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WBZ Timeline

For the information of whoever wants it, this is what I sent to WBZ, which
then sent parts of it to assorted newspapers.  If you quote from it, or post
it to any archives, please attribute it...  Hope you like it... 

WBZ-TV FIRSTS AND IMPORTANT DATES        Donna L. Halper  March/April '98

 17 March 1944:  Gordon Swan, WBZ Radio PD, files the application with the
FCC for a TV station; it is finally approved, after several changes, in
August of 1946.  

 16 October 1947:  the cornerstone for the new WBZ and WBZ-TV broadcast
center (on Soldier's Field Road) is laid; WBZ-TV station Manager Wilmer
(Bill) Swartley officiates.

  5 December 1947:  a demonstration of TV is given to the Boston media; the
Joe Louis/Jersey Joe Walcott fight is picked up from New York and shown at
the WBZ studios in the Bradford Hotel.  The writers are very impressed and
can hardly wait for WBZ-TV to go on the air.  (Variety magazine notes,
however, that at this point there are perhaps 100 TVs in all of greater Boston.)

 12 May 48:  two Harvard students climb to the top of the new 585 ft. WBZ-TV
tower because they thought it would be an exciting thing to do.  [I have the
UPI story on this if you want it-- I wonder where those guys are today...
yes, the police were summoned, but the two were let go with just a warning...]
 29 May 1948:  the first test pattern of WBZ-TV appears at 5.42 pm.

  9 June 48:    T-Day arrives at last!!!  As stores that sell TVs promise to
stay open late, WBZ-TV goes on the air at 10 AM with two hours of test
patterns, then signs off, returns in the late afternoon with more test
patterns, and then at 6.15 PM, respected radio newsman Arch MacDonald does
WBZ-TV's first program-- a newscast.    WBZ-TV'S FIRST ADVERTISER IS THE
NATIONAL SHAWMUT BANK.  [early WBZ telecasts still take place at the Hotel
bradford because the new studios in Allston are not completely ready yet.]

 15 June 1948:  Boston's first televised baseball game, from Braves Field--
the Boston Braves vs. the Chicago Cubs.  Jim Britt was the announcer.

 17 June 1948:  First telecasts from the new studios on Soldier's Field Road. 

 21 June 1948:  first time Republican National convention is telecast [*we
can't really say WBZ had the first for Boston, however-- they shared
coverage with WNAC-TV-- channel 7, which was now on the air...  but this
certainly was the first such convention to be televised...*]

 23 June 48:  first world championship boxing match-- Jersey Joe Walcott vs.
Joe Louis.

 12 July 1948:  first time Democratic convention is televised.

 29 July 1948:  horse-racing from Suffolk Downs is televised for the first
time in Boston.

 5 August 1948:  WBZ-TV produces its first special program for NBC,
"Operation Video", featuring a segment about combat fighter pilots

 19 August 48:   First televised weather reports by a professional
meteorologist-- MIT Professor James Austin does the show "Weather or Not"
(this DOES seem to be a first for Boston) 

 28 August 1948:  First live local sports show on Boston TV-- "Sportstime"
with Irving "Bump" Hadley (he was a former ballplayer and very popular on
WBZ Radio)

 2 September 1948:  Boston's first live local children's show debuts, Carl
DeSuze's "Surprize Package"  (no typo-- that's how they spelled it, because
kids could win prizes, I guess...  note also, while there were other
children's shows already on NBC-- such as Howdy Doody-- Carl's show was the
first to be locally produced... there are photos from it in the Special
Collections room at the Boston University Library...)  

 26 September 1948:  WBZ-TV expands its hours of operation to 7 days a week
(it had been off the air on Mondays and Tuesdays at first)

 2 October 1948:  First football game from Harvard Stadium is televised
(Harvard vs. Columbia); WBZ-TV carries the Harvard football games weekly 

 6-7 October 1948:  WBZ and the Boston Post newspaper provides rows of TVs
on Boston Common so people can watch the World Series (Boston Braves vs.
Cleveland Indians)

 20 October 1948:  WBZ-TV  debuts an educational show called "Living
Wonders";  host Norman Harris presents different live animals each week.

 27 October 1948:  WBZ-TV is there when presidential candidate Harry Truman
comes to Boston to speak at Mechanics Hall.

 28 October 1948:  WBZ-TV telecasts Boston's first bowling show (believe it
or don't, this goes on to become a regular weekly feature where company
bowling teams compete-- it will be called "Strikes and Spares" and originate
from the Boston Bowladrome)

 2 November 1948:  election returns are televised for the first time, from
the newsroom of the Boston Post.  Arch MacDonald and Streeter Stuart are the
announcers/reporters for WBZ. (this is a WBZ-TV exclusive)

 27 November 1948:  WBZ televises its first Army/Navy game (this came from
NBC, but hey, it's the first one seen in Boston...)


 24 December 1948:  WBZ-TV televises the first midnight mass, Christmas Eve,
from Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston
 6 January 1949:  First inauguration of the governor of Massachusetts is
televised-- Gov. Paul Dever (again, both WBZ and WNAC did this...) 

 20 January 1949: First televised presidential inauguration-- President
Truman (note-- WNAC and WBZ both aired this; other cities which had TV
before Boston had already seen presidents prior to 1948-9; but this
inauguration was a first for Boston...)

[Note-- WBZ-TV had women hosting shows other than the typical "women's
programs" right from the earliest days-- for example, in late February of
1949, Ruth Ley hosted a show she had created for WBZ-TV, "All About People",
a weekly human interest program where unique or interesting local people
were interviewed; guests on the show included people overcoming
disabilities,  people confronting such problems as alcoholism, as well as
people with unusual skills or unusual occupations...  prior to being hired
at WBZ, Ruth Ley had been a free-lance writer and cartoonist]
 31 March 1949:  First televised appearance of Winston Churchill in Boston
(he speaks at Boston Garden and WBZ-TV is there)

 15 December 1949:  Boston's first locally produced amateur show is STAR
MAKERS, and it debuts tonight; Verne Williams is the host


 22 February 1950:  WBZ-TV covers the dedication of the new Mystic River Bridge 

 22 March 1950:  WBZ-TV further expands its broadcasts to 10 hours a day

 20 August 1950:  WBZ-TV dedicates a new auditorium studio for local TV
programming-- designed especially for talent shows

 27 August 1950:  Community Opticians sponsors a new talent show;  it is
called Community Auditions, first hosted by Gene Jones (and later by Dave
Maynard), it will run for 37 Years

 10 September 1950, 'STARRING THE EDITORS' debuts; it features the editors
of the Post, Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Record, Herald-- discussing
the news of the week.  It would run off and on till 1975... by then,
obviously, the editors had changed and several of the papers were defunct

 25 February 1951:  the highly acclaimed "OUR BELIEVING WORLD" begins.  A
unique program about religion, it spotlights issues from a wide range of
faiths, and shows the customs and practices of these faiths.  In its first
year, it will win the Gold Medal for Outstanding Local Programming from TV

 28 July 1951:  WBZ-TV begins a major series of Public Service
announcements in support of Westinghouse's anti-drug campaign; in addition
to the PSAs, WBZ-TV produces a documentary about the dangers of narcotics.

 23 October 1951:  The TV side finally gets its own separate Program
Director and more staff-- up until now, radio people have been doing
double-duty on the TV side.  Gordon Swan is named the PD of only WBZ-TV
(rather than doing both WBZ Radio and WBZ-TV).  He began in 1948 with a
staff of 3; he now has a staff of 21 doing TV exclusively).  Wilmer C.
(Bill) Swartley is General Manager.   

 11 December 1951-- Eileen Kneeland debuts with "Lady of the Bookshelf",
wherein she reads stories to kids, while cartoonist Ted Miller illustrates...

 14 January 1952:  WBZ-TV gets its first morning show-- NBC's Today Show,
starring Dave Garroway  

  2 November 1952:  President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower spends a memorable
day in Boston.  First, his motorcade gets lost on its way to the WBZ-TV
studios for a live appearance.  Then, while posing for a photograph at the
station, a clock (which had been taped to the wall to serve as a prop) fell
on his head.  [the clock is at the BU Library in Special Collections, along
with a photo and a letter from the president to WBZ]  Luckily, the new
president had a sense of humour and was not seriously hurt by the incident.

  8 November 1952:  a legend in children's programming, "BIG BROTHER" BOB
EMERY, joins WBZ-TV to do his daily "Small Fry Club".  (He had been with


  9 June 1953:  to celebrate WBZ-TV's 5th anniversary, the station gives 12
lucky winners new 21" Westinghouse televisions

 12--26 June 1953:  after a tornado strikes central Massachusetts, doing
grave damage to Worcester  (over 60 deaths and hundreds of injuries), WBZ
radio and WBZ-TV raise $45,000 to help the people of Worcester re-build   

 October 1953-- WBZ-TV receives the FIRST "TV Guide Special Award of Merit",
the first Boston station (and it it looks like the first Mass. station) to
win it.  A 15 minute telecast of the award ceremony was broadcast on Channel
4, and the Lieutenant Governor, Sumner G. Whittier, showed up to praise the
station, as did one of the editors of TV Guide.   (Reason for the award--
the final total of what WBZ-TV raised for Worcester tornado relief was
$72,000-- of which, $14,000 came from the kids and parents who watched Big
Brother Bob Emery...  The award represented not only praise for such an
amazing fund-raising effort but for the outstanding news coverage of how
central Mass. was devastated by the tornado, and what was being done to
re-build... )   
 31 August 1954:  Hurricane Carol topples a large portion of the 649 ft. TV
tower; amazingly, no-one is seriously hurt, and newsman Jack Chase is soon
back on the air telling about what happened.

 In 1954, WBZ-TV wins the RTNDA (Radio and Television News Directors) award
for outstanding news coverage.  WBZ-TV had perfected a system of using
'stringers' to cover stories all over New England.  WBZ-TV also wins the
1954 National Headliners Club Award for coverage of  Hurricane Carol, as
well as an award for outstanding news photography.

 18 December 1954:  popular Boston d.j. Stan Richards debuts with a TV show
that is like an early version of 'American Bandstand'-- THE SATURDAY MATINEE
originates at the popular Totem Pole ballroom in Newton; it features hit
songs and hit singers, plus local teens who rate the records for hit potential. 

  9 January 1955:  WBZ-TV is the first Boston station to transmit color
slides, color film, and even color commercials.  The first commercial
broadcast in color is from National Shawmut Bank.

 late January 1955:  WBZ-TV  receives much critical acclaim for its coverage
of the Charlestown Prison riots; newsman Arch MacDonald is among the first
on the scene, and NBC picks up his reports.

 early April 1955:  WBZ is awarded a Gold Medal from the National Board of
Fire Underwriters for outstanding public service in fire prevention and
safety-- this is the third consecutive year the station has received an
award for its public service announcements and programs promoting fire
 11 July 1955:  popular WBZ Radio meteorologist Don Kent joins WBZ-TV

 19 August 1955:  torrential rains flood parts of southern New England, and
WBZ-TV is there with 27 movie cameramen, and even a reporter in a plane to
get aerial shots of the damage

In April 1956, VARIETY magazine names WBZ-TV one of its outstanding stations
of 1955 for its coverage of the severe flooding in New England (that
coverage also won WBZ-TV a citation from the Mayor of Boston) 

 28 April 1956: the popular children's program BOOMTOWN, starring Rex
Trailer debuts  [by the way, WBZ is still using the promotional slogan they
first used in 1954-- "THERE'S ALWAYS MORE ON CHANNEL 4"]

 14 April 1957:  WBZ's new TV tower (1349 ft.) is dedicated; TV reception
improves dramatically for many viewers throughout New England

  5 June 1957:  a documentary film about urban renewal called "City in a
Shadow" is shown to the Boston Chamber of Commerce, which will later give it
an award.  The film took 3,600 man hours, 4,500 miles of travel, and 10,000
feet of film to produce!

 10 June 1957:  when the Mayflower II arrives in Plymouth, WBZ-TV sends 3
5-minute feeds to NBC; they are used on the Today show.   

  9 August 1957:  a long newspaper strike begins, and Boston TV  and radio
step in to fill the need.  WBZ-TV adds 18 newscasts to its schedule, and also 
adds a nightly show of news analysis and commentary.   Everyone on the staff
helps out with extra cut-ins, remotes, sports flashes, and of course, extra

  9 June 1958:  WBZ-TV is 10 years old.  Linking up with the Boston Arts
Festival, the station holds a celebration in the Public Gardens, with TV
personalities Rex Trailer and Big Brother making appearances.  (The
following week, a party is held for clients and media.)  Several of WBZ-TV's
local shows do special editions comemmorating the station's anniversary

 late February 1959:  WBZ-TV wins the 1959 National Brotherhood Award from
the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the public service
program "A Profile of Prejudice."

 29 April 1959:  Fidel Castro comes to town to speak at the Harvard Law
School Forum and WBZ-TV offers an exclusive live remote telecast, in
addition to feeding NBC affiliates.

 late May 1959:  WBZ-TV news cameraman and photographer Phil Galligan
wins top honors at the Boston Press Photographers Awards Dinner for his
coverage of the Spring Hill, Nova Scotia Mining Disaster.  

 20 October 1959:  WBZ-TV receives a citation from the Boston City
Federation of Organizations for its recent  public service documentary,
"Pornography:  The Business of Evil."

 5 November 1959:  Here we go again-- yet another newspaper strike.
WBZ-TV offers extra newscasts, called "Teleditions".  Even the women's show
with Betty Adams originates in the WBZ newsroom as news coverage takes
centre stage throughout the strike. 

 29 November 1959:  Newswoman Betty Adams narrates a half-hour documentary
about the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire; the show was produced by Stan Berk and
written by David Levy.  It  made use of pictures from the disaster and
interviews with survivors and witnesses, and was nominated for several
awards.  (Betty Adams had started on the air in Providence in the early 50s,
doing a children's show with her own kids; by the late 50s, she had built up
her own credibility as a reporter, and was mentioned favourably by Boston's
media critics...) 

 early June 1960:  Betty Adams returns from Africa, where she did interviews
in Kenya and South Africa as part of a soon-to-be aired documentary about
changes in Africa; her cameraman shot over 10,000 feet of film!

 mid-January 1961:  WBZ-TV covers President-elect John F. Kennedy's speech
to the Mass. legislature and provided the feed for other stations.    

 5 September 1962:  WBZ-TV  provides exclusive coverage of the debate
between Ted Kennedy and challenger Ed McCormack; the debate is #1 in the
ratings, getting 51% of the audience.  

[by the way, in early September of 1963, the national newscasts expanded
from 15 minutes to a half hour; WBZ-TV seems to have expanded to a half hour
newscast around that same time]

 30 June 1964:  WBZ-TV offers an exclusive in-depth interview with Richard
Cardinal Cushing; this special program is possible thanks to the long-time
friendship between the cardinal and WBZ-TV's Arch MacDonald.  

 early August 1965:  Terry Carter, an actor and a writer from New York,
joins WBZ-TV as its first African-American news reporter, and the first
reporter of color in Boston TV.   

 16 November 1965:  as Viet Nam begins to create controversy, WBZ-TV sends a
reporter (TV news director Ed Fouhy)  and a cameraman (award winning Dick
Smilgis) over there.  They return in mid-November with material for an
up-coming documentary, having also generated numerous news reports for both
TV and radio. They also cover Ted Kennedy, who was in Viet Nam investigating
refugee conditions.  The trip lasted three weeks, during which they went to
jungle and mountain villages, hospitals, prison camps, etc.-- all this while
lugging over 200 lbs. of sound-film equipment (ah, the days before the
mini-cam...)  The documentary, "Viet Nam Journey" airs in early December,
and offers exclusive footage of Senator Kennedy's visit to Viet Nam.   

 mid-January 1967:  WBZ-TV wins the 1966 National Gold Cup Award for boating
safety for the station's documentary, "SOS-- Safety Off Shore."  It also
wins a citation from the U.S. Coast Guard.  

 early February 1967:  WBZ-TV wins a UPI Broadcasters' award for the news
series "By-Line" with host Gene Pell; another winner, given a special
citation for excellence in reporting is Shelby Scott.

 early March 1967:  Bob Kennedy, who hosts the program "Contact" on WBZ
Radio and WBZ-TV, is named one of the ten outstanding men of the year by the
Boston Jaycees.  And Arch MacDonald is elected to the Academy of New England

 2 October 1967, WBZ-TV is about to begin an hour and a half news block,
from 6 to 7.30 pm.  Eyewitness News from 6 to 6.30, NBC News (Huntley/
Brinkley) from 6.30 to 7, and then WBZ-TV back again with an expanded local
newscast, featuring Arch MacDonald, Terry Carter, Bob Lape, Shelby Scott,
and many others.  It will also include news analysis by Christian Science
Monitor Editor (and long-time member of Starring the Editors) Erwin D.
Canham, among others. 

 20 May 1968:  Responding to racial unrest in the USA, Group W produces a
special on race relations.  WBZ-TV follows it with a one and a half  hour
special of its own, featuring a panel discussion with both black and white
community leaders, as well as call-in questions from viewers.  The program
is called "One Nation, Indivisible."

 1968 was the year when two legends with LONG careers retired-- Big Brother
Bob Emery in January and Gordon Swan in May.  Receptions were held for both.
And Wilmer C. Swartley, WBZ-TV's first General Manager, was promoted to
Group W's regional Vice President for New England in February.  

30 March 1970:  Urban Affairs reporter Walt Sanders begins a  5 part series
on the controversial racial imbalance law and its effect on the Boston
public schools.

14 February 1972:  Newsweek magazine does an article on Community Auditions,
which is now in its 22nd year, making it the longest running show of its
kind.  Dave Maynard has been the m.c. since 1967. 

5 March 1972:  WBZ-TV offers extensive coverage from Rome of the elevation
of Archbishop of Boston Humberto Medeiros to Cardinal.

  in April of 1974, WBZ-TV's "Impact" offers a special series about sex and
violence on TV.  The first report features WBZ-TV reporter and media critic
Pat Collins along with several newspaper media critics evaluating current TV

mid April 1977:  Evening Magazine Debuts, with Robin Young and Marty Sender
as hosts.  It quickly goes to #1 in its time period.
9 June 1978:  WBZ-TV celebrates its 30th anniversary with an hour-long
special, "We're 4:  Looking Back at 30", which features interviews with some
of the station's earliest stars. 

 1 October 1979: Pope John Paul II's visit to Boston inspires massive media
coverage... again, I am sure WBZ-TV was in the forefront of this coverage...

 mid-December 1979:  WBZ-TV wins two New England Emmy Awards for children's
programming; Kid's Fair wins the award for Public Service.  [1979 was the
first year for KidsFair]

 27 October 1980:  People are Talking debuts; Nancy Merrill is host.

 late December 1980:  Liz Walker is promoted to week-night anchor, becoming
one of the few African-Americans to anchor a weekday newscast

early September 1981:  expanding the highly successful KidsFair, WBZ-TV
inaugurates a year-long public service campaign called "You Gotta Have Arts"
by sponsoring a free concert at the Hatch Shell, with the Boston Symphony
Orchestra.  The concert is also televised.  WBZ-TV airs a documentary about
the state of the arts in Massachusetts after the concert.  WBZ devotes the
year to raising funds from both corporate and private contributors to
establish a permanent endowment supporting arts programs across the state.

 19 May 1984:  WBZ-TV re-broadcasts its highly acclaimed show on preventing
child sexual abuse, "This Secret Should Be Told" .  A brochure with useful
information on this subject is also available from WBZ-TV.
 30 May 1987:   At the 10th Anniversary of the New England Emmy awards,
WBZ-TV wins numerous awards, including one for coverage of Cardinal Law's
trip to Auschwitz;  an award for cultural affairs programming for "Great
Expectations-- Prodigies, Gifted Children";  a public affairs award for an
episode of People are Talking, "Hearing Children/ Deaf Parents"; and an
award for Children and Youth Programming for  "Superkids".             

 7 May 1988:   The 11th Annual Boston/New England Emmy Awards, are held at
the new Hynes Convention Center in Boston.   Once again, WBZ-TV wins for
Outstanding Children and Youth Programming with a special about Metco.
Also, the station receives an award for its PSA's for the AIDS Action
Committee.  "People Are Talking" wins an Emmy for Outstanding Public Affairs
Series/ studio format, while "Evening Magazine" wins for Outstanding Public
Affairs Series/ magazine format.  A show on "Outward Bound" wins in the
Outstanding Informational Programming/ special category.

 15 September 1988:  WBZ-TV wins three Gabriel Awards from the National
Association of Broadcasters and Communicators.   Nancy Alspaugh, executive
producer for "Evening Magazine: The Names Project" received an award for
best local informational programming. "A Rock and a Hard Place," produced by
Sue Bell and Ted Reed received an award for excellence in children's
programming. "A Gift of Time," produced by Garland Waller, received a
certificate of merit in the category of national informational programming.

 20 June 1988:   WBZ-TV celebrates its 40th anniversary with a reunion of
former staff members and a 2-hour special airing at 9 pm. 

 8 September 1990: after a 13 year run, Evening Magazine comes to an end.
 1 February 1993:  Debra K. Zeyen is named the first female Vice President
and General Manager of WBZ-TV; she has previously been the VP for Group W's
Television stations. 

 4 June 1993:  People Are Talking comes to an end.  

20  November 1994:   WBZ-TV co-sponsors Operation Overcoat, on behalf of the
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, helping to collect coats to be
given to poor and homeless people.  Over 70,000 coats are collected.

24 November 1995:  Shareholders of CBS had voted on 16 November to approve
the purchase of CBS by Westinghouse, and the transaction is closed on this
date.  WBZ officially becomes a CBS affiliate.
early March 1996:  Shelby Scott, who was perhaps the first woman news anchor
on WBZ-TV, retires-- she started at WBZ in 1965. 

 5 February 1997:  Thanks in large part to a prolonged and dedicated crusade
by WBZ reporter Dan Rea, an inmate convicted of a crime he did not commit
wins his freedom, when the Governors Council voted 8-0 to commute the
sentence of Joseph Salvati.

19 November 1997:  As President Clinton signs new legislation that
encourages and promotes adoption (The "Adoption and Safe Families Act"),
Jack Williams is one of the invited guests; he is given an award by the
Department of Health and Human Services and praised by the President and
First Lady for his weekly WBZ feature, "Wednesday's Child", which helps
children in foster care find permanent homes.  Williams, who began this
feature 15 years ago, works closely with the Massachusetts Adoption Resource
Exchange; the annual "Jack Williams Ski Race for Wednesday's Child" has
raised oer $1.5 million since it began in 1985. 
26 October 1997:  WBZ begins airing the Rick Pitino show, an exclusive look
at the Celtics featuring the team's popular coach.
18 December 1997:  For the 15th year,  WBZ broadcast its annual telethon to
benefit Children's Hospital:  since first beginning these broadcasts, WBZ TV
and Radio telethons have raised over 11 million dollars for Children's
Hospital.  Liz Walker and Jack Williams hosted the event, along with Bob Lobel. 

 5 January 1998:  WBZ inaugurates its new morning show, "News 4 This
Morning", featuring Scott Wahle and Suzanne Bates.
2 March 1998:  Gordon Swan, the first PD and one of WBZ TV's founding
members, died today at the age of 93.




End of boston-radio-interest-digest V2 #93