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Aug 27 2007

Monday morning nostalgia fix


TV antenna installers were busy 50 years ago this week. Customers in Pittsburgh’s suburbs whose rooftop aerials were tuned to KDKA-TV (2) — the only commercial VHF TV station in town for nine years — now needed upgraded antennas to pull in WIIC-TV (11), which would begin regular programming in a few days.

On Aug. 29, 1957, the Monessen Daily Independent and other newspapers reported that WIIC had signed on Aug. 28 with a test pattern:

“However, station officials said viewers will not receive (a) quality signal until Sunday afternoon when the NBC-TV affiliate goes on the air ‘officially.’

“WIIC engineers are still testing the 100,000-watt transmitter and the test pattern may be off periodically while adjustments are made. They also report that the test pattern will be transmitted at only about 20 per cent of WIIC’s normal power.

“The station’s transmitter is the first of the kind built by RCA to overcome the difficult terrain features of western Pennsylvania. A specially-designed helical antenna will sit atop the 800-foot tower giving it an overall height of 842 feet. As a result, engineers predict shadow areas in the WIIC Channel 11 coverage area will be virtually eliminated.

“The test patterns will be on daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. until the regular programming begins Sunday at 5 p.m.”

On Aug. 30, Mayor David Lawrence issued a proclamation designating the following week as “WIIC Week” in Pittsburgh. According to an Associated Press dispatch, “Lawrence had been active in helping Pittsburgh secure its second commercial VHF television station.”

Meanwhile, a month earlier, stockholders of Irwin Community Television Inc. of Westmoreland County had agreed to sell their interest in a license on Channel 4 to Television City Inc.

Television City was owned jointly by KQV (1410) and Hearst Publishing Co., operators of WCAE (1250) radio and the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph newspaper. It would move the Channel 4 allocation from Irwin to Pittsburgh and eventually erected the transmitter for WTAE-TV in Elizabeth Township, not far from the Westmoreland County border; the Hearst station signed on one year later, in September 1958.