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KXLY Celebrates Anniversary

December 16, 1977

By Chuck Rehberg
Assistant City Editor
Spokane Daily Chronicle

What present do you give someone on a 55th anniversary?

In the case of KXLY, the radio station is doing the giving, celebrating its 55th anniversary with a yearlong promotional list of “gifts” to listeners

The station bought out Spokane Civic Theatre for a night earlier this month to treat listeners to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and a theater party.

Earlier this week, a free skating party was held at the “Ice Palace” in Riverfront Park.

Next week, the gift will be free skiing at Schweitzer Basin, and a different promotion is scheduled every week through next November, said Stephanie Falvey, promotion manager.

Plans are also being formulated for a community celebration in February, marking the 25th anniversary of KXLY-TV, she said.

A predecessor of KXLY was Spokane’s first commercial radio station, she said.

Ed B. Craney received a license for station KFDC Nov. 21, 1922. The call letters were changed to KFPY in 1924.

Craney left the station in 1928 to buy a Butte, Mont. station and returned in 1945 to buy back the station from Symons Broadcasting Co. Thomas W. Symons had co-founded the station with Craney.

The station became KXLY Jan. 1, 1947, part of the “XL” chain, which included, KXL in Portland, KXLE in Ellensburg, KXLF in Butte, KXLJ in Helena, KXLQ in Bozeman, KXLL in Missoula and KXLK in Great Falls.

The radio station’s affiliation with the Columbia Broadcasting System dates to Jan. 1, 1930, when KFPY became the CBS affiliate in the Inland Empire.

With expansion to television in mind, Craney bought the one-story building at W315 Sprague and moved the radio station there in October 1950. One partner in seeking the television license was Bing Crosby.

On July 11, 1952, both KXLY and KHQ received Federal Communications Commission authorization to build television stations, and a race to be first began.

KHQ picked Moran Prairie as the site for its transmitter, and KXLY picked Mount Spokane. KXLY received approval from the State Parks Commission to locate its transmitter in the state park, then successfully fought off a court action by a rival station applicant, KNEW. The judicial ruling came Nov. 28, 1952, and attempts were renewed to have television for Christmas.

But only skiers were ready for the snow storms that followed. Drifts rose to 22 feet, according to news accounts. Engineers said on Dec. 13 they knocked “10 to 15 tons of ice off the 90-foot antenna tower.”

Then “adding insult to injury,” as station manager W. Norman Hawkins put it, winds of up to 100 mph on the mountain knocked the roof off the transmitter building, blowing ice and snow over the equipment. That occurred on Jan. 12, 1953.

Finally, test patterns were shown in January, and a “Sunday Matinee” was broadcast Feb. 22, 1953, making Spokane “the first town in the Northwest with two program-producing television stations.” KHQ, however, had won the local race by about two months.

KXLY aired CBS and DuMont network shows, with the first “live feeds” through a Yakima transmitter in December 1953.

The previous month, the radio and television stations were sold by Craney and Crosby to Northern Pacific Radio and Television Corp., owned by two New Yorkers, Joseph Harris and Norman Eisenstein, and former Storer Broadcasting Co. executive Richard E. Jones.

On Aug. 18, 1959, the stations merged with KELP-TV of El Paso, Texas, then were sold in August 1961 to the current owners, The Evening Telegram Co., of Superior, Wis., headed by Morgan Murphy. Wayne F. McNulty was named general manager in May 1962 and is celebrating his 15th anniversary in the job this year.

U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson and others dedicated the new studios at W500 Boone on Oct. 29, 1964.

On Feb. 19, 1976, CBS sent a “notice of termination” to KXLY-TV, ending its affiliation, as news accounts said, “without warning.”

The network apparently disliked some program pre-emptions at the local level.

A “swap” of sorts resulted in August 1976 with KREM becoming the CBS affiliate and KXLY picking up KREM’s affiliation with ABC. CBS historically has been the network ratings leader, but ABC has generally won most ratings battles for over a year, so there appeared to be some joy at each station over the switch.

KXLY radio retains its CBS affiliation.

KREM, by the way, was founded in January 1947 by Cole E. Wylie of Wenatchee, who located studios in the Realty Building.

Louis Wasmer, who had sold KHQ about five years earlier, bought KREM in October 1951, and Spokane’s third television station opened three years later, in October 1954.

KREM was sold in July 1957 to KING-TV of Seattle, headed by Stimson and Dorothy Bullitt. The studio at S4103 Regal was expanded in 1965.

Thus, for KXLY, the television networks have changed, but the silver anniversary will be noted in February. And it will be a year-long celebration for radio station KFDC-KFPY-KXLY, which is 55 years young.

Friday, December 16, 1977

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