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The History of WICS, Springfield
  Page 1
The First 10 Years, 1953-1964
  Page 2
Moving to Cook Street and Becoming Full Color 1965-1978
  Page 3
Plains Television to Guy Gannett, 1978-1994
  Page 4
NBC and from Guy Gannett to Sinclair, 1995-2004
  Page 5
The ABC Years/HD, 2005-present

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WICS, Channel 20, Springfield, Illinois: Part 1

The First 10 Years of Channel 20

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, "Pictures on the Prairie: The First Ten Years of Mid Illinois Television"

The Quest for Channel 2

In April of 1952 it appeared that Springfield, Illinois would be assigned allocations for VHF channel 2 along with UHF channels 20 and 26. Channel 26 would be set aside for educational television broadcasting with a plan which that was yet to be determined.

It didn't take long for the allocation for VHF channel 2 to be assigned before an application was filed in June of 1952. The owner/operator for WTAX AM/FM applied for the lone VHF allocation and proposed Springfield's first television station. Sangamon Valley Broadcasters proposed a station operating with a power of 100kw from a 521-foot tower at the studio location a quarter of a mile north of the intersection of Bypass US-66 and Illinois Route 29. This was the location of the transmitter/tower of WTAX AM/FM. 

The construction cost of the station was set at $331,275 with a first year operating cost of $325,000. The application described the use of a DuMont transmitter and an RCA antenna. The applicant also projected the first year revenue of $370,000. The ownership of the proposed station consisted of O.J. Keller who would own 32.5% of the TV property; F.M. (Merrill) Lindsey Jr., would own 27.5% of the TV property; H.B. Bartholf who would own 3.7%, Ernest L. Ives would own 2.5% and Adlai E. Stevenson would own 2.5%.

One of the owners of the proposed TV property would dispose of his interest in the proposed channel 2. Adlai Stevenson already owned 25% in the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph newspaper and WJBC AM/FM under the name of the Bloomington Broadcasting Corporation. By early August, Mr. Stevenson decided to sell off his share of Sangamon Valley Broadcasting TV as he felt it was improper as a presidential candidate at the time. The ownership of WTAX AM/FM would pick up his share of the TV station. That ownership included Mr. Stevenson's sister Elizabeth S. Ives; his brother-in-law Ernest L. Ives and Ives' son Timothy Read Ives whose share increased from 2.5 to 7.5%.

In July of 1952, WCBS Inc. would file for channel 2 with a proposed station operating at 6.11kw with an RCA transmitter from an RCA antenna atop a 426-foot tower located at 3000 South Fourth Street in south Springfield. (The call letters of WCBS were changed in 1946 to WCVS, but the name of the Illinois State Journal-Register owned company, WCBS, Inc remained through much of the 1950's.) WCVS radio operated a transmitter for its radio station at that same address. The estimated construction cost was set at $125,058, with first year operating cost at $134,370 and the revenue was projected to be $150,000. The principal owners of the proposed WCVS television station were Harold L. Dewing at 25%; A.W. Shipton at 1% and L.G. Pefferle at 25%. It's assumed the remaining shares were made up of a variety of other local investors. In just a matter of weeks, this application would be withdrawn and filed again with an application for channel 20. (see below)

During the same week as the WCVS application came one from WMAY-TV Inc. operators of another Springfield radio station. This proposal like the one from WTAX was certainly more ambitious that the WCVS application. This proposal included a television station with the maximum VHF power at channel 2 at 100kw from an antenna 550-feet. The construction cost was stated to be $383,594 with first year operating cost at $325,000 with a rather high revenue projection at $385,000. The company office address was listed at 504 East Monroe Street in Springfield with a studio location giving at 101 South Fifth Street. The tower and RCA transmitter was to be located near U.S. 54 about 7 miles north east of Springfield and mile south of Spaulding, Illinois. This was the existing site of the WMAY Radio transmitter and it's multi-tower array.

The principals of the WMAY-TV group included Gordon Sherman at 20.6%; Melvin Feldman at 15%; Syl Binkin at 12.1%; Robert Weiner at 12.1%; Edward J. Barrett at 10%, Sherrill C. Corwin at 10%; Edward G. Burke Jr. at 10% and Ralph E. Stolkin at 10%. Little did that group or for that matter the WTAX group know that their quest for channel 2 would be one of the most expensive, controversial television assignments ever and would even come up before the U.S. Supreme Court!

Springfield's First Television Station

In early August of 1952, Great Plains Television Properties Inc. applied for Channel 20 in Springfield, Illinois. This would be the first filing for the UHF allocation for the capitol city. Great Plains would propose a UHF station operating at 18kw from a tower 355-feet tall located one mile south-east of Springfield. The station would cost $214,900 to construct, and would cost $125,000 during its first year of operation and collect revenue of $125,000 also during its first year. The technical aspects of Channel 20 would include a DuMont transmitter and an RCA transmitter. The ownership of the proposed station consisted of an out-of-town real estate investment group consisting of Herbert Scheftel, Alfred G. Burger and Stuart S. Scheftel. The applicant was a part of the Transcontinental Properties Inc., a real estate company located in New York in which Scheftel and Burger each had 25%.

The application from Great Plains wasn't the only one for Springfield's channel 20 as the one for WCBS Inc. would be modified from its original application for channel 2 and changed to request channel 20. WCBS Inc. 

The WCBS Inc. application proposed a station operating at 19.45kw from a tower 426-feet. The construction cost of that proposed facility was set as $125,058, with first year operation costing $134,370. Their revenue was projected at $150,00, a little more ambitious than that of Great Plains. 

The address of the company was listed as 523 East Capitol Avenue in Springfield which was to serve as the studio/office location. The transmitter was proposed for 3000 South Fourth Street just south of Springfield at the site of the WCVS Radio tower. Its transmitter and tower were both listed as coming from RCA.

Even though the two groups competing for channel 20 could have tied up the granting process for quite some time it appears that some kind of “an arrangement” was made between Great Plains and WCBS, Inc. to have WCBS, Inc withdraw its application. That arrangement was hinted at in an engineering document penned by former chief engineer of WICS, Gerald Merritt, when he told of the radio station leaving the shared space of WICS and WCBS after the “dissolution of their (WCBS, Inc.) interest in WICS.” Part of that agreement may have also including the leasing of space by WICS at the WCVS studio and transmitter site.

The application filed by Great Plains would list the proposed television station transmitter as being at the WCVS transmitter site with the antenna being atop the WCVS tower. The proposed TV antenna would replace a mast which held the WCVS-FM antenna atop the same tower. The granting of the television station to either applicant (WCBS, Inc. or Great Plains) spelled doom to the FM radio station operating on the frequency of 102.9 MHz (channel 275). 

In March of 1953, the FCC would grant channel 20 to the newly named Plains Television Company.  The company was renamed to include the addition of the Balaban brothers as equal shareholders in the company.  This would make Plains Television the first non-local television station owner in mid Illinois. It was the same week channel 3 was granted to Midwest Television Inc..

By June 17, 1953 the antenna for the FM station was removed to be replaced by a television antenna. Soon after the license for WCVS-FM was turned back into the FCC and the FM station would go dark. The FM channel would be picked up by WSOY Radio in Decatur, Illinois and become WSOY-FM.

(above left): The base of the original WCVS tower as it is today.  It was used as the initial support of the WICS broadcast antenna in 1953.
(above right): A picture of the WCVS/WFMB tower as it is today.  The top mast from 1953-1958 was the antenna of WICS, Channel 20 until a tower/transmitter site was developed in 1958.

The picture above from the Journal Register, mid September 1953 included the following caption:  "WICS, Springfield's first television station, soon will be telecasting its test pattern on channel 20.  The 50 foot long, 3000 pound antenna has been checked by RCA engineers and barring high winds, is expected to be raised to it's lofty perch atop the WCVS radio tower today.  The overall height of the tower when the TV antenna is anchored in place with be 420 feet.  With this height it is expected that WICS, channel 20 will cover an area of about 35 miles in all directions from the antenna...." left: from the Springfield Journal-Register:
WICS, City's First TV, Will Try Out Pattern Today
"Springfield's first television station --WICS--goes on the air today.  Bazil O'Hagen, chief engineer, said the flipping of the switch that will usher in the local TV age will take place "about noon or a little earlier."  The new antenna and transmitter equipment attached to the tower of radio station WCVS in the 3300 block of S. Fourth St. was tested last night and found to be in excellent working order, he said."
"Actual telecasting was reserved for today.  TV owners, whose sets have been converted to ultra high frequency, will pick up a black grey and white pattern featured like the fan for an automobile radiator.  Heavy dark letters will identify the design as the test pattern for WICS, Springfield."
"The station will be telecasting over channel 20 with a power of 18,000 watts.  O'Hagen said the test pattern will be transmitted at intervals for "several days" before a regular schedule of transmission is worked out."
"The test pattern permits engineers of the federal communication commission to check the station's operation and also gives TV owners a chance to have their sets adjusted  for best reception."
"The station plans to begin telecasting regular programs within three weeks.  Persons with converted sets have already had a look at one U.H.F. station, WTVP and reception has been reported very good."

(Above): This ad in the Springfield Illinois State Journal stated that WICS was Springfield's first television station...but it could have been the first to go out of business, if Springfield's second television station would have gone on the air....

(above):  WICS promotions manager and weathercaster John Begue with an advertising sign with information about the new Springfield TV station.  It states that the station will offer a "crystal clear, interference free, easy tuned" signal.  It also reads "WICS Television 20, First in Springfield"

It's interesting to note that it would be 25 years before the second TV station went on the air in the capitol city. There was an expectation that channel 2 would be assigned making it the second signal in Springfield.  The allocation of channel 2 was instead moved to St. Louis and became KTVI in 1957...

The sign also says, "affiliated with the nation's top television networks NBC, CBS, ABC, DuMont.  Drama, Comedy, Variety, News, Sports, Weather."   As competition grew between central Illinois' TV stations, that goal of offering programs from all of the networks began to wain.  Eventually, WICS would become a primary NBC affiliate with occasional ABC programs.
(right): Fans Agog as WICS Gets Set to Televise Series Games
from the Springfield Journal-Register 1953

"Although New York and Brooklyn are more than a thousand miles away, world series fever spurred by the prospect of bright and clear TV, mounted in Springfield yesterday.

"Not since the St. Louis Cardinals took on the Boston Red Sox in 1956 have city residents looked forward to a series with such gusto as is evident this year. Since 1946 the farthest west the series has reached was Cleveland in 1948 with the Boston Braves providing the opposition. But this year Springfield residents with their own station WICS-TV carrying the classic will be able to follow the play by eye as well as by ear.  Installation of the huge microwave transmission tower on top of the Bell Building at 422 S. Fifth was completed yesterday linking Springfield with the national microwave coaxial cable network.

Engineers at WICS-TV completed their testing yesterday and everything was reported in tip top shape. John Begue, promotion director for the station, said everything went off “real well” including the camera rehearsal at the Leland office building studios where the local portion of the World Series program will originate.  The station will go on the air with the series at 11:30am minus pomp and fanfaire. Formal opening ceremonies, if any, will be postponed until Monday when the station begins it's daily programming.

Springfield's race to linkup with the microwave setup in time for the series has been duplicated in other cities in the state. Both Decatur and Rockford TV stations will also join up with the network today.

Meanwhile here a variety of office, clubroom and tavern “pools” welled up based on everything from the total runs per game to the total bases racked up by individual players.

There was the probability that Springfield will have an official representative at the opening game in the person of Mayor John E. MacWherter. The major, who has been attending a meeting of mayors in Canada, planned to return home through West Point to visit his son, Capt John B. MacWherter, who is an instructor at the U.S. Military academy.  From there he hoped to secure tickets for today's opener. The mayor, baseball fan fan for years, was reported neutral as far as this series is concerned.  However, another Springfield delegate, Lowell “Jonesey” Jones, the news-vendor, left town Monday for New York, with the well voiced intention to give his vocally for the Bums'.

(Left):   The sports director Bernie Waterman was the first WICS staff member on the air, with a pre-game show before the first World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  This was an "unofficial" preview broadcast  for WICS as the station would not "officially" sign on until October 1st.

The WICS ad in the Journal-Register about that first World Series Broadcast on September 30th, 1953.  It reads:
"All the action, All the Thrills, as the New York Yankees Battle the Brooklyn Dogers"

"See play by play coverage with Mel Allen and Red Barber on crystal clear Channel 20"

"See and hear Springfield's own Bernie Waterman on his pre-game and post-game shows as he analysis the World Series"

"Convert to UHF Channel 20 for the World Series"

Plains Television already had been granted permits in Little Rock, Arkansas with KETV(TV) as well as in Duluth, Minnesota with WFTV(TV) and in Sioux City, Iowa with KWTV(TV). The company was owned by two major entities one being a real estate company in New York and the other being the Balaban Brothers, Harry and Elmer.

Barney Balaban, brother of Harry and Elmer was the president of Paramount Pictures from 1936 to 1964. There were other Balaban brothers Abe, John and Max along with Barney who with Sam Katz formed Balaban and Katz owners of a number of Chicago movie theaters, including the famous Chicago Theater.

Harry and Elmer Balaban were running their own set of theaters, apart from the Balaban and Katz operation. Their theaters numbered around 40 at one time. The Balaban brothers (Harry and Elmer) would develop a number of broadcast properties beginning after World War II. Their company would gain notoriety as pioneering the concept of cable television and pay television during the 1940's and 50's. During the late 1940's and throughout the early 1960's the company would team with a group of real estate investors in Chicago and New York to apply for construction permits for television stations throughout the Midwest. The parent company of Plains Television was Transcontinental Properties. Among those stations, an application for channel 20 in Springfield, Illinois.

WICS Names a Leader

In July Milton D. Friedland, a former sales service manager at WBBM-TV, Chicago and national spot manager at WBKB(TV), Chicago was named General Manager of WICS, Channel 20, Springfield, Illinois.

Milton D. Friedland was born on July 17, 1920 in Nasville, Tennessee, but raised and educated in Chicago. He was a resident in Springfield beginning with his appointment as general manager of what would be WICS, Channel 20.

Mr. Friedland was a veteran of the United States Navy during World War II, serving from 1942 to 1945 with U. S. Naval Intelligence. He completed his education at Roosevelt University in Chicago and the University of Chicago.

He entered television in the very early commercial development of the industry and was on the staff at WBKB, then CBS Television from June of 1948 to 1953. He served as the administrative assistant to the general manager and as sales manager. By 1953 he was associated with WBBM-TV when he became general manager at WICS.

By the 1960's, Mr. Friedland was vice-president of Plains Television and general manager of WICS during which he would lead in the 1966-67 development of WICD, Channel 15 in Champaign.

Mr. Friedland was very active in broadcasting organizations having served as the Illinois Broadcasters Association as vice president for television and was a member of the board of directors. He had also been the chairman of its legislative committee and served on its program committee, was a frequent speaker to community groups in central Illinois and was a guest lecturer on television at the University of Illinois School of Communications. He was a contributing author of “Television Station Management” a text book on the subject, and was a member of the Broadcast Pioneers and the Chicago Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Springfield area civic organizations also benefited from his involvement. Mr. Friedland was also very active with various groups and served on many boards of organizations.

Milton D. Friedland-general manager of WICS
James K. Harelson-program manager and Bazil O'Hagen-chief engineer
Jack Hoskins-film director
John Begue-sales/promotion and weathercaster
Carroll W. Neeld-sales
Ken Spengler-sales
Frank Harbauer-sales
Bob Steffan-production mgr
Dick Ashenfelter-engineer
Helen Kimmer-executive secretary to the general mgr
Malden Jones-news editor/anchor
Edwin Pool-engineer
Jack Bowers-engineer
Gerald "Jerry" Merritt-studio supervisor
Bernice Warner-community director
Bernie Waterman-sports editor
Bette Muller-assistant to the film director

WICS Constructs a TV Station

It's difficult to determine just how committed the ownership of  WICS was in the Springfield property. There was a large uncertainty as to the future of the station even before it was to be built and signed-on. That uncertainty was caused by the Springfield allocation for channel 2.

Knowing that when the allocation for channel 2 was awarded, it would be difficult if not impossible for their UHF station to survive, it was hard to imagine Plains Television wanting to invest highly in the future of Channel 20. In later years they would feel financial pressure caused by WCIA and would fight tirelessly against Midwest Television. If Plains Television was so concerned about the damage of a VHF station 90 miles to the east, how would they ever compete against a VHF station in Springfield?

When the Illinois State Journal-Register featured a story about WICS going on the air, they described the station as “Springfield's first television station....” as if it was assumed there would be at least one other. The one other could have been locally owned WTAX-TV or WMAY-TV operating on channel 2. Investing in the success of WICS appeared to be a longshot.

Major network affiliation was certainly a key to a successful local TV station even without the threat of a VHF competitor. Many local TV stations existed on the network compensation to insure cash flow for a station.  Stations would struggle with weak local advertising sales, and low viewer ship because  most households didn't have TV. The most important key, though, was being a VHF channel. For what TV's were in use in 1953-54 were manufactured before the UHF band was set aside for local TV broadcasting. Being a UHF station decreased the number of potential viewers even further.

Receiving UHF broadcasts required a converter box which would act as an “add-on” tuner. Viewers would have to invest in the installation of another style of antenna and a separate stand of coax connecting the antenna to the converter box. It was no secret that the TV networks preferred those VHF stations for the reasons above as well as the fact they had vastly larger coverage areas also increasing the potential of having more viewers.

If Springfield was to gain a VHF station it would have surely been the choice of any network, and in this case probably would have been NBC. ABC had already affiliated with nearby Decatur and Bloomington, but as low powered UHF stations those ABC affiliates would not have had a number of significant viewers in Springfield.

WCIA had already affiliated with CBS and yet another CBS station in central Illinois would have brought too much overlap between the stations to insure market exclusivity for either station. If Channel 2 was to be an NBC station, that would have left ABC for WICS if it was to continue to exist at all. In later years as technology improved, and with the installation of new transmitters there would have been too much signal overlap between those ABC stations in order for all to exist at the same time. ABC would have had to pull its affiliation with one or two of the three stations. Independent TV stations, those without network affiliation, were rare in those early years.

With the possible threat of channel 2, the construction of a TV station on channel 20 began in the Illinois capitol city. Sharing facilities with WCBS (WCVS) Radio would help bring down the initial investment in the station. The items the radio and television stations couldn't share included the cameras, lights, video/audio switchers, transmitter-coax, office equipment and employees. What equipment that was purchased for the television station, if the worst was to occur in the future, could either be used at one of the companies others stations or sold on the open market.

Once the station would go on the air, it would continue to operate with a cloud of a potential huge competitor which would have brought Channel 20 down very quickly.

An explanation of the difference between VHF and UHF reception
(from Illinois State Journal)
The WICS control room at the Leland Hotel studios.  Pictured is Dick Ashenfelter at the controls.
(from Illinois State Journal)
WICS engineer Jack Bowers adjusts the lens on the of the early RCA cameras at the new station
( from Illinois State Journal)

WICS Goes On The Air as Springfield's First Television Station

Details of the construction of WICS are few, but then again, most of the visible construction was indoors. The studios and office space was within the walls of the downtown hotel annex, while the only visible construction took place at the WCVS Radio tower site. Newspaper accounts of the construction described the installation of the station's 50-foot, 3-thousand pound RCA antenna atop the WCVS Radio tower. The installation of the transmitter and antenna were said to give WICS a power of around 18,000 watts and a broadcast range of about 35 miles in all directions.

The technical aspects of the station was well documented by former chief engineer Gerald Merritt in the 1980's. His description of the station included the RCA transmitter as a TTU-1B, 1.0 kilowatt unit housed in a building separate from the WCBS transmitter at the base of the shared tower. The tower was a 430-foot self supporting tower located at 3000 South Fourth Street in south Springfield, also known as the suburb of Southern View. The top mounted antenna was an RCA being the model TFU-24DL a slot-type antenna which provided an effective radiated power of 18.2kw.

Along with the transmitter site, the studio and office facility would also be shared with WCVS. It was located at 523 E. Capitol in the Leland Hotel Annex Building. In 1955, WCVS would move from that site to relocated in a building at their transmitter site on South Fourth Street. WICS would fill the former radio studios and offices and the need for a much larger facility would be quickly obvious. The building housing WICS was described by Mr. Merritt as being very old with problems of access.

WICS was the second central Illinois station and officially signed-on September 30, 1953. Channel 20's first broadcast was that of the 1953 Major League Baseball World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The play by play of the World Series would be done by Mel Allen and Red Barber. Bernie Waterman, the station's first sportscaster would appear in a pre-game show from the WICS studios making that the first local TV production. Outside of a few taverns and bars which were equipped with television, very few homes received those initial broadcasts.

Newspaper accounts of those first days of broadcasting for WICS would include descriptions of the excitement of being able to watch a broadcast of a game which would take place over a thousand miles away. Installation of a huge microwave transmission tower and antenna on top of the Bell Building at 422 South Fifth Street in downtown Springfield would make the reception of the game live from the network possible. The installation of the link was completed in time for the initial broadcast from NBC and the national microwave coaxial cable network. A microwave link was also completed in time for WTVP in Decatur to receive live network coverage of the World Series at the same time.

The station would go on the air at 11:30am on September 30, 1953, without much in regard to “pomp and fanfare” delaying the opening ceremonies until the stations start of regular programming the next day.

On Monday, October first regular scheduled programming began with local news, weather, sports and a kinescope of “Captain Video” and “Dragnet.” “Captain Video” was from the DuMont network and “Dragnet” would come from NBC.

Malden Jones(left) the News Editor is with program manager James Herelson
(from Illinois State Journal)
In the film room at WICS is Bette Muller and Jack Hoskins.  Behind them is a film preview/editor
(from Illinois State Journal)
WICS logo 1957

The Challenge of Receiving Network Programming

With WICS going on the air when it did, it benefited greatly from the completion of a good part of the microwave transmission network which enabled it to broadcast live network programming. As stations before the live network hookup had to rely on only two sources of programming that being live in studio or film. Commercials and station promotional announcements would either be on TV Cards or slide photographs. The network hookup allowed for a much simpler way to broadcast network productions in much better quality than kinescopes or even 16mm film. At that time, the broadcast day took a great deal of planning and execution, especially with commercials which were produced live around program segments.

The main coax line was installed across western Illinois form Chicago passing through Peoria which appeared to feed both WEEK and WTVH, then ran along the Illinois River Valley to St. Louis. At some point along the run a tap was installed which would convert the video to a microwave video signal to be relayed to Springfield and further east to Decatur. WCIA in Champaign would receive its network signal from a tap in Danville as the coax ran from Chicago through Danville to Terre Haute and Evansville, Indiana. Later that tap would be eliminated to be changed to another coax between Terre Haute and St. Louis which came directly from the east coast.

The relay system relied on a series of small towers with two sided reflector/antenna structures at the top to receive, boost and re-transmit the signal along the way. Keep in mind the methodology, although good in theory, utilized vacuum-tube technology and probably brought nightmares of constant network dropouts and bad video. That's one reason why the reflectors at the top of the towers reflected the signal to antennas on the top of the tower shacks. The reflectors held no electronic components keeping all of the electronics on the ground for easier maintenance.

The bandwidth of the video signal was only able to broadcast a black and white signal and an upgrade of better repeaters would be needed to eventually broadcast color. The audio signal was received via phone lines, probably 8,000 hertz phone lines similar to what was used for network radio.  That audio was not yet considered "hi-fidelity."

WICS Begins to Telecast the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon 1954

(from TV Guide and the Doug Quick Collection)





(Above Video):  It appears that United Cerebral Palsy didn't really have a network set up like the MDA had for years.  Instead, they hired or contracted celebrities to make appearances at affiliated stations which would conduct their own telethons totally independent of other stations.  In the case of WICS, their celebrity was Jan Murray.  In the case of the videos above it was obviously a major market (with Bob Hope and Jack Webb).  What you'll see is a kinescope of how one major market station conducted the telethon.  I think you'll see just how much of what they did was totally off the cuff with little or no production. 
We would assume similar, if not worse, production values at the individual stations.   The above images were not seen on WICS, but are shown to illustrate how telethons looked in 1954.

(You Tube Video is from an outside source and
may be withdrawn without notice)

Schedule of Programming on WICS, Channel 20 for the week of June 11-17, 1954
Saturday, June 12, 1954

12:45 p  Baseball Warm-up (CBS)
1:00 p    Game of the Week (CBS)-Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Athletics from Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.  Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner.
4:00 p    Western Roundup-unknown program/source
5:00 p    Worlds Greatest Fighters-unknown program/source
5:30 p         to be announced
6:00 p    Mr. Wizard (NBC) "What is a Watt?" Don Herbert
6:30 p    Talent Patrol (ABC) Talent show among members of the armed forces
7:00 p    Bank on the Stars (NBC) game show hosted by Bill Cullen
7:30 p   Into the Night-unknown program/source
8:00 p   The Big Picture -armed forces documentary
8:30 p   Wrestling with Russ Davis- unknown source
9:00 p   Stars on Parade (DuMont) talent from the ranks of the armed forces, host Bobby Sherwood
9:30 p   Your Hit Parade (NBC)  [Lucky Strike Hit Parade]  cast performs top songs of the week
10:00 p Wrestling from Chicago-unknown source
11:20 p Late News

Sunday, June 13, 1954

12:00 pm Youth Wants to Know (NBC)- interviews conducted by teens
12:30 pm Frontiers of Faith (NBC) discussions sponsored by the National Council of Churches
1:00 pm   Men Toward the Light-unknown  program/source
1:30 pm   Film  2
2:00 pm   Concert Hall-program format/source unknown
2:15 pm   Nature of Things-program format/source unknown
2:30 pm   Christopher Story- Syndicated, religious
3:00 pm   American Forum (NBC) political discussion
4:00 pm   Film 2
4:30 pm   Better Living TV Theater (DuMont) documentary to promote US industry, hosted by Fischer Black
5:00 pm   Bar 20 Ranch- Local, format unknown
5:15 pm   Night Editor- Local, format unknown
5:30 pm   Meet Your Congress- Syn, political discussions
6:00 pm   Cisco Kid- Syndicated, western, starring Duncan Renaldo
6:30 pm   Play of the Week- unknown format/source
7:00 pm   On the Boardwalk (ABC)  musical variety hosted by Paul Whiteman
8:00 pm   Family Theater- unknown format/source
9:00 pm   Loretta Young Show (NBC) dramatic anthology series, hosted by Loretta Young
10:00 pm My Hero (NBC) sit com, starring Bob Cummings
10:30 pm  Weekly News Review-Local

Monday-Friday, June 11-17, 1954 sign-on to 7pm 1

2:15 pm  TV Kitchen- Local, hosted by Florence Pierce
2:45 pm  News Roundup
2:55 pm  Weather
3:00 pm  In the Kitchen- Local, hosted by Julie Craig
3:15 pm  Shopping with Julie- Local, hosted by Julie Craig
3:30 pm  On Your Account (NBC) game show, unknown host
4:00 pm  Pinky Lee Show (NBC) kids variety, hosted by Pinky Lee
4:30 pm  TV Kitchen- Local, hosted by Julie Craig
5:00 pm  Western Roundup-unknown program/source
5:45 pm   Down on the Farm- Local, farm report
6:00 pm  Captain Video (DuMont) kids sci-fi
6:15 pm  Marge and Jeff (DuMont) sit com
6:30 pm  News and Views-Local newscast
6:45 pm  Sports-Local, hosted by Bernie Waterman
6:55 pm  Weather-Local, with John Begue

Friday, June 11, 1954

7:00 pm  This is the Life- syn, religious dramatic anthology
7:30 pm   Gene Autry Show-syn, western
8:00 pm  The Big Story (NBC) dramatic anthology
8:30 pm  Pro and Con-unknown format/source
9:00 pm  Cavalcade of Sports (NBC) boxing
9:45 pm  Greatest Fights of the Century (NBC) boxing documentary
10:00 pm News Final
10:15 pm Weather-Frank Martin
10:20 pm Sports Roundup-Bernie Waterman
10:30 pm Sentinel Theater-Local, movie, unknown title

Monday, June 14, 1954

7:00 pm  Dollar a Second (DuMont) game, Jan Murray
7:30 pm  Paul Killiam Show-unknown format/source
7:45 pm  Hobby Time-unknown format/source
8:00 pm  Dennis Day Show (NBC) sit com, starring Dennis Day
8:30 pm  Badge 714 [Dragnet] syn, crime drama, starring Jack Webb 3
9:00 pm  Talent Parade-unknown format/source
9:30 pm  Who Said That? (NBC) game, hosted by Walter Kiernan
10:00 pm News Final
10:15 pm Weather-Frank Martin
10:20 pm Sports Roundup-Bernie Waterman

Tuesday, June 15, 1954

7:00 pm   Midwestern Hayride (NBC) country-western music variety, hosted by Willie Thall
7:30 pm  Arthur Murray Party (NBC) dance
8:00 pm   The Goldbergs (DuMont) sitcom, starring Gertrude Berg
8:30 pm   All Star Theater-unknown format/source
9:00 pm   Forum on Religion-religion, unknown format/source
9:30 pm   Your Senators Report- syn, political presentations
9:45 pm  Industry on Parade- syn, industrial documentary furnished by National Association of Manufactures
10:00 pm News Final
10:15 pm Weather-Frank Martin
10:20 pm Sports Roundup-Bernie Waterman

Wednesday, June 16, 1954

7:00 pm   I Married Joan (NBC) sit com, starring Joan Davis and Jim Backus
7:30 pm   Revolution in Music-unknown format/source
8:00 pm   Wrestling from Legion Stadium-unknown source
8:30 pm   Springfield on TV-Local, unknown format
9:00 pm   This is Your Life (NBC)  testimonial, hosted by Ralph Edwards
10:00 pm News Final
10:15 pm Weather-Frank Martin
10:20 pm Sports Roundup-Bernie Waterman

Thursday, June 17, 1954

7:00 pm   You Bet Your Life (NBC) game, hosted by Groucho Marx
7:30 pm   Hopalong Cassidy- syn, western, starring William Boyd
8:00 pm   Dragnet (NBC) crime drama, starring Jack Webb
8:30 pm   Ford Theater (NBC) dramatic anthology
9:00 pm   Four Star Playhouse- syn, dramatic anthology series  3
9:30 pm   I Led Three Lives-syn, spy drama starring Richard Carlson
10:00 pm News Final
10:15 pm Weather-Frank Martin
10:20 pm Sports Roundup-Bernie Waterman

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

1 The program listings on TV Guide in those early days ran from Friday through Thursday
2 unknown format but travel logs, educational and industrial promotional films were common
3 off network syndication

There were a number of shows which could have been on the NBC schedule that week not showing up on the WICS schedule.  They included:  "Today," "Ding Dong School," "Home," "Bride and Groom," "Big Payoff," "Welcome Travelers," "Howdy Doody," "Eddie Fishers Show," "NBC news with Merrill Mueller," "Dave Garroway Show," "TV Summer Soundstage," "Space Patrol," "Ethyl and Albert," "Original Amateur Hour," "Saturday Night Review," "Mr. Peepers," "Summer Comedy Hour," "Philco TV Playhouse," "Tony Martin Show," "Name That Tune," "Comment," "Robert Montgomery," "Summer Playhouse," "Top Plays of 1954," "Truth or Consequences," "Kraft Theater" and "Martin Kane."

(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)

WICS Airs More and More Programs from NBC

During the early years of WICS, even though the station was listed as a primary NBC network affiliate, it would also show programming from ABC and even CBS. This seemingly unusual situation came about because of the technical limitations of the central Illinois TV stations as well as the network television system of the era.

Since the coverage areas of WICS, WTVP and WBLN barely would reach beyond 35 to 40 miles from the transmitter/towers of each, there wasn't much overlap in the major cities which were home to these stations. The fact that WTVP and WBLN were both ABC affiliates meant very little as their respective signals didn't overlap, even though today having stations of the same network so close would never happen.

The fact of WICS being NBC made little difference to the network as WCIA would become a secondary NBC affiliate. Even though the signal of WCIA did penetrate the capitol city, the signal of WICS didn't even come close to reaching Champaign. In fact WICS was barely received in Decatur!

Another factor in the blurring of the network affiliations was the network television system which made virtually all network programming more like infomercials. Since programming was controlled by the advertising agencies that employed the producers and stars, they also chose where their programs were placed. Even though WICS was an NBC affiliate they couldn't broadcast network programming unless they had the rights to air it and in return would receive network compensation.

The networks would sometimes pull a show from an affiliate and place it on a competing station. Such was the case for “Zorro” in the mid to late 1950's. Even though it was technically distributed by ABC, it was pulled from the WTVP schedule and placed instead with WICS. It also worked to the benefit of all of the stations in mid Illinois as well. During the mid 1950's the CBS Baseball Game of the Week was sponsored and controlled by Falstaff Brewing Company. The ad agency for Falstaff would purchase air time on all of the central Illinois stations, WCIA, WICS, WTVP, WBLN and WDAN-TV.  It's also possible that Falstaff "bought" time on ABC and even NBC to distribute the Saturday afternoon baseball game.  NBC would later broadcast it's own Saturday afternoon baseball game.

It took time for the ad agencies to “connect” with WICS. In some cases the most popular NBC programs wouldn't air on WICS. Many of the budgets were already set by the ad agencies a year or so in the future and would only book their shows with the stations which could guarantee audience numbers at a lower cost per household. Many times station sales personnel would have to call on those agency buyers in person to coax them into considering their station as part of their buy.  WICS had to “earn it's stripes” before becoming even a minor player for NBC.

DuMont Shows Airing on WICS 1953-1954

  "Captain Video"
"Marge and Jeff"
"Stars on Parade"
"Dollar A Second"

NBC Shows Airing on WICS 1953-1954

"Mr. Wizard" "Liberace"
"Pinky Lee" "Dennis Day Show" "Midwestern Heyride"

"Your Hit Parade" "Loretta Young Show" "The Big Story" "My Hero" "The Arthur Murray Party"
"I Married Joan" "This is Your Life" "Dragnet" "You Bet Your Life" "The Soldiers"
"Meet the Press" "People are Funny" "Today" "Howdy Doody" "It's a Great Life"
"Four Star Playhouse" "NBC" "NBC" "NBC" "NBC"
Syndicated Shows Airing on WICS 1953-1954
"Cisco Kid" "Badge 714" [Dragnet]
"The Goldbergs" "I Led Three Lives" "Andy's Gang"
"Wrestling" "Colonel March" "Life with Elizabeth" "The Lone Ranger" "Hopalong Cassidy"

WICS Connects with Young Viewers

WICS in March of 1955 announced the production of a series of programs for younger viewers. They included “Platter Party” and “Panel-Hi.” The “Platter Party” would air on Monday-Wednesday and Friday during the late afternoons and would feature local high school students discussing and auditioning popular music. It's not known if it was a dance program, but it could have been a very early example of a “bandstand” type of program featuring a “rate a record.” segment.

“Panel Hi” was also a panel discussion by a number of area high school students about current events, social happenings, late fashions, school news and even a few new dance steps. Area “businessmen” would participate and comment on subjects related to their respective fields of business.

"Coke Time"  was a WICS production staged in the ballroom of the Leland Hotel in downtown Springfield adjacent to the studios of WICS.

It's not certain who the host was, I speculate that it was Marty Roberts, who later moved to Decatur and WTVP and hosted  "Marty's Dance Party" sponsored by Pepsi-Cola. (see History of WAND).

You'll also notice the show was integrated.



After Texaco dropped sponsorship, Milton Berle's show became "The Buick Berle Show" for awhile.  But, competition was getting tough, and the sponsorship of General Motors was dropped within a year.  It later was just called "The Milton Berle Show" until it's eventual cancellation.  His show which had been a part of NBC from 1948, was dropped from NBC's lineup in 1956.  Tuesday nights wouldn't be the same, as he occupied the 7-8PM CT time slot, ever since most people purchased their first TV.

"Howdy Doody" was one of the pioneering children's programs which ran on NBC from 1947 to 1960.  Although, it was on the air in 1953, it wasn't seen on WICS for at least a couple of years, as WICS didn't sign on until after the show aired live across the network on Saturday mornings.  Since the show was presented live, WICS later ran kinescopes of the show on Saturday afternoon right after it's sign-on.  It was also a pioneer in color TV as well, as it was presented in color during the late 1950's and in 1960 as a way to help RCA(the owner of NBC) sell color TV sets.  Bob "Buffalo Bob" Smith was the cowboy host of the show and provided the voice of the marionette "Howdy Doody."  Howdy wasn't the only puppet, as his sister  "Heidi" was featured.  Other  puppet characters were Doodyville Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, Dilly Dally, Princess Summerfall Winterspring and Flub-a-Dub.  There were live characters as well, including Clarabell the Clown, Chief Thunderthud(who came up with the word 'kowabonga') and later the Princess became a live character played by Judy Tyler.  Clarabell, who was mute, was first played by bob Keeshan(who later became Captain Kangaroo).  A scene during the final episode of the series in 1960 had Clarabell(pictured far right above) saying  "Goodbye kids."  WICS, when the decision was made to sign-on early on Saturday(around 1957) to air the lineup of kids programming later ran "Howdy Doody" live as it came across the network.

"I Married Joan" was NBC's try at the success of "I Love Lucy" on CBS.  This TV series starred "TV's Queen of Comedy" as she was billed, Joan Davis.  Davis was a screen comedian in several B-pictures of the 1940's.  Her character Joan Stevens was the wife of Judge Brad Stevens, played by Jim Backus. 

The series was produced on film, similarly to how Desi and Lucy's show was produced, but the results were less than spectacular.  One of the more unique aspects of the show, was the fact that the musical accompaniment was done accapella by a male singing group.  The various “do-weee” and “do-waas” were dropped in to the various dramatic, or comedic places in the plot.  Even the theme song was done accapella.  "I Married Joan....what a wife, what a wife, what a life!"  Joan's character was somewhat similar to Lucy’s as well, having her get herself into some scheme and relying on slapstick action to get her out. 

It ran on NBC from 1952 to 1955, on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 7:30 CT, making it one of the original network shows on WICS. 




This was Pinky Lee's most famous effort as he previously hosted a variety show in 1950.  By 1954-1956 he would host "The Pinky Lee Show" daily half hour kid show in the late afternoons preceding the weekday version of "Howdy Doody." 

"The Goldbergs" had a long run from 1949 through 1955 on CBS, NBC, DuMont and later in syndication.  That's how WICS ran the popular sitcom.  It was created by Gertrude Berg in 1929 and was broadcast on radio from that date on.  It would enjoy a weeky run on WICS during the mid 1950's.

"The Cisco Kid" was originally broadcast as a radio show and would be produced for television during the 1950's for syndication.  Duncan Renaldo starred in the adventure series which was one of the first to be produced in color.  In fact it would show up during the 1960's on WICS in prime time broadcast in color.  Here, though, is a black and white print of how it could have appeared during the early days of television on WICS.

Interviews and newspaper publicity was partially conducted by WICS's Julie Craig.  here she is shown conducting interviews with Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns who were part of the advertising agency from New York which would create the live commercial at the Illinois State Fair.

Here is the Director Ernest Walling rehearsing with Mr. and Mrs. Louis Pierce, famous cattle raisers on site at the Illinois State Fair.
(pictures from Broadcasting-Telecasting)

WICS Aids the Production of Live Commercials Airing During a CBS Program

U.S. Steel and its advertising agency came up with an idea of using live commercials during its weekly broadcast of the U.S. Steel Hour on CBS. They determined that the production costs of these live commercials were comparable of those which were pre-recorded from various places throughout the United States.

During the Illinois State Fair on August 17, 1955, a series of live commercials were planned for insertion during its sponsored broadcast. The planned commercials would be salutes to the companies Chicago South Works Plant on its seventy-fifth anniversary. It was planned that there would be two live commercial segments during the show which would be seen by viewers of 113 CBS affiliated stations throughout the country.

This attempt of a live broadcast from central Illinois was far more ambitious than any of the previous live commercials from locations like Macy's in New York, or from locations in Philadelphia or even Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (near Chicago). The Springfield remote took the talents and resources of 25 advertising agency staff members who arrived in the Capitol City by train from New York, plus another 20 from CBS in New York and it was speculated that the project also involved another 75 people in New York.

The live commercials would include five cameras, thousands of feet of lighting cable and other video cables, a staff of AT & T technicians and a series of microwave relay towers beginning with one at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, then New Berlin, Illinois just west of Springfield where it would be tied into the microwave network that eventually took the signal to Chicago to WBBM-TV and to CBS-TV in New York....all for of a total of six-minutes of commercial time!

WICS facilities were utilized in the publicity of interviewing the groundwork team of Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns who would be featured as talent for the life commercials. WICS's Julie Craig would conduct interviews on behalf of the local press before the production of the live commercial project for CBS.

WICS Community Initiatives

By July of 1954 the power of local television and the reach of WICS became apparent with the success of the station in receiving over 20,000 pledges for the 18 hour United Cerebral Palsy telethon conducted at the station. Radio personalities helped in the efforts driving their radio listeners from Lincoln, Jacksonville and Taylorville to WICS. (See above)

In 1955, WICS would receive contributions exceeding $30,000, a full $10,000 over the contributions from the 1954 telethon. The telethon attracted during its run, 18,000 people to the ballroom of the Leland Hotel for the 18 hour telecast featuring 47 acts, eleven bands and nine emcees. WICS would continue its efforts each year from the UCP organization for several decades.

WICS also received a commendation by the local police department for broadcasting announcements in regards to identifying and returning lost children. One example was the story of a broadcast which helped to identify a found
2 year old girl who was shown on television. Within minutes, she was identified by a viewer and returned home.

WICS at the Illinois State Fair: The Very Early Years
WICS broadcast from the Illinois State Fair
during the TV station's early days. 
Here WICS cameras focus on a display at one of
the exhibits at the Fair.  Cities Service was an
oil company which supplied gasoline and oil
products to local gasoline stations, as well
as home heating oil and agricultural products.
I assume the photo was taken from the upper level
of the Exhibition Hall at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
(picture courtesy of WICS)

Another shot from the Illinois State Fair
during the 1950's showing a live broadcast
of a cake decorating demonstration.

(photo courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

The Illinois State Fair was one of the state's premiere annual events and WICS was there with their first live on location broadcast. On August 6, 1954, Channel 20 aired its first remote telecast, the first in a series of weekly programs directly from the 1954 Illinois State Fair. While at the fair, WICS arranged for a demonstration of television for attendees so they could “See Yourself on Television.” This closed circuit feature took place at the WICS exhibit along with showing the schedule of shows which would originate at the Television-Radio Hall on the Fairgrounds.

Schedule of Programming on WICS, Channel 20 for the week of April 27-May 3, 1957
Saturday, April 27, 1957

11:15 pm Building America-"Bounty of Forest" documentary film
11:45 pm Fury (NBC) film  1
12:15 pm Baseball (NBC) Dodgers vs. Pirates, play by play by Leo Durocher and Lindsey Nelson
3:30 pm   Movie-  to be announced
4:30 pm  Big Picture -military documentary furnished by the US Army
5:00 pm  Bowling Time - syn, bowling show
6:00 pm  City Detective -syn, starring Rod Cameron
6:30 pm  People are Funny (NBC) game, variety, hosted by Art Linkletter
7:00 pm  Perry Como (NBC-Color) variety, hosted by Perry Como
8:00 pm  Sid Caesar (NBC) comedy, variety
9:00 pm  George Gobel (NBC) comedy, skits, music
9:30 pm  Hit Parade (NBC) music variety
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:15 pm Movie -"Wing and a Prayer" (1944) starring Don Ameche, Dana Andrews

Sunday, April 29, 1957

12:15 pm Senator Dirksen -political talk
12:30 pm Catholic Hour (NBC) religion, dramatic anthology
1:00 pm   This is the Life (NBC) religion, dramtic anthology
1:30 pm   Mr. Wizard (NBC) kids, educational
2:00 pm  Youth Wants to Know (NBC) kids, panel interview
2:30 pm  Zoo Parade (NBC) kids, animals education, hosted by Marlin Perkins from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago
3:00 pm  Wide, Wide World (NBC) travel, hosted by Dave Garroway
4:30 pm  It's Worth Your Life -local, health education hosted by WICS G.B. Gordon
5:00 pm  Meet the Press (NBC) political interview, guest: Robert F. Kennedy, moderated by Lawrence Spivak and Ned Brooks
5:30 pm  Roy Rogers (NBC) western 2
6:00 pm  Bengal Lancers (NBC) adventure
6:30 pm  Circus Boy (NBC) adventure, starring Mickey Braddock 3
7:00 pm  Steve Allen (NBC) comedy variety
8:00 pm  Rosemary Clooney -syn, music variety
8:30 pm  Wire Service (ABC) newspaper drama 4
9:30 pm  Telephone Time (ABC) dramatic anthology, hosted by Dr. Frank Baxter 4
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:15 pm Movie- "Address Unknown" (1944) starring Paul Lukas, Carl Esmond


Monday-Friday, April 30-May 3, 1957  sign-on to 6pm

7:00 am  
Today (NBC) news, variety, hosted by Dave Garroway and Frank Blair
9:00 am   Home (NBC) interview, women's issues, hosted by Arlene Francis
10:00 am Price is Right (NBC) game, hosted by Bill Cullen
10:30 am Truth or Consequences (NBC) game, hosted by Bob Barker
11:00 am Tic Tac Dough (NBC) game,  hosted by Gene Rayburn
11:30 am It Could Be You (NBC) stunts, hosted by Bill Leydon
12:00 pm News, Weather -local, newscast
12:15 pm Bernie Johnson -local, variety
1:15 pm   American History -unknown format/source
2:00 pm   Matinee Theater (NBC-Color) dramatic anthology
3:00 pm   Queen for a Day (NBC) game, hosted by Jack Bailey
3:45 pm   Women's Page -local, features, unknown host
4:00 pm   Topper (NBC) sit com 2
4:30 pm   Story Time -local, kids, hosted by Mari-Ann
5:00 pm   Pegwill Circus Time -local, kids participation, hosted by Pegwill Pete
5:45 pm  News, Weather -local newscast

Monday, April 29, 1957

6:00 pm Susie [Private Secretary] -syn, sit com starring Ann Southern
6:30 pm Nat "King" Cole (NBC) music, variety
6:45 pm News -local, newscast, anchored by G.B. Gordon
7:00 pm Producers Showcase (NBC-Color) The Royal Ballet of Great Britain "Cinderella"
8:30 pm Robert Montgomery Presents (NBC) dramatic anthology, hosted by Robert Montgomery
9:30 pm Crossroads (ABC) dramatic religious anthology 4
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:30 pm China Smith -syn, adventure starring Dan Duryea
11:00 pm Tonight (NBC) variety, hosted by Jack Lescoulie
Tuesday, April 30, 1957

6:00 pm  Your Star Showcase -syn, dramatic anthology "Bilshan and the Thief"
6:30 pm  Jonathan Winters (NBC) comedy, variety hosted by Jonathan Winters
6:45 pm  News -local, newscast anchored by G. B. Gordon
7:00 pm  Arthur Murray (NBC-Color) variety, dance hosted by Kathryn Murray
7:30 pm  Captain David Grief -syn, adventure
8:00 pm  Ford Theater (ABC) dramatic anthology 4
8:30 pm  Circle Theater (NBC) dramatic anthology, "Night Court"
9:30 pm  Sheriff of Cochise -syn, police drama, starring John Bromfield
10:00 pm News, Weather -local, newscast
10:30 pm  Ellery Queen -syn, crime drama, starring Lee Bowman
11:00 pm  Tonight (NBC) variety, hosted by Jack Lescoulie

Wednesday, May 1, 1957

6:00 pm   Foreign Legionnaire  -syn, adventure
6:30 pm  Xavier Cugat (NBC-Color) music variety
6:45 pm  News -local, newscast anchored by G.B. Gordon
7:00 pm  Treasure Hunt (ABC) game, hosted by Jan Murray 4
7:30 pm  Hawkeye -syn, adventure, hosted by Lee Horsely
8:00 pm  Kraft Theater (NBC-Color) dramatic anthology "Drummer Man" starring Sal Mineo
9:00 pm  Conflict (ABC) dramatic anthology, produced by Warner Brothers for ABC, 4
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:30 pm Science Fiction Theater -syn, science fiction produced by Ivan Tors
11:00 pm Tonight (NBC) variety, hosted by Jack Lescoulie
Thursday, May 2, 1957

6:00 pm  Kit Carson -syn, western, starring Bill Williams
6:30 pm  Dinah Shore (NBC) music, variety hosted by Dinah Shore live from Hollywood
6:45 pm  News -local, newscast anchored by G. B. Gordon
7:00 pm  Groucho Marx (NBC) game, interview
7:30 pm  Dragnet (NBC) crime drama, starring Jack Webb
8:00 pm  Mr. District Attorney -syn, crime drama 5
8:30 pm  Highway Patrol -syn, crime drama, starring Broderick Crawford
9:00 pm  Lux Video Theater (NBC-Color) dramatic anthology, "The Hard Way" starring Ann Sheridan
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:30 pm Man Behind the Badge -syn, police anthology
11:00 pm Tonight (NBC) variety, hosted by Jack Lescoulie

Friday, May 3, 1957

6:00 pm   Ramar of the Jungle -syn, adventure
6:30 pm   Xavier Cugat (NBC-Color) music, variety
6:45 pm   News -local, newscast anchored by G. B. Gordon
7:00 pm  Soldiers of Fortune -syn, adventure, starring John Russell
7:30 pm  Blondie (NBC) sitcom, starring Arthur Lake, Pamela Britton
8:00 pm  Man Called X -syn, foreign intrigue, starring Barry Sullivan
8:30 pm  Big Story (NBC) dramatic anthology
9:00 pm  Boxing (NBC) sports, boxing, called by Jimmy Powers from Louisville, Kentucky
9:45 pm  Red Barber (NBC) sports interview, guest: Bob Feller, hosted by Red Barber
10:00 pm News, Weather -local newscast
10:30 pm Dr. Hudson -syn, medical drama, starring John Howard
11:00 pm Tonight (NBC) variety, hosted by Jack Lescoulie
Network programs are indicated in bold
local programming originating from the WTVP studios are in italics

1 "Fury" aired live from network at 10am.  This was most certainly a film presentation provided by NBC for airing on the same date including national commercials, as WICS had no video tape facilities to record the earlier network feed
2 off network rerun shown on NBC
3 Mickey Braddock later became Mickey Dolenz of "The Monkees"
4 ABC programming presented from films of ABC programming complete with national commercials
5 off network syndication

There were a number of shows which could have been on the NBC schedule that week not showing up on the WICS schedule.  They included:  "Alcoa Hour," " Modern Romances,"  "Joseph Cotton," "Panic," "Jane Wyman," "State Trooper," "Father Knows Best," "This is Your Life," "People's Choice" and "Ernie Ford."

(TV Guide from the Doug Quick Collection)

Gene F. Meyers and an unknown WICS film technician in the film processing/screening room at the Leland Hotel Annex studios.  Obviously before the current day "no smoking" rules went into effect!

(picture courtesy of WICS, thanks to Dan Meyers-son of Gene Meyers for the ID of his father in the picture)

WICS Acts on the Threat of Channel 2

In April of 1955 WICS and its owners filed a petition with the FCC to suggest a change in the allocation table for Springfield and to head off the threat of the issuance of a grant for VHF channel 2 in Springfield. The Capitol City in 1955 was allocated channel 2, 20 and 66 with the later being set aside for educational use.

At that time the competition was fierce between Sangamon Valley TV Corp. (WTAX) and WMAY-TV Inc. with WMAY-TV being favored in an initial decision announced in December of 1954. What WICS was trying to achieve was to make central Illinois an all UHF market. The petition also tied in a request for Peoria to eliminate channel 8 from its roster. Plains Television requested the move of the allocation for channel 2 be moved to St. Louis and replaced with channel 41. It's interesting to note, to date, this was the first mention of moving the allocation of channel 2 to St. Louis. It's unknown where the idea of channel 2 being moved to St. Louis originated but the idea would grow as time went on. It's possible that Henry Tenenbaum of WTVI approached someone with Plains Television or Mr. Friedland with the idea. Based on the stories of Mr. Tenenbaum the theory is very plausible. (See History of St. Louis-WTVI/KTVI)

One of the biggest television controversies the United States would see in those early days of television occurred right here in central Illinois.

A legal battle to retain a TV channel, VHF channel 2, for Springfield or move the allocated channel to St. Louis was in question.  A battle which included political figures, several broadcast companies and two television networks.  You could also say it also included another VHF station in central Illinois, WCIA. 

The conflict began in the early 1950s and could take another ten years to settle.  The Supreme Court of the United States was also involved.

Personally, I find it even more interesting because I worked for one of the companies involved in the dispute, and have been involved with a television station group which also played a part in the conflict.

Read about it in great detail on the page The History of WTVI!

The Channel 2 Situation Continues to be a Concern

In November of 1955, the FCC would “wipe the deintermixture slate clean.” All pending petitions to change markets to either all UHF or a mixture of VHF/UHF were denied. This set the stage for a complete overhaul of the allocation tables for the entire country.

Among those petitions being denied included de-intermixture cases for Peoria (channel 8) and Springfield (channel 2). The next week, new petitions were announced as being filed for the Peoria case by WEEK-TV and WTVH-TV. For the channel 2 case, petitions were filed by WICS and by KTVI (channel 36 in St. Louis).

The FCC was behind in issuing licenses to prospective TV station owners with 40 of those applicants standing in line at the Commission. Among those were the applicants for both channel 8 in Peoria and channel 2 in Springfield. Earlier in the year the FCC issued initial decisions in favor of WIRL Radio for channel 8, while the Sangamon Valley TV Corp. received favored status for channel 2.

The FCC would conduct a pole hearing concerns from all television broadcasters and their opinion on the TV allocation problems. By late February 1956 the FCC would turn down petitions of WEEK-TV and WTVH-TV in Peoria saying the plea to conduct a hearing was too late.

All TV Guide Ads for WICS
shown here are from 1956-57

(from the TV Guide collection of Doug Quick)

Notice that the World Series carried by NBC was telecast in central Illinois by WCIA(CBS-NBC) from Champaign, Illinois and by WICS(NBC) from Springfield, Illinois.

The other stations are Channel 3-KTVO, Kirksville-Otumwa; Channel 5-KSD-TV, St. Louis; Channel 6-WOC-TV, Quad Cities; Channel 10-WGEM-TV, Quincy; Channel 20-WICS; and Channel 43-WEEK-TV, Peoria

The FCC Deals WICS a Blow

On June 30,1956, the FCC issued two final central Illinois TV decisions on some controversial situations concerning allocations and de-intermixture. The Commission granted WIRL the allocation for channel 8 in Peoria and did a turn-about and granted channel 2 in Springfield to WMAY-TV. The FCC found WMAY-TV the better grantee because of the television broadcast experience of owners and the integration of ownership and management.

There was one hitch, though, in the two grants. Even though the allocations would belong to the companies awarded them, they were forbidden from constructing their television stations until final approval from the Commission. That date would be determined by the outcome of proceedings to be held before the FCC concerning the de-intermixture controversy.

The FCC also retained the option of substituting another channel number for the channel of the original grants for both the Peoria and Springfield decisions. Most of the summer, the FCC did little to resolve the stalemate of the construction ban for those awarded VHF stations in Peoria and Springfield. Petitions were filed with the FCC by the awarded companies asking the Commission to reconsider their prohibition against construction on the newly granted channels.

It appeared to be a race by the prospective owners to get permission for construction as soon as possible and get their stations on the air as soon as possible.   Once construction began, it was probable that the FCC would allow it to continue, but the FCC wouldn't budge in allowing the final "go-ahead."   In fact, the FCC once again offered a period of time for those to file against the issuance of the construction permits for WIRL and WMAY.  The commission would now give those against the stations until August 22, 1956 to file petitions.

Among those filing against the issuance of those permits included the FCC's own Broadcast Bureau. The Bureau stated that all TV permitees should be treated equally, whether they received their grants before OR after the June 26 Report and Order on TV Allocations. The members of the commission withdrew some support on their decision and pointed out that the “change is merely proposed....not an accomplished fact.” It appeared at that time that support for the “conditional” grant of channel 2 was decreasing by members of the commission. A feeling that had to be encouraging for the owners, management and staff of WICS.

(above):  A behind the scenes shot of Meri-Ann(MariamEllis) at in front of the WICS camera from the mid 1950's.

(Photo-courtesy of Randy Miller Facebook Collection)

At the Leland Hotel Studio, a very small cramped facility which was shared with the WCBS(later WCVS) studios.  The unknown employees were involved in a local production which included a studio audience.  It's unknown what the production was and who these WICS employees were.  If anyone knows who the identities of these people are, please drop me an e-mail!

(picture courtesy of WICS)
NBC Shows Airing on WICS 1955-58

"George Gobel" "Topper"
"Steve Allen Show" "Nat "King" Cole Show" "NBC Matinee Theater"

"The Jonathan Winters Show" "Tales of Wells Fargo" "The Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" "Twenty One" "Kraft Television Theatre"
"Tonight Show" "Dinah Shore Chevy Show" "Home" "The Price is Right" "The Big Story"
"Perry Como Show" "Blondie" "Bob Cummings Show" "The Bob Hope Show" "Wagon Train"
"US Steel Hour" (CBS)
"Ford Theater" (ABC)
"Crossroads" (ABC)
"Saturday Color Carnival" "NBC"
Syndicated Shows Airing on WICS 1955-1958
"Kit Carson" "Capt. Grief"
"China Smith" "The Cisco Kid" "Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal"
"Highway Patrol" "Mr. District Attorney" "The Rosemary Clooney Show" "Susie" [Private Secretary]

WICS Seeks More Viewers

Once it appeared that there was a strong possibility of the channel 2 allocation was going to be shifted to St. Louis, Plains Television began to look to the future. The biggest challenge of the Springfield UHF station was increasing its coverage area and increasing the number of households to compete with WTVP. WTVP was already going through steps to increase its household numbers by power increases from its home in Decatur. Channel 17 had a large 700 foot tower in it's back yard and power increases accomplished by more powerful transmitters and amplifiers were accomplishing just that. It's central location in Decatur was giving it at least increased numbers from Springfield and a few from Champaign. WICS was restricted by the fact the station was on a short self supported tower form the south side of Springfield. Increased power could increase the density of signal within its current coverage area, but because UHF signals traveled “line of sight” Channel 20 couldn't do much to increase its coverage area without a major increase in tower height. This was an investment that evidently Plains was unwilling to make in 1956.

The apparent solution to adding households to the WICS total coverage area was to construct a full powered translator with even more power from a larger tower than that of WICS. On September 25, 1956, Plains Television would apply for a construction permit for a proposed television station on channel 21 which would be located near White Heath, Illinois. This particular location was south of the site of the proposed tower and transmitter of WCIA in 1953. It was to be located on a particular high ridge just south of White Heath, Illinois south of what is now Interstate 72, near what was then Illinois Route 105.

That high elevation there would boost a 600 foot tower to the same as a 650-foot tower. The proposed channel 21 would have had 200kw of power. It's construction cost was set at $175,000 with an operating cost of $75,000. It wouldn't be counted on for much revenue as it was estimated at being just $125,000. It was a relative low ball operation as it was proposed as a satellite of WICS and would duplicate programming 100-percent.

In the late 1950's, WICS hosted a local country western music program called "The Holsum Ranch." It was sponsored by the local Holsum Bread Bakery(which was located on Clear Lake Avenue in Springfield). 

Here Gene Autry, in the double breasted suit, and white cowboy hat is flanked by unknown staff members of WICS.    The other man with the cowboy hat is Pete Wetzel."  Mr. Wetzel  is also pictured as part of the cast of "Pegwill's Ranch from the late 1950's or early 1960's.

(picture courtesy of James Isley)

If this station would go on the air, it would have blanketed both Decatur and Champaign-Urbana with a near city grade signal and would throw at least a fringe signal even into Danville, Bloomington and Mattoon. This would have probably quadrupled the household reach of just WICS.

No other information is available on why the application was either rejected or pulled from consideration. There was a change to the initial application filed in late December of 1956, but no information was published on those changes. The record shows a change in power to 178kw, along with changes in the antenna, tower height and other equipment but there were no details. I can only speculate that the adjacent channel to 20 being at 21 could have brought about interference with WICS especially in the Decatur area. If WICS would ever relocate its tower/transmitter and increased tower height the potential of interference would have increased greatly. Those changes to the initial application could have been to apply for the Champaign allocation at channel 33.

Bernie Johnson Show

(Above): Bernie Johnson Show on WICS weekdays during the Noon hour till 1pm.
from the Doug Quick TV Guide Collection

(Top Right): Bernie Johnson at work in front of the camera at WICS
from the Randy Miller Collection

(Right): From TV Guide, showing listings for Bernie Johnson at 12:15pm
from the Doug Quick TV Guide Collection

Channel 2 Controversy Continues

In October of 1956 the FCC was inviting comments from other broadcasters who might be affected by the move of channel 2 to St. Louis. This plan would also delete channel 36 from St. Louis and move the allocation to Springfield, Illinois. A shuffle of allocations would delete channel 29 in Jacksonville, giving the city channel 49. Channel 36 would also be given to the Quad Cities market by replacing channel 68. A note that if channel 36 was assigned and used in Springfield, it would have to be located as to meet minimum spacing and coverage requirements.

The next month, once again Plains Television would file a petition to delete channel 2 from Springfield and assign it to both Terre Haute, Indiana and St. Louis. The request also included assigning channel 26 and either 36 or 39 to Springfield along with making channel 66 an educational assignment.

It's interesting now to look back and see how insignificant those negotiations were for allocations for channels 29, 36 and 68 were as those allocations were never awarded or in most cases even applied for by potential TV broadcast stations.

By December the FCC was reviewing some of the comments from other broadcasters. They included the information submitted by WICS, KTVI, WTVP and even the American Broadcasting Company which contained the same plan of moving channel 2 to St. Louis, and allowing a channel 2 in Terre Haute, Indiana. WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, would have no part of a channel 2 in Terre Haute, so their idea was to reassign channel 2 to Salem, Illinois. WCIA proposed that the FCC add channel 26 and 36 to Springfield and was in favor of moving channel 2 to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. WSIL in Harrisburg, Illinois was not in favor of the move of channel 2 to Cape Girardeau, instead moving it to St. Louis and they wanted a shift from their present UHF channel to a “drop-in” on channel 8. It was a hot potato for all of the above stations. No one wanted channel 2 in their back yard.

WMAY-TV, as you would imagine wanted it to stay in Springfield. They later filed a request to resend any changes made to the channel 2 allocation and requested more time to file additional comments on their own behalf. The FCC denied the requests of WMAY-TV.

Channel 2 Moves to St. Louis

In January of 1957 at the time of the granting of St. Louis' channel 11 to CBS, it was also announced that channel 2 was gone from Springfield and moved to St. Louis, and awarded to KTVI(TV) which was then operating on channel 36. (See St. Louis TV).

Then using the option stated with the “grant” WMAY-TV would be granted channel 36 in Springfield. Other decisions were announced as well including the move of channel 8 from Peoria to Rock Island (Quad Cities), and the granting of WIRL-TV a construction permit on channel 25 in Peoria.

These decisions would de-intermix Peoria creating a 100% UHF market in central Illinois along with de-intermixing the Springfield market (at the time, not a part of the central Illinois market). This would also create a 4 station VHF market for St. Louis and open up the possibility of making Terre Haute, Indiana a 2 VHF station market. This was an incredibly important set of decisions, but the controversy wasn't over yet!

Since this chapter deals with the history of WICS, we'll leave the further discussion of the channel 2 decision of early 1957 for other pages (see St. Louis-WTVI/KTVI). For WICS, this was great news! If they were going to get competition, the contest for audience and business would take place on a more even playing field.

Plains Makes Major Investment in the Future of WICS

Upon the move of channel 2 from Springfield, the decision to invest in WICS became easier. It didn't take long for Plains to apply for the relocation of the stations transmitter/tower. In late January, WICS would apply for that change in their facility. No information was given as to tower height or location, but the power output request was for 811kw. This would surely take a city grade signal into Decatur and intensify the signal for areas in and around the capitol city.

WICS would not be the only central Illinois station to re-invest in their facilities after the FCC decision of late 1956. WTVH-TV in Peoria would also seek station technical improvements based on the move of VHF channel 8 out of Peoria.

Plains Television would choose a site for a new broadcast transmitter/tower which put it in line with the reception of other stations, primarily WTVP from most of Springfield. As most viewers were using antennas for home reception having the station in line with Channel 17 most viewers would be able to watch both stations from a fixed antenna position from the Capitol City. A 40-acre site was chosen 10 miles east of the center of Springfield on the Mechanicsburg Road.

RCA would report the shipping of a UHF pylon ultra-gain antenna to WICS in early October of 1958. It appeared that work was progressing on the power/tower upgrade for WICS. The construction included the use of an RCA TTU-12B 12.5kw transmitter coupled with a 46-gain RCA TFU-46CL antenna with a 1,000-foot tower. This would give WICS a reach of 56 miles which would take it just to the east of Champaign. The WICS signal in Decatur would be considered “city grade.” The transmitter building was 30 by 50-feet of concrete block and brick construction. The roof was of “pre-stressed” concrete slabs to protect the building from falling ice which may occur from the tower.

WICS Broadcasts NBC Color

Among the investments made by Plains Television in WICS was the installation of equipment to broadcast the NBC network color programming. Color-casting would begin on September 2, 1957. This would include the broadcasts of the 1957 World Series plus those programs on the new NBC fall season of 1957-58 which were presented in color.

(Top Above): TV Guide ads for the Jerry Lewis

"Saturday Color Carnival.  These are for a
different episode of the series.
(from TV Guide, Doug Quick Collection)

(Right): Even though there was a number of
NBC shows being broadcast in color on WICS
most central Illinois viewers saw a peacock not
in the reds, blues, greens, yellows shown at the left.  Instead most were watching it in black and white as seen above.

(Above): This is a kinescope of the live
color broadcast.  Unfortunately, the recording was
made on black/white film stock.  Very few live
color broadcasts were kinescoped on color film stock.
(Doug Quick Channel)

NBC Saturday's Color Carnival was a series of variety shows which alternated with different hosts.  This particular one was the first installment of "The Jerry Lewis Show" from January of 1957.  Even though it's called "Saturday's Color Carnival" it was performed live, but what you see above (right)  is a black and white kinescope recorded from the live broadcast.  This is the only form in which the very colorful variety show hour was kept.  It starred Jerry Lewis along with his father Danny and son Gary(later of Gary Lewis and the Playboys), Rowan and Martin and Eydie Gorme.  The show was obviously an attempt to sell RCA color TV's to the public.  It's sponsored by RCA and RCA/Victor along with Oldsmobile.  This was broadcast in color on WICS, to probably just a few dozen households which had those  expensive ($500) RCA color TVs.

Plains Television Fights WCIA

Along with fighting the VHF allocation of channel 2 in Springfield, Plains Television and WICS would fight another central Illinois VHF entity, WCIA at channel 3. On July 26, 1957 a story was published in the Champaign-Urbana Courier telling of a nine point petition filed with the FCC by Plains Television as well as Prairie Television (WTVP).

Plains Television after appearing to slay one VHF dragon with the move of the channel 2 allocation to St. Louis, would now would file and lead an effort to eliminate the other VHF allocation in central Illinois at channel 3. Plains would claim the deletion of channel 3 was necessary to show the FCC's commitment to the success of UHF television broadcasting and eliminating the channel 3 allocation for Champaign would be consistent to that policy.

Midwest Television refuted those claims of Plains Television saying that Channel 3 was outside the central Illinois UHF area and that the elimination of channel 3 was not necessary to assure survival of the UHF stations in Springfield and Decatur. August C. Meyer, president of Midwest Television used the claim that the elimination of the VHF channel would “deprive significant numbers of people of service, particularly residents of small communities and rural areas...” Plus, in those areas “serviced by WCIA (had a) very low proportion of sets (which) can receive UHF signals.” Meyer went on to say that WCIA should not be put to the “burden and expense” of a proceeding before the commission “on the basis of the flimsy showing made in the petitions of the Springfield and Decatur interests.”

This confrontation is explained in greater detail in the History of WCIA. August C. Meyer, though, would strike at Plains Television and WICS as being controlled by New York and Chicago interests, which have been seeking to move channel 3 from Madison, Wisconsin to Rockford, Illinois. This request had already been denied by the FCC as the parent company of Plains Television had been seeking a VHF channel for its own station currently operating on UHF channel 39. Mr. Meyer would also add that Plains had a permit to operate channel 33 in Champaign, but to date had not made an effort to complete the station and if and when it did, it would merely be a satellite of WICS.

Plains would also make improbable claims about the development of other UHF stations in some of the secondary markets in east central Illinois to fill in where channel 3 would lose viewers, such as in Mattoon or Kankakee or Streator. Mr.Meyer would school the commission in his response about the pure economics of local television broadcasting and the complete absurdity of the statements of Plains Television about the probability of such a crop of new UHF stations in those fringe markets.

The FCC would hand down a denial to the petition from Plains Television and Prairie Television. The “stab in the dark” ridiculous attempt of Plains and Prairie to derail WCIA had failed.

"At Your Service" was a public affairs which over time included a number of subjects....this particular one is unknown, but it was guested by Dick Clark (center), an unknown woman(left) and Wally Gair from WICS.
(picture from WICS)

(picture from WICS)

Plains Television Wants the FCC to Revisit the Channel 3 Issue

In June of 1958, Plains Television demanded the FCC reconsider the deintermixture argument in central Illinois in regards to channel 3. WICS claimed denial of “due process” which could take the issue to the federal courts if it is not resolved to the satisfaction of WICS and WTVP.

Once again the argument is discussed in detail in the History of WCIA (The WCIA, Channel 3 Battle-Part 2). Plains Television at this time made a threat that because of the decision of the FCC to keep channel 3 in place, it would have to scale back its proposed construction of its Champaign area television and described it as having “lesser facilities initially than specified in its present permit.”

The construction permit issued by the FCC and published in late May of 1957 reflected a station which would broadcast from a tower at 570-feet and have a power of 22.5kw. Not exactly a power house station, but in those days it was considered a full powered UHF station.

It appears that Plains followed through on its threat to downscale its facility in Champaign. While in November of 1957, the call letters of WCHU(TV) were approved by the FCC to be used with the proposed television station operating at channel 33 plans were being made to construct a station which would duplicate programming from WICS by simply rebroadcasting the off-air signal from Channel 20 as received in Champaign. The increased tower height of WICS antenna with the newly constructed tower/antenna would allow for reception of the station in Champaign, if a more extraordinary receiving antenna could be used from a site on top of one of the tallest buildings in Champaign. That was the plan, but execution would be troublesome.

A request for an extension of the completion date for WCHU was granted by the FCC in May of 1958 to take the proposed station to completion by November of 1958. It was common practice to have extensions especially early in the industry as equipment delays would push back a date of operation, but this time it was the uncertainty of the feesability of making the investment of a full powered television translator was questionable.


October 17, 1958, "An Evening with Fred Astaire" as broadcast on NBC.  Viewers probably didn't know it, but it was the first color show to be pre-recorded on video tape at NBC's new "Color City" state of the art new studios in Burbank.  This TV special pre-empted "M-Squad" and "The Thin Man" that evening. The NBC special was sponsored by The Chrysler Corporation.  "Another Evening with Fred Astaire" won several Emmy Awards in 1959.

This video is newly posted and replaces one on the previous WICS History page.  It includes the entire TV special with commercials!

The Supreme Court Creates Anxiety for WICS

While WICS was making plans to expand, the channel 2 and 8 controversy was continuing as you'll read in other chapters. In late October of 1958, as facility upgrades were progressing, the Supreme Court in an unprecedented move sent back to the appeals court two rule making cases. The Court returned the case involving channel 2 for Springfield to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. It told the lower court to take “appropiate” action in the light of allegations of improper influences made before the House Legislative Oversight Committee the previous Spring. The appeals court was already dealing with other ex parte cases which the appeals court handed the cases back to the FCC for investigation.

The FCC and the companies involved were all stunned by the high courts decision. Peoria's WEEK-TV was reported as “seriously considering” the Supreme Court to reconsider the channel 8 case, while WICS was reported doing some “watchful waiting.”

The big issue was that Harry Tenenbaum, the president of KTVI did improperly lobby and try to influence the FCC commissioners to move not only channel 2 to St. Louis, but to award his company the allocation. He was already operating KTVI on channel 36 in St. Louis, the only UHF station in the market by that time, after seeing two others fail and go dark in the mid 1950's. He had already moved his Belleville television station from UHF channel 54 to becoming a St. Louis station taking over the previous facility of KSTM on channel 36 which had gone dark the year before. (See St. Louis History-WTVI/KTVI)

Now, it appeared the battle between WMAY-TV and Sangamon Valley Television would heat up once again and bring about the possibility of Springfield getting a VHF station on channel 2. It was a slim chance, but it would also be tied up in the courts for quite some time.

WICS Local News 1953-1963

The initial WICS staff was proudly announced in the Illinois State Journal-Register, similar to how they were introduced at WTVP in the Decatur Herald. Thankfully, though, because this is the only record of employees at those early television stations. A large ad would introduce each member of the stations staff along with a picture and a short description of their job or title. (see above)

The news editor at the very early days was Malden Jones, Bernie Waterman was sports editor  Later Mr. Jones would be replaced by G.B. Gordon as news editor(anchor, news director).  Mr. Gordon would remain in the position through 1958 to be replaced by former weathercaster Robert Warren.  Bernie Waterman would continue as sports director through the late 1950's to be replaced by Wally Gair.  There were also other names associated with WICS news during the early days(unfortunately incomplete names).   Those last names include:  ? Duncan(farm director), ? Spengler, ? O'Neill,

Weathercasters included John Begue, Frank Martin and Nick Alexander

G.B. Gordon served as news editor during the first or second year of WICS through 1958.
 Dale Coleman was named news editor in 1960.  He came from WTVP in Decatur. (see more below)
Wayne Cox came to WICS from WBLN.  He would become the main anchor in the late 1960's. (See more below)

(Above):  News anchor lineup in 1957 and early 1958.
G.B. Gordon, news editor; Bob Warren, weather; and Wally Gair, sports

(Below): News anchor lineup in 1958, with Bob Warren as news editor;
UNKNOWN, weather; and Wally Gair, Sports.

(from the TV Guide Collection of Doug Quick

(Above): John Begue, promotions director and weathercaster at WICS beginning in 1953.

(picture from WICS)

(Above): Appears to be G.B. Gordon in an interview with Anita Bryant
at WICS.

(picture from WICS)

(Above): From the 1956 Election Returns in a team
effort between the Illinois State Journal and WICS.
The man in the picture is unidentified

(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-Illinois State Journal)

(Above): From the 1956 Election Returns at the WICS studios in
the Leland Hotel in downtown Springfield.  G.B. Gordon is
at the anchor desk with other unidentified election assistants.

(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-Illinois State Journal)

(Above): Pictured here is Frank Martin.  He was the WICS weather-
caster during the mid to late 1950's.

(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-Illinois State Journal)

(Above): This is an unknown weather-caster from around 1958. 

(from WICS)

(Above):  Wally Gair as featured in a TV Guide from 1958.

(from the TV Guide Collection of Doug Quick)

(Above): Bob Warren, news editor in 1958

(from the TV Guide Collection of Doug Quick)

(Above): Nick Alexander delivering the weather forecast
for the sponsor, Korn King in the late 1950's to early 1960's.

(picture from WICS)

(Above): The weather maps at WICS.

(picture from WICS)

(Above): Nick Alexander delivers the news at WICS in the very
early 1960's.

(picture from WICS)

(Above): The WICS news team in 1963:  front row: Nick Alexander,
Dale Coleman, Alan Crane.   Top row: Wayne Cox, Jack Thorne.

(picture from WICS)

(Right): By 1960 when WICS had just put WCHU on the air in Champaign, the news was simulcast on both sides of the central Illinois market.

The anchor lineup include Wally Gair on weather/news;
Jack Thorne with sports;
and Nick Alexander with news

(from the TV  Collection of J.R.Evans)
Biography of Dale Coleman

Dale was initially News Director at WTVP in Decatur.  By the late 50's into the early 60's he was  News Director at WICS.  He was noted by an early biographer as being  "a tall, warm, outgoing farm boy from norhern Illinois."  He later became the Public Information Director at Springfield's Sangamon State University(now UI-S).  He passed away at the young age of 54 in 1983.

Biography of Wayne Cox

Wayne Cox was a long time WICS anchor and news director during the mid to late 1960's. His biography includes his birth in Wenona, Illinois on December 12, 1928.  He was a former employee of WBLN in Bloomington and was also a former general manager at WINI in Murphysboro, Illinois and KCFI in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  He later became news director at WICS where he would stay until 1972, when he went into real estate in Springfield.  He died on January 8, 1993.

(Left): Charles Bauman was the farm director during part of the late 1950's.  Here he is pictured with area students in a presentation for the Farm Report which aired during the late afternoons on WICS.

(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-Illinois State Journal)

top row, left, and bottom row:  A series of ads placed during 1958 in the Decatur Herald newspaper with various programs from syndication and NBC.

(from Decatur Herald)

WICS Hesitates in the Construction Channel 33 in Champaign

An FCC ruling in favor of WCIA in a petition filed earlier by Plains Television against Midwest Television would bring Plains Television attorneys to issue a threat to the FCC. Even though Plains was issued a construction permit for a UHF station in Champaign with a proposed full powered television station to serve east central Illinois as a translator of WICS, the company would proceed but with “lesser facilities initially than that specified in its present form.”

In other words, we'll build the station, but because we didn't get our way in the ruling, we're going to “cut off our nose to spite our face.” This childish threat and the fact that Plains did indeed construct a “pea-shooter” of a television station which would do no harm to WCIA, other than pull the secondary network affiliation of NBC from Channel 3. It did however damage the potential of Channel 33 at the time, and would prove to do damage to the subsequent properties that would stem from WCHU in the future. The carrying through of that seemingly childish threat would affect the status of WICD, Channel 15 after its construction in 1967 and for decades in the future.

Even though WCHU wasn't technically a “heritage” station it still would have had the potential of competing more strongly in the future with WCIA if Plains would have invested in the station to be a strong contender with WICA. It may have been years before the outcome would have been achieved, but their lack of support for the station in a competitive situation would set up a culture that exists even today in the WICS/WICD combo. They found it was more profitable (and easier) to put virtually all of the resources into WICS where there would be no competition for the Springfield market rather than even try to compete in Champaign. The Champaign facility would simply enable the sales pitch to advertisers to include those households in Champaign which potentially would be a part of the WCHU and therefore the WICS audience.

In November of 1958 construction, or at least what there was of it, would begin on the translator station for WICS which would operate on channel 33. In their threat to downsize the facility of WCHU, they followed through. The TV station studios/offices would be located in the Inman Hotel in downtown Champaign. By the early 1960's this once prominent hotel started to see a decline in business and stature. The leasing of a large section of the second floor of the hotel seemed to be a good idea by hotel management.

The Inman Hotel already had relationships with local television. Being one of the tallest buildings in Champaign at the time, its roof was used as a location of a microwave tower to receive network programming for WICA. (See History of WCIA) Now, it would not only house the new UHF television stations' studios/office but also support the broadcast tower which would be constructed on the roof of the Inman.

The construction of the “lesser facility” proved to be problematic. Engineering studies had indicated that with the construction of the new WICS tower at Mechanicburg, Illinois, east of Springfield, it would be possible to receive an “off-air” signal from WICS in Champaign of a substantial quality grade to allow for the rebroadcast on the signal on Channel 33.

With that plan in place, the equipment was ordered and installed at the Inman. The transmitter of WCHU was only large enough to broadcast a 5.5kw signal from a short tower set atop the six story hotel. It was enough to give a coverage area of 15 miles from downtown Champaign. Hardly enough to satisfy the viewers of east central Illinois who would lose NBC programming outside of the WCHU coverage area!

The plan of receiving WICS from a parabolic UHF antenna with a series of amplifiers from the Inman was a miscalculation. Weather conditions, time of day and other sources of downtown interference proved that the plan would not work.

The initial proposal of putting WCHU on a tall tower near White Heath, Illinois would have been much more effective and efficient. The chances of receiving a dependable signal from Channel 20 with the placement of a receiving antenna at a much higher level on the tower, and its geographic location would have made the reception of WICS a sure-bet.

Instead, WCHU went on the air on April 24 of 1959 with less than desirable results. The weak signal of WICS made the re-broadcasting of the daytime signal of Channel 20 impossible most of the time. During the evening or at night, though, it became more reliable. So, with that, WCHU would go on the air with a partial schedule of programming during the late afternoon and evening. Viewers would be subject to fading signals and static not only from the weak signal of Channel 33 but from the receiving of the off-air signal of WICS!

Later in 1959, Plains Television would apply for and receive permission to construct a receiving tower just to the northwest of Champaign. This area which today houses a number of towers with repeaters and cell phone antennas, offers the highest ground in Champaign County. This receiving tower would pick up the signal of Channel 20 and then microwave the signal to a receiving antenna at the top of the Inman Hotel. The signal would then be re-broadcast on WCHU, Channel 33.

When the microwave system was completed in early September of 1959 the reception of WICS was shown to be more reliable. Even though this plan to relay programming from WICS to Channel 33 wasn't 100-percent reliable, it was between 85 and 90% and enough to satisfy the engineers at Plains Television. By the time of the premiere of the new NBC programs in September of 1959, WCHU was on the air “full time” from the “Today Show” to “The Tonight Show” with a black and white rebroadcast of the WICS signal. Station Id's were inserted at the WCHU master control.

For business purposes, WCHU(TV) was put on the air by WCHU Inc. and was later merged into Plains Television in July of 1960. This occurred at the same time as the announced purchase of nearby Danville, Illinois' Channel 24, WDAN-TV. More on that later.

(from the Urbana Courier)




NBC began to use the Peacock as a branding
feature for the broadcast of color programming on the network on September 7, 1957 with the broadcast of "Your Hit Parade."  The actual broadcast of the non-animated peacock began in 1956.

"This is Your Life" was a production of Ralph Edwards, who would later bring "Truth or Consequences" to the small screen.  This series was part game show and part reality show as a person would be secretly selected and profiled with the appearances of friends, relatives, neighbors, former teachers, coaches and stars who would tell a story of their relationship with the surprised contestant.  Most were ordinary people, some were stars and celebrities.  This show would air on NBC from through 1961 and was both a feature during prime time and daytime.

"You Bet Your Life" was one of the longest running shows on NBC during the 1950's.  Groucho Marx was the host, in which people would win cash by answering questions.  It was more of a vehicle to showcase the wit of Groucho, and worked for NBC from 1950 through 1961.  It had always run on Thursday during it's entire run.

Here as a gag, Jack Benny guest starred as an average contestant.  This is priceless!



Jack Webb, who starred in a number of radio crime dramas, P.I. shows, developed the concept of "Dragnet" for network radio in 1949.  By 1952, the show was ready for TV as well.  These half hour filmed episodes were produced in documentary style, with realistic side plots, which gave the officers a connection to the viewers.  Jack Webb played Joe Friday, an L.A. police detective who would solve various crimes with his partner.  His partner over the years were played by Barton Yarborough, Barney Phillips, Ben Alexander and Herb Ellis.  By January of 1953, it was a weekly series on NBC, and was part of the lineup of WICS during it's early years.

"The Jimmy Durante Show" was a variety/sitcom which ran on NBC from 1954 to 1957.  It was set in a night club which was owned and managed by Jimmy Durante, called Club Durant.  It was originally done live, but this particular episode was from film or kinescope.

(Videos from You Tube and Contributors which may be withdrawn at any time)

"The Bob Cummings Show" aired on both NBC and CBS during it's run in the 1950's.  It aired from 1955 and 1957-59 on NBC, as well as 1955-57 on CBS.  It was sponsored by Winston cigarettes.  Bob Cummings played Bob Collins a photographer who worked by beautiful models, who was a swinging bachelor who lived with his sister, played by Rosemary DeCamp and her son, played by Dwayne Hickman.  Ann B. Davis played his secretary who was madly in love with Bob, bus his eyes went to his gorgeous models.  The show was a product of Paul Henning who went on later to produce the Beverly Hillbillies.  In fact the show shared many crew members and had much of the same production "feel."  The show also co-starred Nancy Kulp(Miss Hathaway in Beverly Hillbillies), Lyle Talbot, King Donovan, Joi Lansing, Carol Henning and Ingrid Goude, Miss Sweden 1956.

WMAY-TV Calls it Quits

During the late 1950's much litigation was still underway in the on-going controversy over channel 2 in Springfield, Illinois. Even though that was the case, I would assume that most interested parties already knew the outcome would not change. Among those who would finally legally pull out of contention was WMAY-TV. Even though it had originally won the decision, the grant would be changed to allow for the operation of WMAY-TV on channel 36 upon the shift of the channel 2 allocation to St. Louis. WMAY-TV didn't see a particular advantage of operating as a UHF station on channel 36 and would turn its grant back to the FCC.

By October of 1959, WMAY-TV would officially withdraw from litigation in the case before the FCC. The group said they had already spent $60,000 in pursuing channel 2 and fighting for it before the courts and the FCC. The FCC was told that the personnel scheduled and hired for WMAY-TV had accepted offers elsewhere and left the station with no choice other than disband.

The legal ramblings of the channel 2 Springfield-St. Louis would continue for still quite some time. Even in 1960, Plains Television would have to file a petition to state its position that channel 2 should remain in St. Louis. ABC also joined in that opinion, obviously, since channel 2 would be the St. Louis market's ABC affiliate putting it on a par with CBS/KMOX-TV/Channel 4, and NBC/KSD-TV/Channel 5.

WICS Extends its Reach Again

In July of 1960 an agreement was made between Northwest Publishing a subsidiary of Gannett Publishing to purchase its television station in Danville, Illinois. The station operated on Channel 24 with the call letters of WDAN-TV, being associated with its radio sister station WDAN, 1490kc. WDAN-TV was one of the central Illinois heritage stations having gone on the air in December of 1953 and was affiliated with ABC.

It was located in the rear of the radio stations offices/studios and from the very beginning was nothing more than a “place-holder” to keep other media competition from entering the Danville market. As it was Northwest not only owned the local newspaper, but also WDAN Radio and Television. There was only one other Danville radio station, WITY, which went on the air in the early 1950's.

WDAN-TV was put on the air with a minimum investment and only benefited from one power increase during its run. It's broadcast day never began before 2pm weekdays and very seldom went after midnight. (It is possible that WDAN-TV signed-on earlier for a short time with the broadcast of Don McNeill's Breakfast Show from 8-9am on ABC.  It would then sign-off at 9am and resume at 3pm or later).  Even though it did originate some programming during its time, consisting of some local news broadcasts, some sponsored audience participating games and contest shows, a local teen dance show and cooking shows, it was far less than a full service TV station. (See History of WICD-TV)

The sale of WDAN would not include real estate. The studios would remain at the 1501 North Washington Street site in Danville. The antenna/tower of WDAN Radio would continue to support the top mast/antenna of Channel 24.

The details of the sale included the price for the license at a mere $75,000. The contract would also include lease payments to Northwest Publishing of $1,200 a month for the facility. Upon the sale of the station, the call letters would be changed to WICD(TV) and it would instantly become an NBC affiliate and re-broadcast the re-broadcasted signal of WICS and WCHU!

It was announced in August of 1960, John Begue who held various positions at WICS in Springfield would become station manager of WICD(TV). Mr. Begue who was a broadcast veteran of 18 years was part of the Channel 20 staff as promotions director and weathercaster since 1953.

(Top): A WDAN-TV test pattern from a slide recovered at the WDAN-TV studios

(Middle): The WDAN AM/TV studios as pictured in 1953
(photo courtesy of Neuhoff Broadcsting)

NBC Shows Airing on WICS 1959-63

"Howdy Doody" "Huntley-Brinkley Report"
"True Story" "Cimarron City" "The David Niven Show"

"The Match Game"
"Dean Martin Show"
"Bachelor Father"
"Jimmie Rodgers Show"
"It's a Man's World"
"Sing Along with Mitch"
"Dr. Kildare"
"NBC Baseball Game of the Week" "Buckskin" "Ruff and Reddy" "Black Saddle" "The Deputy"
"Restless Gun" "The Virginian"
"Peter Gunn" "Empire"
"Tonight starring Jack Paar"
"The Westerner"
"The Bell Telephone Hour"
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color"

"Dinah Shore Show"

"Dick Powell Show"
"Sam Benedict"
"Doctor Malone"
"Steve Canyon" "Treasure Hunt" "Bat Masterson" "Car 54, Where Are You?" "Concentration"
"The Tonight Show"
"Dante" "Joey Bishop Shop"
"Fury" "The Detectives"
"Northwest Passage"
"Arthur Murray Dance Party"
"Queen for a Day"
"Truth or Consequences" COLOR
"Kraft Music Hall"
"Michael Shayne"
"The Tall Man"
"Andy Williams Show"
"Merv Griffin Show"
Syndicated Shows Airing on WICS 1959-1963
"Walt Disney " "Girl Talk"
"The Rifleman" (from ABC)
"Cannonball" "Make Room for Daddy"
"Jeff's Collie" [Lassie]
"Laurel and Hardy"
"Rocky and Bullwinkle"

"Highway Patrol" "King Leonardo"
"Miami Undercover " "The Three Stooges"

Another Competitive Threat Becomes Even More Real for WICS

Evidently Midwest Television was tiring of the many threats and filings of Plains Television, and decided to make a stab to the heart of Channel 20. This assault would come in the form of an application for channel 26, in the Capitol City filed on February 9, 1961.

The Midwest Television application for Springfield would seek channel 26 and operate with a power of 17.26kw from a tower at a height of 589-feet. The studio/transmitter location was stated as being 7.2 miles east of the State Capitol, east of Fork Prairie School Road, which would place it just to the east of Springfield.

The cost of the construction was stated to be $302,635, with first year operating costs at $110,000 and revenue estimated to be only $35,000. Even though, no information was given as to the use of channel 26 by Midwest, it would have to be assumed it would be a translator for WCIA. This would be the fist attempt of Midwest to put a city grade signal of WCIA across Springfield and even further increase its household reach.

The FCC Brings New Hope

In July of 1961, an FCC staff plan proposed the de-intermixture of the Champaign-Urbana and Decatur market which would eliminate the use of channel 3 by WCIA was proposed. The proposal was huge and included the use of VHF drop-ins, reducing the separation of some stations operating on the same channel, plus many more technical re-writes of current regulations. The 3-inch document was incredibly complex, even by FCC standards.

It also appeared the FCC would have enough votes to pass the proposed plan, but the commission also knew it would generate a barrage of opposition from stations, congress and in many ultimate court tests.

Of course this latest challenge to WCIA would be met with much resistance from Midwest Television as well as congress and the public at large. (See more in the History of WCIA)

This plan would give new hope to the prospect of having WCHU and WCIA compete on level ground. It's certain that Plains Television was very much in support of the proposal which would help not only its situation in Champaign, Illinois but also in Rockford, Illinois as well, where they were facing similar de-intermixture controversy.

The FCC would be correct in its prediction about the barrage of resistance to the latest efforts to de-intermix central Illinois television. There were very vocal opponents to the proposals who were based in Illinois. Those included Senate Minority Leader Everette Dirkson, and two house members who were veteran members of the commerce committee: Rep. Peter F. Mack, Jr. (D-ILL) and William L. Springer (R-ILL). Both members of the House were very strong supporters of keeping WCIA at channel 3.

The FCC extended its deadline for filing proceedings on the proposal to January, 2 1965, after which it would take several months to arrive at its final decision. Most owners and operators of VHF and UHF stations knew this last de-intermixture plan probably would not take place. Just for insurance, though, August C. Meyer of Midwest Television would stage a campaign to save his VHF station the likes of which have never been seen before or since. (See History of WCIA)

Ultimately the proposal would be pulled from the consideration after an agreement was made with Senate Minority Leader Everette Dirkson (R-ILL) and FCC Chairman Newton N. Minow that legislation would be offered to mandate the manufacture of all channel VHF/UHF tuners in televisions thus leveling the playing field, at least somewhat, between the VHF and UHF stations in the country.

The circumstances around this picture is unknown but was labeled with the name of Helen Kinner.  I assume she is the one who appears to be directing the choir. She was the executive secretary to Milton Friedland.
(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-
Illinois State Journal)

During the mid 1950's Julie Craig hosted several home making programs about cooking and shopping including "Shopping with Julie."  This could be that program which was sponsored by Eisner Foods, a grocery chain with stores throughout central Illinois, owned by Jewel Foods.
(from the Randy Miller Facebook Collection-
Illinois State Journal)

Pegwill Ranch and Pegwill Circus starring Pegwill Pete on WICS

(courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

(courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

(courtesy of Randy Miller)

(courtesy of Randy Miller)

(courtesy of Randy Miller)

(courtesy of Randy Miller)

(Above): I'm not sure what Springfield shoe store hosted this publicity shot with Pegwill Pete obtaining shoes for his co-star, "Coco." Along with Bill Wingerter as "Pegwill Pete" and Robert Wilson is "Coco" the chimp and two unidentified store clerks.
(courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

A Pegwill Circus Birthday card sent to kids from "Pegwill Pete."

(thanks to Kathryn Dinardo)

Pegwill Ranch and Pegwill Circus

Pegwill Ranch and Pegwill Circus entertained kids for nearly 10 years beginning in 1955.   This weekday afternoon children's show was sponsored by the Pegwill Packing Company which was owned by Bill Wingerter.

 Mr. Wingerter was the founder of WFMB radio and WBHW(TV), now WRSP, Channel 55.   Pictured above is an early version of the Pegwill TV franchise, called "Pegwill's Ranch."  Also pictured is the later version "Pegwill's Circus."

The show was done with Pegwill Pete being the "ring master" of a circus.  The kids who were involved with the production were in circus tent like bleachers and would sing the Pegwill  theme song...."We love Pegwill Weiners.....good ol' Pegwill Weiners....."

Much of the show included an auction which young audence members would score merchandise by bidding the coupons from Pegwill products.  A better discription of how it worked is given below with the remembrances of contributor Linda Kerske.

From Someone Who Was There:  

A number of kids in the Springfield area over the years from the late 1950's into the early 1960's appeared on one or more of the childrens panel shows of the era. Shows like “Pegwill's Circus,” “Popeye and Kim,” “Clicka T. Clack” or “The Funny Company” relied on a steady supply of local children who would win prizes, react with the shows host and clap and cheer for the cartoons and commercials.

Two of those Springfield kids were sister and brother, Linda and Jim Kerske who jolted their memories with a recollection of being on the long running “Pegwill's Circus.”

This from Linda  Kerske: “Well, I was very little at the time I was on there. I couldn't have been more than five if that! But, I have older brothers and sisters that remember more about it. I just remember it was a fun experience and I was so excited that I was on TV.”

Jim wrote the following: “ We actually collected empty plastic bags from Pegwill meat packages(healthy huh...especially when you collected for weeks and weeks). Each product carried an assigned “value” i.e. hot dogs-10 points, bacon-15 points, cold cuts-20 points, etc.. I remember going on the show 2 or 3 times in the late 50's. You would sit on hardwood bleachers and Pegwill Pete would conduct an auction on a variety of toys, board games and just “stuff” that you had a chance to bid in one segment of the show. My eyes must have been as big as bulger marbles as us kids were allowed to view the goodies before the show to decide what you wanted to “bid.” I remember carrying armfuls(2 or 3 large brown sacks) to the station."

“There was also a strategy to e implemented when you arrive at the studio. You must “size up” the competition by estimating their booty (bags of labels) and assessing the real competition from the also rans. You did not want to bid against a kid who had more sacks than you.”

“In retrospect it was a very good experience for young kids to be introduced to decision making in relation to the hard earned toils of labor by going door to door asking (begging) for “Paywol Wabels” as my third grade friend Johnny would call them. It was big stuff to be on TV back then. I remember Mr. Minnus, dad's and our principal at Pleasant Hill calling me “a movie star” because he saw me on TV(I think it was 1958 or 1959).”

If you were one of those Springfield kids who appeared on WICS during one of those kids shows, I'd love to hear about your experience. Just drop me an e-mail....

Ann Marshall

Joann Marshall began performing when she was four years old singing on Pegwill Circus on WICS.  She was also a performer at WMBD radio's Juvenile Theatre in Peoria, Illinois.

Ann Marshall's career has included modeling, dancing and singing and was the first female newscaster in Los Angeles, being a broadcaster at KHJ-TV, Channel 9.  She also took guest star appearances on My Three Sons, One Life to Live, Hazel, Ann Southern Show, James Stewart Show, the Fall Guy, My Favorite Martian and was a co-star of the following movies: The Little Castaways, The Strongest Man in the World, Super Dad and has appeared in over 150 TV commercials and has done over 200 commercial voice-overs.

Ann still does voice-overs and on-camera jobs, but she still plays a lot of tennis.  She has a teenage son and travels.

Click here to visit her website.

(Above): One of the characters of Pegwill Circus was the chimpanzee "Coco."  Along with Pegwill Pete pictured here is Bill Wingerter as "Pegwill Pete" and Robert Wilson(in the chef's hat)  and occasional performer Joann "Ann" Marshall.
(photo courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

(Near Above): Joann Marshall is pictured being interviewed on an appearance of "Pegwill Circus" at
WICS by Bill Wingerter who owned the Pegwill Packing Company.

This photo is from the Ann Marshall website.
(photo courtesy of Ann Marshall)

(Above): clipping from the Illinois State Journal and courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson

(Right):  A behind the scenes shot of
Ann Marshall at the Pegwill Circus
set at WICS from the mid 1960's.

(photo courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)

The Channel 2 Debate Continues and Ends

It wasn't enough an operator had to work each month to make billing projections of his/her television station, but they had to justify their very existence at the same time! This was the case in May of 1962 when a debate was taking place between Peter F. Mack (D-ILL) and Plains Television vice-president and general manger of WICS, Milton Friedland. Representative Mack was a bitter opponent of the shifting of channel 2 from Springfield to St. Louis.

Rep. Mack would argue that the use of the VHF channel in Springfield would increase TV coverage in central Illinois, while Mr. Friedland would argue the opposite position saying that the area would in fact lose one of more of the three UHF services it has now if VHF competition was brought in to Springfield. In this case, at that time, Mr. Friedland was correct. WICS would cease to exist along with its satellite stations WCHU and WICD and quite possibly Decatur's WTVP.

Interesting enough, this debate would not occur behind closed doors, instead it would take place at the WICS studios at the Leland Hotel and be televised live. It's moderator was Douglas Kimball, WICS, news director.

It's not known who won that television debate, but one would assume that Plains Television had the most to lose in the outcome from a public relations stance, and would not have gone into the public debate without the most confidence in a favorable outcome for them.

Either way, by June of 1962, “The Sangamon Case” as it called after Sangamon Valley Broadcasting, was finally decided by the FCC that channel 2 would stay in St. Louis. The commission agreed on the “blighting effect” it would be on UHF development in central Illinois, and admitted that a VHF station in Springfield would undoubtedly become the dominant outlet in the broader market area. The FCC also had other reasons as well. Not the least of which was to award the grant for channel 2 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The allocation for Springfield was amended with the final decision to include along with channel 20, channels 26 and 36. Channel 49 would be awarded to Jacksonville, Illinois and channel 68 would go to the Quad Cities (actually exchanged with channel 36-now in Springfield), along with VHF channel 8 from Peoria to Moline, Illinois (Quad Cities).

NBC Gets a New Peacock

In July of 1962 NBC revealed a new peacock logo as designed and produced by Elektra Films “It took four months to produce and used special back lighting and a spectrum of gray tones” as it was stated in the NBC press release. The new peacock would be seen for the first time with the season premiere of “Laramie” on NBC and WICS, along with WCHU. WICD did not broadcast in color.

The line would be announced by Mel Brandt staff announcer with NBC and would read, “The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC.” The 10-second NBC peacock logo would precede all programming on NBC which was broadcast in color. The peacock would give NBC one of the most recognizable company logos ever.




In 1958 a daytime staple began during the early morning on NBC.  "Concentration" was hosted by Hugh Downs.  It would become the longest continuous daytime game show of all time. It even showed up in prime time for while in 1958 and 1961.

Perry Como was one of the biggest 1950 television stars.  He hosted his own musical variety show "The Perry Como Show" from 1948 to 1963.  He had shows on NBC an CBS during his run.  From 1955-1963 he was back on NBC with an occasional weekly show in Color.

"Wagon Train" aired on both NBC and ABC during its run from 1957-1965.  It aired on NBC from 1957 to 1962.  Even though it had a cast of regulars, it was more of a dramatic anthology featuring guests every week in their own situations centering around the wagon train as it traveled westward.

Enjoy this NBC kinescope of the Kraft Music Hall originally presented in color live across the network and televised in color on WICS.  Unfortunately, those in other time zones other than eastern/central had to watch these live shows via kinescope weeks later in black in white.

This was recorded on April 1, 1958 and features the complete show with original commercials.

(all You Tube Videos are subject to removal without notice)


Mark Goodson and Bill Todman developed this game show for NBC in 1957.  One of the potential hosts for the long running game show was Dick Van Dyke, who auditioned for the job in 1957.  A rare picture from his audition is left.  Bill Cullen ultimately ended up as the host.  This version was different from the Bob Barker version of the show with the same name.  This had a panel of contestants who made bids on products, and would win prizes.
"Bonanza" began as a production of NBC, sponsored by major corporate sponsor General Motors, primarily Chevrolet.  It was a replacement for "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" which was canceled in 1959.  "Bonanza" premiered in 1959 and ran through 1973.  It was a promotional partnership which would be extended much further than the actual broadcast of the TV show.  One of the more unique disadvantages of this partnership, was that the product couldn't be shown as part of the show itself!  "Bonanza" was also a color TV pioneer, as it was broadcast in color throughout it's entire run, with many scenes designed to showcase the advantage of watching the show in color, hopefully on an RCA color TV no doubt.  There was also a tour of a duplicate set of the "Pondorosa" ranch house exterior which made appearances at state fairs and other events across the country during the early 1960's.  These displays also featured the latest models of Chevrolet vehicles

The series was set on a ranch, which included many thousands of square miles called "The Pondorosa" owned by patriarch of a family of all half brothers.  Adam Cartright was the father, played by Lorne Green, with sons Adam(Pernell Roberts), Eric"Hoss"(Dan Blocker), Joe "Little Joe"(Michael Landon).  Others in the cast during the early years included Ray Teal as Sheriff Coffee and Victor Sen Yung as their cook Hop Sing.  The series concentrated more on the relationship of the cast with guest characters.  Many episodes would feature the drama surrounding just one or two of the main characters, but still included at least short cameos of the other members of the cast.  The show also was featured in syndication and in reruns in other time periods as "The Pondorosa."

This episode is from 1959 called "The Showdown."

In September of 1961, Walt Disney's "Disneyland" left ABC where it would find a home on colorful NBC.  The hour long family anthology would include produced for TV episodes and reworked theatrical features along with some animated specials and documentaries.  The show was introduced by Walt Disney each week, who would explain that week's episodes.  Pictured above is Ludwig Von Drake(voiced by Paul Frees) along with Walt Disney and the NBC peacock.  I remember how glorious the tinker bell's magic wand looked as it spread color across the screen. 

"Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" was a Sunday night regular series for 20 years from 1961 to 1981 on NBC and WICS. 

"The Bob Hope Show" ran on NBC as a series of Specials on the network.  Here he is pictured with guest stars Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Jack Benny.

A selection of TV Guide ads placed by WICS from 1958-1959

(from the TV Guide Collection of Doug Quick)

Kim Wilson

Click for larger view
(photo and flyer above courtesy of  Teresa Wilson Ericson)

WICS didn't have the TV franchise to "Romper Room," but with Kim Wilson, who needed it?  Kim Wilson, based on my memory, was probably one of the most beloved TV personalities in the market.  An extremely versatile TV performer and artist, she hosted the children's shows, but also conducted celebrity interviews, did programs on women's issues and even local news features.  (Above left): In these publicity hand outs, it included her autograph. 
(photo courtesy of WICS)

Kim Wilson  was a popular local celebrity at WICS from it's very early days into the 1960's.  She not only hosted several children's shows including "Popeye and Kim," but also "Kim's Corner" during the midday
and various interview segments with local personalities and many of the traveling promotional appearances with NBC stars.

During the time she was at WICS, her presence was overwhelming.  Along with being a "woman's editor" and hosting various daytime shows appealing to the "house wives" at the time, she also hosted interview segments on various news programs in which she would talk to NBC stars and others making publicity appearances at other locations in central Illinois.

She's probably best known as the host of "Popeye and Kim," "Kim's Kiddie Korner,""Popeye Fun Time with Kim" and other local productions watched by central Illinois youngsters.   Her shows also aired in east central Illinois on WCHU and WICD in the early 1960's. 

Shown at far top left is a printed sales piece which told prospective  advertisers just how popular show was and how her popularity could benefit them.

This 1963 Photo has Kim Wilson with one of her celebrity interviews during the "5 O'Clock Report" newscast.  Here she's interviewing Virginia Graham, who was a show business reporter and host of a syndicated show which aired during the Noon hour in the early to mid 1960's.
Click on picture for larger view.

(photo courtesy of WICS)
Kim is pictured with Rory Calhoun who starred in
the syndicated "Western Star Theater" also known
as "Death Valley Days" after Borax discontinued it's
sponsorship when the series went into syndication.

Kim Wilson also spent time at WTVP in Decatur during her
central Illinois TV career.
(photo courtesy of WICS)

Kim Wilson hosted the local children's show "Popeye Fun Time with Kim."  It was also called "Popeye and Kim Wilson."

It featured the more recent King Syndicate versions  of the classic cartoon character along with  local children in the studio.  It was also broadcast in Champaign on WCHU, Channel 33.

(TV Guide ad courtesy of J.R. Evans)

Clicka T. Clack (William R. Miller)

This is a rare behind the scenes view of William Miller as "Clicka T. Clack."  Presumably the name came from the noise made by a passing train, as his character was actually a train conductor.
"Clicka T. Clack" would begin with a train sequence taken from a Warner Brothers cartoon and would open up with the kids in the studio set as a railway station.  Warner Brothers cartoons were broadcast during the show and the kids would participate in a couple of games between the cartoons.

(photo of Bill Miller above from Teresa Wilson Ericson)

(picture from WICS)

 (Above): Clicka T. Clack is pictured with several local kids holding "Pay Day" candy bars as part of a local promotion with the candy maker.

(photo from WICS)
(Above): As part of "The Funny Company" and other WICS produced children's shows, the station would host a special Christmas edition with the kids of the employees of WICS.  This picture is from Christmas 1964 as Santa appears with Bill Miller, Clicka T. Clack on "The Funny Company."

(photo courtesy of Teresa Wilson Ericson)


"The Funny Company" was another concept of the children's show which Bill Miller was asked to host.  It was a stretch for him to do, after serving
as the train conductor for years as "Clicka T. Clack" with the railraod theme show, but he seemed to pull it off. 
"The Funny Company" was a syndicated concept show which stations could add their own elements.  The cartoons addressed children's issues like being a friend, sharring, etc..

(Video from You Tube)


The WICS/WCHU/WICD news lineup in 1963.
The talent lineup included: (top row):  UNKNOWN, Chet Huntley(NBC),
Dale Coleman, David Brinkley(NBC), UNKNOWN
(bottom row): Douglas Kimball, Wayne Cox

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

The first ten years of WICS ends with the Kennedy Assassination
as reported by NBC.  It was a turning point for TV news.  NBC like the other
networks were caught off guard and it seemed more like radio than television for the earlier reports.  Note that the first report was reported by NBC staff announcer Don Pardo(the announcer for Saturday Night Live).
No recording was made by the network, until after the reports were initialed.
What you hear during the first minutes were recorded by Phil Gries who ran an audio tape of the first reports.

(From You Tube)

The Pepsi Dance Party aired on WICS for a while in the mid 1960s.  The in studio dance program would sometime include a live band (unknown here), and a number of teen age dancers.  The host is unidentified, but from my experiences in working with Marty Roberts at WTAX in the mid 70s, this could have been him.  Does anyone know for sure?   Let me know!

(screen grabs of video recording from WICS)

Plains Television Once Again Does Battle with WCIA

In one last defiant move to do battle with WCIA, Plains Television filed a petition against Midwest Television Incorporated. The complaint stemmed from the multiple ownership of Midwest in stations in Champaign with WCIA and in Peoria with WMBD-TV. Midwest also had applications for a UHF station in Springfield at channel 26 and had another for a low powered translator for Effingham (although no application was ever published). Plains Television would claim that Midwest Television had a monopoly in the central Illinois region and would sell advertising on the group of stations through the use of combo rates which made competing difficult for the individual station owned by Plains. Plains would also claim WMBD-TV was operating as a semi-satellite of WCIA and if the station at channel 26 was granted to them in Springfield it would operate in the fashion, sharing combo programming and staff members putting the Plains stations at a disadvantage.

Plains would also object to the use of the term WCIA was using in its sales effort called “The Greater Illinois market (GIM).” The idea of Midwest carving 19,445 square miles “carved out of the heart of Illinois and extending into Indiana” was objectionable to Plains.  An example of the combo rate was given using the off-network syndicated “Adventures in Paradise” as shown late nights on WCIA. WCIA would charge $60 for a 30-second commercial, while WMBD-TV would charge $15 for a 30-second commercial. If an advertiser would purchase both stations together it would cost $65 to receive a 30-second commercial on both.

Plains would also complain about the use of common programming being injurious to Plains, but also claimed that Midwest was breaking FCC rules calling on stations to produce locally originating programming.  In their complaint Plains would state, “The present competitive situation in central Illinois originates in the imbalance inherent in the intermixture of one dominant VHF station in a group of struggling UHF stations. It is enhanced by Midwest's calculated expansion of its service area by acquiring more and more stations in contiguous areas, and it is capped by Midwest's abusive commercial practices (including joining rates, common programming and common operation) clearly designed to make it more dominant....”

Notes taken from the filing stated that, “Midwest is contravening the FCC's “traditional” diversification standards. Says Midwest does not need this umbrella coverage because it starts with “a very substantial competitive advance” its base station WCIA is the only VHF outlet in central Illinois. Also says Midwest has thwarted FCC policy on extension of service areas through the use of regular stations in other markets as satellites. Says that as the owner of the only VHF in the area the station should lean over backward “not to take unfair advantage of its less fortunate UHF competitors.”

Plains Television would also make a case for the rejection of the Midwest Television application for channel 26 in Springfield by saying that “the addition of another station to Midwest's group would have serious adverse economic impact on Plains. This would give Midwest advantage in the purchase of feature films, syndicated film and other program resources and joint sales.”

Plains would also protest the purchase of KFMB-AM/FM/TV in San Diego, California.

Once again, Midwest Television would fire back at Plains. Midwest called the Plains request to the FCC that the owners of WCIA and WMBD be forced to divest itself of all but one TV was “ill considered, reckless, unsupported and patently false.” Midwest would point out that Plains itself is more vulnerable to the charges stated in it's operation of WICS, WCHU and WICD across mid Illinois.

It also pointed out that Plains also owned property outside the region with WHNB-TV in New Britain Connecticut and that its stockholders had interests in TV stations in Chicago, Rockford, Grand Rapids and in a UHF application in Paterson, New Jersey as well as radio properties in St. Louis, Dallas and Highland Park, Illinois.

Midwest would also state that WCIA and WMBD simulcast 5 hours a week in response to charges by Plains. Midwest pointed out that Plains feeds its stations in Champaign and Danville from Springfield and are considered semi-satellites of WICS. In a sample week, October 13-19 of 1963, only 4.6% of WMBD's total of 121 hours-27 minutes was simulcast. Midwest claimed that its stations were programmed from its own home market.

Midwest also claimed to be the only locally owned television station in central Illinois, saying Plains was owned by New York and Chicago real estate and theater interests. In regards to the combo sales, Midwest said it was only available for a limited time and was not subject to forced selling to advertisers. Only twelve advertisers utilized the short time promotion.

In mid December of 1963 the central Illinois media battle between Midwest and Plains Television was suspended. Plains asked the FCC to withdraw its petition against Midwest Television.  Midwest Television agreed to suspend the combination rage through August 5, 1964, when it reserved the right to reactivate it with applications for license renewals of WCIA and WMBD. There it would be considered by the FCC as part of the license renewal process.

The Future of WICS

WICS would continue to broadcast a combination of locally produced children's show during the late afternoon, including the popular “Pegwill's Circus.” Local news would consist of state house news and Springfield local news and sports. NBC would become the “full color network” in 1965 and would broadcast its entire schedule in color, as would WICS.

Sometime in 1964, WICS would pick up a translator station to broadcast its signal to Mattoon, Illinois. The lack of facility of WCHU left that major city without NBC programming, but even more importantly, it was an opportunity to add even more households to the coverage of WICS. W-75-AD served the Mattoon area with a low powered re-broadcast of programming from WICS.

In 1966, the development of a full-powered UHF station on the former Bloomington allocation on channel 15 would take place after it was reallocated to Champaign. This was planned to take place in early 1967, but an ice storm would take down the tower of the new Channel 15 right as it was go on the air. Plains would rebuild the 1380-foot tower at the original site between Homer and Fithian, Illinois on the banks of the Salt Fork Creek in Vermilion County, Illinois.

This new station would take the place of W-75-AD in Mattoon along with WCHU at Channel 33 in Champaign and WICD at Channel 24 in Danville. All three stations would be discontinued with the premiere of the new WICD, Channel 15. With the new replacement tower, it would be the tallest man made structure in the state of Illinois for a time. WCHU would continue to originate at least some local programming including local news. Local commercials would air in place of local commercials on WICS. Switching was accomplished live and sometimes very sloppily as operators would cut in and out of commercial sets and sometimes chop off the beginnings and ends of programs both local and network.

The operation would continue in that fashion even after the sale of WICS in 1986 to Guy Gannett Communications based in Portland, Maine. It was operated between the two stations in the form of a regional network, meaning outside of local news, all network and syndicated programming would originate with WICS to be simulcast on WICD.

In late 1994, Guy Gannett would purchase WICD and ownership between the stations would be shared once again.

The set of stations would be the second in the market to broadcast a digital signal on their respective new UHF channels of 41 for WICD and 42 for WICS. They would go full power to broadcast a secondary high-definition channel of the Olympics from NBC.  In 1999 Guy Gannett would sell its entire holdings with several of its seven properties being purchased by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. On Labor Day 2005, the combo of WICS and WICD would lose NBC to WAND, Channel 17 in Decatur. The Sinclair duopoly would then become affiliates of ABC.

WICS would be the second station in the market to achieve total high-definition capabilities, after WAND. This changeover to high-definition programming local and network would occur in 2012.

The WICS Honor Roll                                                         Employees of Plains Television 1953-1963
Here presented in no particular order are those
who have served at WICS, job descriptions/title,

Milton D. Friedland-v-president/general manager 53-
Jame "Jack" Harelson-program manager 53-54
Bazil O-Hagen-chief engineer 53-56
Jack Hoskins-film director/program director 53-
John Begue-sales/promotion/weathercaster 53-60
Carroll W. Neeld-sales 53-
Ken Spengler-sales 53-
Frank Harbauer-sales 53-
Dick Ashenfelter-engineer 53-
Helen Kimmer-executive secretary of the general mgr 53-
Bob Margan-announcer 55-
Bill "Clickety Clack" Miller 60-

Malden Jones-news editor 53-54
Edwin Pool-engineer 53-
Jack Bowers-engineer 53-
Gerald "Jerry" Merritt-enginner/chief engineer 53-
Bernice Warner-community director 53-
Bernie Waterman-sports editor 53-
Bette Muller-asst to film director 53-
Frank Martin-weathercaster 54-
Marty Roberts-talent host 55-56
Julie Craig-talent host 54-56
Bob Wilson-talent/engineering 55-
G.B. Gordon-news editor 55-59
Mariam "Mari-Ann" Ellis -talent host 54-
Pete Wetzel-talent/Pegwill Shows 55-
Larry Spiller-continuity editor 55-
Phil Young-sales 56-
Bryan S. Halter Jr.-continuity asst/announcer 56-
Marion Leimbeck-continuity/traffic assit 56-

Bernie Johnson-talent/host 54-60
Wally Gair-sportscaster, talent/host 58-
Bob Warren-weathercaster/news editor/anchor 58-59
Dale Coleman-news editor/anchor 60
Wayne Cox-news reporter/anchor 60
Nick Alexander-weathercaster/news reporter/anchor 60-
Alan Crane-news reporter/anchor 1962
Charles Bauman-farm director 1954-55
Bill "Pegwill Pete" Wingerter-talent/host 55-
Marge ????-talent with "Pegwill" programs 55-
Ann Marshall-talent with "Pegwill" programs, 1950's
Bill Shaw-photogrpaher 57-
Warren King-sales mgr 57-
Robert B. Farrow-sales 60-
Lorene Brown-announcer 62-
Kim Wilson-talent/host 59-
Doug Kimball-1962
* a contributor to this site
This list is by no means complete....  if you are or know a WICS employee, sales, administration, programming, news or creative services...drop me an e-mail.
Include that persons name, title or job description and approximate dates of employees, if you know.

Broadcasting-Telecasting Magazine
The Illinois State Journal-Register
The Urbana Courier Newspaper
The News-Gazette
The Decatur Herald-Review Newspaper
TV Guide (1954-1959) from the Doug Quick Collection
Lincoln Library-Springfield
Danville Public Library
Champaign Public Library
Decatur 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

Bob Lee for the vast majority of program titles screen grabs
WICS, Channel 20, Springfield
Cindy Larson and others at WICS
Randy Miller and his Facebook Photo Collection
Teresa Wilson Ericson
Ann Marshall

J.R. Evans
Neuhoff Broadcasting-Danville
James Isley
Kathryn Dinardo
Dave Heller (who produced the 40th Anniversary of WICS and a number of screen grabs were taken)
Creative Services at WICS during the 60th Anniversary of WICS from which the recreation of the WICS logo (1st in Springfield) was included as the first graphic of this page

You Tube videos are property of the individual copyright holders and only posted for their historical significance. 
    They are subject to removal by the contributors and You Tube.

If you have any additional material or can identify any people not ID'd in pictures, please e-mail me at dougquick @

Page 2 is next...   

The History of WICS, Springfield
  Page 1
The First 10 Years, 1953-1964
  Page 2
Moving to Cook Street and Becoming Full Color 1965-1978
  Page 3
Plains Television to Guy Gannett, 1978-1994
  Page 4
NBC and from Guy Gannett to Sinclair, 1995-2004
  Page 5
The ABC Years/HD, 2005-present

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updated 12/23/2016
web master:  Doug Quick
copyright 2001-2016  Doug Quick