What's OLD at Channel 5?

And Elsewhere in the World of Chicago Television?

This page will serve as your gateway to the more than forty years of video history that began on January 7th, 1949---the date WNBQ, NBC's owned-and-operated television station in Chicago, initiated its regular broadcast schedule on channel 5. And it will eventually honor Chicago's video pioneers who began their labors as early as 1929.


WNBQ test pattern

WNBQ's video was actually seen somewhat earlier than the station's 1949 commercial debut. A test pattern was broadcast as early as September 18th, 1948. World Series games were aired from Cleveland via coaxial cable (still uncompleted to New York). Clifton Utley and Jim Hurlbut broadcast election returns from a makeshift studio on the night of November 2nd.

Operating from converted radio studios in the Merchandise Mart (and, for a time, from the stage of the Studebaker Theater) WNBQ (later WMAQ-TV) made a mark on the medium, traces of which remain evident today.

The links below will introduce you to the men and women---on both sides of the cameras---who helped make NBC's Merchandise Mart facility an exciting place to work long after radio's 'Golden Age' had passed.

And they will show you what was going on at other Chicago television production centers.

At Channel Five you can...

Click your way through "WMAQ-TV: 1948-1968"---an HTML version of the booklet written by the late (and beloved) John Gibbs on the occasion of WMAQ-TV's twentieth anniversary. (Too bad there wasn't a similar effort for Channel 5's fiftieth in 1998.)

Download video of a complete Channel 5 10 pm news broadcast from February 23rd, 1967. See Floyd Kalber at his best.

Download video of the Channel 5 newsroom in 1963 when deskman Johnny Erp was at the helm.

Meet legendary newswoman Val Press---and learn why the Chicago Chapter of the Natational Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chose to induct her into its Silver Circle in June, 2002.

Learn about W9XAP, WMAQ's experimental television station of the early 1930's (and see video of what purports to be a 1931 broadcast).

Take a guided tour of the state-of-the-art WMAQ-TV facilities as they appeared in 1970.

Meet Clifton Utley, Channel 5's first newscaster-commentator (and download a fragment of one of his early broadcasts.

Visit the WMAQ-TV newsroom on the evening of May 1st, 1997 and witness the end of an era as news anchors Carol Marin and Ron Magers prepare for their last broadcast together.

Learn about The Chicago School of Television. Here you can meet some of the personalities---including Dave Garroway and Burr Tillstrom---made Chicago a vital center of network television production in the medium's early days. And you can learn the man who fostered their creativity---general manager Jules Herbuveaux. (You can also download video clips from the "Best of Garroway at Large" page).

Thumb through the channel 5 news scrapbooks and learn about newsroom life between 1976 and 1990. (Inclding Pauley, Norville and, of course, Jerry Ongaro).

Learn about Floyd Kalber, the television news anchorman known (with awe) as "The Tuna." And view an entire newscast he solo anchored on February 23rd, 1967---when he had the highest ratings in Chicago of any show, local or network.

View streaming video of WMAQ-TV's last newscast from the Merchandise Mart. It aired Saturday, September 30th, 1989. Art Norman anchors. Weather by Jim Tilmon; sports by Tom Shaer. Marvel at the evolution of local television news since the Kalber broadcast cited above.

View streaming video of WMAQ-TV's first broadcast from the NBC Tower. Features Carol Marin, Ron Magers, John Coleman, Dick Kay, Mark Giangreco and the Curator.

Meet Dick Kay (also known as "Doogie"), stepped down as WMAQ-TV's political editor on June 1st, 2006.

Meet Channel 5's Barry Bernson. He was Chicago's most talented feature reporter (when he was among us).

Meet Channel 5 General Manager Bob Lemon. Everybody who worked for him said he was the greatest.

Meet News Director Bill Ray. Bill was a hard, perhaps impossible act to follow. (Bill fortunately had staffers like Clifton Utley, John Chancellor, Hugh Downs and Len O'Connor working for himr---all of whom you'll see in days gone by at this link). Perhaps miraculously, Bill did it all without consultants. If you work in a news room, (and if you aspire to become a news manager) you'll want to check this out.

Open your Channel 5 Christmas card from 1954.

Meet Bob DeServi, formerly an assistant film editor, now one of the President's men.

And, if you care to, learn about what's NEW at Channel 5.

And finally....

At other Chicago television facilities you can...

Enter the world of Mary Hartline, star of ABC Television's "Super Circus". Admired by little girls, lusted after by little boys (and their dads), This blond bombshell was one of the most memorable performers during the early days of television in Chicago.

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
Audio and video downloads
About the Curator

Comments or suggestions? click here to send them to Rich Samuels

Created by Rich Samuels (e-mail to rich@richsamuels.com)