From the book “A Dream Revealed: The Making of Lubbock’s First TV Station”

Imagine, if you can, the summer of 1952. If you lived in Lubbock, chances are you had never even seen television. The few residents who had viewed TV may have seen it at a hotel in Dallas, where one place had two sets that could be rented, with a 2-hour maximum.

No, in 1952, the television industry was limited to major markets. Small towns like Lubbock simply didn’t have TV, and wouldn’t for a while.

Incredibly, though, in the fall of 1952, KDUB-TV went on the air, the first television station between Los Angeles and Fort Worth. When the station went on the air, it was the first station to open in a medium-sized market in the world.

Why Lubbock?

The story of KDUB-TV, now KLBK-TV, is a story of vision and entrepreneurship. It’s the story of W.D. “Dub” Rogers, one of the pioneers of the television industry.

Commercial television in America began in 1947 or 1948, depending upon how you interpret “beginning.” A few of the top markets had TV stations, and the networks began to offer limited programs in 1947, but it wasn’t until the next year that more markets had TV and more hours of the day were programmed by the four networks; ABC, CBS, NBC and DuMont.

  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022
  • KLBK 70th anniversary in 2022

Television had been invented in 1927, but the smart money was on radio, and many people saw it as a fad. After World War II, however, a few visionaries saw just what TV might be. When TV stations were in their infancy, everything was black and white, but there was already a major debate about the future of color broadcasting. Two competing systems were available, and the FCC declared a “freeze” on new licenses in the middle of 1948. If you didn’t already have a license, you simply had to wait until the FCC had made its decision on color, lifted the freeze and once again began to issue construction permits for stations.

Dub Rogers got the third post-freeze TV station permit, and quietly began planning to bring television to Lubbock. Emphasize quietly. Rogers told his plans only to those who had a need to know about them. The fact that Rogers had a construction permit was common knowledge, as it was public record. But while many people had a permit for months or years before acting, few knew that Rogers planned to get the station on the air as fast as possible.

Rogers had acquired land for the new station at 74th & College Ave. (now University), away from downtown and in an undeveloped area. It was so far away, many people questioned Rogers’ business judgement. His plan was to launch an interim operation. He wanted to have the station surprise everyone and go on the air on the same day that ground was broken for the new facility.

In order to do that, Rogers went to the Lubbock National Bank, which was the tallest building in town. He needed a couple of floors for office and studio, and he also needed to put his interim antenna on top of the building.

Working under a cloak of secrecy, construction workers worked inside, at night, and only at the last minute was the antenna put on the bank’s roof. Four days before the station was to go on the air, Rogers personally went to see the mayor, city council, and other civic leaders. To each, he said, “this is short notice, but here’s the reason why – I want to invite you to a dinner, at the mezzanine of the Hilton Hotel. It’s going to be an important event that you’ll long remember.”

Rogers was right. The event was most memorable. We had a good crowd.

On Texas Avenue just west of the bank building, he put a 48-foot flatbed truck two days before the big event. Rogers wanted to draw a huge crowd downtown and have all of the have a hand in turning on the TV station.

The truck bed became a stage. Floodlights gave it a Hollywood-like feeling.

Rogers had his engineers rig a rope that was four blocks long; it was attached to a switch that would turn on the transmitter.

At the dinner, attending by many national dignitaries from CBS, as well as by Rogers’ mother, he told them that about 3,000 people would be helping to turn on their own TV station.

After months of secrecy, Rogers had finally publicized the stations’ opening on that very day. More than 5,000 people were there for the event.

Shortly before 7:45pm, Rogers addressed the crowd. “You are now waiting for us to turn on the TV, but you are going to do it. Get on the rope and when I give the signal, pull the rope. Rogers turned on a 5-cell flashlight and thousands of people pulled the rope.

On November 13th, 1952, KDUB-TV went on the air.

The station was now on the air, but since it had been done with equal amounts of speed and secrecy, there was only a handful of TV sets in the Lubbock market, owned by people who had seen the TV tower going up on the bank building.

All of the “radio dealers” who were soon to become radio-TV dealers, knew that Rogers had a construction permit, but they had no idea when the station would go on the air. Some of the dealers began to stock TV sets in anticipation of the station going on the air, but there was not a huge inventory, due to the surprise sign-on.

The night of the sign-on, all the TV dealers stayed open late, and people immediately lined up to buy their first television set. Many didn’t have them delivered; they crated them, put them in the trunks of their cars, and took them home that night. No one knew how to install TV antennas then, not even the dealers. And for many people, the picture was seen through visual static that was known as “snow.” No matter, they had TV. Lubbock had TV.

When Rogers started KDUB-TV, television was in only 42 markets in the United States, and Denver was the 40th market. Skeptics said that TV was not economically feasible below the 40th market. (Today, there are 210 TV markets.)

Rogers explained his rationale for being the first medium-market TV station in the country: “if we don’t expand television beyond the 40th market, we can’t have a national TV service.” As Rogers saw it, network television would not happen if only the largest cities had TV.

His optimism about mid-sized markets proved to be correct. “About 700 stations followed me. About 90% of them were this size market and smaller,” he said in an interview several years before his death in 1993.

KDUB-TV worked, and others from around the country wanted to see just how Rogers had done it. “We had so many people who wanted to build a station in other places that I had one person full-time to take care of them,” he said.

Local TV in the early 1950’s was all black and white, and all local programs were live. The cameras and all other equipment were all dependent upon vacuum tubes. The KDUB-TV inventory included thousands of vacuum tubes.

70 years after Dub Rogers put his station on the air, KLBK-TV wears the “pioneer” label very well. A CBS affiliate since the first day, the station has been a market leader in many ways.

And over the years, thousands of people have been involved in bringing TV to the people of the Lubbock market area.

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