After World War II there was a post war economic boom in America. Jobs were plentiful, pay was good, and for the first time ever, Americans had leisure time and extra money to spend in pursuit of the American dream. At this same time television became available for much of the country and eventually it arrived to Fairbanks as well. The first TV set arrived just sixty-eight years ago this month, and we have been hooked on it ever since.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – August 20, 1953
FIRST TELEVISION SETS GO ON DISPLAY AT NC COMPANY BOOTH
Fairbanks’ first television sets will be on display by the Northern Commercial company tonight at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.
These sets range in price from $259 to $419 and feature a modern built-in antenna for better reception. As listed, the sets are being sold for stateside prices, plus shipping cost. (add a zero to the end of those numbers to get an idea of how much that would be in today’s money.)
Franchise for the proposed television station has been secured by Higgins and Rollins of Los Angeles, California, and the first projection is planned for January 1 of next year. Cost to Fairbanks residents is only that of the individual set, as present programs are maintained through national advertising.
According to Bob Wirth, local television salesman, most of the problems in reception here can be overcome with modern attachments. He states that the Northern Lights as well as the unusual terrain may definitely interfere with Fairbanks’s reception but adds that special aerials will correct much of the difficulty.
The first programs presented in Fairbanks will be the “canned” type until facilities can be set up for local production. This will open a wide field for employment for many persons.
Benefits Fairbanks will receive from television are almost unlimited. According to police records in the states, a definite decline in juvenile delinquency has resulted, when youth are thus entertained at home. During the long winters here when outside recreation is not possible, television will provide a much-needed source of indoor enjoyment.
Eighteen months later:
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – February 17, 1955
KTVF OPENS PROGRAMS TONIGHT
Station First on Air with Commercial TV Shows Here
Television will be launched in Fairbanks tonight at seven o’clock, with an hour-long, dedicatory program over Northern Television’s KTVF, originating from the Northward building lobby.
The public has been invited to an o0pen house in the television studios in the Northward building from 1 to 5 p.m. today. Demonstrations of film and live TV programming will be given.
For the dedication, a planeload of Anchorage citizens was scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m. today via Alaska Airlines. Among them were to be Mayor Maynard Taylor, George Jackson, chamber of commerce president, and two Fur Rendezvous queen contestants.
KTVF will be the first of two local television stations actually to go on the air with regular commercial programs. Following the dedication, the telecast will switch into an evening of locally sponsored programs. The first will be “Life of Riley,” and NBC syndicated show.
“It is a singular achievement which must be credited to a large number of Alaskan investors, to bring television to Alaska,” said A. G. Hiebert, president and general manager of Northern Television, Inc.
“It took the determination of 47 Fairbanks and Anchorage investors who did not believe the ‘Doubting Thomases’ that felt these two cities were too small to warrant TV,” Hiebert added.
“We began the first Alaskan TV station when KTVA signed on in Anchorage December 11, 1953. Now we are proud to bring KTVF to Fairbanks to serve the civilian and military population with the most modern equipment money can buy, and a roster of programs which will afford hours of entertainment of all types right in the home,” he added.
Walt Welch, manager of KTVF, said open house will be held again Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. “We expect an overflow crowd. In the event there are more people on hand who are interested in visiting our facilities than we can accommodate in four hours, we will announce other dates for the open house next week,” he added.
KTVF will emphasize the “Pioneer First” theme. “Northern TV was the first to apply for a television construction permit in Alaska, first to bring video to Alaskans through its KTVA facilities in Anchorage and first on Fairbanks TV screens—by virtue of tonight’s program,” this theme reports.
Civilian dignitaries and military leaders of the Fairbanks area will be feted on the inaugural show. Entertainment will be provided mainly by the famed choral unit of Eielson Air Force Base—the Eielsonnaires, and the Miss Liberty dancers of the Lei Momi Hula studios.
Arriving today on an Alaska Airlines DC-3, Anchorage civic officials, Fur Rendezvous Queen candidates and staff members of television station KTVA will be present for the planned festivities. Their introduction will be a portion of the scheduled activities.
The feted dignitaries—of Anchorage and Fairbanks—will give short addresses welcoming television to the area and describing its impact upon the local scene. Music for the auspicious occasion will be rendered by the Eielsonnaires who will appear through the courtesy of Colonel Cordes F. Tiemann, commander of Eielson Air Force base and the 5010th Air Base wing.
A.G. Hiebert, president and general manager of Northern Television, Inc. which operates Fairbanks’ KTVF, will make a brief statement to the local populace regarding the station itself and plans for the future. Walter Welch, KTVF station manager, will deliver the closing address of the ceremony which will usher in commercial telecasting.
Internationally famed artist George Aghupuk will be introduced to TV-watchers and exhibit samples of this renowned pen sketches, ivory carvings and etchings. Mr. Aghupuk—an Alaskan Eskimo, who will be aboard the special Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage—gained attention in the artistic world for his brilliant etchings which were made on “secretly” prepared reindeer hide.
Recognition will be afforded staff personnel of KTVF during the inaugural show, as well as artists and members of the KTVA staff from Anchorage. Jack Walden, Northern Television’s vice president and technical director will come from behind the scenes for a momentary bow along with Mrs. Ellen Roff, copy writer, Mrs. Dee Smith, bookkeeper; Bill Hunt, commercial manager; and Vern Francis, film editor.
KTVF, in keeping with the established policies of Northern Television Inc., will be dedicated to public service on the first program by Father James Conwell and Rev. Robert Sheppard.
6:30 – Test Pattern
7:00 – Dedicatory Program
8:00 – The Life of Riley (NBC Syndic.)
8:30 – Going Places with Uncle George
8:40 – TV Close Ups
8:45 – Weekly News Review (INS)
9:00 – Weather Forecast (Live Studio)
9:05 – Feature Theater
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – February 18, 1955
TELEVISION COMES TO FAIRBANKS AS KTVF OPENS ITS BROADCASTS
Television came to Fairbanks last night, and a huge crowd jammed the lobby of the Northward building to see KTVF’s dedication ceremonies.
Many other Fairbanksans were at home, viewing the show on newly installed TV receivers. TV dealers here reported a run on sets all day yesterday, and trucks and installation men were hard pressed to deliver all the orders before the show which opened at seven o’clock.
As TV came on the air here, downtown streets became literally deserted as citizens crowded into bars and TV dealer showrooms to watch the proceedings.
Although it was opening night for KTVF, and much complicated TV transmission equipment was operating commercially for the first time, the entire evening’s program came off without a serious hitch.
Mayor Maynard Taylor of Anchorage, Mayor Doug Preston of Fairbanks, General T. Alan Bennett, Augie Hiebert, president of Northern Television, and Colonel Cordes Tiemann of Eielson AFB, led off a host of dignitaries from Anchorage and Fairbanks who appeared before the camera.
The original Mandrake the Magician, appearing at Club Rendezvous, put on a special show of his magic before the cameras. Liberty Helenihi’s dancing students entertained with a colorful display of island dances, and the Eielsonnaires gave rousing renditions of their songs.
Master of ceremonies was Walt Welch, KTVF manager.
Note: While KTVF was the first to bring programming to Fairbanks, they were not the first to broadcast a television signal in Fairbanks. That distinction goes to KFAR, who on February 2, 1955, began broadcasting a test signal in Fairbanks thus technically beating out the competition. Fairbanks has been glued to television ever since that first incredible night of broadcast programming here. KTVF is still with us today, and even though KFAR is not in the television business anymore, they are still strong in the local radio market, which they founded here as well. Both of them are true pioneers in the broadcast media history of Fairbanks.
This “tuned in” History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska, who wish to remind you that more History Nuggets are available on our website at pioneersofalaskafairbanks.org.