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North Dakota’s First Television Station

4/3/2006:

Tomorrow is the anniversary of North Dakota’s first television station,, going on the air as a regular commercial station. It was 1953, and that first year, Minot’s KCJB – now KXMC – chartered a plane to fly in, from Minneapolis, taped coverage of each day of the World Series.

Most of the shows KCJB aired were live programs put together by local teachers, ministers, county agents and actors. The quality of the productions were of course quite different in those days – no color and huge cameras that made for long, static shots. But it was very exciting to those first viewers.

The first woman on the air was Cis Hadley, who produced a regular show about style and fashion. She soon learned that filming live shows wasn’t without its problems.

When she was once doing a live commercial with fashion models, an oblivious new janitor walked between her and the camera with his broom and wastebasket. Another time, she was directing a style show during which she had to use headphones. When the cameraman abruptly pulled back to do a wide shot, Ms. Hadley’s head went with him, followed by the sound of her hitting the floor.

North Dakota’s first commercial television broadcaster was big enough news in 1953 that a Minneapolis Tribune reporter covered the story.

During a live production of “Arv’s Kitchen,” Arv Johnson and Harry Burris demonstrated how to drill holes in potatoes with an apple corer, stuff the cavities with cheese and bake. Soon, viewers began to call, asking why their picture was suddenly foggy. It turns out the cheese had melted, run out of the potatoes and started to burn.

As smoke overtook the tiny studio, sports announcer Jim Adelson threw a pair of leather gloves across the room to Arv, who was trying to yank potatoes out of the oven.

Moments later, a man from Westhope called to say, “Tell Arv that he put six potatoes in there, but he only took out five. There’s still one in there burning!”

Choking from smoke and laughter, the Tribune reporter said he had to leave the room.

Congratulations to our colleagues in Minot at KXMC.

Written by Merry Helm