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Vermont's Own Legacy: 60 Years of WCAX, Part 1 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont's Own Legacy: 60 Years of WCAX, Part 1

Vermont's Own Legacy: 60 Years of WCAX, Part 1

The exciting and emotional story of Vermont's first television station is told through candid interviews, rare archival footage and photos. Learn the unique story of WCAX; from its humble roots as a small newspaper and radio company, to the challenge of building a transmitter on Vermont's highest peak. Find out what it has taken to remain successful as one of the last remaining local, family-owned TV stations in America.

TRANSCRIPT:

>>> ALTHOUGH THE FIRST CHANNEL 3 BROADCAST WASN'T UNTIL 1954, THE STORY OF WCAX BEGAN IN VERMONT IN THE 1930'S.

>> WE WERE A VERY RURAL STATE, AGRICULTURALLY FOCUSED, NOT MUCH INDUSTRY HERE.

IT WAS A STATE WHOSE POPULATION HADN'T GROWN A LOT AT THAT POINT, AND WE DIDN'T HAVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE WE DO TODAY.

WE HAD UNPAVED SEGMENTS OF STATE HIGHWAYS.

THERE WERE PARTS THAT DIDN'T GET ELECTRIC SERVICE UNTIL AROUND 1960.

SO WE WERE A FAIRLY REMOTE, VERY CONSERVATIVE PLACE THAT REALLY HADN'T BEGUN TO DEVELOP IN THE 50s.

WE HAD RADIO FOR SEVERAL DECADES, BUT STILL NEWSPAPERS THAT PEOPLE RELIED ON PRINCIPALLY.

>>> THERE WAS ONE NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER IN PARTICULAR WHO MOVED TO BURLINGTON AND WOULD CHANGE THE FACE OF VERMONT MEDIA.

>> I MOVED HERE IN 1938.

HE WAS A NEWSPAPER MAN, AND HE HAD BEEN PUBLISHER OF RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH IN VIRGINIA, AS HAD HIS FATHER, SO HE BOUGHT THE BURLINGTON DAILY NEWS, AND IT HAS A RADIO STATION CALLED WCAX RADIO.

WHEN RADIO WAS EVERY BIT REVOLUTIONARY A MEDIUM AS THE INTERNET IS NOW.

SO HE TOOK THE POWER UP TO A THOUSAND WATTS, AND THEN AFTER THE WAR TOOK IT TO 5,000 WATTS.

HE NEEDED AN ENGINEER TO DO ALL THESE THINGS, AND HE HAPPENED TO HAVE A SON-IN-LAW WHO WAS A VERY HIGHLY QUALIFIED ELECTRICAL ENGINEER.

SO THAT'S HOW HE GOT INTO THE BROADCAST BUSINESS.

>> THE STORY I WAS WORKING AS AN ENGINEER IN BOSTON, AND IT WAS ASSUMED THAT I WOULD GO TO VERMONT AND BUILD IT.

AND HE SAID IT.

IF YOU NEW STUART MARTIN IN HIS MATTER OF FACT WAY, HE WOULD GO TO VERMONT AND BUILD IT.

>> HE WAS VERY INTERESTED IN RADIO AND HAD THE BRIGHT IDEA ABOUT THERE'S NO TELEVISION STATION IN VERMONT.

HE COULD FORESEE THAT TELEVISION WAS THE COMING THING.

TELEVISION WAS GOING TO TAKE OVER.

THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT.

>> WE WERE THE LAST PLACE ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS, AND AFTER THE FLOOD OF 1927, WE WERE REALLY WITHOUT A LOT OF THINGS.

THERE WAS NOT A TELEVISION STATION, BUT THERE WAS THE OPPORTUNITY AND, OF COURSE, MOUNT MANSFIELD, TALLEST MOUNTAIN, HAD ALL THE POSSIBILITIES.

>> SO YOU PUT A TRANSMITTER ON TOP OF MOUNT MANSFIELD.

THE HIGHEST POINT IN THE STATE OF VERMONT, RIGHT?

AND THE SIGNAL GOES RIGHT, LEFT, NORTH, SOUTH.

YOU COVER A HUGE AREA.

>> BUT CP HASBROOK AND HIS STEPSON STUART RED MARTIN WEREN'T THE ONLY ONES EYEING MOUNT MANSFIELD FOR THE CHANCE TO BRING TV TO VERMONT.

>> MY DAD WITH A FELLOW NAMED SETH WAS LOOKING VERY SERIOUSLY INTO TELEVISION, AND HE WENT UP AND SCOUTED OUT THE TOP OF MOUNT MANSFIELD AND CAME BACK WITH GREAT PLANS.

AND HE SET BACK UP TO WHERE HE THOUGHT EVERYTHING SHOULD BE, AND SETH SAID, THAT'S A VERY INTERESTING IDEA, BUT I WOULD POINT OUT TO YOU THAT IN THE MIDST OF WINTER THE DRIFT OF SNOW OFF THE NOSE OF MOUNT MANSFIELD PUTS THE LEVEL OF SNOW SOMETIMES AT 30 FEET AND THAT STYMIED MY FATHER, AND CHANNEL 3 BIT THE BULLET.

THEY TOOK THE CHANCE, AND THEY WENT UP THERE AND WORKED THROUGH IT ALL AND GOT IT GOING.

>> THEY HAD TO BUILD A STATION AND THEY HAD TO BUILD A STUDIO.

THEY HAD TO BUILD A TRANSMITTER LINK.

THEY HAD TO BUILD A ROAD TO OUR PRESENT BUILDING.

THAT'S A LOT OF BUILDING.

>> WE WERE BUILDING IT FROM SCRATCH.

IT WASN'T LIKE IT WAS A TURN KEY OPERATION.

>> I MEAN, TO BE ABLE TO PUT THIS STATION TOGETHER AT THAT TIME, YOU KNOW, THAT HAD TO BE SO HARD, GETTING ALL OF THAT EQUIPMENT UP THERE ON THE MOUNTAIN.

I MEAN, JUST ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

I MEAN, WE ALL TAKE IT FOR GRANTED.

I MEAN, THERE WERE STEPS ALONG THE WAY, AND YOU JUST GRADUALLY BUILD, AND IT STARTED WITH THE FIRST SHOVEL INTO THE GROUND UP THERE ON THE MOUNTAIN.

>> WE WERE ON TOP OF A TALL MOUNTAIN, AT THE END OF A LONG ROAD THAT IS DIFFICULT TO GET THINGS LIKE 40 OR 50-FOOT ANTENNAS UP THE ROAD.

YOU CAN'T GET A REAL VEHICLE TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN UNTIL MEMORIAL DAY, AND YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT SNOW IS GOING TO START SOMETIME ABOUT THE FIRST OR SECOND WEEK OF OCTOBER.

>> THEY WERE ON THE EDGE FOR TAKING THAT KIND OF A CHANCE.

IT WORKED OUT, AND IT WORKED OUT WELL.

>> WE WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TELEVISION IN MOUNT -- WHERE I GREW UP IF IT WASN'T FOR THAT TRANSMITTER.

IT WAS NOT JUST A GREATER BURLINGTON STATION BUT FOR EVERYBODY.

>> ALL OF A SUDDEN WE WERE TOLD, AS I WAS WORKING RADIO HERE TO START WITH, WE WERE TOLD THAT THE STATION HAD APPLIED FOR A TV CHANNEL, AND THE REST IS HISTORY.

>> THE FIRST ON THE AIR, AND EVERYTHING IS NORMAL HERE AT THE CENTER.

>> ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE.

NOW, TELECASTING ON CHANNEL 3 FROM THE TOP OF VERMONT.

>> MY GOD, THAT WAS TELEVISION, THE FIRST TIME WE EVER SAW IT.

>> AND I BEGAN TO PESTER MY FATHER, BUT WE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH MONEY.

MY FATHER DIDN'T THINK WE NEEDED TELEVISION, BUT I BADGERED HIM AND BADGERED HIM, AND I THINK IT WAS PROBABLY 1957 HE CAVED IN.

>> MR. DAVIS, WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BUY A TELEVISION SET.

>> A SHORT TIME AGO, I MADE THE REMARK THAT I WOULDN'T HAVE A TELEVISION SET IN MY HOUSE.

AND AFTER SEEING TWO OR THREE SETS IN OPERATION AND WATCHING A FEW WRESTLING MATCHES AND A LITTLE BOXING, I CHANGED MY MIND, AND I BOUGHT A SET.

I'VE HAD IT A FEW MONTHS NOW, AND AFTER WATCHING IT FOR SOME TIME, I WOULDN'T TRADE IT FOR THE BEST COW I'VE GOT IN MY BARN.

>> WE GOT IT.

IT CAME IN THE AFTERNOON.

WE COULD NOT GET IT HOOKED UP UNTIL THE NEXT DAY.

SO WE TOOK IT OUT OF THE BOX.

WE SAT IT ON THE TABLE IN THE LIVING ROOM, AND THE WHOLE FAMILY THAT NIGHT STARED AT IT.

>> THERE WAS SO MUCH EXCITEMENT.

THE ONLY THING YOU HAD WAS AN ANTENNA.

ANTENNAS PICKED UP A PRETTY GOOD SIGNAL WITH CHANNEL 3.

YOU ADJUSTED YOUR ANTENNA.

YOU'D SEE PEOPLE UP ON THE ROOF ADJUSTING THE ANTENNA AND THE WIFE DOWN BELOW SAYING, A LITTLE MORE, A LITTLE MORE, THE OLD MAN UP ON THE ROOF ADJUSTING IT SAYING, HOW IS THAT, HONEY?

>> YOU WOULD MOVE THE ANTENNA AROUND AND TRY NOT TO MOVE ON THAT SIDE OF THE ROOM AND BLOCK THE SIGNAL, AND YOU STARTED SEEING THINGS.

>> IT WAS A TREMENDOUS IMPACT.

RESTAURANTS NOTED IT.

BARS NOTED IT.

PEOPLE STAYED HOME AND WATCHED TELEVISION.

SOME VERY GOOD PROGRAMMING THAT KEPT THEM HOME.

>> THE EARLY YEARS OF WCAX WERE A TIME OF EXCITEMENT AND EXPLORATION.

THEY HAD TO FIND OUT WHAT WORKED AND WHY.

BEFORE CHANNEL 3 BECAME COMMONPLACE, VIEWERS GOT TO KNOW NAMES LIKE JA SULLIVAN, HOWARD LANCORE, TONY ADAMS AND STEWART HALL, HELEN WORKMAN, DUSTY BOYD AND KEN GREEN WHO HOSTED THE POPULAR SHOW DANCE STATE.

>> SO THAT FROM THE OUTSET WAS A SEARCH ON THE PART OF CHANNEL 3 TO FIND THINGS, AND HERE COMES DICK CLARK AND PAT BOON AND ALL THAT STUFF, AND THEY CREATED THEIR OWN.

>> WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

>> BUDDY MCCLAIN.

>> FROM WHERE?

>> ST. AUBURN.

>> WHO IS THIS?

HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

>> YOU'RE ACTUALLY NOT AT HOME LOOKING AT YOURSELF.

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR REACTIONS ARE GOING TO BE?

>> THEY HAD A, BY DESIGN OR ACCIDENT, THEY HAD A SET OF RECOGNIZABLE AND MEMORABLE CHARACTERS ON AIR THAT CAUGHT PEOPLE'S FANCY.

>> AS THE SUN GOES DOWN IN THE WEST, IT'S TIME TO JOIN DUSTY BOYD AT THE CHUCK WAGON.

HE'S JUST FINISHED HIS EVENING MEAL, SO LET'S SEE WHAT DUSTY IS UP TO.

>> DARN THAT COOK, GOT ME STUCK DOING THE DISHES AGAIN.

>> AND MY FATHER STARTED WATCHING IT RELIGIOUSLY.

HE LOVED LAWRENCE WELK.

IT INSTANTLY CHANGED LIVES.

>> I THINK TV CHANGED PEOPLE'S LIVES EVERYWHERE, AND VERMONT WAS NO EXCEPTION.

YOU KNOW, YOU SAW THINGS FOR REAL.

>> THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE ACTUAL IMAGE AND THAT'S WHAT TELEVISION BROUGHT US TO VERMONT IN THE 50s.

>> YOU BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT THERE WERE OTHER IDEAS OUT THERE AND THERE WAS ANOTHER PARTY, THE DEMOCRATS.

THEY WEREN'T ALL EVIL.

SO YOU KNOW, THERE WAS AN OPENING OF THE MIND THAT TELEVISION HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH.

AND THEN IT CAME LIKE AN AVALANCHE.

TELEVISION, THE INTERSTATES, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE, OUTSIDERS MOVING IN.

IT CAME IN A GREAT WAVE IN THE LATE 50s AND INTO THE EARLY 60s.

EVERYTHING CHANGED.

>> A LOT OF PLACES, WCAX WAS THE TELEVISION STATION FOR DECADES.

IT WAS WHAT YOU WOULD TURN TO.

YOU DIDN'T EVEN REALLY THINK ABOUT IT AS I'M GOING TO TURN ON CHANNEL 3.

IT'S I'M GOING TO TURN ON THE TELEVISION.

IT OPENED UP VERMONT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.

THE STATE WENT THROUGH, YOU KNOW, REALLY VAST CHANGES IN TERMS OF THE INFLUX OF PEOPLE FROM OUT OF STATE, THE GROWTH OF THE POPULATION, THE CHANGE IN POLITICS.

IT REALLY WAS A TRANSFORMATIONAL TIME, AND THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT NOT ONLY DID WCAX HELP WITH THAT CHANGE BUT ALSO REFLECTED IT.

>> IT WAS TREATED MORE LIKE A NOVELTY, AND AFTER THE NOVELTY WORE OFF, THEN IT GOT DOWN TO BEING VERY, VERY SERIOUS ABOUT HOW YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR PUBLIC.



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