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KCRG TV9 July 20th Tornado Coverage
KCRG 50th Anniversary

If you’re age 50, or younger, you probably can’t remember a time when television didn’t exist in eastern Iowa. But before 1953…a television set wouldn’t pick up much. Stations in Davenport and Ames began pioneering broadcasts a few years before. But that was it.

Then, 50 years ago, the situation changed in a matter of months, as channels 2, 7 and 9 all started regular broadcasts between September and November of 1953. The government played a role in the timing. The late Edna Herbst, a pioneering woman broadcaster at KCRG radio…and later KCRG-TV…wrote that the Gazette Company filed an application for a television station on channel 9 with the Federal Communications Commission in the late 1940’s. But Herbst noted “more than 200 applications were on file when action on all applications was frozen.”

When the bureaucratic logjam broke, groups scrambled to put newly-licensed television stations on the air. To avoid competing for licenses, the Gazette Company withdrew an application…and became partners with a group of Cedar Rapids investors under the name The Cedar Rapids Television Company. But the manager for this ownership group didn’t want to use the label “KCRG” that was already in use by the A.M. radio station.

As Herbst remembers, that manager didn’t want the newspaper so closely identified with the station. “He felt KCRG was a promotion for the Gazette. In a sense it was…c-r-g…Cedar Rapids Gazette…so he suggested every time a call was given, we would have to pay.”

Herbst says that pay-per-mention idea didn’t fly. So both the new TV station…and the radio station took the call letters K-C-R-I.

But those investors quickly found that a new T.V. station in Cedar Rapids was not an immediate gold mine. Within a year, the Gazette Company bought out the other owners and reclaimed the call letters “KCRG” for both radio and T.V.

These days, local television stations routinely use videotape, computers, microwave and satellite transmitters and receivers. But “old-timers” say the first broadcasts were a little short on modern-day tools. On October 15, 1953, while KCRG-TV aired a ceremonial first broadcast, engineer Dick Miner was literally halfway up the TV tower holding a microwave receiver by hand. “The engineering people from the studio were telling me, move a little bit this way…move a little bit this way…up…down…hold it there.” “And for four hours, I held that dish there for our first broadcast.”

News was always a priority for KCRG-TV as a local station. But primitive hardly describes the first newscasts. Long time sportcaster Bob Brooks and first TV newsman Dick Yoakam decided viewers needed to see what they were describing on air. So Brooks says, “We didn’t have any film or anything…so he (Yoakam) and I would go down and purchase Life and Look magazine…and I’d get the Sporting News and we’d cut out pictures and we went back to kindergarten…cutting out pictures and we’d past them on a card.”

Herbst remembers when film…from still and moving pictures…was added, the station converted a bathroom into a film processing lab and “we put a board over the top of a bathtub…and that was for our film editing. Over the years, other changes besides technology took place. The original KCRG-TV studios and offices were located on the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids at First Avenue and First Street. In 1975, the station moved to 501 2nd Avenue…a building still in use today.

The names…and faces…of the people who make up KCRG-TV also changed over the years. But one thing remains constant. After half a century, KCRG-TV remains the only locally-owned television station in Iowa.

Copyright CRTV Company

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KCRG-TV9's 50th Anniversary Celebration is Sponsored by
The Billiard and Spa Gallery At Branchini's Flooring   Blair Ridge Dental

Do you have a question or comment about KCRG's 50th Anniversary website? Email anniversary@kcrg.com Return to the KCRG Anniversary Homepage

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