WMAQ-TV began regular commercial operations on January 7, 1949 in the renovated Radio Studio A, its first complete TV studio. Programming was scheduled for a minimum of two hours a day.

Eight regular programs began in January. Irna Phillips, of radio soap opera fame, wrote "These Are My Children'', which became the first daytime television serial. Walter E. Durbahn, a high school manual training teacher, produced "Walt's Workshop", television's first do-it-yourself program. John Conrad and Hugh Downs starred in an audience participation show called ''Take a Dare". The Quiz Kids starred in a TV version of their popular radio show of the same name. Bob Murphy had a farm program called ''RFD America". Boxing matches from Marigold Gardens were a weekly attraction. And finally, there was a news-weather package featuring newsman Clifton Utley and Clint Youle, who was recruited from the news-writing staff to become Channel 5's first weatherman.

Walt Durbahn
Left: A Highland Park manual training teacher, Walt Durbahn, became the star of television's first "how-to-do-it" program, "Walt's Workshop".

Chicago and the midwest were linked to the east coast TV network via cable and microwave on January 11th, 1949. Chicago's first offering to the NBC network was "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" featuring Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison. It led the parade of original and unique programming that placed WMAQ-TV in the forefront of the celebrated "Chicago School" of television in the early I950's.

Right: Jules Herbuveaux (seated left), Channel 5's first manager, signs Burr Tillstrom and Kukla and Ollie as WMAQ-TV's first regular network program. KFO Manager Beulah Zachary looks on. Herbuveaux, Zachary and Tillstrom

Station Manager Jules Herbuveaux felt that TV should be honest, and refuse imitation. He said, "If you want to show carpentry, don't hire an actor. Hire the best carpenter you can find and he will hold your audience's attention."

Later, in writing about the ''Chicago Style'', Herbuveaux said, "The Garroway At Large show exemplified "Chicago Style". But the term embraced anything out of Chicago studios blessed by lack of facilities, meager budgets, few big names and a maximum of inventiveness. Wayne King; Kukla, Fran and Ollie; Super Circus; Stud's Place; Hawkins Falls; Ding Dong School; Down You Go and a dozen other shows came out of Chicago to delight viewers and critics and to confound television experts with their simplicity and originality. As wide-eyed newcomers to television programming, we in Chicago approached the medium with the idea that it was neither radio, motion pictures nor the Broadway stage.

"Practitioners of the Chicago School---talent, producers, directors, writers and others graduated to invade the cloistered confines of Radio City and Hollywood and Vine, spreading the gospel of simplicity and intimacy in TV programming.

"The Chicago approach became standard operating procedure throughout the industry, and for that alone, the industry owes a debt to our bailing wire, packing box studio operations of the early 50's.

As 1949 grew older, a number of Channel 5 programs made their debuts. Herbie Mintz in "But Not Forgotten". Dave Garroway with his "Garroway At Large". "The Wayne King Show", which was seen on the NBC Midwest network. Marlin Perkins' "Zoo Parade''. "Portrait of America". Studs Terkel in "Stud's Place". And "Vic and Sade", based on the old radio favorite and with the same cast.

The "Garroway At Large" program, starring Dave Garroway, who began his career as a WMAQ radio disc jockey, went on the network from Chicago for the first time on April 16, 1949.

Garroway, Russell and Chapel Left: "Garroway at Large" set the pace for the "Chicago School? of television production. Dave is shown here with singers Connie Russell and Bette Chapel.

During 1950, WMAQ-TV's inventive live programming was praised in a number of published articles. Among them was a Time Magazine story which said Channel 5 "specialized in simplified realism" and "ad lib drama".

At the time, NBC star Fred Allen was quoted as saying that Chicago's shows were "short on money, short on big-name talent, but long on inventiveness ."

The March 17, 1951 issue of Collier's magazine called Chicago the "Top TV Town". The article said, "In Chicago they don't lavish money on costly trappings. They turn out quiet, casual little shows and the audiences love them." Collier's also told the story of Clarence Hartzel who took a 40-dollar beard, a paper-mache rock and a canvas painting of a western scene to create a children's program called "Cactus Jim". Hartzel's task was to introduce old western movies. Within 17 months, he had a 33 rating, sixth highest in the nation, ahead of the network's "Philco TV Playhouse" and "Your Show of Shows".

The Collier's article said that showman Billy Rose so admired "Stud's Place" that he wanted Studs Terkel, the creator, as his TV producer. When Terkel declined, Rose hired Terkel's director, Dan Petrie. It was noted that Fred Waring hired Dave Garroway's first director, Bob Banner. Today Banner is one of the top creative producers in TV.

According to the Collier's story, Fred Allen and Robert Montgomery spent several days in Chicago observing camera angles of the "Garroway At Large" show before attempting their own productions. Chicago director Norman Felton went to New York to become director of the "Robert Montgomery Playhouse".

Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine praised WMAQ-TV in May, 1954 for developing what it called "single personality" features and "how to do it" programs. The magazine said Channel 5's specialized shows for specialized audiences had found audience and sponsor acceptance.

Broadcasting-Telecasting added that if any station could be said to be primarily responsible for the Chicago school of television, it would be WMAQ-TV. The magazine cited such programs as "Garroway At Large", "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", "Zoo Parade" and "Ding Dong School" with child psychologist Frances Horwich, a program that started on the station in February of 1953.

Right: Frances Horwich became television's best known pre-school teacher as hostess of Channel 5's "Ding Dong School".
Frances Horwich

Other programs that created audience and industry-wide interest in the early I950's were Francois Pope's "Creative Cookery", "Championship Bowling" and "Championship golf". "Championship Bowling" was the first program of its type, and originated as a remote telecast from the Faetz-Niessen alleys on Chicago's north side. After a very successful live run on Channel 5, it went on to become a popular syndicated program.

News was, by then, making an impact in TV. One of the most popular programs was WMAQ-TV's ''Five Star Final", a news-weather-sports and entertainment package presented each weeknight between 10 and 11 PM. It featured newsman Clifton Utley; weatherman Clint Youle; Dorsey Connors, a do-it-yourself expert; sports commentator Tom Duggan and pianist Herbie Mintz.

WMAQ-TV began the first televised golf tournaments with "Championship Golf". The seven-hole matches, featuring two pros and two amateurs, originated Tuesday nights at Tam O'Shanter Country Club near Chicago, with the action played under lights.

Return to the Channel 5 20th anniversary booklet index

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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