WDSU-TV...FIRST TELEVISION STATION IN THE DEEP SOUTH...1948
THE FIRST WDSU-TV ANTENNA
The RCA 5-bay Channel 6 Superturnstile antenna was assembled
on the ground at a location, that was once the site of Mercy Hospital,
across from the Texas Pacific Railway Station that once was stood on
Annunciation Street. Assembly involved bending and shaping co-axial
phasing lines around the main shaft of the antenna structure, a chore that
was much easier on the ground than on top of the white dome of Hibernia
Bank Bldg. in New Orleans, the antenna's destination. The main shaft and
the phasing lines were later hauled to the top of the Hibernia and re-
assembled. A special steel "socket" supported by steel girders was
installed, inside the Hibernia dome, to receive and support the antenna.
The main shaft of the antenna was raised to the top of the Hibernia Bank
Bldg. from a very narrow alley between the Hibernia Bank and another
building. There were several people in the alley observing the raising
procedure. As the shaft was beginning to rise, a tag line broke and
allowed the long metal shaft to swing freely down the narrow alley. It
nearly wiped out the WDSU-TV management and a couple of engineers.
Scrambling to safety were Edgar Stern, Jr., owner of WDSU AM-FM-TV,
Robert D. Swezey, soon to be general manager of Louisiana's first
television facility, Chief Engineer Lindsey Riddle and Engineer Paul
Yacich. Fortunately, no one was injured..."shook up" a bit, but not hurt.
THE FIRST WDSU-TV TRANSMITTER AND CONTROL ROOM
The RCA TT-25A transmitter and control room were housed in a
structure erected on the roof of the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank Bldg.
All of the transmitting equipment and antenna feed lines had
to be hauled up to the roof-top room on top of elevator cars. There was no freight
elevator big enough to handle the equipment. Most of the electronics
installation was performed by WDSU-TV transmitter supervisor, Paul
Holzenthal, Engineers John Dickenson, and Carlos Dodd.
THE FIRST TELEVISION PROGRAM IN NEW ORLEANS AND LOUISIANA
The first television program seen in Louisiana did not originate in a
studio. On Dec. 18, 1948, at 5:30 PM, the inaugural program of the new
WDSU-TV was presented from the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium at
Beauregard Square on North Rampart Street. The first WDSU-TV remote unit was
driven inside the auditorium and became the control room for the program
that featured TV personalities Don McNeill of ABC's "Breakfast Club" and
comedian Benny Fields. Many city and state officials and local entertainers
also appeared on the program to welcome the new broadcast facility to
"Emcee" Don McNeill is shown on the left in the above picture.
The first television cameraman in the deep south, Irwin F. Poche' is shown
on the right. Unfortunately, the others in the picture have not been
identified to date.
THE FIRST WDSU-TV TELEVISION REMOTE UNIT
The remote unit was constructed in the garage of the D. H. Holmes
department store garage. Engineers Edward Tong, J. Lowell Otto, Art
Pechon, and Paul Yacich outfitted the van (purchased from a Balban and
Katz TV facility) with recently arrived TV cameras, audio, microwave and
video switching equipment. Racks and cabinets, specially designed by
Edward Tong, were installed in which to mount and secure the equipment.
Later, Felix "Phil" DeGenova, a graduate of Central Radio and TV School
in Kansas, joined the crew. The remote unit was housed in the D. H. Holmes
garage until 1950, when the WDSU-TV Royal Street studios were opened.
During the first year of its existance, the remote unit and its crew
sometimes televised as many as 11 remote programs a week.
THE FIRST NEW ORLEANS NIGHT CLUB TV PROGRAM (REMOTE)
One of the first remote TV programs in New Orleans originated
from Lenfants Marine Room on Canal Blvd. The club no longer exists and the site is
now funeral home. As most TV stations discovered, the first time a camera
is seen in a night club, the customers are scared away. Even to this day, bringing
a Betacam into a night club can empty the place. Some of the patrons are in the club
in the company of someone with whom they are not supposed to be.
The Lenfants program proved to be very popular and featured a group called
"The Basin Street Six"....with a young clarinet player, Pete Fountain
(on the right of the group in the picture above). Cameramen Rene' Labat (left) and John
Hyrniewich (right) became part of the Lenfant's show.
THE FIRST WDSU-TV STUDIO
We called it a studio only because it had a TV camera in it.
The studio actually was a small stripped down, inside (no window) office on
the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank Bldg. It was much too small for "3D"
television sets. All of our local programs were presented using painted
paper backdrops. A story that came to be a classic in New Orleans television
lore relates that in our studio, to get a wide shot, the cameraman had to
dolly the camera (there was only one) out of the studio and into the hall
and for wider shots, into the Ladies Room across the hall.
WDSU-TV has always been the home of some of the great ladies of the
television world. Shown in the above picture is one of the first ladies to
grace the television screens of New Orleans was Joyce Smith in her Garden
Another of the first ladies of New Orleans television screens was Naomi
"Nonie" Bryant. In the small studio on the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank
Building, Nonie sang and danced in front of a painted paper background and
reported stories of the Hollywood favorites of that time in her show
In one of her programs, she introduced a guest, who was to sing and
dance with her. He was one of the WDSU-TV engineering staff members
(everybody at the station did "everything" at that time). His name...Paul
Yacich. After that show, and for the next fifty or more years Yacich was
involved with television broadcasting, he was never asked to sing or dance
again. That's not Yacich in the picture below...this fellow could really
sing and dance.
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For more New Orleans radio and television memories:
"NEW ORLEANS RADIO AND TV SHRINE"