUTE
(Sales of TV Sets)...................................... 20
4. THE GREATEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED
(Expectations of the New Medium) ....................... 39
5. BIG-TIME NETWORK SHOWS
(More TV Stations for Denver) .......................... 49
6. FOLKS WILL ALWAYS "GO TO TOWN"
(Effect upon and Reaction of Competitors) .............. 66
7. EACH UNIT WIRED FOR TELEVISION
(Accoutrements to the Set) ............................. 79
8. STUDY THE POSSIBILITIES
(UHF and Educational TV)................................ 89
9. THE LAWS OF MORALITY AND DECENCY
(TVs Role in Society).................................. 99
10. MEN, MONEY, AND MACHINES
(Politics and the Tube) ............................... 115
11. TO BE ANNOUNCED
(Programming) ......................................... 131
12. FAST DEVELOPING EXECUTIVE TALENT
(Women and Minorities in and on Television) .......... 154
13. AND THEN THE SERIES WENT ON
(Technical Difficulties).............................. 164
14. ASSORTED GRUESOME EVENTS
(Criticisms of the Medium) ........................... 184
15. EXACTLY WHAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC WANTED
(Conclusion) ......................................... 205
ACTUAL TV PROGRAMS
They didnt know exactly when it would be, but they did know it was
supposed to be sometime between 8:00 and 8:15 p.m. So on Friday, July 18,
1952, denizens of Denver gathered their families and friends, turned their
television sets to Channel 2, and watched their blank screens. At 8:15 it
happened: A black and white test pattern appeared, and Denver entered the
television age. Promised for the next day was "[m]ore exciting entertainment --
actual TV programs," and Channel 2 officials suggested that set owners stand by
for possible broadcasting between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. On Monday the station
would inaugurate regular programming with coverage from the national
Democratic Convention.1 Television fever seized the town.
All people who are old enough remember the first time they saw television,
their familys first set, and their favorite early programs. What they didnt realize
at the time was the tremendous effect the new medium would have upon them
in the future. In The Americans: The Democratic Experience. Daniel Boorstin
1MFirst TV Flashed by Station Here," Denver Post. 19 July 1952, 1; "KFEL
Flashes First TV Picture Here," Rocky Mountain News. 19 July 1952, 5.
noted that "[television was a revolution, or more precisely, a cataclysm"2; and
Denvers cataclysm was about to begin.
As Denver entered the second half of 1952, the community and the nation
were about to experience a number of changes. In early July the country was
deep in the middle of the Korean War, Dwight D. Eisenhower was battling
Robert A. Taft for the Republican presidential nomination, and Denver had no
television service. The post-World War II consumer business boom in most major
U.S. cities already included the growth of a relatively-new television industry, but
for several reasons residents of Denver received no television transmissions until
the summer of 1952. The mediums belated introduction immediately struck the
community with results that were unique and unforeseen.
By the end of 1953, a year and a half later, Eisenhower was president; the
Korean War was over; and Denver had four television stations. It is difficult to
determine which event created the most interest or had the most far-reaching
effect upon the Denver public.
2Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (New York:
Vintage Books, 1974), 391.
THE LARGEST TELEBLIND CITY IN THE U.S.
After all, the Denver public had waited twenty-five years. In 1927, the
same year that the movie The Jazz Singer introduced "talkies," Secretary of
Commerce Herbert Hoover had appeared on a television transmission from
Washington, D.C., to New York City; in 1939 President Roosevelt had also
appeared on TV from the New York Worlds Fair. The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) had authorized commercial television beginning July 1941, and
several stations in other cities had begun operations. World War II had then
intervened to curtail equipment production and cut programming from an average
of fifteen hours per week to four most of these four hours devoted to training
for air raid and fire wardens watching at sets installed in New York City police
stations.3 By 1945 the four television networks of CBS, NBC, Dumont, and ABC
had been formed. In May 1946 the first post-war television receivers had gone
3Erik Barnouw, Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television. 2d
rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 92; Les Brown, The New
York Times Encyclopedia of Television (New York: Times Books, 1977), 151.
on sale, and in 1948 the underground coaxial cable which could carry New York
programs to Chicago had been installed.4
Potential broadcasters felt that somehow technology would find a way to
overcome the problem of distance to hinterland cities like Denver. One stated
that "scientific advances being made behind locked doors of military laboratories
[radar?] may have a far-reaching effect."5 Raytheon Corporation announced
experimental plans for transmitters atop eight western mountains, including Grays
Peak in Colorado and Mt. Whitney in California. Apparently believing that "if
you build it, they will come," potential developers felt the cost of these sites might
be partially defrayed by turning them into recreation spots "with television
theaters and other facilities."6
Locally, too, technological alternatives were being explored. In 1944 the
FCC granted radio stations KLZ and KOA permission to test experimental TV
stations after the war.7 In June 1948 KOA engineers announced that they had
4Robert V. Hudson, Mass Media: A Chronological Encyclopedia of
Television. Radio. Motion Pictures. Magazines. Newspapers, and Books in the
United States (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1987), 264-65.
5"Denver Area Will Be Surveyed for Television Transmitter Site," Rocky
Mountain News. 28 March 1944, 14.
6Morris Cleavenger, "Peaks Will Help Bring Television, FM to West," Rocky
Mountain News. 13 August 1945, 8.
"Denver Plans Television FM Stations," Rocky Mountain News. 24 February
built a television camera, although they were not yet able to hook it up to a
Aspiring television operators in many cities requested FCC license
approvals immediately after the end of the war, but no application was made for
any of Denvers five allotted frequencies until March 1948. Perhaps the local
entertainment businessmen who later applied for television broadcast licenses
were satisfied with the current situation. Or perhaps this was simply an example
of the post-war conservatism and "devotion to the status quo" described by
Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel in Denver: Mining Camp to
This first application was made by former Kansas governor and 1936
presidential candidate, Alf Landon, who was in the process of building radio
station KTLN (the "LN" standing for Landon10) in the city.11 By the end of
May, eight other parties had expressed interest in television. Among them were
8"KOA Brings Denver 1st Television Camera," Rocky Mountain News. 16
June 1948, 16.
Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to
Metropolis (Niwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1990), 240.
10Martin OFallon, 1950s television time salesman, interview by Cheri de la
Garza, 14 March 1994.
"Television for Denver Nears as Alf Landon Applies for License," Rocky
Mountain News. 29 March 1948, 5.
radio stations KFEL, KLZ, and KMYR ("MYR" for owner A1 Meyer12); Pueblo
publisher Gifford Phillips; Texas millionaire Homer Snowden; former Colorado
Springs resident and Hollywood producer Edward Lasker; the department store
Daniels and Fisher; and Aladdin Television, Inc., headed by Harry E. Huffman
and affiliated with Fox Theaters. Applicants stated that they expected FCC action
on requests in approximately sixty days, although the projected lead-time before
actual broadcasting began varied from six months to two years after approval.13
By 1948, though, it had become apparent to the FCC that existing stations
were experiencing unexpected interference and that the number of FCC-assigned
channels would not be sufficient to serve the country. Additionally, there were
demands for educational channels and controversy over competing color systems.
The FCC, which had issued 108 licenses in 63 of the nations markets, instituted
a freeze on further applications and approvals in September 1948. The freeze left
12Merwin Smith, 1950s television announcer, interview by Cheri de la Garza,
11 November 1993.
13Jack Mohler, "Station KFEL Applies for Television Permit," Rocky
Mountain News. 4 April 1948, 5; "KLZ Requests Federal Permit for Television,"
Rocky Mountain News. 7 April 1948, 14; "Battle Looms on Requests for
Television," Denver Post. 17 April 1948, 2; "3d Television Permit Is Sought for
Denver," Rocky Mountain News. 18 April 1948, 5; Warren L. Lowe, "Television
Boom is On," Rocky Mountain News. 30 May 1948, 19.
fourteen states, including Colorado, without television.14 Expected to last six
months, the freeze continued to drag on. Another war, this time in Korea,
intervened; and it was not until April 14, 1952, that applications were once again
When the freeze would end and Denver would get TV was anybodys
guess, and every few months another guess would appear. In February 1949
Warren Lowe, the business editor of the Rocky Mountain News, said the freeze
was "expected to be lifted within the next few weeks."15 In December of that
year the manager of KLZ, Hugh Terry, told a Rotary group that Denver would
not have television until 1953.16 Five months later Wayne Coy, chairman of the
FCC, said that the summer of 1951 was a possible, although improbable, date.
He added that when the freeze was lifted he felt Denver and Portland, Oregon,
"the only two major American cities without television," should receive first
consideration.17 On March 14, 1951, exactly thirteen months before the freeze
14J. Fred MacDonald, One Nation Under Television (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1990), 60; Brown, Encyclopedia of Television 340; William Boddy, Fifties
Television: The Industry and Its Critics (Chicago: University of Illinois Press,
15Warren Lowe, "Television Hot Topic as Sales Boom Here," Rocky Mountain
News. 6 February 1949, 20.
16"No Television in Denver until 53, Says Hugh Terry," Cervis Rocky
Mountain Journal. 22 December 1949, 7.
17"July, 51, Earliest Date for Denver TV, Says Coy," Denver Post. 23 May
ended, the Rocky Mountain News reported that the FCC was "expected to end
its thirty-month freeze of TV channels late this week."18
Colorados U.S. Senator, Edwin C. Johnson, was chairman of the Senates
Commerce Committee. He defended the freeze, saying it would provide
Colorado with an up-to-date system and "save Colorado citizens many headaches
and quite a few dollars." Most applicants for Denver TV licenses agreed with
him.19 Perhaps the freeze was somewhat financially beneficial to Denver
television stations. In 1949 a series of articles in the Denver Post reported that
stations in Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, the two television communities
nearest to Denver, were losing thousands of dollars each month. Losses were
caused by scarcity of both viewers and programming alternatives.20 It was
generally felt that any television licensee would not make a profit or even cover
operating expenses for 1-1/2 to 2 years. One applicant stated that the Denver
market, which would have a 1950 metropolitan area census count of more than
i8"TV for Denver One Step Nearer," Rocky Mountain News. 14 March 1951,
19"Video Delay Protects Colorado, Ed Asserts," Rocky Mountain News. 6
, March 1950, 13.
^Robert W. Fenwick, "Video Fast Going in Red at Salt Lake City," Denver
Post. 18 November 1949, 1; Fred Baker, "Albuquerque TV Gets Slow Start; Sales
Improve after 10 Months," Denver Post. 21 November 1949, 1.
600,000 residents, would be able to support only three of the five assigned
Technological improvements made during the freeze were also important.
Television images at this time were transmitted through a special coaxial cable
which then extended only as far west as Omaha. Without some connection to
programs originating on one of the coasts, stations in the central U.S. could show
only "canned" films, local programming, or kinescopes of television shows.22
During the freeze, American Telephone and Telegraph developed and
constructed a series of 107 microwave towers placed at 30-mile intervals. The
towers extended from New York, through Chicago, Omaha, Denver, and Salt
Lake City to San Francisco and could transmit television signals. The microwave
system was formally put into operation on September 4, 1951, when President
Harry S Truman addressed the Japanese peace treaty conference in San
Francisco,23 and was thus available for Denvers use when the freeze was lifted.
21Tom Gavin, "No Denver Video for 2 Years, Huffman Says," Rocky
Mountain News. 12 May 1949,12; U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the
Census, Census of the Population: 1950. vol. I. (Washington D.C.: U.S.
Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1952), 1-66; Robert W.
Fenwick, "Television for Denver Region Declared at Least Year Away," Denver
Post. 20 November 1949, 12a.
^A kinescope is made by filming the picture which is shown on a television
receiver, or TV set.
^Hudson, Mass Media. 267.
In the meantime, the citys residents could only wait, and not see. Denver,
330 miles from the nearest station, had the distinction of being one of the nations
largest communities without television; one'Denver Post writer repeatedly called
it "the largest teleblind city in the U.S."24 Other "dark" cities included Austin,
Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Portland, Maine; and Portland, Oregon.
The 1949 Sears Roebuck catalog arrived in Denver with advertising for
unusable TV sets.25 In anticipation the University of Denver offered a film
production class during its 1949 fall term.26 People who brought sets with them
when they moved to the city would be queried about that strange piece of
furniture they had sitting in a corner. Uncle Miltie (Milton Berle, already known
as "Mr. Television"), Ed Sullivan, and Howdy Doody did not appear in local living
rooms. In 1950, against the background of the Korean War and buoyed by earlier
success at "Red-hunting" in the movie industry, anti-Communist crusaders took on
radio and television. Denverites, however, noticed no changes from the resulting
^Dan Partner, "First TV Shows Due for Denver," Denver Post. 20 July 1952,
10AAA. McDonald, One Nation Under Television. 60.
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 113.
^"DU Looks Ahead, Trains Students in Video Operation," Rocky Mountain
News. 9 October 1949, 12.
television industry blacklisting.27 Nor could local citizens appreciate Frank
Costellos nervous hands -- shown because cameramen were not allowed to film
his face during the televised proceedings of Senator Estes Kefauvers 1951
organized crime hearings.28
"Sneak previews" served only to whet the appetite. In May 1949 a front-
page article in the Rocky Mountain News reported that the two KOA engineers
who had earlier built a camera had now successfully attached it to a receiver. A
crowd of more than one hundred people had seen the engineers televised
presentation of a pianist, an organist, and puppeteers. They explained the miracle
The image is relayed from the lens to an iconoscope, which
is an eye that picks up the minute beam or spot. Sweep circuits
move the spot back and forth to gain the full view while amplifiers
intensify the beam.
From there the operation moves to pulsing circuits which
synchronize the tubes in the sender and receiver. Then down the
cable and whoosh theres the image on the screen.29
27Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 120-25. The crusade was led by housewives,
newspaper columnists (especially those of the Hearst chain), and ex-FBI agents.
Self-appointed "investigators" published an alphabetical and somewhat eclectic list
of 151 "pinkos," including Leonard Bernstein, Abe Burrows, Lee J. Cobb, Aaron
Copland, Jose Ferrer, Ruth Gordon, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Heilman, Judy
Holliday, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Burl Ives, Gypsy Rose Lee, Burgess
Meredith, Arthur Miller, Zero Mostel, Dorothy Parker, Edward G. Robinson,
Howard K. Smith, and Orson Welles.
^Hudson, Mass Media. 267.
^Leo Zuckerman, "Television Makes Its Denver Debut," Rocky Mountain
News. 23 May 1949, 17.
The "grand opening" of the trans-continental microwave, starring Harry
Truman, was seen by eight employees in Mountain States Telephone and
Telegraph Companys control room in September 1951.30
The following month the World Series was transmitted via closed circuit
to the Broadway Theater and the Cosmopolitan and Brown Palace Hotels.31
Sets were placed at a downward angle outside the second-floor windows of the
Brown Palace so that the community-at-large could watch.32 One fan, armed
with a four-day food supply, a tent, and a shotgun to protect his viewing space,
camped in the Brown Palace lobby. Ten policemen were detailed "to handle the
expected 100,000 persons viewing the games" outside the hotels.33 On New
Years Day 1952 huge crowds collected at Mammoth Gardens to watch the Rose
Bowl on television sets placed on high stilts in the center of the audience.34
^'Denver Gets a Taste of Television -- a Tiny Taste," Denver Post. 5
September 1951, 34.
31"3 Spots in Denver to Watch Series in Citys First Telecast," Rocky Mountain
News. 25 September 1951, 5.
32George Sollenberger, 1950s television engineer, interview by Cheri de la
Garza, 22 May 1994.
33Leo Zuckerman, "Fan Camps in Lobby to See Series on TV," Rocky
Mountain News. 4 October 1951, 26.
^"Crowd at Bowl Game Proves Denver Likes TV," Rocky Mountain News.
2 January 1952, 22.
By April 1952 television sets were in 34 percent of the nations homes, and
television accounted for 70 percent of broadcast advertising.35 But not in
Denver. The natives were becoming restless, and people began looking around
for someone to blame. The Rocky Mountain News complained that television
was received in cities much smaller than Denver cities with inhabitants whose
vocabulary included words like "video, image, coaxial, cable. . ." It stated that
"[m]en interested in TV here simply failed to move into the breach rapidly."36
In a more caustic article, the Denver Post said that businessmen in other cities
were not so timid as those in Denver. There was one person with faith in Denver
In April, 1948, however, someone decided Denver was worth
the risk. It was Alf Landon. . His application brought on an
avalanche. Everyone who had been holding back rushed his
application to Washington for fear of being left out when the
station permits were passed out.37
Potential licensees used the period of the freeze to strengthen their
positions. Invoking any and all powers, Landons radio station took to the air in
May 1948 with speeches by the governor, the mayor, the editor of the Rocky
Mountain News, the chancellor of the University of Denver, a Protestant minister,
35Boddy, Fifties Television. 51.
^"Denver Left at Post when Video License Race Began," Rocky Mountain
News. 3 March 1950, 17.
37Albert Weinstein, "War Threatens Continued 'Freeze on Video for Denver
until 1952," Denver Post. 24 September 1950, 1.
and a Catholic priest.38 As most television licenses were being issued to
applicants affiliated with radio stations, the Fox Theater groups Aladdin
Television made an unsuccessful attempt to buy KOA Radio from NBC and then
announced that it was going to purchase KLZ, a CBS Radio affiliate with a
Since the FCC also preferred local ownership, Pueblo applicant Gifford
Phillips managed to "hook up" with some local businessmen in January 1949. The
local businessmen included Harris and John Wolfberg of Wolfberg Theaters;
Denver Mayor Quigg Newton;40 Morrison Shafroth, the mayors father-in-law;
and William Grant, the mayors campaign manager. The new company was
named Denver Television Co.41 In 1952 the group split, with Wolfberg retaining
Denver Television Co., Gifford Phillips joining a group requesting a Colorado
^"KTLN Hits Air with Throng of Fans on Hand," Rocky Mountain News. 17
May 1948, 15.
39"Aladdin Video Seeking to Buy KLZ and KVOR," Denver Post 1
September 1948, 1-2.
'Although there would certainly be eyebrows, if not voices, raised if a 1990s
mayor were to apply for a television license, there seems to have been no concern
about it in the 1950s. Not even opponents for the license questioned it. As one
broadcaster pointed out, television at that time was considered a risk and not such
a "plum." Don Johnson, 1960s manager of Channel 6, interview by Cheri de la
Garza, 24 March 1994.
41"Mayor, 6 Others Form New Television Firm," Rocky Mountain News. 9
January 1949, 5.
Springs/Pueblo license, and the mayors cadre forming the Metropolitan
Metropolitans investors were joined, among others, by Arnold B. Gurtler,
Jr., the treasurer of Elitch Gardens; Myron B. Emrich, the president of several
taxi companies; Thomas P. Campbell, Denvers manager of parks and
improvements; Hugh R. Catherwood, the citys director of budget and personnel;
Ralph Radetsky, the mayors assistant, who would take a two-month leave-of-
absence to prepare the companys license application; and comedian Bob
Hope.43 The group purchased radio station KOA from NBC44 and requested
a license for television Channel 4.45 Mariam Goldberg, who worked with her
42"Plans Laid for Two Colorado TV Stations," Rocky Mountain News. 2 March
1952, 5; "TV Firm Buys KOA for 'Over $2 Million," Rocky Mountain News. 24
June 1952, 25; "Bob Hope, Denver Firm Largest Stockholders in Group Buying
KOA," Denver Post. 28 July 1952, 16A.
43While Hope was here for a charitable cause, Quigg Newton mentioned that
he was investigating television. Hope offered to invest. Quigg Newton, 19508^
mayor of Denver and part-owner of Channel 4, interview by Cheri de la Garza,
12 April 1994.
^NBC actually "traded" Hopes share of the station in return for his services
for the network. Quigg Newton, interview.
45"Plans Laid for Two Colorado TV Stations," Rocky Mountain News. 2 March
1952, 5; "TV Firm Buys KOA for 'Over $2 Million," Rocky Mountain News. 24
June 19^2, 25; "Bob Hope, Denver Firm Largest Stockholders in Group Buying
KOA," benver Post. 28 July 1952, 16A. Hope was already associated with NBC
TV and Radio. The FCC limited network ownership to five television stations,
and the networks naturally preferred to own those five stations in the largest
husband Max to obtain the Channel 9 license, described these associations/de-
associations as "musical directors chairs." "In those days," she says, "people didnt
have money; they traded."46
One week before the freeze was lifted, radio station KVOD ("VOD" for
"Voice of Denver"47) and a group of local investors, including Aksel Nielsen, the
president of the Denver Chamber of Commerce; Maurice Robineau, the
president of Centennial Race Track; and advertising agency owner Max Goldberg
announced that they had formed a one-million-dollar corporation which would
seek a license for Channel 9.48
Other organizations also attempted to enter the contest. The Denver Post
Printing and Publishing Co. conducted negotiations with radio station KMYR,
which had a pending television application, but could not reach an agreement.49
Lest covetous eyes should be cast at the frequency allocated for educational use,
Kenneth Oberholtzer, Denvers superintendent of schools, warned commercial
'Mariam Goldberg, 1950s television and ad agency assistant, interview by
Cheri de la Garza, 10 April 1994.
47Martin OFallon, interview.
48"$1 Million Firm Plans Denver Video Station," Rocky Mountain News. 7
May 1952, 12.
49"No Deal on Sale of Station KMYR," Rocky Mountain News. 28 June 1952,
applicants that the educational system had every intention of using its assigned
Interest in the medium was growing hotter than a cathode ray tube, and
the price of admission was increasing exponentially. Landon had announced in
March of 1948 that his proposed station could cost as much as $300,000.51 In
September 1948 the price of KLZ Radio, with its CBS connections and pending
application, was reputedly $900,000.52 By May 1952 the cost of a connection
with ABC affiliate KVOD Radio, which had no prior license request and was a
far distant "also-ran" in television, was $1,000,000.53 By June 1952, after the
freeze thawed, radio station KOA, NBC-owned but without a pending application,
was worth $2,250,000.54
The FCC finally "spoke" on April 14, 1952. Ending the freeze and
accepting applications for new television licenses, the FCC began what became
50"Colorado Schools Plan to Use Video Channel," Rocky Mountain News. 17
April 1952, 51.
^"Television for Denver Nears as Alf Landon Applies for License," Rocky
Mountain News. 29 March 1948, 5.
52"Aladdin Video Seeking to Buy KLZ and KVOR," Denver Post. 1
September 1948, 1.
53"$1 Million Firm Plans Denver Video Station," Rocky Mountain News. 7
May 1952, 12.
54"Bob Hope, Denver Firm Largest Stockholders in Group Buying KOA,"
Denver Post. 28 July 1952, 16A.
known as "the Great Giveaway."55 Applications would now be accepted for
Denvers four commercial very-high-frequency (VHF) allocations (Channels 2, 4,
7, and 9) and two ultra-high-frequency (UHF) allotments (Channels 20 and
26).56 Channel 6 was reserved for educational use. Denver had previously been
assigned five stations, all in the VHF band, but the FCC had added seventy UHF
channels across the nation to increase the number of stations.57 Those who had
filed earlier applications would now need to amend their requests, and aspiring
licensees were required to include a request for a specific channel with their
applications. If applicants did not receive approval for the specific channels they
requested, they could not as viewers could switch to another channel. As
might be expected, much consideration and jockeying for position went into each
request for a certain channel.
As promised by the FCC, applications for Denver stations received priority.
On July 12, 1952, the FCC spoke again. There were eleven applications for the
six commercial stations allocated to Denver, ten of them for the four VHF
commercial channels. The unopposed applications of KFEL Radio (affiliated
55Boddy, Fifties Television. 215.
56Prior to this, all television stations had broadcast in the very-high-frequency
range (Channels 2 through 13). Most TV sets produced up to this time were
unable to receive the ultra-high frequency (Channels 14 through 83).
57Hudson, Mass Media. 268. Here "channels" means channels 14 through 83
throughout the country, not seventy stations in total.
with radios Mutual Broadcasting System, which had no television operation) for
Channel 2, KVOD Radio (ABC) for Channel 9, and Empire Coil Co. of New
York for Channel 26 were approved. Empire Coil had originally applied for
Channel 9 but at the last moment had requested Channel 26. The applications
from Alf Landon, Hollywood producer Edward Lasker, the department store
Daniels and Fisher, and Texas millionaire Homer Snowden were dismissed.
Further hearings were to be held between KMYR Radio and Metropolitan
Television (the group headed by Bob Hope, Mayor Newton, and William W.
Grant and the owner of NBC-affiliated KOA) for Channel 4 and between Aladdin
Television (the Fox Theater group that owned CBS-affiliated KLZ) and Denver
Television Co. (Wolfberg Theaters) for Channel 7.58
58"$1 Million Firm Plans Denver Video Station," Rocky Mountain News. 7
May 1952, 12; "Landon Applies for TV Station Permit in Denver," Rocky
Mountain News. 21 May 1952, 6; "KFEL Operator Asks FCC for Denver TV
Channel 2," Rocky Mountain News. 27 May 1952, 45; "KLZ Seeks TV Channel
7," Rocky Mountain News. 14 June 1952, 17; "Battle Looms over Granting of TV
Channel," Rocky Mountain News. 15 June 1952, 36; "TV Firm Buys KOA for
Over $2 Million," Rocky Mountain News. 24 June 1952, 25; "3 Denver Firms Get
TV Permits," Rocky Mountain News. 12 July 1952, 16.
DEALERS OF ILL-REPUTE
(Sales of TV Sets)
Gene OFallon, owner of KFEL Radio and successful applicant for
television Channel 2, was prepared. KFEL had practiced by importing closed-
circuit television programming and running a radio and television technicians
school.59 OFallon also owned land, complete with a Quonset hut, on Lookout
Mountain and had utilized television equipment over experimental station
W0XEL. Although he could not take delivery until the television freeze was
lifted, he had already ordered a TV transmitter from RCA in Canada.60
Notification that Channel 2s license was granted came on July 12. The
station had proposed to begin transmission with a 2000-watt temporary antenna
until its 56,000-watt permanent antenna could be installed. After approval,
OFallon requested additional permission to commence immediate broadcasting
59Martin OFallon, interview.
Bob Shriver, 1950s television announcer, interview by Cheri de la Garza, 6
April 1994. Mr. Shriver signed Channel 2 on the air for its first official
broadcasts. George Sollenberger, interview.
with a 500-watt "temporary" temporary antenna.61 The FCC granted approval
at 2:00 p.m. on July 18, and the station became the first post-freeze station to go
on the air when it broadcast its test pattern at 8:15 that evening.
Those who tuned in between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. on July 19 for the
promised "actual TV programs" were disappointed by seeing only more test
patterns.62 However, "[sjcores of celebrations started over the city" on July 20,
when the station broadcast "Big Payoff' and "Goodyear Playhouse" between 5:00
and 7:00 p.m. The first official day of broadcasting on July 21 was to be:
8:30 a.m. Test Pattern
9:30 a.m. Democratic Convention
12:00 p.m. "Big Payoff'
12:30 p.m. "Johnny Dugan Show"
1:00 p.m. "Kate Smith Hour"
2:00 p.m. Sign-Off
3:30 p.m. Test Pattern
4:00 p.m. "Convention Call"
4:30 p.m. Test Pattern
6:00 p.m. Democratic
9:00 p.m. Sign-Off63
But such enticing programming had to be viewed on something; and the
search for television sets quickly developed into a mad rush reminiscent of the
1859 search for gold. In 1949 it had been estimated that 20 percent of Denver
61Dan Partner, "Television Likely Here by Monday," Denver Post. 17 July
1952, 1; Robert Perkin, "First Denver TV Stations Rush Construction," Rocky
Mountain News. 17 July 1952, 28; Henry Still, "Convention Due to Inaugurate
TV," Rocky Mountain News. 20 July 1952, 5.
62Henry Still, "Convention Due to Inaugurate TV," Rocky Mountain News. 20
July 1952, 5.
63A1 Nakkula, "First TV Show Converts Denver Critics," Rocky Mountain
News. 21 July 1952, 26.
households would purchase sets.64 By 1952 optimistic projections were that 80
to 90 percent of households would buy televisions. Denver television
broadcasting, which had been expected to begin in October or November, was
now to begin in July. However, the week before Channel 2 took to the air it was
estimated that there were only one thousand sets for sale in the city. Most
dealers had long lists of "priority" customers for the most popular models.65
In between advertisements explaining "why more doctors smoke Camels"
and reports of flying saucers, ads for televisions began to appear immediately
after the freeze was lifted "no money down," "weekly payments," "three years
to pay," etc. In June one department store introduced a "television priority and
savings plan," which required monthly five-dollar deposits and rewarded the
customer with a "priority number" for buying a set.66 Within advertisements for
other merchandise, Nides Appliance had pre-positioned itself for months by
enclosing its name in the outline of a TV set.
Fred Schmid had also donned the hat of future television salesman. In
Horatio Alger form, Mr. Schmid had abandoned the German merchant marine
in 1909, opened a barber shop in Denver, and added radio and appliance sales
64"20% of Families Here Could Buy TV Sets," Denver Post. 4 April 1949, 2.
65"Few Good 1953 TV Sets Here, but Plenty Are Coming," Rocky Mountain
News. 20 July 1952, 71.
^Rockv Mountain News. 29 June 1952, 30.
to his list of vocations. He placed a revolving antenna on the roof of his
appliance store and would pick up any random airwaves deflected by clouds, etc.
The picture would be shown on a set placed next to the stoplight in front of the
store. When television finally came, people knew exactly where a set might be
Public-spirited television manufacturers announced that "Denver, last major
untapped market in the nation, will have No. 1 priority on production."68
Truckloads, vanloads, and planeloads of TVs arrived daily, along with service
crews to install the sets. Dr. Allen Du Mont, owner of the Dumont Network and
manufacturer of sets, added fuel to the buying fire on an August visit to Colorado
Springs by predicting that the price of TV receivers would soon increase
A 1952 economic survey by the Denver Planning Office, citing the 1950
census, stated that "Denvers savings record ... is, on the whole, above the
67Karl Schmid, son of Fred Schmid, interview by Cheri de la Garza, 19 May
1994; Olga Curtis, "Fred Schmid: Millionaire Barber with a Mission," Denver
Post Empire. 19 July 1964, 8-10.
^"Few Good 1953 TV Sets Here, but Plenty Are Coming," Rocky Mountain
News. 20 July 1952, 71.
69"Price of Television Sets to Soar, Du Mont Warns," Rocky Mountain News,
17 August 1952, 22.
median for metropolitan areas of Denvers size."70 Those savings were now
needed to purchase television sets.
Although metropolitan Denver was still small enough for the Denver Post
to print three paragraphs about a found cocker spaniel in October 1952, the
community was growing by metes and bounds.71 Between the 1950 and 1960
censuses, the Denver SMSA increased in size by 51.8 percent, from 612,128 to
929,383. Most of this growth was in the suburban areas, which registered a
whopping 121.8% population increase.72 In Denver: Mining Camp to
Metropolis Leonard and Noel note that "[s]ometimes developers had only to
announce building plans in order to sell homes."73
Furthermore, on May 7,1952, just in time for the introduction of television
to Denver, the Federal Reserve Board lifted its credit restrictions on a number
of consumer durables, including television sets. Previously consumers had been
70Denver Planning Office, Denver Economic Survey, Income and Living Cost
in the Denver Metropolitan Area, bull. E6, (Denver: Denver Planning Office,
Denver Economic Survey, 12 December 1952), 16.
71"Family Seeks Owner of Small Black Cocker," Denver Post. 3 October 1952,
72U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract
of the United States: 1962 ([Washington D.C.]: U.S. Department of Commerce,
Bureau of the Census, 1964), 14; U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the
Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1960. ([Washington D.C.]: U.S.
Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1962), 14.
73Leonard and Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. 408.
required to put 15 percent down and pay the balance within eighteen months.
Now buyers and sellers were free to make their own arrangements.74
Advertised costs of the sets during the summer of 1952 ranged from $149
for a seventeen-inch table model to $559 for a twenty-one-inch console with
doors, but the average cost was around $267.75 This $267 set represented 9.3
percent of average household or 7.7 percent of average family income.76 To
represent an equivalent percentage of income based on the 1990 census, the
average set would sell for around $2400.77 From another perspective, using the
consumer price index and taking inflation into account, the average $267 set
74"Credit Buying Curbs Lifted," Rocky Mountain News. 8 May 1952, 3.
75Tom Gavin, "Denverites Spend $9 Million on TV Sets," Rocky Mountain
News. 4 September 1953, 5. In 1953 there were 35,204 sets being taxed through
the City of Denver. These sets were assessed at $5,634,420 at 60% of value,
which would give a total value of $9,390,700, or $267 per set.
76U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census of the
Population: 1950. vol VI ([Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Department of Commerce,
Bureau of the Census, 1952), 6-51. The 1950 census lists the average annual
income for Denver families and unrelated individuals as $2,877 and for families
only as $3,472.
77U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1990 Census of
Population and Housing: Summary Social. Economic and Housing Characteristics
([Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,
1992), 63. 1990 average household income in Denver is given as $25,108 and
family income as $32,038. Multiplied respectively by the 9.3% and 7.7% portions
of income, sets would cost $2335 and $2467.
would now cost $1514.78 One reason the sets were so expensive was that they
were not totally an assembly-line product. Much work, such as soldering, was
done by hand.79
Roxie Pomarico, who was a Denver television distributor at this time,
stated that the advent of television was "like striking a vein of gold." Shipments
of televisions would arrive and would never make it into the warehouse because
they were all spoken for; turnover was tremendous.80 At least one sales outlet
was forced to give "mass," rather than individual, sales pitches.81 Harry Valas
was a car dealer who developed a sideline of radio sales and then moved into
television. When actual broadcasting came along, such large crowds (some
buyers, mostly lookers) gathered at his store that the police department was
forced to man the doors and allow only a certain number to enter at a time.82
78Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index
([Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
January 1995). With 1982-84 representing the base of 100, the Consumer Price
Index for 1952 was 26.5, while the January 1995 figure was 150.3.
79Roxie Pomarico, 1950s salesman for McCollum-Law TV Distributors,
interview by Cheri de la Garza, 12 April 1994.
Roxie Pomarico, interview.
81 Lee Trainor, "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days," Rocky Mountain
News. 22 July 1952, 5.
Harry Valas, 1950s car and television dealer, interview by Cheri de la Garza,
18 April 1994.
"Everybody thought there was going to be a bonanza"83 and wanted a
share of the lode. In addition to the expected furniture and appliance stores, sets
were sold by any means and by just about anyone who had a storefront and
some who did not. The Better Business Bureau warned the public not to
purchase sets from someone selling from a motel room. "Mad Man" Muntz,
whose dealers sold door-to-door by free home demonstration and whose motto
was "Quit Watching Your Radio," arrived in town.84 With Muntz came two
semi-truckloads of televisions, which were sold from the trucks parked at
Twentieth Street and Broadway. People would drive up, pay their money, and
haul their prizes away. Down the block an enterprising entrepreneur was hawking
rabbit ears on the sidewalk.85
Channel 9 reporter Ron Mitchell, who was a youngster at the time, recalls
that his best friends family got television before his did. The parents collected
money from the entire family in a shoe box prominently placed in the spot
designated for the television. "But they couldnt wait," he says; and the TV was
purchased before an adequate sum was donated.86
^Dan Partner, "Mad Man Muntz Television Price Cutter Coming to Denver,"
Denver Post. 2 August 1952, 14A; Roxie Pomarico, interview.
85George Sollenberger, interview.
^Ron Mitchell, television reporter, interview by Cheri de la Garza, 7 April
To encourage sales, the advertising manager for Sylvania asserted that
Denver was "lucky" to have only one television station, because "Denver [or
rather, executives at Channel 2] can pick and choose between the cream of the
Installation had been predicted to be a major bottleneck for potential sales
because "TV sets must be installed and receive at least their initial adjustments
from skilled electronics technicians, who are believed to be in short supply in
Denver."88 Nides Appliance managed to get a jump on the competition in that
area also. On the first day of the 1952 World Series, Nides ran a newspaper ad
stating that those who ordered before 9:30 a.m. would have a set installed before
the game. Owner Jack Nides reported that by 9:30 that day the store did ten
times the normal days business.89 On Election Day three competitors ran a
similar advertisement. Nides had foreseen this possibility, and his full-page
Election Day advertisement appeared on four separate pages.90
87"TV Fans Seen Helped by One-Station Setup," Denver Post. 5 August 1952,
^"Few Good 1953 TV Sets Here, but Plenty Are Coming," Rocky Mountain
News. 20 July 1952, 71.
89"Ad in News Brings Flood of TV Orders," Rocky Mountain News. 2 October
^Rockv Mountain News. 4 November 1952, 9-31.
Everybody was advertising the sets. Daniels and Fisher plugged its
television sales facility with a five-page newspaper ad.91 On October 11 and 13,
1952, the days before and after Denvers second station went on the air, the
Rocky Mountain News carried respectively five out of fifty-five and nine out of
sixty-nine pages of advertising for television sets.92
By August 12 the Better Business Bureau noted that "we have 283 dealers
registered with the BBB. But I am certain there are far more than that in
town."93 By November 1952 Channel 2 had been broadcasting since July, and
Channel 9 had been on the air less than a month. The new Yellow Pages
directory published that month was 604 pages long and had 21 pages devoted to
television listings.94 By contrast, the 2138-page 1994 Yellow Pages including
entries for satellite, private closed-circuit, and cable TV, not present in 1952 has
less than 10 pages of television listings.95
91Denver Post. 12 August 1952, 25-29.
^Rockv Mountain News. 11 October, 1952; 13 October 1952.
^Lee Trainor, "283 TV Dealers Sell 6000 Sets in Denver," Rocky Mountain
News. 12 August 1952, 44.
94Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co., Metropolitan Denver
Telephone Directory (Denver: Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co.,
95U.S. West Direct, The Yellow Pages (Denver: U.S. West Direct, 1994),
Among the 374 dealers listed in the 1952 Yellow Pages were jewelry stores,
tire companies, music stores, pharmacies, carpet stores, Bell Plumbing & Heating,
Chase Lumber Co., George Irvin Chevrolet, Broadway Sheet Metal Works, and
Red Dot L-P Gas Co.96 The business editor for the Rocky Mountain News
reported an unconfirmed rumor that one undertaker was moonlighting in TV
This was probably Nickels-Hill Furniture in Littleton, a combination
mortuary-furniture store.98 Although the two functions of the enterprise had
their own addresses and entrances, they shared a common phone number. D. A.
Withers, a partner in the organization, explained that the furniture-mortuary
combination was the common practice in small towns where one could not make
a living from one of the activities alone probably a continuation from the days
when those who built furnishings for the living also provided for the dead.
Littleton was ten miles from Denver, and Nickels-Hill was the first Littleton
%1952 Metropolitan Denver Telephone Directory. 521-43.
Warren Lowe, "Denver People Spend $3 Million for TV Sets," Rocky
Mountain News. 24 August 1952, 70.
^Roxie Pomarico, interview.
enterprise to market television sets. Mr. Withers believes that when he retired
twenty-three years ago his was among the last of these combination businesses."
Added to the chaos created by so many dealers were fears that hucksters
would dump obsolete, stolen, or rebuilt sets which would not be allowed to play
in Peoria upon the unwary and ignorant "third-world" city of Denver. Feeling it
was their "duty to caution the public that many obsolete sets are in Denver and
that dealers of ill-repute are selling them,"* 100 the Better Business Bureau asked
dealers to sign honesty pledges; the public could then call the Bureau to ascertain
that a dealer had signed the pledge.101 At the end of July the BBB announced
a "crackdown" on disreputable dealers but declined to reveal the names of
In August the Bureau warned the public that it had "definite knowledge
that one car-load and two truck-loads" of obsolete sets, usually sent out of the
country, were on their way to Denver.103 Those loads must have arrived,
"D. A. Withers, 1950s partner in Nickels-Hill Furniture and Mortuary,
interview by Cheri de la Garza, 22 May 1994.
100Lee Trainor, "283 TV Dealers Sell 6000 Sets in Denver," Rocky Mountain
News. 12 August 1952, 44.
ioi"TV Firms Here Sign Fair Practice Pledges," Denver Post. 19 July 1952, 13.
102"Crackdown on Certain TV Dealers Planned," Rocky Mountain News. 29
July 1952, 13.
103Lee Trainor, "Obsolete TV Sets on Way to Denver," Rocky Mountain News.
3 August 1952, 5.
because a few days later the BBB noted that the "more than 1000 obsolete and
distressed TV sets have arrived in Denver." So the Bureau decided to take upon
itself the "gigantic" task of serving as a clearing house. The public could call for
information on the serial number of any TV set.104
On top of the cost for the TV were additional expenditures for antennas,
installation, service calls, and such. Potential purchasers were warned that they
could not just buy a TV set, bring it home, and plug it in, that there were "service,
installation and service installation charges involved."105 The Better Business
Bureau noted that "television sets must be serviced on the average ... more than
five times each year."106 Denverites were repeatedly warned not to attempt
television repair themselves, but luckily there was help available. By August 8,
the Denver Post reported that around one hundred repair agencies had been
organized within the last six weeks.107
In addition to the dealer (or the guy in the motel room), there were 144
repair shops listed under "Television Servicing" in the November 1952 Yellow
104"BBB to Serve as Center for Information on TV," Rocky Mountain News.
6 August 1952, 9.
105"Denver Eager, but Wary of TV, Businessmen Told," Rocky Mountain
News. 19 July 1952, 20.
106Lee Trainor, "283 TV Dealers Sell 6000 Sets in Denver," Rocky Mountain
News. 12 August 1952, 44.
107"New Industry," Denver Post. 8 August 1952, 8.
Pages.108 One repairman was even hired to fly to a farm east of Colorado
Springs to assist an ailing set.109 As with sets, the public was again "protected,"
this time by the Office of Price Stabilization (OPS), which stated that prices for
television service contracts must be filed with the OPS and posted in the place of
It is not that Denver residents were running amok or rushing in where
wiser citizens of other cities feared to tread. The video purchasing binge was
nationwide. Televisions appeal and adoption seemed to be universal. In mid-
1953 television sets were owned by 43 percent of U.S. families headed by a
person with an elementary school education, 57 percent of those headed by
someone with a high school education, and 48.4 percent of those headed by a
college educated person.111
Nineteen million television sets were produced in the 1952-54 period, and
these sets were quickly snapped up by the thousand new TV sales facilities which
108Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co., Metropolitan Denver
Telephone Directory. November 1952, 521-43.
109Earl Wennergren, "West Gets Raw Deal on Kinescope Films," Rocky
Mountain News. 12 December 1952, 70.
no-Tv Repairmen Must Post Prices, OPS Says," Rocky Mountain News. 6
September 1952, 15.
ulMacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 70.
opened each month during 1952.112 Between 1950 and 1951 the number of New
York City area homes with sets increased from 29 percent to 51 percent.113 By
the end of 1952 more than one-third of the countrys homes contained a TV, and
by the end of 1955 televisions resided in 70 percent of all U.S. homes.114 While
there were 1,360,000 TVs in Chicago, the city contained only 1,260,000
Some families were even purchasing second sets, or more, for their homes;
Dumont Televisions sales manager estimated in 1953 that of that twenty million
sets sold to date two to three million of those were second sets.116 One Denver
viewer who wrote to Denver TV Weekly to complain about repetitious
programming and commercials apparently didnt let that keep her from watching
the tube. She finished her letter by noting: "We have three television sets."117
Although there were still more radio sets than televisions, statisticians pointed out
112Harry Hansen, ed., The World Almanac and Book of Facts (New York:
New York World Telegram, 1953, 1954, 1955), 316, 787, 789; Halberstam, The
113Halberstam, The Fifties. 191.
114MacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 60, 62.
115Carson Harris, "To the Point," TV and Radio Weekly. 14 March 1953, 12.
116"Families Turning to Two TV Sets," TV and Radio Weekly. 21 March 1953,
117"To the Editor," Denver TV Weekly. 7 November 1953, 2.
that television had taken over the living room and that most of the radios were
"for use in the kitchen, the den, the bedroom and even the bathroom."118
Citizens were neglecting more than radio in their preference for television.
In 1952, for the first time, Americans spent more money on televisions, radios and
appliances than on new cars. Over ten billion dollars were spent on
televisions/radios/appliances; and TV, radio and associated products accounted for
nearly four of the ten billion.119 The television industry became a yardstick by
which to measure success as did the president of the Liquified Petroleum Gas
association when he proudly announced that "[o]nly the television industry is
expanding faster in Colorado than the bottled gas business."120
The question of how many sets were sold replaced the guesstimates of
when Denver would get television as a subject of controversy. On July 22 the
Rocky Mountain News reported that 4,000 sets had been sold to dealers,121 and
118Tom Watt and Eva Hodges, "Ice Show Publicist Ponders Power of TV,"
Denver Post. 27 April 1954, 19.
119Warren Lowe, "TV, Home Appliances Top New Car Sales," Rocky
Mountain News. 29 April 1953, 33.
120"Only TV Exceeds Bottled Gas in Business Gains," Denver Post. 26
December 1952, 17.
121 Lee Trainor, "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days," Rocky Mountain
News. 22 July 1952, 5.
on August 30 Channel 2 announced that a poll revealed the sale of 17,735
sets.122 In November the Rocky Mountain News estimated that there were
40,000 sets in Denver. The Better Business Bureau took issue with this 40,000-set
figure, because in July it had projected only 30,000 would be sold by
November.123 All of this became rather irritating to one newspaper
commentator, whose article was titled, "Denvers Latest Guessing Game: How
Many TV Sets Here?"124
On September 24, 1952, when television had been in town for only two
months, the Denver Post reported on a poll of one hundred people who had seen
or heard Richard Nixons "Checkers" speech the night before. Of this one
hundred, twenty-six had seen the speech on television, so a significant number of
Denver citizens were seeing television somewhere.
Many sets were being sold, but all was not totally rosy; local dealers were
upset over discount selling.125 Perhaps this discount selling was a result of price
122"Poll Reveals 21,735 Video Sets in City," Rocky Mountain News. 30 August
1952, 6. KFEL had added 4,000 sets which it believed to be in the city before the
freeze was lifted. Other estimates of pre-July set ownership placed the number
123"Denvers Latest Guessing Game: How Many TV Sets Here?," Rocky
Mountain News. 13 November 1952, 15.
125"TV Dealers Will Organize to Fight Discount Selling," Rocky Mountain
News. 12 December 1952, 54.
increases by several manufacturers, in spite of industry analysts predictions that
costs would decline.126 With the backing of the Better Business Bureau and
because of their "desire to protect the public in the purchase of television
sets,"127 dealers formed the Denver Television and Appliance Dealers
In December 1952 the Rocky Mountain Electrical League put the number
of TV sets in Colorado, including those stocked at dealers, at 99,899; by May
1953, it said there were 150,362. CBS Research reported 98,300 in the Denver
area in May 1953; while in April that year NBC Research totaled 119,000 and the
national advertising agency of J. Walter Thompson counted 98,291.128
In any event, the City of Denver announced that its residents were being
taxed on 35,204 television sets owned as of January 1 1953.129 In August 1952
the University of Denvers Bureau of Business and Research had reported that
126Dean Partner, "Prices of Some TV Sets Raised," Denver Post. 2 October
1952, 3; "Denverites Hail Start of Second TV Station," Denver Post. 3 October
i27"tv Dealers Group Seeks to Gain Public Confidence," Rocky Mountain
News. 13 December 1952, 22.
128Ken White, "Sets Nudge 100,000 sold AND on Hand," Denver Post. 17
December 1952,29; Earl Wennergren, "Radios Rash of Soap Operas Are Missing
on Denver Television," Rocky Mountain News. 5 June 1953, 68.
129Tom Gavin, "Denverites Spend $9 Million on TV Sets," Rocky Mountain
News. 4 September 1953, 5.
the Denver area contained 126,975 dwelling units, so that by this time at least one
of every four households had television.130
130"Denvers Latest Guessing Game: How Many TV Sets Here?," Rocky
Mountain News. 13 November 1952, 15.
THE GREATEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED
(Expectations of the New Medium)
These first-on-the-block TV owners were an enthusiastic, and often
euphoric, crowd. Since Landons 1948 application there had been varying
predictions and opinions of the effect the medium would have on competitive
industries and upon the community. But televisions effect upon the social make-
up of a community was not easily defined. Shortly before the first television
broadcasts in the city, a University of Denver psychology and retailing professor,
Eleanor Luette, conducted a poll of expectations of television and found that
people thought it would:
Revolutionize society, inform the public, cut down recreation
expenses, knit families more closely, keep families at home, cut
down on divorce (although two persons thought it would increase
divorce), keep kids home, cut down on juvenile delinquency, run a
lot of people into debt, interfere with kids studying, close down the
movies, provoke family fights over which program is to be screened,
hit hard at hotels, taverns and cocktail lounges and siphon away
Luette, whom the newspaper described as "a Denver housewife and
Denver University Professor," was perhaps seen to be speaking from her
131"Denver Eager, but Wary of TV, Businessmen Told," Rocky Mountain
News. 19 July 1952, 20.
"housewife" role when she added a plea for information: "Were honest-to-
goodness ignorant, and we need to be educated."132
Information, advice, and supposition were abundant. On July 18 the Rocky
Mountain News explained TV transmission by means of a large picture which
showed a Channel 2 employee pointing toward Denver from the Lookout
Mountain transmitter site. From his finger, superimposed "transmission beams"
extended to the city.133 Two days later more pertinent details were covered in
an article titled "Heres How to Operate Controls of Your New Television Set."
Instructions began with: "1. This knob is the Off-On switch." To reassure
readers, the author added: "Sound complicated? Experienced TV-viewers say it
isnt at all -- that youll pick it up immediately and be tuning your set
automatically a few days after its delivered."134 Another instructional article
stated: "The pictures are called video. The sound is audio."135
While operating the television set might be easy, watching it was not so
simple. To do it properly homeowners would need to have a tape measure, and
133"How TV Beams Soon Will Cover Denver," Rocky Mountain News. 18 July
134"Heres How to Operate Controls of Your New Television Set," Rocky
Mountain News. 20 July 1952, 38.
135Lee Trainor, "Mysteries of TV Are Unraveled," Rocky Mountain News. 3
August 1952, 32.
perhaps a slide rule, standing by. There was an additional problem of conflicting
instructions. "One authority" advised that "a 17-inch screen should be viewed
from 15 feet and a 21-incher from about 18 to 20 feet."136 "One of the nations
top optical firms" alternately recommended:
Sit at a distance five to six times the diameter of your TV
tube, or seven to eight and one-half feet from a 17-inch set and
nine to 10-1/2 feet from a 21-inch set. Keep cigaret smoke to a y
minimum; be sure your set is in focus, and have a roomy,
But once the technical difficulties were mastered, viewers were in for a tray
full of treats. According to visionaries, TV was the new wunderkind of the
modern world; it could accomplish miracles and transform society overnight.
Televisions future was bright and limitless, and the tube could and would
accomplish all. A kind of deus ex machina, it would put everything right and
spread information about travel, industry, science, history, government, and
education. It could also be used for training, specialized, or management/worker
communications. "If we should become involved in another war overnight, mass
training of civilians" could be done via television.138
136Earl Wennergren, "Screen Size Is a Big Problem When Purchasing
Television Set," Rocky Mountain News. 28 March 1953, 34.
137Earl Wennergren, "Annoying Interruptions on TV Not Always Fault of
Local Stations," Rocky Mountain News. 12 November 1952, 57.
138"Great Future Forecast for Television in U.S., Denver Post. 7 September
Science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury envisioned the future of television in
his 1953 book, Fahrenheit 451. The television in Montags parlor covered three
walls, "soon to be four," and had a converter that could make the announcer seem
to say "Mrs. Montag" when speaking to his vast TV audience.139 But others
were just as fired up over the possibilities. The predicted future included closed-
circuit, two-way, color, three-dimensional, and instant global television.140 The
medium would introduce new sports, such as Australian ram fighting and Arabian
camel bouts, to the American public.141 It was an unbounded medium in which
there were no "larges" or "smalls." Even a 101-year-old, ex-buffalo-hunting
Denver resident was absolutely thrilled that he had lived to see television.142
There were other benefits, too. One professor of optometry stated that
"[television is proving valuable in the treatment of crossed eyes."143 During the
139Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1953), 45, 62.
140Earl Wennergren, "Televisions Future Is Almost Unlimited," Rocky
Mountain News. 1 May 1953, 72.
141Mark Schreiber, "Sports with Mark Schreiber," TV and Radio Weekly. 11
May 1953, 16.
142"Wild West Hunter, 101, Gets Thrills from TV." Rockv Mountain News. 5
June 1953, 28.
143"Video Shorts," Denver Post. 7 September 1952, 4 AAA.
1952 elections it was expected that "[television, more than any other factor, will
help get out the vote."144
Television would provide affordable entertainment for the "common man."
A letter to the editor of TV and Radio Weekly expressed this view: "Ive just
bought a TV set and already spend all my spare time watching it. I think its the
greatest thing that ever happened for the little guy who has a family to support
on a low salary."145 And while this "little guy" was watching, he could be spoon-
fed culture. Although he admittedly had something to gain from touting
television, an RCA-Victor official expressed a common utopian view:
Communities where television has been in use for several
years have felt its beneficial impact on education, local government,
religion, cultural activities, commerce and public affairs in general.
... Television has introduced opera, symphony, ballet and dramatic
theater to audiences little if ever exposed to them before and has
won approval and support.146
This idea of cultural enrichment was often expressed. A 1956 book about
broadcasting by Sydney W. Head, director of broadcasting and film service at the
University of Miami, included a chapter titled "Higher Education as a Factor in
144"To Get Out Big Vote," Denver Post. 7 September 1952, 2AAA.
145"Letters to the Editor," TV and Radio Weekly. 18 October 1952, 2.
146"Videos Arrival Seen Aid to City," Denver Post. 7 September 1952, 5AAA.
147Sydney W. Head, Broadcasting in the United States (Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The Riverside Press, 1956), 215.
Television was also good for the ailing or despondent:
Then television was introduced into the home. Their spirits
zoomed with the entertainment which occupied their minds, instead
of worry. There have even been reports crediting video with being
the prime cure in cases where despondency threatened a shut-
Advertisements implied that a new television set was the just reward for
those who worked hard and who had suffered through the Depression and World
War II; it was now time to enjoy the good life. In addition to outstanding
entertainment, the purchase of a television set offered even more important
intangible benefits. "[T]o be the preferred, the perfect host on Thanksgiving," one
should "[gjather guests and family about a wonderful new television set by RCA
Victor."149 For as little as three dollars a week a 1953 Dumont TV would
provide "a family Christmas."150 On the other hand, Philco promised that "Your
Childrens Friends Will Be Your Friends when theyre all at home watching your
Televisions were not only the gift for loved ones; they were also
appropriate for the less fortunate and as a reward for public servants. With
148Earl Wennergren, "Television Does Much to Help Boost Morale of Sick,
Shut-Ins," Rocky Mountain News. 26 December 1952, 32.
149Rockv Mountain News. 20 November 1952, 28.
150Rockv Mountain News. 1 December 1953, 24.
151Rockv Mountain News. 20 November 1952, 12.
donated money, fifty sets were bought for Denver fire stations.152 During the
1953 Christmas season TV sets were given to the State Home and Training
School, the National Jewish Hospital, the State Home for Dependent Children,
and the Old Ladies Home.153
TV also lured guests to the set-owning household. A survey of New York
television owners had reported that set owners were visited by approximately 72
percent more children and 76.8 percent more adults than before the TV was in
residence.154 Guests, wanted or unwanted, were also common in Denver homes
equipped with television. School groups would take field trips to a home or store
to gawk at the new arrival.155 One Denver woman returned home one night to
find her jewelry taken by two boys. Although neighbors had twice chased the
152"City Firemen to Get TV," Denver Post. 14 August 1952, 8.
153"School Given TV Set," Rocky Mountain News. 16 January 1953, 33;
"Hospital Patients Get Gift of Two TV Sets," Rocky Mountain News. 1 January
1953, 37; "Childrens Home to Get Two TV Sets for Christmas," Denver Post. 24
December 1952, 15; "Shrine Temple Gives TV Set to Old Ladies Home, Rocky
Mountain News. 1 December 1952, 18. The Old Ladies Home is actually listed
under that name on page 337 of the 1952 Denver phone book.
( 154Sam Lusky, "Video Weaning Its Fans from Books and Movies," Rocky
Mountain News. 6 March 1950, 14.
155Mariam Goldberg, interview.
boys from the house, the neighbors told police they were not suspicious "when the
pair told them they were merely watching a Western movie."156
There were critics, however. Television producer and ex-Denverite
Malcolm Boyd had stated in 1951 that Denver might be lucky not to have
television, warning that"[television has a revolutionary effect. ... It turns home
life and habits upside down. It makes discipline of children very difficult. Some
communities have seen teachers give up assigning homework because they cant
compete with TV."157 A University of Denver psychology professor, Warner L.
Lowe, warned that "an effort must be made to prevent the impoverishment of
human conduct and the inevitable restriction in intelligent activity as a result of
the indiscriminate use of this instrument of entertainment."158
One item which was not foreseen was remote control although
supposedly it was "SO EASY to Operate the Single Dial on Westinghouse
Television" that it was as though one had a robotic arm to operate the knobs.
The advertisement envisioned a man in his easy chair with a U-shaped apparatus
156"Young Intruders Watch TV, Then Steal $450 Gems," Rocky Mountain
News. 1 April 1953, 29.
157Sam Lusky, "Denver Can Find TV Nuisance, Visitor Warns," Rocky
Mountain News. 22 March 1951, 15.
158Warner L. Lowe, "TV Production Level Needs Upping," Denver Post. 5
August 1952, 8.
consisting of ten gears, four pulleys, and a hand at the end operating the sets
Besides the danger of childrens sitting too close and being zapped by TV-
emanated rays or ruining their eyesight while watching the undiffused glare of the
tube, parents were concerned about the mediums other effects on youngsters.
Experts reassured them. More than 850 Denver parents gathered in November
1952 to hear an illustrious panel discuss "Television for Children in Todays
World." Dr. L. M. Fairchild, consulting psychiatrist for the Denver Public Schools,
told parents that "television in the home is no more of a problem where children
are concerned than radio or the movies." In response to parental complaints
about commercials, Dean Paul Roberts of St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral pointed
out that stations must necessarily limit their programs to those which made
Dr. E. Robert Cohen, another local psychiatrist, agreed with them.161 So
did Dr. Lenox Grey, president of the National Council for English teachers, who
felt that the programs were the same as the "Tom Swift" type of adventure book.
159Rockv Mountain News. 29 April 1953, 29.
160"Parents Hear Panel on TV for Children," Rocky Mountain News. 13
November 1952, 62.
161Earl Wennergren, "Television Is Defended as Fare for Children," Rocky
Mountain News. 26 November 1952, 47.
He added that television was a method of rapidly giving a common experience to
162"TV Compared to Tom Swift by Professor," Denver Post. 16 December
BIG-TIME NETWORK SHOWS
(More TV Stations for Denver)
For the first few months of Denver television sharing the common
experience of tube-watching was somewhat limited. During its first week, Channel
2 broadcast a total of fifty-seven hours, most of it devoted to the Democratic
Convention. Although the station had temporary affiliations with all four
networks,163 much of its programming was not carried live but was either film
or kinescopes of New York or California shows.164
"TV-Hungry Denver" could finally utilize all those instructions about
manipulating the channel selection knob on October 12, 1952, when Channel 9,
station KBTV ("BTV" for "better television"165), went on the air. The station
obtained temporary affiliation agreements with CBS and ABC, while NBC and
163"KVOD Expected to Telecast Next Month," Denver Post. 7 September
164"First Weeks Telecasts Reported Successful," Rocky Mountain News, 27
July 1952, 6.
165Mike Tucker, 1950s television engineer, interview by Cheri de la Garza, 11
April 1994. The radio station remained KVOD.
Dumont remained on Channel 2.166 Channel 9 would also go one better than
Channel 2 and add an audio test to its video test pattern.167
Station officials had hoped to begin broadcasting at an earlier date, but
technical equipment was not so easy to come by. To expedite matters
arrangements were made to ship the stations transmitter by air. The transmitter,
which weighed around three to four thousand pounds, suffered the common fate
of much airline baggage and arrived safe and sound in San Francisco.168
Once the transmitter was retrieved from San Francisco and was
operational, Channel 9 began broadcasting "big-time network shows"169 from its
temporary headquarters at Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard.170 Station
personnel were most likely very eager for the move to permanent headquarters.
The basement of the temporary offices contained a worm farm, while rumor had
it that above them were ladies of "questionable repute." The inside joke at
166"KBTV to Start Telecast Tests September 30," Rocky Mountain News. 14
September 1952, 58.
167Mike Tucker, "Remember When," Behind Bench 9 (Denver: KUSA-TV),
15 April 1988.
168Bob Brown, 1950s television time salesman, interview by Cheri de la Garza,
5 April 1994; Jim Butts, 1950s television engineer, interview by Cheri de la Garza,
11 April 1994.
169Dan Partner, "2nd TV Station Due in 2 Weeks," Denver Post. 20 July 1952,
170Mike Tucker, "Remember When," Behind Bench 9. 22 December 1988.
Channel 9 was that it was the only television station that had been written up in
Field and Stream.171
On July 11, 1953, actor George Jessel, representing ABC, attended the
dedication of KBTVs "completely fireproof' 30,000-square-foot building on
Bannock Street.172 This building would "make it possible to offer Denver
adequate space and facilities for staging live shows, amateur events, educational
events and special public service features."173 Equipment included a "huge
camera crane; an electrically-operated revolving stage, and a circular film camera
track."174 The building was an old automobile repair facility, and the
"electrically-operated revolving stage" was actually the agencys old grease rack to
which a platform, wheels, and a surrounding curtain had been added.175
171Bob Brown, interview. (Thus, upstairs there may have been "ladies of the
evening," while downstairs were night crawlers.)
172"Jessel to Open KBTV," Denver Post Roundup. 5 July 1953, 19.
173"Station KBTV Buys Building on Bannock St.," Rocky Mountain News. 23
November 1952, 74.
174Earl Wennergren, "KBTV to Dedicate New Studios," Rocky Mountain
News. 11 July 1953, 28.
175Bob Brown, interview.
While Channel 2s broadcasts were playing in the center ring, the sideshows
were provided in the hearings for the Channels 4 and 7 licenses. The principals
for those contesting the licenses came primarily from the entertainment industry,
and these show-biz folks employed all their theatrical flair and creative genius to
present the positive points of their license applications and the negative aspects
to requests by their opponents. The hearings quickly became a verbal version of
the ubiquitous wrestling, boxing, and roller derby programs telecast in the early
Hearings for Channel 7 were to be held first. The battle, which began
October 1, was between two groups with interests in movie theaters Aladdin
Radio and Television, owner of radio station KLZ and affiliated with Fox
Theaters, and Denver Television Co., associated with Wolfberg Theaters. Harris
Wolfberg, who owned several indoor theaters and had cornered the market on
drive-ins, had applied for the license to provide a business for his stepson John
after Johns return from the army.176 Denver Television had perhaps taken a
cue from Metropolitan Televisions affiliation with Bob Hope and had obtained
a commitment from actor James Stewart to purchase stock in the company.177
176Hal Taft, 1950s theater manager and television announcer/salesman,
interview by Cheri de la Garza, 22 May 1994.
i77"jy pjght pans Made Bets, Hearing Told," Rocky Mountain News. 15
October 1952, 25.
Aladdin imported John C. Vivian; former Colorado governor; Dr. Ervin
A. Hinds, former president of the Colorado State Medical Society; Dr. Roy An
Hinderman, deputy superintendent of the Denver Public Schools; and Prof. R.
Russell Porter, head of the University of Denvers radio school, to extol Aladdins
commitment to public service.178
The Wolfbergs had recently won an antitrust suit against national movie
firms; thus Aladdin was questioned about any involvement in government anti-
trust suits against the movie industry.179 Denver Television attorneys also
attacked Aladdins anticipated affiliation with CBS and said that Aladdin was
using a "sham definition" for the programs included in its proposed "educational"
Aladdin struck back by questioning Denver Television stockholder Max
Brooks, a vice president of Central Bank & Trust and chairman of the Colorado
178"KLZ Gains Support in Television Battle," Rocky Mountain News. 4
October 1952, 19; "D.U. Professor Talks for KLZ-TV Channel," Denver Post. 8
October 1952, 24.
i79"TV Applicant Quizzed as to Anti-Trust Suit," Rocky Mountain News. 2
October 1952, 32. In 1948 the Supreme Court had ruled that eight movie
companies which owned theaters and controlled distribution as well as production
were in violation of anti-trust laws. The movie producers were required to divest
themselves of the theaters. The courts decision was a major factor in the decline
of the big movie studios. Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 115-16.
180"Denvers 2d TV Station Goes on Air," Rocky Mountain News. 3 October
1952, 5; "TV Rivals Wrangle over Educational Claims in Hearing," Rocky
Mountain News. 7 October 1952, 26; "Violation of Anti-Trust Ruling Denied in
Fight for TV Channel 7," Rocky Mountain News. 10 October 1952, 36.
Racing Commission, about past problems in the racing commission.181 John
Wolfberg was questioned about his previous management of a theater that had
shown "exploitation" pictures using "lurid or sensational titles in order to lure
customers," about the financial basis of Denver Television, and about betting
which had supposedly taken place during a closed-circuit prize fight shown at one
of Wolfbergs theaters.182 Jack Carberry, the Denver Post sports editor who had
reported the wagering, and Saul Caston, the conductor of the Denver Symphony
Orchestra who was to be "musical adviser" for Aladdins proposed television
enterprise, were called to testify.183
Wolfberg testified that Denver Television would not cover racing results,
"except possibly in the case of network broadcasts such as the Kentucky
Derby."184 Playing the role of the underdog, Wolfberg, who was somewhat
flamboyant and described by one acquaintance as something of the "Errol Flynn
181"Racing Commissions Operations Brought Up in Television Hearing,"
Denver Post. 10 October 1952, 27.
182"Violation of Anti-Trust Ruling Denied in Fight for TV Channel 7," Rocky
Mountain News. 10 October 1952, 36; "Sports Stories on Betting Cited at TV
Hearing," Rocky Mountain News. 12 October 1952, 13; "Video Firm Pledged
$156,000 by Wolfberg," Rocky Mountain News. 14 October 1952, 14.
i83"TV Fight Fans Made Bets, Hearing Told," Rocky Mountain News. 15
October 1952, 25; "Caston Agrees to Work for Aladdin TV," Rocky Mountain
News. 18 October 1952, 47.
184"Huffman Theater Job Probed at Hearing," Denver Post. 9 October 1952,
type,"185 accused the University of Denver of forbidding its staff members to
cooperate with Denver Television. This was promptly denied by university
Wolfberg also appealed to the public. His Paramount Theater scheduled
free closed-circuit viewing of the 1952 World Series. The theater would have "a
special servicemens entrance to admit the first two hundred servicemen and
women each day."187 The Paramount was also donated for Denvers first
telethon in January 1953.188 He announced "a world motion picture premiere,"
to be held right in beautiful downtown Denver. The film. The Naked Spur, with
James Stewart (who had agreed to buy stock in Denver Television) and Vera-
Ellen, would end "with a streamer proclaiming: This Picture was made in the
Rocky Mountains and Colorado."189
185Pete Anselmo, 1950s manager for Wolfberg Theaters, interview by Cheri
de la Garza, 11 April 1994.
186"Video Firm Pledged $156,000 by Wolfberg," Rockv Mountain News. 14
October 1952, 14.
187"Free Telecast of Series Starts at Paramount," Rocky Mountain News. 1
October 1952, 50.
188Earl Wennergren, "Denvers First Telethon to Aid March of Dimes
Campaign," Rocky Mountain News. 21 January 1953, 40.
189"Denver to Get First Telecast of Film Premiere," Rocky Mountain News.
26 January 1953, 24. The VideoHounds Golden Movie Retriever 1995 says of
this movie: "An exciting film .... infusing the traditional western with
psychological confusion. Wonderful use of Rockies locations." Martin Connors
and Julia Furtaw, eds., VideoHounds Golden Movie Retriever 1995 (Detroit:
All to no avail; even the law firm of Arnold, Fortas (future Supreme Court
Justice Abe Fortas) and Porter could not obtain the license for Wolfberg and
Denver Television. On February 2, 1953, the FCC examiner recommended that
Aladdin receive the license.190 Denver Television appealed on the grounds that
Aladdin, by its agreement to carry CBS, had "violated FCC chain broadcasting
regulations."191 Aladdin received final FCC approval on June 30, but Wolfberg
continued the fight when the station was sold to Time, Inc., in 1954. Wolfberg,
who was then living in California, proposed that the FCC review Aladdins license
because ownership of the station was no longer local.192
On November 1, 1953, KLZ-TV began broadcasting as a CBS affiliate.193
Denver now had Channel 2 carrying NBC and Dumont, Channel 7 with CBS ^
programming, and Channel 9 affiliated with ABC.
Visible Ink Press, 1995), 672.
190Earl Wennergren, "KLZ Wins Battle for TV Channel 7 Station," Rocky
Mountain News. 3 February 1953, 12.
191"Denver Television Co. Fights Aladdin Award," Rocky Mountain News. 19
March 1953,15; "Denver Rivals Press Claims to TV Channel 7," Rocky Mountain
News. 24 April 1953, 24.
192George McWilliams, "KLZ Sale to Time, Inc. Attacked by Wolfberg,"
Denver Post. 28 April 1954,1; "New Contest Possible over TV Channel 7," Rocky
Mountain News. 31 March 1954, 23.
193"3rd TV Station for Denver Goes on Air," Denver Post. 2 November 1953,
The Channel 4 shoot-out, between radio station KMYR and the KOA-Bob
Hope-Mayor Newton group, lasted even longer. The hearing began on October
15, 1952; but even before that, Metropolitan Television was exploiting its
connection with Hope. Hopes agent told Denver newspapers that if
Metropolitan were granted the license, Hope would "definitely come to Denver
to inspect his new property and act on radio programs, and presumably, television
shows" -- and he would also bring his Hollywood friends with him.194 But
KMYR asserted that Hope "would be something of an absentee landlord."195
Hope denied this and reiterated his intention to "originate some of his programs
from Denver and induce his friends to come to Denver to assist in such things as
KOA improved its claim to local ownership by naming Denver investment
banker John J. Sullivan as an additional member of its board of directors and
asserted that the proposed Ruby Hill site of KMYRs studio was in a "slum area"
194Richard Graf, "Top Radio, TV Shows to Originate in Denver," Denver Post.
7 September 1952, 20A.
195James Daniel, "KOA Group Continues Fight for TV Channel," Rocky
Mountain News. 28 October 1952, 18.
196"Hope Gets Laughs, Even at KOA Hearing," Rocky Mountain News. 25
October 1952, 13; James Daniel, "KOA Group Continues Fight for TV Channel,"
Rocky Mountain News. 28 October 1952, 18; James Daniel, "KOA and KMYR
Sum Up Claims for Denver TV Channel No. 4," Rocky Mountain News. 30
October 1952, 25.
which was "unrealistic and not suitable for a studio."197 KOAs proposed studio,
on the other hand, was to have the perfect location at Elitch Gardens, where it
could "make use of the theaters workshop, costumes, sets, etc."198 On behalf
of KOA, Morrison Shafroth testified that KOA would further public education by,
for instance, holding "mock trials to teach the workings of courts."199
On November 3, the hearings were recessed because of the illness of A.
G. Meyer of KMYR. Meyers illness then caused two more recesses until
February 4, 1953.200 Meanwhile, both sides searched the others closet for some
skeletons. KOA attorneys accused the Brothers Meyer of operating KMYR
Radio as a partnership without telling the FCC and demanded that KMYR
produce "full financial records for 1940-45 federal and state income taxes,
auditor reports, social security tax returns and state unemployment tax
197"Banker Named 7th Metropolitan TV Director," Rocky Mountain News. 31
October 1952, 30; "Proposed TV Studio Site on Ruby Hill Questioned," Rocky
Mountain News. 29 October 1952, 9.
198Earl Wennergren, "Locations are Vital to TV Stations," Rocky Mountain
News. 9 July 1953, 44.
199James Daniel, "KOA Group Continues Fight for TV Channel," Rocky
Mountain News. 28 October 1952, 18.
^"TV Channel 4 Hearing Recessed until Dec. 16," Rocky Mountain News. 4
November 1952, 20; Barnet Nover, "Initial Decision on Channel 7 Seen in
January," Denver Post. 16 December 1952, 2; "FCCs Hearing on TV Channel 4
Recessed Again," Rocky Mountain News. 17 January 1952, 22.
returns."201 KMYR, in turn, opposed acceptance of KOAs amended
application naming its additional director and accused NBC of maintaining control
of KOA through Bob Hope.202
In March KMYR requested that the hearings be reopened to examine a
certain late-night program on KOA. It stated that the advertising on this program
was "generally 10 minutes in length and of a persistent and irritating nature," had
"generated widespread disturbance of and complaints by Denver radio listeners,"
hawked "certain mail-order products and services of questionable value," and did
not show "courtesy" and "good taste."203 KOA parried with an appeal to
patriotism "the program had been carried only for a two-week period in
February to test out a possible all-night program since KOA is remaining
operative all night in connection with the radio air defense program."204 The
FCC denied the request to reopen the hearings.205
^"Illegal Practice Hinted in Battle for TV Channel," Rocky Mountain News.
7 January 1953, 20.
^"Metropolitan TV Bid Change Is Approved," Rocky Mountain News. 31
January 1953, 35; "Bob Hope-NBC Tieup Denied at TV Hearing," Rocky
Mountain News. 11 February 1953, 24.
^"Station KMYR Reopens Struggle for TV Channel 4," Rocky Mountain
News. 21 March 1953, 8.
^"Board to Hear KOA Video Dispute," Rocky Mountain News. 1 April 1953,
^"KMYR Is Refused TV Channel 4 Rehearing," Rocky Mountain News. 2
April 1953, 46.
While KMYRs other jabs failed to hit home, the contention that KOA was
ultimately controlled by NBC apparently struck an FCC nerve. An FCC official
requested that the Commission postpone KOA Radios license renewal because
there was a legitimate question about NBCs control of the station.206 A few
weeks later, and again a month after that, he recommended that KOAs television
application be denied or dismissed, because Hope would be "merely a conduit for
the flow of Metropolitans duties and privileges to NBC."207
On June 18 the FCC hearing examiner surprisingly recommended that
KOA receive the license.208 In return for a promise of $125,000 to cover
expenses of the hearing, KMYR agreed not to protest the ruling; and the FCC
granted final approval on September 10.209 Ralph Radetsky, the mayors
assistant who had been on leave to manage KOAs license application, announced
^"FCC Requested to Delay Action on KOA License," Rocky Mountain News.
26 March 1953, 41.
^"Deny TV License for KOA, Top Official of FCC Proposes," Rocky
Mountain News. 21 April 1953, 15; "Definite Decision on KOA Television Bid
Again Urged," Rocky Mountain News. 6 June 1953, 22.
^Earl Wennergren, "KOA Given Initial Okay for TV," Rocky Mountain
News. 19 June 1953, 11.
^James Daniel, "FCC Mum on KOAs Channel 4: KMYR Payment Hinted
as Cause," Rocky Mountain News. 29 July 1953, 44; "KOA Planning to Start
Video by Christmas," Rocky Mountain News. 11 September 1953, 71.
that he was trading in his $7500-a-year job with the city to become news director
for KOA Radio and TV.210
Knowing the loose morals presumably rampant among show-biz people,
purists must have held their breath while KOA officials briefly considered buying
the seventy-five-year-old Grace Community Methodist Church for their studios.
It was eventually decided that the television station would occupy a building
adjacent to the current radio studio.211
KOA announced that it would seek an affiliation with the NBC network
and began broadcasting on Christmas Eve 1953.212 Being the fourth station on
the air and introducing its station on Christmas Eve, Channel 4 played it low-key.
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi "blessed" the station; and most of the evenings
programs were of a Christmas nature.213 There must have been a paucity of
210"Mayors Assistant Is KOA News Director," Rocky Mountain News. 20
October 1953, 5. This would be a salary of something over $42,000 in 1995
dollars. The salaries of certain city officials were set by statute, and the mayor
made only $12,000 per year. In fact, Mayor Newton said that one reason he
(Mayor Newton) was interested in television was that Mr. Radetsky needed a
larger income. Quigg Newton, interview.
211"Denver May See Rose Bowl Game on Color Television," Rocky Mountain
News. 11 October 1953, 24.
212"KOA Planning to Start Video by Christmas," Rocky Mountain News. 11
September 1953, 77.
213"KOA-TV Starting Telecasts Today," Denver Post. 24 December 1953, 1:
"KOA-TV, 4th Denver Station, Goes on Air," Denver Post. 25 December 1953,
holiday programming, because "The Little Match Girl" played four or five times
during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.214 The stations first commercial was
sponsored by Colorado National Bank whose board of directors included two
of the stations stockholders.215
Channel 4s affiliation with NBC left Channel 2 with the rather unpleasant
prospect of the Dumont Network. Since the other stations were still broadcasting
with temporary transmitters, Channel 2 began to advertise that it was "the ONLY
Station in This Area Operating at Televisions TOP Power."216 Although
Channel 2 had been the first station on the air, each of its opponents entered the
lists bearing the standard of a network-affiliated radio station. Gene OFallon had
not contended for any of the other network affiliations because he believed there
was room in the market for an independent station.217 Unfortunately he did not
foresee how long it would take for that room to develop.
The freeze had assisted the dominant NBC and CBS networks by limiting
the number of stations in any one market. The number of stations was actually
214Becky Averyt, 1950s television programming secretary, interview by Cheri
de la Garza, 19 May 1994.
215Cy Penley, 1950s television time sales manager, interview by Cheri de la
Garza, 22 May 1994.
216Denver TV Weekly. 14 November 1953, 22.
217Martin OFallon, interview; Duncan Ross, 1950s television program
manager, interview by Cheri de la Garza, 11 April 1994.
so limited that from 1948 to 1953 more than half of all U.S. TV stations were
NBC affiliates.218 In 1952 NBC and CBS collected 84 percent of all network
time sales revenues.219 Even when the freeze was lifted, only seven cities
received allocations of four or more VHF stations which virtually eliminated
any chance for all four networks to survive.220
Both Dumont and ABC affiliates cleared (broadcast over local stations)
fewer network programs than did affiliates of NBC and CBS, further weakening
ABCs and Dumonts viewership levels.221 In markets where a local station
carried more than one network, NBC and CBS required "option time" contracts
giving them first rights to place their shows on the air. Furthermore, AT&T line
charges to a network were the same regardless of the number of affiliates being
served and almost the same regardless of the number of hours of use. AT&T
also forced Dumont to lease radio lines, even though Dumont had no radio
network.222 The phone company additionally charged a station for each change
218Boddy, Fifties Television. 49-51.
219MacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 61.
between networks, so that stations often chose the strongest line-up and stayed
ABC received a transfusion in 1953 when the FCC approved its merger
with Paramount Theaters, and Paramounts cache of cash.224 But Dumont
received no transfusion; nor did it have a radio network from which it could draw
monetary reserves. By January 1955 Dumont was offering its affiliates only
twenty-one hours of programming per week and later that year went completely
"down the tubes."225 With Dumonts demise the "half-network" of ABC
increased its 1955 revenue by 68 percent.226
When Channel 2 celebrated its first anniversary in July 1953, Denver had
two stations on the air and five more promised. By June 30, 1954, there were 402
commercial stations broadcasting; and Denver, which had had none on June 30,
1952, possessed 4 of these 402.227 With all this time and attention being given
to Denver, many of the nations smaller markets remained in the dark, unwarmed
by the glow from the tube. At this point the licensing backlog was so great that
it would have taken the FCC five years to finish the hearings for all of them.
223George Sollenberger, interview.
^MacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 67.
^Hudson, Mass Media. 243.
226Brown, Encyclopedia of Television. 126.
^Cobbett S. Steinberg, TV Facts (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1980), 475.
Even a writer for the Rocky Mountain News complained that other parts of
Colorado were being neglected.228 Finally, in May 1953, the U.S. Senate voted
additional funds to enable all hearings to be held within two years.229
^"The Great TV Holdup," Rocky Mountain News. 2 December 1952, 30.
^'Senate Votes Funds to Break TV Backlog," Rocky Mountain News. 21 May
FOLKS WILL ALWAYS "GO TO TOWN"
(Effect upon and Reaction of Competitors)
Denverites may not have worried about the backlog at the FCC, but there
were some worried people around town. Similar to the 1950s science-fiction
movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, people silently disappeared from half-
deserted streets; and an eerie, flickering glow escaped from one room of
With the TV set consuming 8-9 percent of income and a good deal of
spare time, other activities would have to be curtailed. Those involved in
competitive industries felt the impact and wondered if worse were yet to come.
Some felt that radio would be the real loser, while others maintained that all
other forms of entertainment would suffer. There was some reason for the
competition to worry. A 1950 survey of New York City set owners had shown
that 30.9 percent attended fewer movies, 58.9 percent spent less time reading
books, 48.5 percent decreased time with magazines, and 23.9 percent curtailed
newspaper reading. The number of spectators at sporting events, restaurant
attendance, and taxi and jukebox receipts also declined.230
^"Video Weaning Its Fans from Books and Movies," Rocky Mountain News.
6 March 1950, 14.
Televisions quickly became a necessity for beer sales. By 1949 TV sets
inhabited 85 percent of New York Citys bars, leading to jokes about bartending
priorities: "Bartender wanted, must be able to fix television set."231 Jack
Townsend, "president of both Local 15 of the Bartenders Union and the New
York Local Joint Executive Board," was not impressed: "The average bartender
finds it a nuisance. It develops barflies."232 As more people purchased sets for
their homes, it became more than a nuisance when the barflies stayed home.
In 1953/54 NBC conducted a survey of Fort Wayne, Indiana, just prior to
and six months after television was introduced in that community. A report on
the two surveys concluded that television was attracting viewers for an average of
173 minutes per day while these viewers were spending only 94 minutes daily with
radio, magazines, and newspapers combined. Furthermore, the new medium had
become the chief source of advertising impressions.233
Advertisers adopted television even faster than did the general populace.
There was ample evidence of television advertisings impact. The Hazel Bishop
cosmetics firm, with an annual income of $50,000 before it moved into television
^Marjorie Langley, Louis Silverstein, and Samuel A. Tower, eds., Americas
Taste (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 289.
mR. W. Sanders, "Freeing America," Variety. 22 May 1955, 30, 54, quoted in
MacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 97.
in 1950, saw its sales climb to $4,500,000 in 1952.234 When competitor Revlon
responded by sponsoring the popular "$64,000 Question" in 1955, Hazel Bishops
profit-and-loss statement was printed in the shade of deficit red.235 In 1952
televisions time sales of $138 million surpassed radios $102 million.236 By 1955
TV had also overtaken magazines and newspapers in the race for the advertising
dollar.237 As an example, in 1950 Proctor and Gamble spent less than 2 percent
of its advertising budget on television. In 1952 television absorbed 31 percent of
the expenditures and by 1955 was collecting 68 percent.238
As television usurped more and more of the entertainment market,
personnel abandoned older media en masse and cast their lots with the upstart.
In 1952 there were 51,000 employees in the radio industry and 14,000 working for
television. By 1957 radio employed 49,000, and the TV industry had SSjOOO.239
Milton Berle, Kate Smith, Walter Winchell, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Jack
Benny, Edgar Bergan and friend Charlie McCarthy, George Burns and Gracie
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 114.
^Hanson, The World Almanac 1954. 316.
^Boddy, Fifties Television. 155.
^Harold Mehling, The Great Time Killer (Cleveland: World Publishing
Company, 1962), 65.
^Steinberg, TV Facts. 497.
Allen, Red Skelton, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, and countless others all
moved from other media into television. Ed Sullivan came to TV via radio and
his newspaper column. . The music for "Victory at Sea" was written by Richard
Rodgers.239 240 ) /J. &
According to radio star Fred Allen, "[r]adio was abandoned like the bones
at a barbecue."241 The top radio program in April 1943 had a rating of 32.2.
In 1948 the highest rating was 26.3, and by April 1953 it had dropped to 8.5. Bob
Hopes radio rating dropped from 23.8 in 1949 to 12.7 in 1951.242 By December
1955 not one evening program was on radios top ten list.243 Radio revenues
in 1949 were $416 million, while the television industry garnered $34 million; by
1954 radios income was only $449 million, and TVs collection was $593
million.244 Whole programs were moved from radio to television. CBS Radios
"Hear It Now," for instance, mutated into CBS-TVs "See It Now."245
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 146.
^Fred Allen, Treadmill to Oblivion (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1954),
239, quoted in Halberstam, The Fifties. 183.
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 114.
^MacDonald, One Nation Under Television. 52-53. A "rating" is the
percentage of all available homes tuned to a specific program, while a "share" is
a programs percentage of those sets which are turned on at the time.
^Steinberg, TV Facts. 235.
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 145.
All four of Denvers commercial VHF stations were the offspring of radio
enterprises, and most of the personnel for this new kid on the block came from
radio. Engineers from the radio side found a new challenge in a tangle of
television cables. Mellifluous-voiced radio DJs became TV announcers.
Commercial time salesmen suddenly found themselves trying to convince ad
agency personnel that television was more than just a passing fad. Newsmen who
had previously dealt only in words now found themselves scrambling for
something the audience could look at. These people also brought with them their
on-going radio programs. KFEL Radios "Such Interesting People" blossomed
into KFEL-TVs "Such Interesting People."246 Hugh Terry, manager of KLZ
Radio, predicted that the radio stations revenues would decrease by 24 percent
between July 1953 and July 1954.247
In terms of audience, personnel, programming, and income television
(which was described as "radio with pictures") was practicing a form of filial
cannibalism. Across the country some radio stations turned into "Negro" stations;
others became a forum for topics which could not be or were not discussed on
television, some folded up their transmitters and disappeared.
^Ken White, "First Local TV Show: S.I.P., with Big Ed," Denver Post. 7
August 1952, 25; "Johnson on TV," Denver Post. 8 August 1952, 2.
^"TV, Radio, Film Competition to Increase, Says Terry," Denver Post. 2
October 1952, 12. Terry and KLZ would later win the "competition" for future
CBS-affiliated Channel 7.
Movie theaters were also left reeling. While 1951 movie attendance in
non-television cities had remained unchanged or grown since 1950, almost all
cities with television had seen a 10-40 percent attendance drop. The number of
films released by Hollywood fell from 488 in 1948 to 253 in 1952.248 A January
1953 survey in New York City revealed that 64 percent of television viewers said
their movie attendance had decreased since getting a TV set.249 By 1954 only
32 percent of movie theaters were making a profit on their film offerings.250
On a July 1952 visit to Denver the president of the National Theaters
chain had predicted that television would close half the nations theaters.251
Theodore R. Gamble, one of the investors in Aladdin Television, said he was
getting out of the movie business because he believed that television would close
thousands of theaters.252 Local movie managers did not feel the future was
quite that dismal but did admit that television, especially initially, would have
some effect. Eventually, though, the customers would return; and television might
even be used to promote movies. Theaters would simply have to offer patrons
^Boddy, Fifties Television. 134.
^Carson Harris, "To the Point," TV and Radio Weekly. 14 March 1953, 12.
^Boddy, Fifties Television. 135.
^Frances Melrose, 'TV to Shut Half of Film Houses, Skouras Says," Rocky
Mountain News. 26 July 1952, 12.
^"TV to Close Theaters, Hearing Told," Rocky Mountain News. 9 October
more services and better pictures. After all, cinema managers pointed out, people
would still want to get out of the house.253 It was generally felt that
neighborhood movie houses would suffer more than the big downtown theaters
because "[f]olks will always go to town."254
Some theaters enticed movie-goers with chlorophyll-flavored popcorn,
which "smells good, leaves your breath the same way."255 Others provided free
babysitting or live entertainment.256 Jack Warner of Warner Brothers
discouraged the new medium by disapproving of any movie scene with a television
set in it.257 In case the movie was boring, Denvers East Drive-In Theater
offered television in its refreshment stand.258 John Wolfbergs Paramount
Theater showed the World Series, the televised opera "Carmen," and closed-
circuit boxing and wrestling matches.259 The state legislature became concerned
^Frances Melrose, 'Theaters Foresee Temporary Slump Due to TV," Rocky
Mountain News. 27 July 1952, Al.
Earl Wennergren, "Small Theater Owners Feeling Pinch of TV," Rocky
Mountain News. 2 December 1952, 51.
^Ken Shupe, "Kens Column," TV and Radio Weekly. 6 December 1952, 24.
^Frances Melrose, "Theaters Foresee Temporary Slump Due to TV," Rocky
Mountain News. 27 July 1952, Al.
^Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 193.
^"Television Is Offered at Drive-In Theater," Rocky Mountain News. 29 July
^Earl Wennergren, "Colorado Ranks High as TVs Hottest Market," Rocky
Mountain News. 13 December 1952, 32.
over these boxing and wrestling matches: Here was an untapped source of
revenue! Plans were quickly made to levy a 5 percent tax on the income.260
Theaters also fought back with Cinerama movies, which required a curved
screen, three projectors, and five speakers, and with three-dimensional movies,
which needed polarized glasses. Since films with movement were called "movies"
and those with speech had been dubbed "talkies," those with a third dimension
were temporarily labeled "depthies." The first "depthie" shown in Denver was
Bwana Devil, in which Robert Stack and Barbara Britton "fight off lions and a hot
passion for one another in darkest Africa."261 In return, the television industry
began to investigate 3-D for its own presentations.262 One Denver television
dealer countered 3-D movies by advertising that his new sets had "deep, deep,
Newspaper competitors possessed a double-edged pen; they could both
report on the medium and print advertisements for it. As a matter of fact,
Denver was somewhat unique in that none of its stations was owned by a
^"State to Get Plan for Taxing Bouts Shown on Theater TV." Denver Post.
17 December 1952, 40.
^Erskine Johnson, "Hollywood Hopes to Lure Fans from Television with
'Depthies," Rocky Mountain News. 14 December 1952, 50.
^"What Will Be TVs Answer to 3-D?" TV and Radio Weekly. 9 May 1953,
^Earl Wennergren, "Old Favorites Return to Television Screens Tonight,"
Rocky Mountain News. 12 September 1953, 16.
newspaper entity. Newspapers owned 69 percent of all television stations in 1953,
the vast majority of these stations owned by a newspaper in the same market.264
This cross-ownership was forbidden in 1973, with existing combinations allowed
until changes in ownership.265 Television might even encourage readership; a
visiting specialist on newspaper reading habits stated that people still read their
papers as thoroughly as before, and in the case of the sports section even
Local papers made lucrative use of the new arrival. On July 20, 1952, two
days after the commencement of Denver tele vision,-ylfe Denver Post contained
a twelve-page insert containing information on and advertising for televisions.267
The Rocky Mountain News began to carry a syndicated column titled "TV Coast-
to-Coast"268 and added a "TV Editor" to its staff.269 The Post instructed
^Steinberg, TV Facts. 496.
5Hudson, Mass Media. 350.
"TV Doesnt Hurt Papers, Ad Club Told," Rocky Mountain News. 3
October 1952, 28.
"TV Comes into Denver Homes," Denver Post. 20 July 1952, 1-12AAA.
STV Column Starts This Week in News," Rocky Mountain News. 20 July
"News Adds TV Editor," Rocky Mountain News. 9 November 1952, 24.
readers about placement of the set to avoid the dreaded "eye strain" and advised
homemakers to choose the television cabinet to match their decor.270
The society page discussed appropriate attire. Suggested as "just the thing
for casual easy glamour in front of a television set" were "black velvet tapered
slacks and a picador jacket made of white silk fringe."271 Available in either
Avocado Green or Copper, a heavily-sequined cashmere and satin toreador
costume would bring "glances of admiration by the score" at television parties.272
Television "etiquette" was also covered. TV owners were advised that they
should not "act as though a television set is more interesting than your friends.
Turn it off when guests arrive and leave it off unless the guests mention that there
is a program they would like to see."273
Local newspapers, which could foresee the possibility of both public and
advertiser desertion, seemed to concentrate their retaliatory response upon news
competition. In December 1952 NBCs "March of Medicine" aired a televised
report from the Colorado Psychopathic Hospital. Newspaper and wire service
^Jane West, "TV Changes Denvers Homefront," Denver Post. 4 August
1952, 16; "Let Room Decide TV Set Style," Denver Post. 20 September 1952,
271 "TV Togs," Rocky Mountain News. 10 August 1952, 7A.
^"Toreador Costume Tops for Television Parties," Rocky Mountain News. 17
December 1952, 55.
^"Television Manners Are Important," Rocky Mountain News. 19 March
reporters were barred from the hospital during the event. NBC and the hospital,
citing patient privacy, both claimed the other had made the decision to bar print
reporters. The Denver Post reported this obstruction of its rights in a front-page
story and carried four more articles concerning the event on page 3. Also
included was a picture of the Post photographer, camera in hand, on a ladder
which reached only to the hospitals second-floor windows. He is supposedly
making a vain attempt to peer into the third-floor windows a story above his
head.274 Similarly, when discussing the lack of television and radio coverage of
the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, another Post writer noted that television was
okay for "spot news," the term "sound bite" being a few years down the pike -
but in-depth coverage must be obtained from the newspapers.275
Emulating the big-city bars of New York, Duffys Tavern became the first
Denver drinking establishment to offer "TV-with-your-beer in July 1952."276
Although during the first few months of Denver television the tube had been all
the rage in bars, by March 1953 most bartenders reported that it was turned off
274"Hospital Bars Reporter, Photogs during TV Show," Denver Post 5
December 1952,1; "NBC Denies Part in Closing Show to Reporters, Denver Post.
5 December 1952, 3; "TV Man Agrees with Hospital Against Writers," Denver
Post. 5 December 1952, 3; "Plan to Ban Press from Telecast of Birth Told,"
Denver Post. 5 December 1952, 3; "Heres What Viewers Saw in 2d TV Show,"
Denver Post. 5 December 1952, 3.
275Larry Tajiri, "TV Coverage Too Costly," Denver Post. 28 April 1954, 18.
^Denver Post 17 July 1952, 13.
by popular request "except on fight nights," they added. While bar attendance
was still down in March, they confidently expected the crowds to return.277
Other industries and institutions were also affected. Colliers Magazine,
blaming television, announced that after fifty-five years of publishing weekly it
would now begin a bi-weekly schedule.278 A minister attending the American
Baptist Convention in Denver admitted that "Television has hurt attendance at
Sunday night services."279 The publicist for the Ice Capades worried that
Denver attendance would be down because people had already seen a sample of
the Ice Capades on the "Colgate Comedy Hour."280
The Denver Public Library reported that, despite a growing population,
television caused a drop in library use between November 1952 and May 1953.
While there had been 1,385,561 books loaned in 1952, only 1,342,632 books were
loaned in 1953.281 To ward off a destiny similar to that of printed materials
^"Red-Eye Replaces Television in Taverns," Rocky Mountain News. 8 March
^"Colliers Plans to Publish Fortnightly TV is Blamed," Rocky Mountain
News. 8 May 1953, 6.
^Morton L. Margolin, "Baptists Say TV Cant Compete with Faith," Rocky
Mountain News. 21 May 1953, 14.
280Tom Watt and Eva Hodges, "Ice Show Publicist Ponders Power of TV,"
Denver Post. 27 April 1954, 19.
^"TV Caused Drop in Use of Library," Rocky Mountain News. 16 May 1954,
23. Makes sense a picture is worth ten thousand words.
fate in Fahrenheit 451. where only technical and training manuals, comic books,
and 3-D sex magazines would survive, the library bought books, such as Television
and FM Antenna Guide and How to Locate and Eliminate Radio and TV
Interference, and signed up for a subscription to TV Guide.282
If they couldnt beat TV, perhaps they could join it; thus, applicants for
Denvers stations had included Bob Hope, radio stations, theater owners,
newspaper publishers, taxi service operators, and representatives of other
^Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451. 56; Edward A. Noll, Television and FM Antenna
Guide (New York: MacMillan Company, 1951); Fred D. Rowe, How to Locate
and Eliminate Radio and TV Interference (New York: John F. Rider, 1954); TV
Guide: Denver Edition. 1954.
EACH UNIT WIRED FOR TELEVISION
(Accoutrements to the Set)
Possible station owners werent the only ones attempting to attach
themselves to television. Even though they had been left behind the rest of the
country, Denver advertisers caught on faster than a speeding bullet, and anything
and everything began to be "connected" to the tube. TV trays, TV stools, TV
lamps, TV snacks, TV carts, TV chairs, TV tables, whatever, were alluringly
offered. If antennas with loops provided better reception, the May Company
offered "the new 13 loop spiral antenna."283 Ads appeared for "Planter Lamps"
that "Beautify Your Home and Remove Glare from Television."284 A revolving
chair provided "Television Comfort Supreme: theres no need to move the
television set or the chair."285 "Television Chairs," which were "Foldleg, steel
frame, assorted colors, Idea] for lawn or porch," (emphasis added) went for only
^Rockv Mountain News. 3 December 1952, 29.
^Rockv Mountain News. 15 August 1952, 16.
^Rockv Mountain News. 2 October 1952, 13.
^Rockv Mountain News. 15 August 1952, 44.
There was more advice about attire. Lucy and Desi of the popular "I Love
Lucy" comedy show were "just thrilled about their new husband-and-wife
pajamas." Desi also suggested "the robe and TV jacket for complete
So that housewives could spend time in front of the TV set instead of in
front of the stove, Daniels and Fishers catering department touted its "Easy-Do
Foods for Your TV Parties."288 In 1954 "Sue Swansons sunny kitchens" would
make dinner and entertaining even easier by introducing an epicurean feast to
place upon those well-advertised TV trays. TV dinners would allow you to "watch
your favorite TV shows and serve a delicious turkey dinner, too" "What a work-
saver for parties!"289
Physical items were not the limit of television-related advertising. Even the
slimmest of connections to the new medium was exploited. A month before any
television was broadcast, the Rocky Mountain News and the Tabor Grand and
Webber Theaters announced the "Miss Denver-TV Debutante Contest," a talent
contest to take place at the openings of "Models. Inc., a thrilling crime film." The
TV part would come "[ljater, when Station KVOD has completed its pending
^T^ockv Mountain News. 1 December 1952, 72. (So Lucy and Desi could
climb into bed wearing an ensemble; they just could not, according to television
standards, climb into bed ensemble.)
^Rockv Mountain News. 14 August 1952, 6.
^Denver Post. 29 April 1954, 36.
television setup."290 And the three-day "Denver Post-Cerebral Palsy Television
Show," featuring "topnotch movie and television talent" and displays of TV sets,
would contribute all money to the Cerebral Palsy organization.291
Television was used as an enticement. King Soopers grocery stores would
award two televisions per week to lucky contest winners.292 Acme Motor Sales
advertised free TVs with the purchase of certain automobiles.293 Conversely,
the New Home Television Center Stores would throw in a free electric sewing
machine with the purchase of a television set.294
TV-friendly living spaces became important. Months before Channel 2 hit
the airwaves, the Mayflower Hotel announced "Denvers First and Only Uptown
Motel," which included such amenities as an "adjoining concrete parking lot,"
"phones in each unit," and "each unit wired for television."295 A house plan
provided in the paper did not have a garage and had only one bathroom, but
featured a "[television room easily accessible from all parts of this house.296
^"Heres Chance to Star on TV," Rocky Mountain News. 24 June 1952, 39.
^"Show Will Explain How Medium Works, Denver Post. 28 July 1952, 16A.
^Rockv Mountain News. 25 July 1952, 44.
^Rockv Mountain News. 25 July 1952, 83.
^Rockv Mountain News. 17 November 1952, 39.
^Rockv Mountain News. 20 May 1952, 25.
^"Television Room Easily Accessible from All Parts of This House," Rocky
Mountain News. 21 January 1952, 37.
Educators joined the troupe. Denver Universitys extension program
offered a course titled "Something about Television" to aid people in "buying,
adjusting, and knowing your set."297 "Help Wanted" advertisements for
television technicians and advertisements for TV technician training began to
appear.298 Through Denver Public Schools vocational program a person could
learn to install television sets with only thirty to forty hours of classwork.299
Advertising agencies had prepared ahead of time and offered "training" and
"information" regarding television commercials.300 By October TV addicts could
purchase TV and Radio Weekly, a local magazine similar to TV Guide, for $5.50
Viewers were also told they needed antennas: TV technicians say that
"maximum reception rarely is possible without some type of outdoor antenna."302
^Earl Wennergren, "Merger Pumps New Life into ABC," Rocky Mountain
News. 1 April 1953, 43.
^Rockv Mountain News. 3 August 1952, 15; Rocky Mountain News. 13
August 1952, 30.
^TV Goes to School," TV and Radio Weekly. 15 November 1952, 3.
^Rockv Mountain News. 28 July 1952, 33.
^TV and Radio Weekly. 18 October 1952, 1. TV Guide was not published
^"Few Good 1953 TV Sets Here, but Plenty Are Coming," Rocky Mountain
News. 20 July 1952, 71.
Channel 2 spokesmen recommended that all viewers install an antenna.303 And
until all the stations received their full-power transmitters, antennas were often
necessary. Somehow many purchasers didnt get the message, failed to buy an
antenna, would subsequently return to the dealer, and complain that the set
After the antenna was bought, there was another small hitch. The city
building inspector warned antenna purchasers that they must obtain a building
permit before installing them.305 These permits cost $1 for anything valued
under $100 (which included all but the most elaborate antennas) and $3 for
something valued from $101 to $1000. The city Building Code required that after
the antenna was installed the city must make two inspections, one electrical and
the other structural.306
The industry sought an exemption for antennas under eighteen feet in
height from the City Building Code Revision Committee. The Committee refused
and then added a recommendation that only licensed contractors be allowed to
^Lee Trainor, "4000 TV Sets Sold Here in Past Few Days," Rocky Mountain
News. 22 July 1952, 5.
^Harry Valas, interview.
^Ed Oschmann, "Building Permit Needed to Install TV Antennae," Rocky
Mountain News. 14 June 1952, 12.
f ^Robert Perkin, "TV Antenna Permit Dispute Appears Headed for City
Council," Rocky Mountain News. 25 July 1952, 74.
install antennas. On July 28 the City Council spent most of its two-hour session
discussing TV antennas and passed the measure requiring licensed
installation.307 On behalf of the public, the industry and the Better Business
Bureau determined to fight this oppressive fee. So on August 11, the City
Council listened to nearly two more hours of discussion about television antennas,
then voted to leave inspection requirements as they were.308
Still the industry did not give up. Dr. Du Mont, visiting Colorado Springs,
was asked about antennas. Apparently Du Mont had been forewarned of the
controversy, as he "pointed out that 93 percent of the 63 cities with television
have decided on no licensing."309 Pasquale Marranzino, a columnist for the
Rocky Mountain News, observed that the building inspectors were supposed to
inspect forty antennas per day at a rate of five inspections per hour, carry an
eighteen-foot ladder, and provide their own automobile.310
In September the building department reported it had issued 1279 antenna
permits, which it admitted indicated either "that the television industry is not
^Ed Oschmann, "Council Listens to Arguments on Permits for TV
Antennae," Rocky Mountain News. 29 July 1952, 5.
^John W. Buchanan, "City Council Votes to Keep $1 Permit Fee for TV
Antennas," Denver Post. 12 August 1952, 37.
^'Price of Television Sets to Soar, Du Mont Warns," Rocky Mountain News.
17 August 1952, 22.
310Pasquale Marranzino, "10-Foot Man Needed to Inspect TV Antennas,"
Rocky Mountain News 18 August 1952, 22.
selling as many sets as it had anticipated, or that permits are not being taken out
for installation of their antennas."311 By November 1952 the number of permits
issued stood at 2843.312
Almost as soon as television was introduced, antennas also brought before
the public an additional controversy. The Rocky Mountain News reported:
Television reared its antennas over Denvers public housing
projects yesterday as a problem that has been argued over the
nation arrived in the Mile High City.
The problem: Should residents of low-cost public housing
areas who can afford television sets also be able to afford private
The housing authoritys commissioners would decide the issue of television
antennas in a few days. In the interim, "to protect the structures and roofs against
damage," no antennas were allowed. One resident, who had bought a television
in California three years earlier, was required to remove her already-installed
antenna.314 When the housing commission met, it decided that "the ability to
pay for a TV set would not be constituted as evidence that the tenant could
3ii"1279 xv Antenna Permits Issued," Rocky Mountain News. 5 September
312"2843 TV Antenna Permits Issued by City Building Dept.," Rocky Mountain
News. 7 November 1952, 19.
313Lee Trainor, "Public Housing Ban on TV Antenna Irks Tenants," Rocky
Mountain News. 27 July 1952, 36.
afford other than public housing"; but it also announced that antennas would be
allowed only on Quonset-hut style housing.315
With the coming of 1953, the city decided that it would no longer wait for
television antenna owners to behave in a lawful manner and request a building
permit; and it announced "a systematic canvass of the city" to ensure
compliance.315 316 Upon questioning, Chief Building Inspector George McCormack
was forced to admit that antenna inspections, performed by two inspectors, were
"several thousand inspections behind."317
Officials maintained that the inspections were necessary because
approximately one-third of all installations needed correction. But the
departments biggest problem was caused by "soldiers from Lowry Field and
employes from the Public Service Co. and the Mountain States Telephone &
Telegraph Co." who installed antennas in their spare time without first obtaining
installers licenses. It was not that these spare-time installers were making errors
in installation; it was just that they had failed to secure a license.318
315"TV Sets Okd for All Public Housing Units," Denver Post. 8 August 1952,
316"Many Denver TV Owners Breaking Law," Rocky Mountain News. 9
January 1953, 24.
317Ed Oschmann, "Third of TV Installations Called Faulty," Rocky Mountain
News. 12 February 1953, 54.
The threat of a "systematic canvass" apparently caused semi-compliance;
by May the department had issued 15,982 antenna licenses. But there were
29,407 antennas in the city, leaving 13,425 without licenses. Owners of these
unlicensed antennas were to be sent postcard questionnaires inquiring about the
licensing of their antennas.319 McCormack cited eighteen fires from January to
March caused by improperly installed antennas, explaining that "air passing over
the antenna builds up a charge of static electricity. If the antenna is not grounded
properly, a fire may result."320 This was something of a misstatement; and the
next day City Electrician John Malpiede corrected this "misunderstanding,"
explaining that "[s]tatic electricity generated by wind blowing over a TV antenna
will not cause a fire."321
At this point the history of the antenna licensing controversy simply seems
to disappear. There are no more references to the subject in the newspaper;
principals in the conflict are no longer available, and relatives and acquaintances
do not remember it at all. The Denver Building Department can find no record
of such a requirement. In fact, department personnel find it difficult to believe
such a requirement ever existed. The few people who do remember the
319"13,000 Break Denver Law on TV Antennas," Rocky Mountain News. 7
May 1953, 12.
321"Four Causes Listed for TV Blazes," Rocky Mountain News. 8 May 1953,
controversy feel the city just gave up.322 Since the situation was created by an
interpretation of an existing ordinance, it is possible that the building code was
silently re-interpreted or that someone somewhere put out the word this was not
worth the trouble it was causing.
322Mariam Goldberg, interview; Roxie Pomarico, interview; Harry Valas,
STUDY THE POSSIBILITIES
(UHF and Educational TV)
All may have finally been quiet at the Building Department, but things
were even more quiet on the educational TV and UHF fronts. At the same time
that the FCC had approved the applications for Channels 2 and 9, Empire Coil,
a New York electronics manufacturer, had received approval to broadcast on
UHF Channel 26. Until April of 1952 the UHF band had not been allocated for
television, and no sets manufactured before that date had the capability to receive
it. Older sets would require a special adapter, and a separate antenna was
Empire Coil was also constructing a UHF station in Portland, Oregon. If
Denver was "the largest teleblind city in the U.S.," Portland was the second-largest
(especially since its population was larger than Denvers). The decision to apply
for UHF channels in these two cities made economic sense. Since there were
virtually no television sets in these cities, and since only new sets were equipped
to receive UHF, Portland and Denver should provide the best potential for UHF
Empire Coil initially announced that its target date for Denver
broadcasting was Thanksgiving 1952. Representatives visited Denver to arrange
for facilities and asked the Better Business Bureau for assistance in educating
Denver viewers about UHF set adapters and antennas.323 Silence followed. In
January 1953 officials said that they were awaiting equipment and planned to
begin construction sometime in the spring.324 In June Empire Coil reiterated
that it would be on the air "when high power transmitting equipment is available
from RCA."325 Again silence followed. This time the silence was permanent.
Empire Coils Portland station began broadcasting in September 1952 but
ceased operations in 1957 after the activation of four VHF stations.326 Even
before the other stations were broadcasting, things did not go well. Portland
viewers were apparently waiting for the VHF stations to commence operation
before purchasing sets. At the end of October 1952 Portland, with a 1950 census
population of 740,829 contained only 15,000 TV sets, whereas Denvers smaller
population had purchased 45,000 of the receivers.327 Perhaps the companys
323Dan Partner, "Second TV Station to Be on Air by Thanksgiving, Say
Officials," Denver Post. 5 August 1952, 1.
324"UHF Television in Denver Is Delayed until Summer," Rocky Mountain
News. 13 January 1953, 10.
32SEarl Wennergren, "Hoagy Carmichael Like All Dads When Talking about
His Two Sons," Rocky Mountain News. 30 June 1953, 40.
326Brown, Encyclopedia of Television. 445.
327U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census of the
Population: 1950. vol. I. ([Washington D.C.]: U.S. Department of Commerce,
Bureau of the Census, 1952), 1-66; Hansen, The World Almanac 1953. 316.
experiences in Portland convinced executives to forego a similar experiment in
Denver; perhaps it ran out of money. At any rate, with so much activity and
public attention being paid to Denvers other stations, people felt little need to
question the fate of Empire Coils proposed station.
The FCC had also allocated UHF channel 20 to the Denver area. On July
25, 1952, Irving Jacobs, owner of Mammoth Gardens, applied for this outlet328;
but on August 3 Mr. Jacobs died.329 His brothers-in-law and co-owners, Sam
and Morris Sigman of the K. & B. Packing company, announced that they would
proceed with the application and that the station would emphasize sports,
especially boxing and wrestling.330
By January 1953 the estimated date for this second UHF station had also
slipped to late summer.331 When summer came along and no construction had
commenced, the group requested an extension of time so that it could "study the
possibilities of a color television station."332 * The FCC held a hearing to consider
328Robert L. Perkin, "6th TV Station Sought Here," Rocky Mountain News.
26 September 1952, 20.
329"KVOD-TV Due on Air Sept. 29," Denver Post. 7 August 1952, 1.
^'Station to Stress Sports," Denver Post. 7 September 1952, 3AAA.
^"UHF Television in Denver Is Delayed until Summer," Rocky Mountain
News. 13 January 1953, 10.
^"Sigman May Lose U-H Frequency Television Grant," Rocky Mountain
News. 30 October 1953, 47; "Hearing Slated on New TV Station," Rocky
Mountain News. 18 June 1953, 31.
this request; but the stations representative, who said he missed his plane, failed
to show up.333 At another hearing in January 1954, the license was rescinded
because there had been no construction on television facilities.334
The story of Denver UHF television was typical of the history of UHF in
the rest of the country. During the freeze almost twenty million VHF-only sets,
with a replacement value of five billion dollars, had been sold.335 Furthermore,
to broadcast to the same area as that covered by the lower VHF channels, the
UHF transmitter needed twenty times the power output, which early transmitters
were unable to provide.336 Since there were few sets which could receive a
UHF station, investors shied away from committing their funds. Since there were
few UHF stations on the air, consumers were not willing to spend the extra
money for additional equipment. And so on.
By 1956 only 363 applications had been received for the 1,319 UHF
allocations made by the FCC in 1952. Of the 363 approved, only 212 went on the
air; and 56 of the 212 went bankrupt.337 In 1954 there were 120 UHF stations
^"Sigman May Lose U-H Frequency Television Grant," Rocky Mountain
News. 30 October 1953, 47.
^"FCC Cancels UHF Channel 20 Permit to Denver Company," Denver Post.
29 January 1954, 3.
^Mehling, The Great Time-Killer. 296.
336Brown, Encyclopedia of Television. 445.
337Boddy, Fifties Television. 54.
on the air; by 1960 only 75 were broadcasting.338 Only 7 percent of all 1960 TV
homes owned a set that could receive UHF, and only 5.5 percent of the sets
manufactured in 1961 were equipped to receive the frequency. It was not until
January 1963 that all sets were required to have UHF capability.339
A history of Denvers Channel 31 is an example:
July 1976 George Sandoval applies for construction
permit. . This is the fourth time a construction permit is granted
for Channel 31. The first was granted to an unknown person from
Hawaii, the second was granted to former Spanish language station
owner Paco Sanchez, and the third was granted to The Denver
Post. Each either was unable or chose not to put the station on the
Educational stations were almost as difficult to put into operation as those
on UHF. Denvers Channel 6 was one of 242 U.S. stations that had been
allocated for educational purposes.341 In this case, Denvers remoteness from
other large urban areas and televisions delayed arrival were a plus, as stations on
the same channel were required to be at least 170 miles apart.342 Only 80 of
^Hudson, Mass Media. 290.
339Boddy, Fifties Television. 55; Barnouw, Tube of Plenty. 303; Steinberg, TV
^Diana Dale, "KDVR History," as told to her by George Sandoval (Denver:
^Hudson, Mass Media. 268.
^In the lower South it was actually 220 miles; while in the West, including
Colorado, the distance was 190 miles.
the nations 242 channels allocated to educational stations were on the VHF
frequency. Educational stations in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington
(which had already had all frequencies assigned to commercial ventures), for
example, were forced to broadcast on the less desirable UHF spectrum.343
In its allocation process the FCC included one provision and omitted
another which made starting an educational station difficult. The omitted
provision was for any form of funding for these channels -- federal funds were not
allocated to public television until 1962. The included provision was that the
application for Denvers educational station was required to be submitted to the
FCC by June 1953.344 If an application were not made by that date, commercial
enterprises could request the frequency.
Community leaders knew that educational television would be beneficial
to the citizens of Denver. According to Russell Britton, director of vocational
education for Denver Public Schools, it would provide "enrichment of the lives of
adults by suggesting methods of more constructive use of leisure time."345 As
one writer for the Rocky Mountain News saw it, the entire family would benefit:
^Brown, Encyclopedia of Television. 345, 446.
^"Local PTA Backs Educational TV with Donations," Rocky Mountain News.
7 April 1953, 1.
^"Educators Pushing Bid for TV Station," Denver Post. 18 December 1952,