KPHO: Arizona's first television station

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(Source: CBS 5 file photo) (Source: CBS 5 file photo)

Started by entrepreneurs John Mills, Rex Schepp, Dr. J.N. Harber and John Mullins, KPHO placed its call letters on the cables on Dec. 4, 1949, and soon handled all the major networks.

The first signal was transmitted from the Hotel Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix on Dec. 4, 1949. The hotel had a 240-foot steel tower on its roof; a 40-foot, 1.5-ton antenna on top of the tower carried the broadcast to Valley television sets.

Its signal would eventually reach beyond the state, from Silver City, NM to Blythe, CA and from Page to Sonora, Mexico.

KPHO became the local affiliate for all four networks in operation at the time -- CBS, NBC, ABC and DuMont Television Network.

For the first few months, the station signed on at around 4 p.m. each day and signed off between 10 p.m. to midnight.

Network programming would arrive at the station a couple of days before its scheduled broadcast in the form of kinescope films.

The first programs created by KPHO, which were directed at children, included "The Man From Planet X" and "The Lew King Show."

Meredith Broadcasting purchased KPHO in 1952.

By 1955, Channel 5 had become the Valley's premiere independent TV station -- and the only independent station.

KPHO boasted numerous credits in Arizona broadcasting history: the first station to telecast local live programs, the first to cover sports events with remote telecasts and the first station to telecast underwater (why, we don't know).

Located at 631 N. First Ave., the station consisted of three major components: sales, engineering and production.

The building also included KPHO radio offices. The radio studio was next door at The Westward Ho.

There were two production studios in the KPHO television building. The larger one was constantly being set, struck and re-set. The smaller one had permanent "hot" sets: news, weather, sports and "Cook's Corner" (a women's program hosted by Ruth Dunlop).

In the early days of "It's Wallace?", the show took place in two corners of the studio known as 4A and 4B.

There was also a small studio across the alley from the main building where some of the show was filmed. This studio later became the carpenter shop.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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