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Channel 5 is moving.


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#1 Giraffe

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:03 PM

I read in the _Star-Telegram_ recently that KXAS-TV (Channel 5) is going to be moving out of their old studios on the east side of Fort Worth soon. They're relocating to a business park close to DFW Airport. One reason they gave was that it's more centrally located to the entire Metroplex. I can't help wondering if another reason could be the age of their current building (circa late 1940s, and expanded).

I visited Channel 5 only a handful of times in my life, but each trip always left a deep impression. I'm wondering what memories others may have of the place.

KXAS began broadcasting when Truman was still president. It was WBAP-TV then (We Bring A Program). WBAP-AM 820 used to be over on Broadcast Hill, too, wasn't it? (WBAP's studios are now on Lamar in Arlington.)

I don't know what will become of the building, but the news story says that the land may be donated to Fort Worth to use as a park.

The first time I visited KXAS was around 1977. My sister was going to appear as part of a youth choir program or some such. I was only about 8 or 9 years old and can't remember exactly what my sister was doing, because I was much more interested in all the technical stuff all around me. Remember those analog dials that Harold Taft used during his forecasts? Wind speed, direction, humidity, etc. I also got to see their old B&W weather radar console. Taft drew his own weather maps each day and he usually game them to school kids and teachers after he was through with them; if your elementary school classroom had a Harold Taft weather map pinned to the wall, you were tuff stuff!

When I was in high school, a friend at L.D. Bell was working as an intern at Channel 5 and he invited me over to the station early one morning to show me around. He operated one of the cameras in the studio for the 6 a.m. news. I stayed well out of the way but learned a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes in a TV studio. I got to see David Finfrock present the weather in front of the blue screen. Another camera operator was a woman, about college age, wearing a bathrobe, cut-offs, and fuzzy pink slippers while she ate corn flakes out of the box -- all while operating the camera.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, TV stations had to come up with a lot of their own in-house programming. The networks didn't have enough of their own programs to fill up a broadcast day, so that's why there were so many local live shows for kids and housewives. Channel 5 kept a great many pieces of background scenery and props from this period for many years, even after it had long outlived its usefulness.

One of the biggest casualties of the Mayfest Hailstorm was Channel 5 itself. I remember when the storm reached Broadcast Hill, someone at the station placed a video camera in the lobby and pointed it out the front doors towards the parking lot. The images of all those cars and trucks getting destroyed by baseball-sized hailstones was absolutely incredible.

Channel 5 would produce these excellent programs about the history of the station whenever an anniversary would roll around. They showed film footage of news events that are long forgotten by most of us: huge fires in downtown Fort Worth, the doctor who was on trial for poisoning his wife and committed suicide in the courtroom by slipping a cyanide capsule into his mouth and washing it down with a soft drink just before the jury returned its guilty verdict, the tornadoes hitting Dallas, the abandoned car dealership explosion right next to I-30 due to natural gas, and of course... the JFK assassination.

Can you name some of the newscasters who have come and gone from Channel 5 over the stretch of time? Brad Wright, Chip Moody, Lee Elsesser, etc. Pat Boone appeared in live commercials for Foremost Dairies when he was a college student, and he told some funny tales about his experiences in one of these anniversary programs. Other celebrities would appear in the studio to promote movies or local performances (Jimmy Durante, Jane Fonda, etc.)

The last time I was in the Channel 5 studios was about 15 years ago. Their long-time chief engineer had finally retired, and they'd hired a new guy from New Jersey to replace him. This new chief engineer really cleaned house; they threw out a great deal of old TV technology and brought in much more up-to-date stuff. He showed me a room that had been used long ago for developing and editing film for the newscasts; there was a bathtub built into the floor for this purpose, but since the station had long since switched to using videotape exclusively, there was no longer a need for film developing. They covered over that tub and it's probably buried under several miles of computer network cable.

Channel 5 had a terrific B&W still-photograph library when I last visited (I was researching photographs for a book project). I don't know if it's still there of if it's since been relocated to the UTA Library. Some of the pictures I remember seeing there showed the building under construction in the late 1940s.

Not mentioned in the _Star-Telegram_ article was what will happen to the antenna masts that are on the property.

I recall one eventful day long ago (late '70s or early '80s) when a major power failure occurred inside the station building. It may have knocked out the air conditioning (and believe me, with all those hot lights in the studio, there's NO WAY you can do a news broadcast in there without A/C). In any case, KXAS simply moved the 5 o'clock news out into the parking lot, and broadcast it live from there! Harold Taft drew the weather map on a roll-around chalkboard, like old times.

Many of us still remember Harold Taft's long bout with cancer. And I still recall watching that 10 p.m. news broadcast when David Finfrock had to announce that "The Chief" had finally succumbed, just a few minutes previously.

I've always wondered exactly how large and extensive their film and video library is.

What all do YOU remember?

#2 WCS59

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 09:21 AM

I remember going to the studios to see "See Saw Zoo", a puppet show that featured such characters as Maurice the Bum Steer, Brutus (a fox), Bonnie (a mouse), the Professor (a beaver), and Mrs. Roxie Rocks (a parrot), all of whom lived in a waste basket. Since the show was on WBAP the cast was known, naturally, as the Waste Basket Animal Players.

Other memories:

Alex Burton and his rubber plant on the midnight news.

The Texas News at 10 pm, sure to have graphic footage of crimes and car crashes. When it was sponsored by Texas Electric Service Compay, it was introduced with a clip of Reddy Kilowatt sitting behind a Channel 5 camera.

Organist William Barclay.

Cartoonist Johnny Hay.

Sportscaster Bud Sherman.

#3 unknowntbone

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 10:53 AM

I believe that Alex Burton's 'pet rubber plant Arthur' was the only prop used on the set of Midnight News.

#4 johnfwd

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 11:10 AM

The only news anchorman I readily recall is Russ Bloxum (circa 1960s?).

#5 Ghost Writer in Disguise

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 06:12 PM

Puppet cartoon show hosts Mickey and Michelle Mud Turtle. What show was that? This was mid-60s; before that, Mickey Mud Turtle and Amanda Possum were on Channel 11.

Mickey is on Facebook: http://www.facebook....100000654483296

No mention of either of his erstwhile co-stars. Does that strike anyone else as being a little...well, suspicious?

#6 Birdland in Handley

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 12:19 AM

I am still a news and, somewhat, a true crime junkie and I'm sure it's because I begged to stay up and watch The Texas News as a tot in the early 60's.

#7 renamerusk

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 09:48 PM

Just read the comments posted on the Star Telegram's website about the Channel 5 tax abatement request sought of Tarrant County. From the comments posted on the S-T website, I would say that the public is overwhelming against the tax abatement; sure wish that Fort Worth would revisit it issue.

Keep Fort Worth folksy

#8 johnfwd

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 12:02 PM

The lighter side, I suppose: Apparently even UFOs get confused as to whether they're in Fort Worth or Dallas, as least where Channel 5/NBC is concerned. On the NBC Today show this morning a clip was shown, courtesy of Channel 5, labeled "Live Fort Worth" that showed a nightime light that could be a UFO sighting. The Today show commentator started it off by saying, "In Dallas, a UFO has been sighted..."




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