RICHMOND, Va. -- Driving by 721 North Meadow St. in Richmond you wouldn’t give the non-descript building a second look. But seven decades ago, Richmonders crammed the tiny spot to witness history.
On April 22, 1948 people gathered there to watch WTVR-TV’s very first broadcast. The event would change Richmond and the American south forever.
Jane Grimes was just a little girl when her father Ed Broaddus christened Capital Radio.
“He got the (TV’s) from a wholesale dealer. The very first one. This was the first location,” said Jane Grimes. “The people are lined up in three rows that you can see. Oh, yes. He knew it was going to be big.”
Jane’s sister Bonnie Northen said their radio repairman father was tuning into a new business opportunity.
“He was a man who was not afraid to make decisions,” said Bonnie.
Bold newspaper ads trumpeted the coming of a changing technology.
Don Talley, amateur broadcast historian and account executive, says WTVR’s arrival in Richmond was revolutionary. Talley, says Wilbur Havens owner of radio station WMBG gambled his fortune on the new-fangled invention called TV.
“We were ready to go even before people had television sets,” said Talley.
But who would watch?
“In January of 1948 there wasn’t a single television set in Central Virginia,” said Talley.
Talley, whose also an account executive at WTVR says April 22, 1948 was the big day.
“It was a huge event,” said Talley.
The late-John Shand, WTVR’s first anchorman, remembers that significant night.
“I did it. I set the camera up. I set the pictures up. I did the narrative. We went to black and white film,” said Shand. “Fortunately for me, I went to work for a man who was highly a visionary. He told me you’re making history tonight.”
The momentous evening would be the start of 70 years of informing and entertaining Central Virginia.
You may not recognize Derwin Robinson’s face, but you may remember his voice. During his forty plus years working behind the scenes at WTVR, Robinson, recorded the station’s traditional sign-on.
“Oh, it is where I grew up. It is like family. Family home,” said Robinson. “I did that because the original version broke. I asked for it to be redone. I got tired of waiting and did it myself. And they let it stay.”
As WTVR celebrates its 70th birthday. Being the first television station in the South remains a source of pride for Don Talley.
“All of us here who work at WTVR truly stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Talley.
A historic moment in American broadcast history thanks to WTVR’s founder Wilbur Havens.
“He was still going full speed ahead. He had a dream. He had a belief. He had a goal and he was determined to make it happen. It’s an amazing story,” said Talley.
The night we went on-air April 22, 1948, President Truman was in the White House and “Manana Is Soon Enough For Me” by Peggy Lee topped the Billboard charts.
WTVR’s landmark tower standing behind our studios was built five years later in 1953 and stands 1,049 above sea level.
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