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Channel 4 Gets New Improved Picture

February 8, 1959

The following is the text of an eye-catching, half-page advertisement that appeared in both The Spokesman-Review (Sunday, February 8, 1959) and Spokane Daily Chronicle (Friday, February 13, 1959). Much like many television infomercials today are designed to deceive unwitting viewers into thinking they’re watching actual news programs, this print ad was designed to look like a collection of legitimate news articles touting KXLY-TV’s “new, improved picture.” (Spokane TV History)

KXLY-TV ENGINEERS FIGHT SNOW, WIND, COLD AND LIGHTNING TO REPLACE MOUNTAIN-TOP ANTENNA

SPOKANE, Feb. 8—Dave Green, Chief Engineer for Channel 4 (KXLY-TV), today announced the completion of a $60,000 improvement project on Mt. Spokane’s famous television antenna, designed to bring new picture clarity to shows on the CBS network.

Power was switched on recently to end a three-and-a-half month battle between electronic engineers and Spokane’s namesake peak, a battle fought in sub-zero temperatures, shrieking winds and snow, fast-freezing fog and dangerous bolts of lightning.

“Our new antenna system makes reception of Channel 4 far better than before, especially in the immediate Spokane vicinity,” said Green. “For the first time in many months, we will be operating at our authorized 48,000 watts of power, which gives us one of the most far reaching signals in the nation, when transmitted from the top of the mountain.”

General Manager James R. Agostino joined in the announcement by stating that “this improvement in our signal is a sample of KXLY’s determination to provide better service and finer programming to the people of the Inland Empire.”

Anyone who has experienced difficulty in viewing Channel 4 in recent months should definitely tune in this week to see the difference, he said. No adjustment is needed in home owners’ sets, so if the picture still is imperfect, a TV repairman should be called.

The job involved replacing a new antenna tip atop the 150-foot tower. During 30 days of actual work, three different crews tackled the project, two of them from RCA on the coast and the other from Spokane’s own Minor Steel Co. In summer the job would have taken only 5 days.

DRAMATIC STORY OF MEN AGAINST A MOUNTAIN BRINGS NEW CLARITY TO FAVORITE CBS SHOWS

By Rick Meyers, KXLY-TV News Director

For the past three and a half months a quiet drama of men against a mountain has unfolded high atop Mount Spokane, where KXLY-TV has maintained their transmitter and television tower for six years.

The changeover from old to new took place during every conceivable adverse weather element: sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, fog that froze to ice, forming grotesque patterns against the snow. Delay ‘til spring would have saved trouble and money, but the desire for an improved signal demanded the job be done and done immediately.

4000 LBS. UP AND DOWN

The feat to be accomplished: Take down the 40-foot, 4,000 pound antenna from the 150-foot tower and replace it with a newly engineered assembly, built on the spot.

A job like this, performed in the dead of winter, is an heroic effort—and the men accomplishing it deserve acknowledgement. Three separate construction crews were involved, including two RCA crews from the coast and Spokane’s Minor Steel Company. From KXLY-TV’s technical staff, Chief Engineer Dave Green assembled a group of veterans on the mountain: Joe Davis, Kermit Raaen, Herb Young and Dale Darrow.

GROPING IN THE FOG

They performed a kind of surgery on the iron and steel in the sterile, subzero atmosphere of the mountain top. Their tools, a welding torch and acetylene gas.

Even though the tower was only 100 feet from the transmitter building, it was, at times, difficult to find. An impenetrable haze of low lying clouds created a fog that made work over a sustained period impossible. A man standing next to you would look vague and indistinct—almost a stranger. At times you recognized a man without identifying him simply because he was there to do a job.

The wind was a constant thing, biting with frosty teeth against flesh not well protected. It would carry a blizzard with such blinding impact the flakes of sow became a barrage of crystalline bullets, and tears would freeze to eyelashes.

CUT OFF FOR 3 DAYS

The job began in November during heavy winds and icing conditions. On Nov. 13th, lightning struck the transmitter’s underground power unit and disabled it. It came during a raging storm that isolated the crew for three days. For 24 hours a huge Caterpillar tractor tried to reach them, but the weather was merciless and the efforts futile.

The mountain is seldom friendly during winter. It’s a place where, imperceptibly, a fog-laden sky meets the crest of a hill in a typical arctic whiteout—navigation of the snow cat becomes an instinctive gesture rather than a deliberate act.

Even during those few days when the temperature went above freezing, the wind was present. Then icicles and rime ice would form horizontally on the steel structure. And when it came time to climb that tower, it was done with a kind of stoic discipline—like a mountain climber on a glacier, hand and foot holds had to be chopped with an axe.

NEW ERA FOR KXLY

That new antenna was erected through sheer physical endurance and guts. It was literally “men against the mountain.”

Television engineering isn’t strictly a camera-button operation, and this latest engineering accomplishment proves it. These men had a job to do, and they did it with a real sense of pride and integrity. The kind of integrity that makes up Channel Four’s new organization and its men.

When the cut-over to the new antenna was made, it signaled the beginning of a new era of engineering achievements at KXLY-TV. In the months ahead, you’ll see the results of this new era on your television sets at home.

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From → KXLY

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