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The History of WICD, Champaign, IL
  Page 1
The WDAN-TV Years 1953-1959
  Page 2
The WCHU, WICD Years 1959-1966
  Page 3
WICD, Channel 15 Early Years, 1967-1978
  Page 4
WICD, The Plains TV Years, 1978-1994
  Page 5
An Era of Change for WICD, 1995-2004
  Page 6
The WICD ABC Years 2005-2015


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WDAN-TV, Channel 24, Danville, Illinois: Part 1


The WDAN-TV Years

The narrative part of the this web page features excerpts from what will be a much larger body of work.  Progress is being made on a book tentatively titled, "Central Illinois Television: The First Ten Years." 

An Application for Local TV in Danville

Technically speaking the first application for a television station after the “Freeze” was filed in May of 1952 by Lee Broadcasting Company for channel 10 to be located in Quincy, Illinois. The applicant was already a broadcaster as it had interest in the ownership of WTAD AM/FM.

Later in the same month, on the other side of the state in Danville, Illinois Northwest Publishing applied for channel 24. The proposed television station would broadcast at a power of 19kw with an antenna 416-feet high. The construction cost was set at $215,000, with a first year operating cost of $300,000 and was projected to produce revenue of $300,000 the first year. The transmitter and antenna were both listed as being manufactured by RC A. Northwest Publishing was owned by the Gannett Company, consisting of the principals of Frank E. Gannett at 33% ownership. The company already owned radio broadcast property at Rochester, New York (WHEC); Hartford, Connecticut (WTHT); and in Elmira, New York (WENY). This application for a television station would make it the second application filed by Gannett. The first application was filed for a station in Elmira, New York.

The location of the Danville station was to be 1500 North Washington Street in Danville, also the location of the transmitter and studios of WDAN Radio. The address of Northwest Publishing was 19 West North Street in Danville.  This filing by Northwest Publishing would make it mid-Illinois second application for a television station. Applications by those in Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Bloomington and Springfield would follow. Many would follow in the upcoming few months.

In December of 1952, the FCC granted the permit for construction to begin on the Danville television station to operate on channel 24. Unfortunately, it would be another year before the station would go on the air. This also means that even though it was the first to apply in the central and east central Illinois market, it would be the last to go on the air!

Channel 24 becomes WDAN-TV and Work Begins

In February of 1953, the call letters of WDAN would be applied to the new Danville TV station. Channel 24 now had a name: WDAN-TV.

It did take an extraordinary amount of time to bring the station to life, as many of the other central Illinois station would build from the ground up and be on the air in six months from the granting of the permit. With WDAN-TV, there were many issues to be settled.  Not the least of which was the objections of neighborhood residents who were questioning the building of a TV tower at the rear of the existing radio station.  Many were concerned about "radiation" from the TV transmitter/antenna there.  These concerns were apparently answered as plans to build the TV station would continue.

The TV station would have to be located at the site of the radio station, but certainly the radio station was not a facility set up for the required high ceilings of a TV studio, or the required addition of equipment for a control room, film chain, film editing and storage or even office and administrative offices.

It appears that engineering studies revealed that the existing self supporting four legged tower would not support the addition of a two ton 50-60 foot high antenna mast on the vintage 1938 tower. A decision would be made to replace the tower with a single guyed tower to support the television antenna while a segment of the tower below a series of insulators would serve as the antenna for WDAN (AM) Radio broadcasting at 1490kc. Documents found at WDAN radio some years later would list the tower cost at $20,000.

An addition to the WDAN Radio studio/transmitter site would add a control room, engineering space, one administration office, a film storage editing room, an announcer booth, a drive through studio and an adjacent prop storage room. It's assumed WDAN-TV would share much of its operation with WDAN radio, such as sales, administration, employee lounge and even the rest rooms.

The original transmitter building was constructed in 1938 to house the transmitter of WDAN Radio (then operating on 1500kc). The brick structure was small, but included the transmitter and a remote studio. In the late 1940's when the operations of WDAN was moved from the magnificent facilities at the Wolford Hotel in downtown Danville, the station moved into equally magnificent studios at 1500 North Washington on Danville's near north side. Those newly constructed studios were built around that original brick structure leaving the rear of the original structure as part of the rear exterior wall.

The radio studios included a huge showcase studio surrounded by a windowed hallway, a general managers office, sales offices, administrative offices, rest rooms, engineering room, news room and studios visible from the main control room then located in the original transmitter room. Since it was located in a residential area, it was constructed to blend in with the homes in the area. It was, though, located along the side walk running at the curb of Washington Street at the T intersection with Woodlawn Avenue.



Click here for larger picture
(Above): A scetch of the floor plan of the facilities of WDAN-TV as its attached to the rear of the studios of WDAN Radio in Danville.


With the granting of channel 24 to WDAN, it became necessary to add the television facility to the rear of the WDAN studios. Since the terrain was much lower at the rear of the building, the high ceiling of the studio was achieved by constructing of a ground level studio floor which put the elevation of the studio several feet below that of the main control room and the audio booth. That also allowed for two garage doors to be installed to allow for automobiles to be driven into the studios for the production of live commercials.

In spite of what the additional structure included, the addition of the television facility was most obviously not built to the standards of the original 1948 construction of WDAN Radio. Walls were not plastered, but instead covered with a fiber board paneling above a real wood horizontal paneling rising about 3 to 4 feet above the floor which was likely quite pricy for the time.

The television control room included the transmitter and room for a couple of rack panels of additional equipment. The film chain was in the center of the room with the main control boards facing the window overlooking the studio. The floor under the control room included a series of troughs in which cables could be channeled. The floors of the control room, film editing and storage and administration was elevated over the floors of the original radio studios by 8-10 inches. A door with a step up separated the master control of the radio station form the master control of WDAN-TV.

In June of 1953 it seems that the construction would not be completed for the installation of the television equipment so an extension for the applicable date was filed with the FCC. Northwestern applied for the extension date of February 10, 1954. At that time, many stations were delaying construction for various reasons, most of which were equipment delays, but some were actually holding on to their construction permit to await the highest bidder. They would then sell their permit for a huge profit.

The FCC was under a great deal of pressure from congress which was being made aware of such activity and was cracking down on grantees by limiting the amount of time requested by applicants. If no activity was being made on the actual construction, the FCC would cancel the grant.

WDAN-TV wasn't making much progress as equipment evidently wasn't being ordered in the manner which would be considered a realistic attempt of putting a television station on the air. An appeal was made to the FCC to which they agreed to an extension of the construction permit only from August 10 through December 10, 1953.


(Left):  The WDAN radio tower and transmitter building located at 1500 N. Washington in Danville.  The building would be later surrounded by a new broadcast facility in the late 1940's.  This picture was taken from the stationary used by the station and was probably taken in 1938-39.  (See WDNL-WDAN History)




 (Above): The construction of the new guyed tower of WDAN Radio and Television as the first tower section was hoisted in place.  In the background was the original 1938 self supporting tower.

(all pictures from the Commercial-News)




The Motivation Behind WDAN-TV

The motivation of Northwest Publishing to build and operate a television station would be less enthusiastic than many other owners. The company seemed to have applied for the channel 24 permit only to keep other broadcast competition from obtaining the license. At the time, the media monopoly of Northwest Publishing (the Commercial-News newspaper) and WDAN Radio was eroding with the addition of WITY Radio. The additional radio station for Danville was under construction in 1953 and would go on the air November 23, 1953.

Northwest would operate WDAN-TV merely as an extension to its radio property, WDAN. There didn't seem to be any plans to improve or expand its operation from the beginning. The plan was apparently to do just enough to keep in on the air and perhaps to enhance the viability of WDAN Radio.

The operation would share a general manager and many key personnel from administration, sales, programming and engineering. The station would not try to compete with the daytime media of radio and would only operate during the evening hours when it appeared the potential audience would be the greatest. News, sports and weather broadcasts would utilize the resources of both the newspaper and radio station. Any other local programming would be hosted and produced by radio station talent and the the sales department.

The goal was to keep construction costs low and then continue to keep operating costs low. Such a goal would not be beneficial for the start up of the new television station or for the viewers of the Danville area. While other stations during the first few years was seeing the benefits of power increases and improving facilities with newly developed equipment, WDAN-TV would remain stagnate.






Max Shaffer, WDAN-TV station manager; Robert J. Burow, WDAN AM/TV general manager; and John Eckert, WDAN-TV sales director.

(all pictures from Commercial-News)


Mary Kay Doan, WDAN-TV receptionist and continuity writer with Mary Samila, office manager.


From left to right, Bob Erickson, announcer; Honore Ronan, WDAN-TV program director; Gene Robinson, announcer





 WDAN-TV technicians Ted Magin and Orville Neely examine the synch generator of WDAN-TV.  This may have been the piece of equipment which would bring a few headaches to the engineering staff at WDAN-TV.

 
 Elwood Begley, WDAN-TV technician is at the controls of the film projector, part of the "film chain" of the station with announcer Larry Burroughs.

From left to right: Al Stelk, projectionist: Norlyn Dossey, engineer; and Norlyn Dossey, engineer at the main video/audio control board located in master control at WDAN-TV

From left to right: Harry Bell, gets an explaination of the Dage video cameras from John Vance, engineer while E.W. Brown and Bryon Brown of Bismarck look on.  Mr. Bell and the Browns were there representing the Danville area TV dealers and repairmen.


Bill Shoup, engineer explains the filterplexer, part of the transmitter of WDAN-TV.  Looking on is Joe Wright, Ralph Berry(in the background); Ralph L. Berry and Kenneth Pribble(foreground) were there as part of the group from the Danville area TV dealers and repairmen.

From left to right: J. R. Johnson, M.R. Walker Jr. and John Norman from the Danville TV dealers and repairmen are checking out monitors used in the WDAN-TV control room.

Left to right: Max Shaffer, station manager; Ted Magin, chief engineer chat with J. Will Kelly of a Peoria television distribution firm and Floyd Timberlake, a representative of RCA. 


The WDAN-TV studio was constructed with two garage doors on opposite sides of the facility to that vehicles could be driven through for TV commercials.  Bill Hunt, engineer is shown directing Bill Shoup as he drives a car into the building.  This feature of the WDAN-TV studios was used famously by local vehicle dealer Jack McAleer of McAleer Buick-Pontiac during the 1950's.


Walter Keen of Riverside, Illinois, a consultant working for WDAN-TV and RCA checks and measures the channel 24 antenna's specs to make sure its set to be lifted atop the new WDAN tower.  The antenna must conform to the specs set by RCA testing labs after its manufacture.

The Commercial-News accounts of the antenna installation described the winds that hampered the efforts of the Alpha Erection Company of Spear, Illinois hired to install the antenna.  Norlyn Dossey, left, is on hand as Howard Burton of Peoria of the Alpha Erection Company.  The antenna weighed 3,000 pounds and was 45 foot tall and would be installed on top of the 397-foot tower. 


John Kerkes of Westville and John Grunden of Danville install the tubing which runs from the tower into the building which will connect to the filterplexer will be installed with a protective cover protecting the tubing from ice falling from the tower.

The biggest challenge for WDAN-TV was to convince what few TV set owners there were that they should purchase a UHF converter and a UHF antenna to pick up just one channel, Channel 24.



At right is a photo of the WDAN Radio and TV studios, probably taken sometime in 1953-54.  The address is 1501 North Washington, Danville, Illinois.  It was built to fit into the residential neighborhood which was sprouting all around the original transmitter site of WDAN Radio, which was built in 1938.

( Photo courtesy of Neuhoff Broadcasting,
where it hangs in the lobby area.)






Here is the way the original WDAN Radio and TV studios look in 2007.  It's now the home of WDAN(AM), WDNL(FM) and WRHK(FM).  In 2007, the Vermilion County Bureau of WICD(originally WDAN-TV) was relocated back into the facility.  The Bureau is located in the original TV station business office.  WDAN, WDNL and WRHK are owned by Neuhoff Broadcasting-Danville while WICD is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

(Doug Quick photo)

Doug, has connections to all of these stations as he used to work at WDAN/WDNL from 1977 to 1992 and 1994-2002.  He worked for WWDZ(now WRHK) in 1993, and has worked at WICD from 1994-present.




Pre-Sign-on Planning

The FCC as stated earlier would extend the construction permit to December 10, 1953. It was not known if the FCC would extend it any longer. The target date of WDAN-TV for months was not known but by mid Summer of 1953 progress was being made with the ordering of the necessary equipment to bring a television signal to viewers in the Danville area.

Robert J. Burow was designated as the station manager, a roll he held as station manager of WDAN Radio. He came from the ranks of the Commercial-News where he was a sales manager. Robert J. Burow became and was an active broadcaster being newly elected to the Illinois Broadcasters Association as president in October of 1953. Others on the board of directors at that time were other very notable broadcasters such as Harold L. Dewing of WCVS Radio. Mr. Burow was also one of the major speakers before the group along side Merrill Lindsay of WSOY Radio and WCIA-TV; as well as Oliver Keller of WTAX Radio in Springfield and Sangamon Valley Television an applicant for channel 2 in Springfield (see WICS).

During my time at WDAN/WDNL Radio which is housed in the former WDAN Radio and Television station, staff members would occasionally come across a memento from those early television days. One such document contained an estimate of the operating costs of WDAN-TV. Items included the expense of 5 engineers at $85 a week; 1 traffic “girl” at $45 a week; a film “man” at $100 a week; and a production “man” at $125 a week. Other expenses included film costs at $3,000 a month. I assume that was for the purchase of film programming, TV series and filler travel films, documentaries and such and for the shipping of the film to its next station when WDAN-TV was done with them. Much of the film programming listed in the later group would be furnished by sponsors. The BMI/ASCAP charges would fall to around $1,000 a month, the A.T.& T. network line charges were $4,000 a month and other network charges were listed at $1,000 month. Sales costs were set at $2,000 a month and insurance at $300 a month.

Ad rates were $150/hour, $90/per half-hour show, $50/for a 15 minute show. I assume these were full sponsorships of WDAN-TV programming such as syndicated half hours or for movies. Spot rates were $25 a commercial “spot” and $15 for a short announcement between shows.

The broadcast day was planned to run from 6pm to 10pm with an increase to 3pm to midnight later. The income goal was $11,200 a month. If there was any special programming from ABC, it was assumed the station would air it beyond its normal hours of operation. One example was the Army-McCarthy Hearings occurring later. It's not known if WDAN-TV broadcast those hearings. It's also not known if WDAN-TV broadcast the “Don McNiell's Breakfast Show” which aired from 8 to 9am for one season during the 1950's. The transmitter for WDAN-TV would go on around 9am and the station would broadcast a test pattern and 100cycle tone until programming began at 3pm.

In September of 1953, WDAN-TV made a purchase of equipment from the Dage TV Equipment Company for a total of near $12,000. The package would include “lightweight gear” for about a third of the cost of competitive equipment from other major manufactures such as RCA and General Electric. The package included two cameras, two camera controls, a switcher and a sync generator. The cameras used vidicon tubes from RC A and cost about $345 compared to image orthocon tubes costing $1250. The cameras offered resolution of 400-500 lines compared to 600 line resolution of the others. Dage was also located close by in Beech Grove, Indiana.

RCA shipped the RCA 1k transmitter to WDAN-TV in mid September 1953. There were other construction details to be worked out including getting FCC permission to relocate the tower/antenna of WDAN a few feet and getting permission for the mounting of the TV antenna atop the WDAN Radio tower. That permission was granted by the FCC in late September of 1953.

In November of 1953, it was announced WDAN-TV would become ABC affiliate number 169. That would at least bring a potential revenue stream to the station along with providing competitive programming to viewers. Affiliating with NBC or CBS would have brought a much stronger schedule of programming to the station, but both of those networks were already under contract with the local VHF station, WCIA. NBC would choose to be a “part time” secondary affiliate of a VHF station, rather than being a full time affiliate with UHF Channel 24. It's possible that if an earlier effort would have been made by WDAN-TV to court NBC before the last minute decision by the network to attach to WCIA, Channel 24 may have become affiliated with NBC. Affiliation with NBC would have insured a much greater chance of success for the Danville television station.

WDAN-TV would settle for ABC and join other central Illinois stations with part and full time affiliation agreements. Along with Channel 24, WDAN-TV other ABC affiliates included: WTVP, Channel 17, Decatur, WBLN, Channel 15, Bloomington; WICS, Channel 20, Springfield; and WTVH, Channel 19, Peoria.

The availability of receiving network signals from New York by central Illinois television stations was a major concern of stations in mid Illinois. For WDAN-TV it was easy! A main A.T.& T. trunk coax ran just a couple of blocks away under North Vermilion Street to a terminal in Danville from Chicago. WDAN-TV would just tap into the line to receive ABC programming. The addition of WDAN-TV to A.T.& T. television cable facilities made it the station number 239 across the country and Danville to be city number 147 to receive network programming.

Northwestern applied for yet another extension to the construction permit past the already granted extension of December 10, 1953. This time the FCC would only grant an extension through December 28, 1953. That only meant that WDAN-TV must be operational by that date!









(Above): The former WDAN Radio tower is toppled as it was replaced by the new guyed tower of WDAN Radio and Television.

(from Neuhoff Broadcasting and WICD(TV))




(Above): This is probably the first "recording" of an actual WDAN-TV broadcast.  This was a snapshot taken by Don Claypool located in Oakwood, Illinois just west of Danville. 
The test pattern was used many times throughout the broadcast day to fill left over time between programs which did not contain commercials.  This particular test pattern was sponsored by "Bud Electronic Supply" of Danville.  The test pattern advertised GE Picture Tubes available at the electronic supply business.  Picture tubes from early TV's were known to need replacement after a couple of years of use as they grew dim and lost the ability to contrast between light and dark images.  Usually, images would begin to look "silvery," a sure sign of picture tube replacement time.

 (courtesy of Don Claypool)

WDAN Goes On The Air!

In spite of the deadline being extended to December 28, 1953, the engineering crew and staff felt even greater pressure to finish the construction well ahead of the Christmas holiday. The date for going on the air was set as December 19, 1953. The Danville Commercial-News in the months and days leading up to the official sign-on would feature stories and pictures showing the progress of the construction. By the time of the sign-on the newspaper would publish a spread on behalf of its younger television sibling, WDAN-TV. It would include pictures of its initial staff including many of those from the radio station. Equipment was shown during an open house to a number of TV repairman from the Danville area and most importantly to potential advertisers. At least one open house would host members of the Danville Area TV Dealers Association. Those included Harry Bell, E. W. Brown, Byron Brown, J. R. Johnson, M.R. Walker and John Norman. Also at that same event was J. Will Kelly from a television distribution firm of Peoria and Floyd Timberlake a representative of RCA.

Before the initial sign-on a newspaper account of what viewers would see was outlined in the Danville Commercial-News. The article would read: “Forty-six programs ranging from 15 minutes to two hours duration will be offered Danville and area tele-viewers over Channel 24 during the first week of operation of WDAN-TV, Honore Ronan program director, announced Saturday.

The station is scheduled to go on the air at 3:30pm today with the test pattern and at 4pm the first American Broadcasting show, “Super Circus” an hour program will be telecast. The test pattern will run from 5 to 5:30 when the half hour George Jessel Show will be featured.”


Schedule of Programming on WDAN-TV, Channel 24 for initial sign-on on Sunday, December 19, 1953
Alll network programming from ABC is highlighted and underlined
3:00 p test pattern
4:00 p Super Circus  circus performance
5:00 p test pattern
5:30 p George Jessel Show  variety
6:00 p You Asked for It  stunts
6:30 p test pattern
7:00 p Songs for Christmas  Christmas special
7:30 p Holy Night  Christmas special
8:00 p Walter Winchell  news commentary
8:15 p Orchid Award  weekly award show
8:30 p Jukebox Jury with Peter Potter (ABC) kids quiz show
9:30 p sign-off



On December 19, 1953 WDAN-TV would sign on the air.

The sign-on was nearly perfect, except for the times the station would broadcast a test pattern. It's likely the test pattern was generated by focusing a camera on a printed test pattern mounted on “tv board” and the camera was “hot wired” into a “patch panel.” The patch cable would be plugged in or removed to allow the direct broadcast of network or the camera.

The main limitation at the initial sign-on was WDAN-TV was only able to broadcast the signal from ABC. The station was not ready to broadcast from its own studio, or from its own film chain. The station was not able to locally originate locally produced programs because of equipment delays and/or equipment wasn't able to be installed and operational in time. It could have been the added pressure from a looming deadline imposed by the FCC for having the station completed.

It would be several days before the “rolling” video problem with the test pattern would be corrected. If there were any local skeptics about the future of local television broadcasting in Danville (and I assume there plenty) they were certainly enjoying this flub.

The Commercial-News later would report that the piece of equipment had arrived which would allow for local origination of programming had arrived. It's not known what that piece of equipment was or from where it came and what manufacture produced it.


Sign-On Day: the Newspaper Account

The Commercial-News would report about the first day of programming by saying, “Television made its first locally-flashed appearance Sunday afternoon as Danville and area viewers flicked their dials to Channel 24 at 4pm for the initial network show to be be telecast on WDAN-TV.”

The story would include accounts of favorable reports from Danville and even telegrams from viewers reporting reception in Paris and Champaign. The story also admitted that modifications and adjustments “are continuously made.”

Orville Neely, one of the WDAN-TV staff engineers explained that all of the equipment is new and when ever that is the case, “bugs” show up. He also admitted that some of the equipment hasn't arrived at the station yet and that construction is continuing. According to the engineer, vacuum tube failures occur in about 10 percent of the tubes during the first 90 days. It was considered a period of equipment “break in” and after that most of the problems would go away.

The story explained that despite the good reports from area viewers, the trouble with the local test pattern “is still plaguing the engineers.” The sync generator was the cause of the problem, as it was unstable, causing the picture ot roll when ever the test pattern was broadcast. Mr. Neely also added that electrical problems with line voltage variation within the building was probably also creating a problem with a “picture....jump” during the broadcast of the test pattern.

Most of the early days of WDAN would include a sign-on at 6:15pm for the ABC News with anchor John Daly. One exception would be the weekend broadcast of college basketball on Saturday at 1:30pm.


           


    


      


"Super Circus" as presented on ABC in 1954.  It's also likely this exact epidsode aired on WDAN-TV one Sunday afternoon.  By the way, Mary Hartline, was a big attraction to the show as dads would watch the show with their kids!


(Videos from You Tube and may be withdrawn without notice at any time)

"Walter Winchell" was known for many years as a news commentator, but in the 1950's his radio show would be adapted for TV, even though it setill appears he's doing it just for radio.  You might recognize his voice as the narrator for ABC's "The Untouchables" beginning in 1959.


This show was also featured in an episode of "Happy Days" in the 1970's.  "You Asked for It" would feature segments based on requests from the viewers. This segment explains the electronic music creation as featured on many of the sci-fi movies of the era.


ABC Shows on WDAN-TV from 1953-1956
"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet"  "George Jessel Show"  "Peter Potter Show"
aka "Jukebox Jury"
"Dr. I.Q."   "Super Circus"
"The Name's the Same" "You Asked For It" "Ford Theatre" "Break the Bank" "The Danny Thomas Show"
"Masquerade Party" "DuPont Theater"
  
"Disneyland" "Lawrence Welk" "Voice of Firestone"
"Wyatt Earp" "The Lone Ranger" "John Daley-ABC News"
"The June and Stu Erwin Show"   "Warner Brothers Presents..." "Cheyenne"
"Wrestling"
"Sky King"
"Sabor of London"
"Quick as a Flash"
"Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour"
"Pride of the Family"
"Ozark Jubilee"

"Liberace"
"The Big Picture"

"Kukla Fran and Ollie"
"Where's Raymond-The Ray Bolger show" "Crossroads"
"Stop the Music"
Syndicated or Secondary Network Shows on WDAN-TV from 1953-1956
"Gene Autry Show" "Soldier Parade" 1 "Time for Beany" "Hopalong Cassidy"   
1 WDAN-TV aired "Soldier Parade" which was provided by CBS via kinescope or film
2 It's been reported that WDAN-TV aired "Time for Beany" during some of the cartoon time periods under the heading of "Comedy Time."
  
Schedule of Programming on WDAN-TV, Channel 24 for the week of January 15, 1955
Saturday, January 15, 1955

5:00 pm The Christophers-syn, religious
5:30 pm Western Theater-unidentified western series
6:30 pm Compass 
7:00 pm Dotty Mack Show  musical variety starring Dotty Mack
8:00 pm  Saturday Night Fights  boxing
8:45 pm  Fight Talk 
9:00 pm  Stork Club 
9:30 pm  The Late Show-unidentified movie

Sunday, January 16, 1955

2:00 pm   Christophers- syn, religion
2:15 pm   Weekly News Review- 2
2:30 pm   Herald of Truth, syn, religion
3:00 pm   This is the Life-syn, religious
3:30 pm   What's In the Box-local game show
4:00 pm   Super Circus  circus performance
5:00 pm   The Living Word- syn, religious
5:30 pm   Answers for Americans  public affairs interview
6:00 pm   You Asked For It  stunts
6:30 pm   Pepsi-Cola Playhouse dramatic anthology
7:00 pm   Flight Number 7 travelogue hosted by Robert McKenzie
7:30 pm   The Big Picture military documentary
8:00 pm   Walter Winchell  news, commentary
8:15 pm   Horizons (ABC) medical documentary
8:30 pm  Pantomime Quiz  quiz
9:00 pm  Break the Bank  game
9:30 pm  sign off

Monday-Friday, January 17-21, 1955 sign-on to 6pm

4:00 pm Matinee- unidentified film feature
5:00 pm Comedy Time- unidentified film feature
5:15 pm Almanac- local, hosted by Honore Ronan and Max Shaffer
5:30 pm 3 Star News-local newscast, sports with Max Shaffer, Weather with Ralph Webber and News with  Bill Houpt or Frank Williams.
6:00 pm Kukla, Fran and Ollie  kids, puppet show
6:15 pm ABC News with John Daley 


Monday, January 17, 1955

6:30 pm Name's the Same  quiz show
7:00 pm Tot and Teen Review- local, talent variety, hosted by Catherine Cromwell
7:30 pm Voice of Firestone  music, classical
8:00 pm  to be announced
8:30 pm Boxing  boxing
10:00 pm News Capsule- local news brief
10:05 pm sign-off


Tuesday, January 18, 1955

6:30 pm   Hopalong Cassidy- syn, western
7:00 pm   Film Program- unidentified program/source
7:30 pm   Twenty Questions  quiz
8:00 pm   Danny Thomas Show  sit com, starring Danny Thomas, Jean Hagen, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Jackson
8:30 pm  U.S. Steel Hour  dramatic anthology
9:30 pm  Stop the Music  musical quiz
10:00 pm 10 O'Clock Date- unknown
10:30 pm  News Capsule-local news brief
10:35 pm  sign-off


Wednesday,  January 19, 1955

6:30 pm   Disneyland  variety of programs
7:30 pm   Stu Erwin Show  sit com, starring Stu and June Erwin
8:00 pm   Masquerade  game show
8:30 pm   film program- unknown format, source
9:00 pm   Wrestling  details unknown
10:00 pm  The Late Show- unidentified movie


Thursday,  January 20, 1955

6:30 pm  Cartoon Carnival- syn, titles unknown
7:00 pm  American Cowboy   unknown
7:30 pm  Soldier Parade (CBS) kinescope of CBS program, military talent show
8:00 pm  Banko- local, game show
8:30 pm  So You Want to Lead a Band   music contest, hosted by Sammy Kaye
9:00 pm The Late Show-unknown movie
10:15 pm  News Capsule-local news brief
10:20 pm  sign-off


Friday, January 21, 1955

6:30 pm Mark Saber  adventure
7:00 pm Ozzie and Harriet  sit com, starring Ozzie and Harriet, David and Rick Nelson
7:30 pm Ray Bolger  sit com, starring Ray Bolger
8:00 pm film program- unknown format/source
8:30 pm The Vise  unknown
9:00 pm The Late Show- unidentified movie
10:20 pm sign-off

ABC Network programs are indicated in bold  and underlined
local programming originating from the WDAN-TV studios are in italics


(TV listings from the Danville Commercial-News)

WDAN-TV Local News

One year and one month after the initial sign-on of WDAN-TV, Channel 24 would finally broadcast a local newscast.  It was described in the pages of the Danville Commercial-News as being a "triple threat" of local news, sports and weather and would air form 5:30 to 6pm on Monday, January 17, 1955

The local news would precede ABC's "Kukla Frank and Ollie Show" and the ABC News with JOhn Daley at 6:15pm.  Each local newscast would include sports headlines and stories with Max Shaffer, followed by local news anchored by Bill Houpt or Frank M. Williams of the Commercial-News staff of reporters at 5:40pm.  The weather chores would be taken up by who the newspaper would describe as "veteran weatherforecaster" Ralph Webber at 5:50pm.

Before the broadcast of local news WDAN-TV would originate "Almanac" hosted by Mr. Shaffer and Honore Ronan at 5:15pm.  Max Shaffer would report top world news in brief and Ms. Ronan would have the "latest word from the women's world plus interviews with local people."


By September of 1955, the half hour format would be reduced to 15 minutes and moved from 5:30pm to 6pm ahead of the ABC News with John Daley.   It was also the time, "Almanac" was dropped in favor of the "Birthday Parade."  Its assumed Honore Ronan hosted the announcements of viewers birthdays and featured other local general interest stories and interviews at 5pm.  "Western Theater" would follow from 5:10 to 6pm.

It seems as time went on, the roles of newscaster, weather-caster and maybe even sportscaster would be shifted off to others on the WDAN staff. 

(Above): The WDAN-TV news staff as it began in January of 1955.  Pictured at the desk is Bill Houpt and Frank M. Williams of the Commercial-News.  Standing is sportscaster Max Shaffer and weather forecaster Ralph Webber.

(picture from the Commercial-News)

WDAN-TV, Channel 24, Danville, Illinois

Northwestern Publishing Company
1500 N. Washington
Danville, Illinois

Phone: 1700

Facilities: 
Channel 24, Authorized Effective Radiated Power, Visual 19.1 kw; Aural 9.55 kw
Transmitter:
RCA Model TTU-1-B; Antenna RCA Model Type TFU-24BL
Height above average terrain, 410 ft.  Above ground, 445 ft.

Operation:
Began December 20, 1953   Hours of operation 5:00pm to 11:00pm (correction: date is December 19, 1953)

Affiliations: 
Network ABC, Station WDAN

Representatives:
Sales, Everett-McKinney Inc.   Washington Attorney, Dow, Lohnes and Albertson

Services:
One RCA and two Dage Cameras, Two Holmes projectors, one 2x2 slide projectors, News Service, AP  Library, Thesaurus

Executives:
Robert J. Burow, general manager
John Eckert, commercial manager
Max Shaffer, station manager
Honore Ronan, program director
Orville Neely, chief engineer
Bill Dorn, production manager

Market Information: Total information(including fringe area) 300,000, families 87,400, number of sets 45,000

(from Television Yearbook, 1954-55)


  


            


        


"Disneyland" ran on ABC from 1954 to 1961 when it moved to NBC.  Interestingly enough, it moved at the same time that WDAN-TV moved from ABC to NBC therefore not missing a single episode. The ABC series consisted of  several rotating themes: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland, all named for areas of the original theme park.  It was the "Davy Crockett" segment of the Frontierland rotator which was the big hit.  It starred Fess Parker(later "Daniel Boone") and Buddy Ebsen(later "The Beverly Hillbillies") which made a coon skin hat a must have for youngsters in the mid 50's.  The theme was sung by Bill Hayes("Ernie Kovacs Show" and later "Days of Our Lives") and was a big top 40 hit.


There were two "dog" shows popular in the 1950's.  The first was "Lassie."  The second was "Rin-Tin-Tin" as seen on WDAN-TV and ABC from 1954 to 1959. 
It starred Lee Aaker as Rusty, James BrowN, Joe Sawyer and Rand Brooks....and of course "Rinny."



"Break the Bank" ran on all three major networks during its run from 1948 to 1957.  From 1954 to 1956 was on ABC and WDAN-TV.  It was hosted by Bert Parks.

Note:  The thumbnail photo shows a more recent vesion of "Break the Bank."  An actual episode from 1955 is shown.

(All videos from You Tube, and individual videos may be unavailable at any time.  I try to replace them occasionally with new video)


WDAN-TV Reduces Power

In very late 1955 it appears that an effort to save money would bring Northwest Publishing to filing for a reduction in power for WDAN-TV. The former 19kw power output during the stations first year would be reduced to 13.26kw. This reduction in output wattage would save several thousand dollars a years in operating costs, with out significantly reducing the signal in Danville.  It would also extend the life of the major transmitter output tube.

Meanwhile a number of local UHF TV stations were seeking power increases and beginning to consider tower upgrades as well as equipment to be able to broadcast their respective networks in color. As a full time ABC affiliate, there was no immediate need to consider an upgrade to broadcast color.

By March of 1955, WDAN-TV would apply for the license to replace the construction permit it was operating on since sign-on. It would be granted

The financial plight of WDAN-TV was not unique. By May of 1955 Broadcasting-Telecasting ran an article that stated that 80% of all UHF stations would face bankruptcy....”unless they find a financial angel or develop a cohesive cooperative means to instill life into the total UHF picture.” Overall, not more than 12 or 15 UHF stations were making a true profit and these were in markets without immediate VHF competition. WDAN-TV had VHF competition from WCIA in Champaign, WTHI in Terre Haute and WFBM in Indianapolis. Other UHF stations were out of reach as their signals didn't extend to the Danville market at that time.


ABC Shows on WDAN-TV from 1957-1960 
ABC
ABC "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" "The Rebel" "Zorro "
"The Real McCoys" "Circus Boy" "Mickey Mouse Club" "Disneyland" "The Walter Winchell File "
"West Point Story" "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" "Alcoa Presents"
"Naked City" "The Detectives"
"The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin" "Philip Marlowe"
"Hawaiian Eye"
"Tombstone Territory" "Thn"
"Cheyenne " "Sugarfoot" "Maverick " "Lawrence Welks Top Tunes and New Talent" "Keep it in the Family"
"Bold Journey" "Broken Arrow" "ABC News with Don Goddard" "Pat Boone Chevy Showroom" "Lawrence Welk's Dancing Party"
"Bourbon Street Beat" "Navy Log" "77 Sunset Strip" "The Adventures of Jim Bowie"
"Donna Reed Show"
"Gale Storm Show"
"Date with the Angels" "The Alaskans"
"The Frank Sinatra Show" "Black Saddle"
"Mike Wallace Interview"
"Adventures in Paradise"
"Telephone Time"
"The Rifleman"
"Leave it to Beaver"
"The Guy Mitchell Show"
"The Patti Page Show"
"Colt.45"
"Man With a Camera"
"Country Music Jubilee"
ABC Shows on WDAN-TV Daytime 1958-60
"Liberace"
"Day in Court"
"Music Bingo"
"Beat the Clock"
"Who Do You Trust"
"American Banstand"
"Walt Disney's Adventureland"
"Peter Lind Hayes Show"
"Mickey Mouse Club"
"Love That Bob"
Syndicated and Secondary Network Shows Airing on WDAN-TV 1957-1960
"Flash Gordon" "The Honeymooners"       
1 off network series in station syndication






WDAN-TV an Early Career Stop for Gene Hackman

Gene HackmanOne notable celebrity who began his "show business" career as a camera operator at WDAN-TV was movie actor Gene Hackman (pictured left-courtesy of Danville High School-Wall of Fame).  Legend has it he was told that he should stay with WDAN and not move on, because he could really work his way up the television ladder.

According to long time WDAN-TV sales manager, John Eckert,  Mr. Hackman was a studio crew member who would set up and arrange chairs, sets and other studio gear for local programming.   His exact tenure at WDAN-TV is not known for sure, but it's generally agreed it was sometime from 1957-1958.


ABC Grows up


As you'll read with in the other histories of the mid Illinois TV stations, the networks in those early days actually sold time on their schedules to advertising agencies.  Those advertising agencies either produced their own programming or contracted out to other producers the development of those programs on which they placed their clients commercials.  It was more of an info-mercial arrangement and much different than today. 

ABC had a large number of affiliates, but were mostly were with second or third rate television stations.  Most of which were UHF stations, even in a large number of major markets.  In central Illinois ABC would end up being associated with all UHF channels. 

Even though most stations would not air ABC programming or that of any other network when a purchase agreement was not made for the station to receive network compensation, WDAN-TV appeared to be different.  Most other stations would replace those network shows with their own sponsored syndicated programs or even in some cases other secondary network programs.  WDAN-TV appeared to air the network programming anyway,  probably because of the inability to purchase a large number of syndicated shows to replace those network shows. 


As ABC expanded its schedule, WDAN-TV expanded its own broadcast day with the broadcast of “American Bandstand” and “Whom Do You Trust?”   In fact by the late 1960's, WDAN-TV would even host its own version of “American Bandstand” called “Danville Bandstand.” 

WDAN-TV also began to air a number of the more popular ABC shows of the era and certainly would benefit from their airing.  “Disneyland,” “The Danny Thomas Show(aka “Make Room for Daddy'),” “Twenty Questions,” “Warner Brothers Presents,” “Wyatt Erp,” “Cheyenne,” “Maverick,” “Lawman,” “The Rifleman,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Real McCoys,” “The Rebel,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “Adventures in Paradise,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “The Untouchables,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Detectives.”

By 1959, the daytime schedule of ABC would expand into the early afternoon and the broadcast day of WDAN-TV expanded with it, at least by 1960.  The schedule would include “Love That Bob” at 1:30pm to be followed by “Day in Court,” “The Gale Storm Show” and “Beat the Clock” at 3pm. 




Hope for a Change from UHF Channel 24 to VHF Channel 10


The changing allocation situation was sending shock waves throughout the region.  The possibility of the addition of channel 2 to Terre Haute, Indiana and a possible reassignment of channel 10 brought about a flurry of applications for the allocation for areas cities like Lafayette, Indiana by WFAM-TV. WDAN-TV applied for the channel to be shifted to Danville, Illinois with an application filed in late March of 1958.  The FCC would reject both applications by early 1959. 

Later Livesay Broadcasting Company of Mattoon would apply for channel 10 in June of 1958.  This time, the channel would remain in Terre Haute and compete with WTHI(which had planned to move to channel 2 after the awarding of channel 2 in St Louis after being moved from Springfield, Illinois).

 
1958 Financial Statement

For its license renewal filing WDAN-TV had to publically disclose its financial situation.  It appeared in the October 27, 1958 edition of Broadcasting-Telecasting.  It showed an earned surplus for the Northwestern Publishing Company as being $933,930.   That included not only WDAN-TV, but also WDAN Radio and the Commercial-News newspaper. 

Assets were listed as $431,673; fixed assets of $475,052; intangible assets of $360,581 and total assets of $1,274,277.  Liabilities were listed as being $251,347.  It appeared that even though the TV station probably wasn't a profit center, the other Northwestern properties were doing well.


ABC Sees Success by 1959

Even though it would be difficult to determine how much of the success of ABC would translate to WDAN-TV, the network appeared to be closing the gap between itself and the other major networks.  ABC's primary network affiliates had increased from 79 to 88 and brought ABC coverage to 86% of the country.  The network was increasing its daytime reach with “the largest block of programming ever started at one time.”  ABC was in 1959 covering the top 33 markets and was in 77 out of 100 markets.  Commercial hours sold increased from 27 a week in 1957 to 48 in 1958.  In 1960 ABC expanded its daytime schedule even further with programming beginning at 10am.  Things were looking up for ABC....but was it favoring WDAN-TV?

WDAN-TV Local Programming  

    
Banko
One of the first non-news/sports oriented programs produced by WDAN-TV was BANKO.  It was developed by William-Stanley Productions of Rockford, Illinois.    It had already been successful for six stations in six markets and had prospects for 20 more stations.  The show would include a local sponsor which would distribute BANKO cards to customers or to people who went to the business and requested one, as no purchase was required.   Similar to Bingo, it involved a studio audience as well as viewers at home.   The first ten people at home and a studio contestant would receive prizes from the participating sponsor. 

"Banko" on WDAN-TV was hosted by WDAN-TV sales manager and WDAN radio personality John Eckert.  Mr. Eckert described the show as operating similar to "Bingo" in that a board of rows of numbers under the heading of each letter in B-A-N-K-O.  Numbers were drawn and posted on the board, while a studio audience played along.  When an audience member filled his/her card, they would shout "BANKO" to win prizes from local sponsors.  People at home would play along with cards obtained by the local sponsor.  Hosting the show along with John was Darcy Frank, the daughter of a local businessman, Ed Frank.  Mr. Eckert remembered the sponsor of the show as Ed Fonner's Dry Cleaners. 


Meanwhile a legal challenge was made against the BANKO concept in the state of Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin attorney general had the opinion the William-Stanley product of BANKO violated the state's lottery laws.  That opinion was based on how WKBT in LaCrosse conducted the show.  That same opinion was also shared with the Sangamon County state's attorney in Springfield.  This brought about the dropping of BANKO from WICS there.   Although its not known if BANKO was dropped by WDAN-TV, notes in Broadcasting-Telecasting a couple of weeks later stated that WDAN-TV had picked up “Shadow Stumpers” from Brent Gunts Productions.  The silhouette guessing game may have replaced BANKO, then "Shadow Stumpers" may have been replaced later by the local production of  "What's in the Box."

     Almanac

"Almanac" was hosted by Honore Ronan and Max Shaffer and included a presentation of world news by Mr. Shaffer.  Ms. Ronan would present news and material concerning women's issues and interviews with local residents and personalities.  This WDAN-TV feature would air at 5:15pm preceding the local newscast in 1955.  It was later discontinued as the local newscast was moved to 6pm and reduced to 15-minutes.   It seems "Almanac" was replaced by "Birthday Parade."


     Birthday Parade
 
"The details of "Birthday Parade" are sketchy, but I think the names explains it well.  Like the local birthday column in the newspaper, this 15 minute feature included the names and birthday wishes of local viewers and perhaps local items as well.   It's assumed it was hosted by Honore Ronan.

     Tots and Teen Time


Hosted by Catherine Cromwell, “Tots and Teen Time” also called “Teen Time” featured the talents of local teenagers of the Danville area.  It was seen on alternate Thursdays at 9pm.  The show also included record pantomiming by the local group “Teen Tuners” and a dance production by the Cromwellettes.  Even though the Cromwell shows were considered entertainment, they were also infomercials for the dance studio owned and operated by Ms. Cromwell. 


      Local Sports Coverage


The name of Max Shaffer for years in the Danville area represented local sports.  He spearheaded local coverage of high school football and basketball on WDAN Radio for years.  During the days of WDAN-TV he would also be the face of local high school sports on local television.  He would anchor the local sportscasts on weekdays, as well as do radio play by play for WDAN Radio.  He would also host the post game sports scores on WDAN Radio and WDAN-TV on late night Fridays and Tuesdays after high school basketball.

     What's in the Box?

Game shows were all over the TV schedules during the 1950s' and early 1960's.  “What's in the Box?” was locally produced and was a local advertising vehicle for Fonners Dry Cleaners in Danville.  In fact, the show was hosted by the owner of the business, Ed Fonner.   It would challenge local residents to bring in something from home to go into the box, and would be unknown by a panel of station employees.  They would ask questions and after negative response, the contestant would rack up a few dollars cash or some merchandise.  The concept was similar to “Twenty Questions” with a local twist. 


     Danville Bandstand

In 1959, WDAN-TV would broadcast “Danville Bandstand.”  Like many other local television stations around the country, and like the other local stations, WICS, WTVP and WCIA, WDAN-TV would begin to broadcast its own local dance program, based on ABC's “American Bandstand.”  “Danville Bandstand” would be hosted by WDAN Radio announcer Jack Singleton.  Invitations would go to local high school organizations and other groups throughout the area.  The broadcasts would include representatives from the Danville Youth Center, Oakwood High School, Schlarman High School and from the Teen Center at the Elks Lodge Number 147. 

The “Danville Bandstand” was sponsored each week by the local 7-Up Bottling Company and Thomas Music Shop, a local music store.  The local dance program aired on Thursdays, 5-5:30pm and would follow the broadcast of ABC's “American Bandstand” on Channel 24.



(top left): The first of two snapshots of an actual WDAN-TV broadcast. 
This was "Danville Bandstand" and this particular
show features Olav Christensen singing live on "Danville Bandstand."
This was taken around 1960 before the station was sold to
Plains Television Partnership and became WICD-TV, Channel 24.

(bottom left):  Olav(right) is pictured with the host of "Danville Bandstand"
Jack Singleton.

(photos courtesy of Olav Christensen)



Local Advertising Clients

For details on the early advertisers on WDAN-TV, we asked former sales manager John Eckert to name a few.  His recollections include some of the Danville areas most well known old businesses of the 1950's-60's.  The list includes:  Kamp Music Store owned by John Norman; Thomas Music and Gladys Thomas; Jules Strauss a women's clothing store; Snider's Cotton Shop; The Fashion, another women's clothing store; along with the major Danville Auto Dealers, McAleer Buick, Barkman Chevrolet, Noble Motor Company (Ford), Shepard Lincoln-Mercury and Taylor Brothers Oldsmobile Cadillac.

        


        


     3     


"The Frank Sinatra Show" aired from 1957-1958 on ABC.  This variety hour shown here is a "special" sponsored by Timex Watches and featured the guests Dean Martin (from the Rat Pack), Bing Crosby and others.  Mr. Sinatra's back up was one of his best  with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.
This particular installment was recorded on October 18, 1958 on the new video tape medium.  Incidently, one of the major developers of video recording on magnetic tape was Bing Crosby and Ampex.


"Zorro" was produced by Disney and  aired on ABC from 1957 to 1959.  It starred Guy Williams as Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro), George Lewis, Britt Lomond, Gene Sheldon and Henry Calvin.

Henry Calvin had a hit record of the title song from the series in 1958.



(Videos from You Tube and may be withdrawn without notice at any time)

"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" aired on ABC  from 1952 through 1966.  It began before WDAN-TV went on the air....and continued long after WDAN-TV ceased to be.

This episode was from around New Years of 1959 and was a repeat of a previous episode.  It was produced with a new intro/outro.  It was sponsored by Kodak.   Even though it was seen live from ABC on WDAN-TV, a self contained film version of the same episode would appear later on WCIA containing the original commercials.

      


                 


      


"77 Sunset Strip" was the original in a long lineup of "hip" detective series all produced by Warner Brothers for ABC.  This one starred Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith, Edd Byrnes(as "Kookie" who became a teenage idol), and Louis Quinn.  Taking place in Hollywood, it guest starred a bevy of other WB contract players of the time and spawned a bunch of spin-offs including those listed here.  77 Sunset Strip ran on ABC from 1958 to 1964.  It ended it's run after WDAN-TV became WICD-TV in July of 1960.


"The Real McCoys" was developed by Irving and Norman Pincus and financed by Danny Thomas Productions.  Originally turned down by NBC, this was the beginning of "rural comedies" having been blasted by the critics, this became a long running hit for ABC.

 It ran from 1957 to 1963 on ABC as a first run, but later moved to CBS, where it also ran in reruns.  It starred Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna, Kathleen Nolan and during the final season Butch Patrick(The Munsters).  Obviously, it ran on WDAN-TV only through July of 1960 with the ownership/network change.



"The Patti Page Olds Show" was sponsored by Oldsmobile and aired on ABC from September 1958 to March of 1959.  It was a half-hour live musical variety show.  It aired on Wednesdays from 8:30pm CT from September to November 1958.  In December 1958 it was moved to Mondays 9-9:30pm where it would air through March of 1959.

Here is  a kinescope of the show.


Schedule of Programming on WDAN-TV, Channel 24 for September 6, 1960
1:30pm sign-on
1:30pm Love That Bob  off network syndicated to network sit com
2:00pm Day in Court  courtroom reinactiments
3:00pm Beat the Clock  stunts, game show
3:30pm Who Do You Trust  game show hosted by Johnny Carson/Ed McMahon
4:00pm American Bandstand  record hop hosted by Dick Clark
4:30pm Danville Bandstand- local,  with host, Jack Singleton
5:00pm Danville Bandstand-part 2
5:45pm Cartoon Time- syn cartoons
6:00pm News
6:05pm Weather
6:15pm ABC News with Don Goddard 


6:30pm Flash Gordon-syndicated movie sci-fi serial
7:00pm Honeymooners-syndicated off network CBS sit com
7:30pm Sugarfoot  western, starring Will Hitchins
8:30pm unknown
9:30pm Colt .45  western
10:00pm Alcoa Theater-syndicated off network drama NBC
10:30pm Ilka Chase Show-syndicated off network 15 min variety show CBS

ABC Network progrmming is indicated in bold and underlined

Note: Even after the purchase of WDAN-TV, Plains continued to operate the station as an ABC affiliate for several months as most local programming continuing as part of the regular schedule.  This was occurring with this program schedule.

(from the Commercial-News)





WCHU, Channel 33, Champaign
Meanwhile in Champaign-Urbana

It was inevitable Plains Television would have to expand its footprint in central Illinois. For Springfield expansion would involve a new tower/transmitter which would come in 1958.  That wasn't enough, a huge area of east central Illinois became the new battlefield.  It wasn't enough that WCIA was infringing on the Springfield market even with grade B coverage, as WICS didn't even touch Champaign-Urbana.  It fact it hardly touched Decatur.  Plains Television and WICS would need to add the households of Champaign-Urbana, Mattoon, Charleston and Danville into its fold.  That would require a second TV station, a full powered station located in the back yard of WCIA.

On September 25, 1956 Plains Television applied for a full powered TV station to operate at channel 21 which would have 200kw power output from a tower/antenna of 650-feet.  It would be located near White Heath, Illinois.  This proposed station would have enough signal to blanket both Decatur and Champaign with a city grade signal, with a grade B signal for Danville, Mattoon, Charleston and perhaps even Bloomington-Normal. 

This proposed station would never be.  It was never acted on for unknown reasons, but it did begin an idea which would later become Champaign-Urbana's first UHF station.  Later the application would be changed to apply for channel 33. 

As described in much greater detail in the History of WICS, channel 33 would not become a full powered TV station.  Plains Television along with the Balaban brothers were busy purchasing other broadcast properties at the same time, so the lack of capitol probably wasn't the cause of the downgrading of the channel 33 facility.  Instead the building of a television station with “lesser facilities” would take place in 1958-1959. 

By “lesser facilities” the plan would downgrade the power output of what would become WCHU from a proposed 200kw to 5.5kw, and instead of a 650-foot antenna, it would be more like 150-feet.  All of a sudden the signal of this proposed east central Illinois property would decrease from a 50 mile radius to 15 miles.


In November of 1958 the construction would begin with a completion date of  April 24, 1959 when WCHU went on the air from the Inman Hotel in Champaign, to broadcast the off-air signal of WICS, static and all.  More details of the shaky start of WCHU is included in the History of WICS.


NBC for Champaign-Urbana, but not much more

Before WCHU, NBC programming in east central Illinois was seen on WCIA.  Channel 3 had picked up a secondary affiliation with the network along with its primary affiliation of CBS.  This would monopolize the two strongest broadcast networks for WCIA.  WCIA would air an occasional NBC program such as “Dragnet,” “Grouch Marx-You Bet Your Life,” “Colgate Comedy Hour,” “Your Hit Parade” and other special events from 1953 to 1958.   It was also WCIA's only source of color programming outside of a very rare CBS color presentation during that period.  WCIA had converted to broadcast color from network programming in 1955, now with the loss of NBC would not be able to “show off” to central Illinois color TV viewers on a regular basis. 

This was also bad news to other east central Illinois NBC viewers. Unless you lived in the very near proximity of Champaign, you would lose NBC programming.  It was also, temporally bad news for those who invested in color televisions throughout the entire area, as WCHU would not broadcast NBC color until 1961.  Realistically, though, its likely the color quality was less than perfect, since Channel 33 would still be re-broadcasting the over the air signal of WICS.  That additional step in the broadcast chain may have distorted the signal of WCHU enough to smear any kind of acceptable color video. 

It's pretty obvious now that the lessening of the facility of WCHU was a mistake by Plains Television.  This would position the station as the weaker less relevant station in the market, a stigma which would be attached to WCHU and later WICD for decades.

More on the WCHU and WICD partnership in Part 2





(Above): Urbana Courier newspaper ad promoting the news and entertainment lineup of WCHU, Channel 33.  It includes the local newscast of the  "Dunkel-Eaton Report" as produced from the studios of both WICD, Channel 24 in Danville and WCHU, Channel 33 in Champaign.







WICD, Channel 24, Danville


Plains TV Enlarges it's Footprint Again


Nearby Danville had another UHF television station.  From a competitive standpoint, it appeared that Gannett was not able to make money from Channel 24.  Costs were already reduced by a power decrease when other stations were seeking power increases.  In spite of that, an attempt was made to at least maintain the status of the station as a somewhat successful property, would take the station into the late 1950's and the very early 1960's.  Local programming was still being produced, the daytime schedule was expanding along with the daytime schedule of ABC.  Syndicated programming choices were few as the purchase of that alternative program source added expense. 

It's unknown why Gannett didn't just turn it off and let it go dark.  Instead a buyer was found in the form of Plains Television.  The station would be sold to Plains for a minimum price, then a lease arrangement would allow Channel 24 to stay at the original location. 

The plan was for Plains Television to add another east central Illinois television station to its chain of WICS and WCHU.  It would satisfy those area NBC viewers who lost network service because of Channel 33's lack of signal, and increase the number of households claimed as being served by the signal of WICS.





The Sale of WDAN-TV


Earlier we asked the question; “Things were looking up for ABC....but was it favoring WDAN-TV?”   We would never know the answer as Channel 24 would be be sold by the renamed Gannett Publishing to Plains Television Corporation for a mere $75,000.  As part of the sales agreement, Plains would continue to lease the space at 1500 North Washington in Danville for $1,500 a month.  Plains Television also owned WICS in Springfield and WCHU in Champaign in mid Illinois and the plans were to create a regional network of NBC stations utilizing the signal of Channel 24.


With this edition of TV Guide from September 15, 1952, WICD, Channel 24 was now listed in TV Guide.  WDAN-TV was never listed in the publication

(from TV Guide Collection of J.R. Evans)

On July 28, 1960, the FCC approved the transfer of the license of Channel 24 from Gannett to Plains Television.  Along with the transfer, the call letters of WDAN-TV were changed to WICD(TV).  In late August of 1960, John Begue who had previously held various positions in programming and sales at WICS in Springfield was appointed station manager of WICD(TV).   The national representative of Young Television Corporation was chosen to represent WICD to regional and national advertisers.

Programming of WICD would be obtained by rebroadcasting the already re-broadcasted signal of WCHU from WICS.  Local programming would continue at least for a time with the continuation of a local newscast and local commercials.  The network affiliation would change to NBC.

WDAN-TV and ABC to WICD(TV) and NBC

Channel 24 was slightly less than a full power TV station, but had nearly 3 times the power output of WCHU.  It also included an antenna atop a tower at near 400 feet, compared to the 50 foot mast on a six story hotel.  The signal of the new WICD would put at least a watchable signal of NBC programming into nearby communities of Hoopeston, Paris, Georgetown, Catlin, Covington and Veedersburg. 

WICD would continue to originate at least some local programming including local news, and local commercials.  The big difference was the re-broadcast of WCHU in regards to some locally produced programming and syndicated programming from WICS.  All in all, it was a logistical nightmare, even with today's technology.   During the broadcast of St. Louis Cardinal Baseball from the Cardinal network, viewers would often see station Id's run back to back because of the slowness of local control room operators.  Since the baseball game was originated by KSD-TV, the station ID”s would air like, “Your watching KSD-TV, St. Louis....WICS, Channel 20 Springfield....WCHU, Channel 33 Champaign....WICD, Channel 24 Danville.”  After the many re-broadcasts from each of the stations, you can only imagine the poor quality of video observed by viewers of Channel 24.

John Begue was appointed station manager of WICD(TV) in Danivlle (pictured above).  Even though, WCHU was able to transmit a color signal as received from WICS, WICD, Channel 24 was never able to transmit a color signal. 
















The WDAN-TV, WCHU(TV) and WICD(TV) Honor Roll                              Employees of each station
Here presented in no particular order are those
who have served at WDAN-TV, job descriptions/title,
dates

Robert J. Burow, general manager, 1953-1960
Max Shaffer, station manager, 1953-
John Eckert, sales manager, 1953-
Mary Kay Doan, admin, 1953-
Mary Samila, office mgr, 1953-
Bob Erickson, announcer, 1953-
Honore Ronan, prog director, 1953-
Gene Robinson, announcer, 1953-
Ted Magin, chief engineer, 1953-
Orville Neely, engineering, 1953-
Elwood Begley, engineering, 1953-
Larry Burroughs, announcer, 1953-
Al Stelk, projectionist, 1953-
Orlyn Dossey, engineering, 1953-
John Vance, engineering, 1953-
Bill Shoup, engineering, 1953-
Norlyn Dossey, engineering, 1953-
Gene Hackman, studio crew, 1953-
Bill Houpt, news, 1955-
Frank M. Williams, 1955-
Ralph Webber, news, 1955-
Ed Fonner, talent, 1959-
Mildred Engle, sales, 1955-
Catherine Cromwell, talent, 1959-
Jack Singleton, talent, 1959-
LaVerne White, engineering, 1958-
W. E. Hunt, engineering, 1958-
Bill Dorn, production director, 1954-
Kay Shake, administration, unknown


Here presented in no particular order are those
who have served at WCHU-TV, job descriptions/title,
dates


Work in progress....coming soon
Here presented in no particular order are those
who have served at WICD, job descriptions/title,
dates

John Begue, station mgr, 1960-
James Snyder, engineering, 1960-63
Wayne Cody, talent
Richard Donohue, engineering, 1960-68
Dave Boyer, engineering, 1960-2000


Work in progress....coming soon
* a contributor to this site
This list is by no means complete....  if you are or know a an employee, sales, administration, programming, news or creative services from any of the stations above ...drop me an e-mail.
Include that persons name, title or job description and approximate dates of employees, if you know.






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

Contributors:
Bob Lee for the vast majority of program titles screen grabs
WICS, Channel 20, Springfield
Cindy Larson and others at WICS
John Eckert
Olav Christensen
J.R. Evans
Neuhoff Broadcasting-Danville
Sangamon Broadcasting-Danville








Page 2 is next...

The History of WICD, Champaign, IL
  Page 1
The WDAN-TV Years
  Page 2
The Plains TV, WCHU, WICD Years
  Page 3
The Plains TV, WICD, Channel 15 Years
  Page 4
The Plains TV Years, 1978-1994
  Page 5
The Sinclair Years
  Page 6
Digital TV Years
  Page 7 The Final Years and Demise of WICD



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Bonus Material

A reproduction of an actual WDAN-TV broadcast log of
January 2nd, 1958
Program and Operating Log WDAN-TV---Channel 24
Scheduled Time
Program and Sponsor
SPR
(x)
F.I.
Time
On
Time
Off
Type
Video
Audio
Remarks

Tone & TP
x

9am
2:59:30
LC
SL
ET
H.W. Shoup on log at 9am
2:59/30pm
SIGN ON


2:59/30
3:00:00
LSA
SL
ET
H.W. Shoup
off log at 3pm
Laverne White on 3pm
3:00
AMERICAN BANDSTAND


3:00
3:29:30
M
ABC
ABC

3:29/30
Public Service


3:29/30

NCSA
FILM
SOF

3:29/50
Station ID


3:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

3:30
DO YOU TRUST YOUR WIFE


3:30
3:44/30 Q
ABC
ABC

3:44/30
Pat Boone Promo


3:44/30

LSA
SL
ET

3:44/50
Station ID


3:44/50

LSA
SL
ET

3:45
DO YOU TRUST YOUR WIFE


3:45
3:59/30
Q
ABC
ABC

3:59/30
O.S.S. Promo


3:59/30

LSA
SL
ET

3:59/50
Station ID


3:59/50

LSA
SL
ET

4:00
AMERICAN BANDSTAND


4:00
4:13/50
M
ABC
ABC

4:13/40
Thursday Night Promo


4:13/50

LSA
SL
ET

4:14/50
Station ID


4:14/50

LSA
SL
ET

4:29/30
Circus Boy Promo


4:29/30

LSA
SL
ET

4:29/50
Station ID


4:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

4:30
AMERICAN BANDSTAND


4:30
4:59/30
M
ABC
ABC

4:59/30
Zorro Promo


4:59/30

LSA
SL
ET

4:59/50
Station ID


4:59/50

LSA
SL
ET

5:00
WOODY WOODPECKER (KELLOGG)
X

5:00
5:29/30
CH
ABC
ABC

5:29/30
Real McCoy Promo


5:29/30a

LSA
SL
ET

5:29/50
Station ID


5:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

5:30
MICKEY MOUSE CLUB (BRISTOL MYERS & GEN FOODS)
X

5:30
5:59/30
CH
ABC
ABC

5:59/30
Traffic Safety


5:59/30

NCSA
SL
ET

5:59/50
Station ID


5:59/50

LSA
SL
ET

page 2









6:00
NEWS(Woodbury's)
x

6:00
6:05/20
N
CA
Studio

6:05
SPORTS(Barkman's)
(c)

6:05/20
6:10
SP
CA
Studio

6:10
WEATHER


6:10
6:14
W
CA
Studio

6:14/30
Movie Promo


6:14

LSA
SL
ET

6:14/50
Baker Transfer ID
x

6:14/40

LSA
SL
ET

6:15
JOHN DALY & NEWS


6:15/05
6:25
N
ABC
ABC

6:25
JOHN DALY & NEWS


6:25
6:29
N
ABC
ABC

6:27
Meis Bros
x

6:27

LCA
CA
Studio


Modern Dry Clnrs
x

6:29



ET

6:29/30
NARB Promo




NCSA
SL
ET

6:29/50
Station ID


6:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

6:30
CIRCUS BOY (MARS) x

6:30
6:59/30
CH
ABC
ABC

6:59/30
Pat Boone Promo


6:59/30

LSA
SL
ET

6:59/50
Station ID


6:59/50

LSA
SL
ET

7:00
ZORRO (SEVEN UP)
x

7:00
7:29/30
V
ABC
ABC

7:29/30
NARTB Promo


7:29/30

NCSA
SL
ET

7:29/50
Station ID


7:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

7:30
THE REAL MCCOYS (SYLVANIA)
x

7:30
7:59/15 V
ABC
ABC

7:29/30
Interstate Bakeries
x
7:59/15

LCA
FILM
SOF

7:59/50
Barkman ID
x

7:59/50

LCA
SL
ET
off 8:00 Lavern White
W.E. Hunt on log 8:00pm
8:00
PAT BOONE CHEVY SHOWROOM (CHEVROLET)
x

8:00/15
8:29/30
M
ABC
ABC

8:29/30
Barkman's
x

8:29/30

LCA
SL
ET

8:29/50
Station ID


8:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

8:30
O.S.S. (Anacin)
x

8:30
8:59/30
V
ABC
ABC

8:59/30
Walter Winchell Promo


8:59/30

LSA
SL
ET

8:59/50
Station ID


8:59/50

LSA
SL
ET

page 3









9:00
NAVY LOG (Anacin)
x

9:00
9:29/30
DOC
ABC
ABC

9:29/30
Traffic Safety


9:29/30

NCSA
SL
ET

9:29/50
Station ID


9:29/50

LSA
SL
ET

9:30
STAGE 24


9:30
10:53
M
FILM
SOF

9:45
Movie Break
Pen-Bar Mfg Co.
x

9:45
9:46/15
LCA
SL
ET

10:00
Movie Break
WDAN-TV Promo


10:03
10:04
LSA
SL
ET

10:15
Movie Break
WDAN-TV Promo


10:29
10:30
LSA
SL
ET

10:44/30
WDAN New(sic) Promo


10:53

LSA
SL
ET

10:45
SIGN OFF


10:53/30

LSA
SL
ET

10:45/30
STAR SPANGLED BANNER


10:54
1058/20
LSA
FILM
SOF
W.E. Hunt off log 10:54/20





















ABBREVIATIONS: M-Music, V-Variety, CH-Children, Q-Quiz, RE-Religious, AG-Agriculture, ED-Education, N-News, Dis-Discussion, T-Talk, SP-Sports, NBC-National Broadcasting Company, CBS-Columbia Broadcasting System, DUM-DuMont Television Network, ABC-American Broadcasting Company, LS-Local Sustaining, LC-Local Commerical, NC-National Commerical, C-Commercial, S-Sustaining, FI-Film Identification, SI-Silent Film, SOF-Sound on Film, A-Annoucement, ET-Electrical Transcription, R-Record, SL-Slide, CA-Camera, LA-Live Announcement, NEMO-Remote Pickup, K-Kinescope, SA-Spot Announcement, NCSA-Public Serivce Spot, P-Participating

Notes on the above:
1. American Bandstand-seems to have 2 separate parts, one running from 3-3:30pm, then the second part from 4-5pm.
2. Do You Trust Your Wife-starred a young Johnny Carson with Ed McMahon on a comedy quiz show.(see "Who Do You Trust?" above)
3. Woody Woodpecker-the cartoon half hour hosted by creator Walter Lantz.
4. Mickey Mouse Show-from Disney
5. 15 minutes of local news followed by ABC news with John Daly, host of CBS game shows like "What's My Line"  It's unknown who the news, sports and weather anchor(s) were.  Anyone know for sure???
6. Circus Boy-starred Mickey Braddack, who later changed his name to his real last name of Dolenz.  Mickey Dolenz was a member of the "The Monkees" during the late 1960's.  His daughter is the actress Amy Dolenz.  Later in 1958, Circus Boy was replaced by "Leave it to Beaver."
7. Zorro-another Disney production
8. The Show "O.S.S." is probably a WWII documentary.  The next show "Navy Log" was a government produced documentary from WWII and ran on ABC.
9. Stage 24 was the theme title of the nightly movie.  It's unknown what the movie was as it was not indicated on the program log.
10. Notice the lack of local commercials.  Many station breaks, were filled with short promos or PSA's.  Also notice that station breaks were only 30-seconds long!

The actual program log above is now property of the Vermilion County Museum.



Page 2 is next...

The History of WICD, Champaign, IL
  Page 1
The WDAN-TV Years 1953-1959
  Page 2
The WCHU, WICD Years 1959-1966
  Page 3
WICD, Channel 15 Early Years, 1967-1978
  Page 4
WICD, The Plains TV Years, 1978-1994
  Page 5
An Era of Change for WICD, 1995-2004
  Page 6
The WICD ABC Years 2005-2015


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updated 12/1/2016
web master:  Doug Quick
copyright © 2001-2016  Doug Quick