Saturday, June 30, 2007


From the Houston Post, Jack Harris' book 'The Fault Does Not Lie with Your Set' and other sources.

Owner: W. Albert Lee, Houston hotelman and commercial real estate broker.

The first to apply for a permit in Houston on October 10, 1947, Lee had been on the Board of Directors of the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo for years and had traveled to New York City to negotiate for a star entertainer to appear at the Rodeo when he first was exposed to television. He returned to Houston determined to put a TV station on the air. The FCC granted a permit on January 30, 1948, acting quickly, it has been suggested, because of the impending freeze and the Commission did not want to leave a city as large as Houston without TV for however long the permit process was going to be frozen.

First test pattern at full power: 12/20/48

Sign-on was set for 6pm on New Year's Day, January 1, 1949.

The schedule for the first night, after some opening remarks:

6pm - Test Pattern
6:15pm - Allen Dale Show - a musical variety show set in a record shop.
6:30pm - Lucky Pup (CBS) - children's puppet show about a little dog who inherited $5M and what he did with it.
6:45pm - Make Mine Music - Tony Mottola Trio - musical variety show; 'as most video shows are, it is held together with a plot and action.'
7pm - Newsreel
7:10pm - film short - music
7:15pm - Places Please (CBS) - a Barry Wood show which takes place behind the scenes of a Broadway theatre; different guest stars appear on the program.
7:30pm - To a Queen's Taste (CBS) - A French chef takes over to cook a special dish. Mrs. Dione Lucas, employee of the Cordon Bleu, gives out the recipe and shows how it's done. It takes her 30 minutes to demonstrate.
8pm - Winner Take All (CBS) - the audience gets to see the fantastic prizes given away on the Bud Collyer quiz program.
8:30pm - Fashions on Parade - New York and Paris fashions will be shown. A plot and entertainment make this more than a style show.
9pm - Kobb's Korner (CBS) - Spike Jones has competition when the Korn Kobblers make music from balloons, rubber tubes, auto horns, cowbells and washboards.
9:30pm - Doorway to Fame - Danton Walker has a professional talent show. Little known performers get a chance to be on a television show.
10pm - Swing into Sports - a sports lesson, currently golf; Dick Altman, KLEE-TV Sports Director.
10:30pm - Morey Amsterdam Show (CBS) - a variety comic show.
11pm - sign off

What actually happened:

Around 3:20pm, as the owner was showing some dignitaries around, a loud boom was heard and the transmitter shut down. A water line in the transmitter had burst. The GE transmitter used plastic tubing for the cooling system and none was to be found in Houston for repairs. Eventually, copper tubing was substituted and the station got on the air around 9:30pm. It was decided on the spur of the moment that the Chief Engineer, Paul Huhndorff, should go on first to explain what had happened as the station had been besieged with callers. Thus the Age of Television arrived in Houston with the words "There's been trouble...plenty of trouble."

As far as I know at this time, the entire schedule was aired and the station was on the air until about 2am.

In the first week, programs from CBS and DuMont were aired; later, the other networks also supplied programming. KLEE-TV was on the air 6-9pm, five nights a week only for several months, but by the end of the year was broadcasting 4 or 5 hours a night.

Note: I have published this material before in an on-line forum; it has been slightly reworked for this blog.


Unknown said...

Re KLEE-TV schedule for 1/1/49. Wow, do I remember "Lucky Pup"! We were among the first Houston families to get a TV set, and "Lucky Pup" was by far my favorite show. It was much better than "Kukla, Fran & Ollie," which came along later.

But my all-time favorite as a (very) little kid was a serial, daily, a kind of combination wild west/sci-fi show and I want to know if anyone remembers the name of it.
It had a hidden city inside a mountain called "Murania"! The bad guys were called the "Thunder Riders," because their horses sounded like thunder when they rode! Can't remember the good guys or the NAME of the show, but it was circa 1949-50.
Anybody remember??

Bruce said...

Thanks tct8141. I don't remember Lucky Pup or the one you describe. I do remember Kukla, Fran and Ollie (and always found it boring).

I found this in Wikipedia about The Phantom Empire:

I wonder if you saw the old movie serial rerun or was it animated?

I bet you have lots more stories to tell of early TV in Houston. Please email me on the contact page.