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WDSU-TV...FIRST TELEVISION STATION IN THE DEEP SOUTH...1948


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THE FIRST WDSU-TV ANTENNA
The RCA 5-bay Channel 6 Superturnstile antenna was assembled on the ground at a location, that was once the site of Mercy Hospital, across from the Texas Pacific Railway Station that once was stood on Annunciation Street. Assembly involved bending and shaping co-axial phasing lines around the main shaft of the antenna structure, a chore that was much easier on the ground than on top of the white dome of Hibernia Bank Bldg. in New Orleans, the antenna's destination. The main shaft and the phasing lines were later hauled to the top of the Hibernia and re- assembled. A special steel "socket" supported by steel girders was installed, inside the Hibernia dome, to receive and support the antenna.
The main shaft of the antenna was raised to the top of the Hibernia Bank Bldg. from a very narrow alley between the Hibernia Bank and another building. There were several people in the alley observing the raising procedure. As the shaft was beginning to rise, a tag line broke and allowed the long metal shaft to swing freely down the narrow alley. It nearly wiped out the WDSU-TV management and a couple of engineers. Scrambling to safety were Edgar Stern, Jr., owner of WDSU AM-FM-TV, Robert D. Swezey, soon to be general manager of Louisiana's first television facility, Chief Engineer Lindsey Riddle and Engineer Paul Yacich. Fortunately, no one was injured..."shook up" a bit, but not hurt.

THE FIRST WDSU-TV TRANSMITTER AND CONTROL ROOM
The RCA TT-25A transmitter and control room were housed in a structure erected on the roof of the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank Bldg. All of the transmitting equipment and antenna feed lines had to be hauled up to the roof-top room on top of elevator cars. There was no freight elevator big enough to handle the equipment. Most of the electronics installation was performed by WDSU-TV transmitter supervisor, Paul Holzenthal, Engineers John Dickenson, and Carlos Dodd.


THE FIRST TELEVISION PROGRAM IN NEW ORLEANS AND LOUISIANA
The first television program seen in Louisiana did not originate in a studio. On Dec. 18, 1948, at 5:30 PM, the inaugural program of the new WDSU-TV was presented from the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium at Beauregard Square on North Rampart Street. The first WDSU-TV remote unit was driven inside the auditorium and became the control room for the program that featured TV personalities Don McNeill of ABC's "Breakfast Club" and comedian Benny Fields. Many city and state officials and local entertainers also appeared on the program to welcome the new broadcast facility to the city.

"Emcee" Don McNeill is shown on the left in the above picture. The first television cameraman in the deep south, Irwin F. Poche' is shown on the right. Unfortunately, the others in the picture have not been identified to date.
Don McNeill


THE FIRST WDSU-TV TELEVISION REMOTE UNIT
The remote unit was constructed in the garage of the D. H. Holmes department store garage. Engineers Edward Tong, J. Lowell Otto, Art Pechon, and Paul Yacich outfitted the van (purchased from a Balban and Katz TV facility) with recently arrived TV cameras, audio, microwave and video switching equipment. Racks and cabinets, specially designed by Edward Tong, were installed in which to mount and secure the equipment. Later, Felix "Phil" DeGenova, a graduate of Central Radio and TV School in Kansas, joined the crew. The remote unit was housed in the D. H. Holmes garage until 1950, when the WDSU-TV Royal Street studios were opened. During the first year of its existance, the remote unit and its crew sometimes televised as many as 11 remote programs a week.


THE FIRST NEW ORLEANS NIGHT CLUB TV PROGRAM (REMOTE)
One of the first remote TV programs in New Orleans originated from Lenfants Marine Room on Canal Blvd. The club no longer exists and the site is now funeral home. As most TV stations discovered, the first time a camera is seen in a night club, the customers are scared away. Even to this day, bringing a Betacam into a night club can empty the place. Some of the patrons are in the club in the company of someone with whom they are not supposed to be.
The Lenfants program proved to be very popular and featured a group called "The Basin Street Six"....with a young clarinet player, Pete Fountain (on the right of the group in the picture above). Cameramen Rene' Labat (left) and John Hyrniewich (right) became part of the Lenfant's show.

THE FIRST WDSU-TV STUDIO We called it a studio only because it had a TV camera in it. The studio actually was a small stripped down, inside (no window) office on the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank Bldg. It was much too small for "3D" television sets. All of our local programs were presented using painted paper backdrops. A story that came to be a classic in New Orleans television lore relates that in our studio, to get a wide shot, the cameraman had to dolly the camera (there was only one) out of the studio and into the hall and for wider shots, into the Ladies Room across the hall.
WDSU-TV has always been the home of some of the great ladies of the television world. Shown in the above picture is one of the first ladies to grace the television screens of New Orleans was Joyce Smith in her Garden Show.

Another of the first ladies of New Orleans television screens was Naomi "Nonie" Bryant. In the small studio on the 14th floor of the Hibernia Bank Building, Nonie sang and danced in front of a painted paper background and reported stories of the Hollywood favorites of that time in her show "Seeing Stars".

In one of her programs, she introduced a guest, who was to sing and dance with her. He was one of the WDSU-TV engineering staff members (everybody at the station did "everything" at that time). His name...Paul Yacich. After that show, and for the next fifty or more years Yacich was involved with television broadcasting, he was never asked to sing or dance again. That's not Yacich in the picture below...this fellow could really sing and dance.


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