Headline of Station premiere

WDEF-TV - Chattanooga's First Television Station Signs on April 25th, 1954.

The Chattanooga Times and News Free-Press heralded the news that Chattanooga would now have a television station ... WDEF-TV providing local programming as well as network programs from CBS and NBC.

The first broadcast, of course, was merely a test pattern. For at least two weeks, anxious Tennessee Valley households tuned their brand-new television sets into Channel 12, and were greeted by an Indian head with various gradiations of grey, and a voice announcing the coming station, and that this was a test broadcast. You'd have thought that test pattern would win an Emmy.

For the first time since there was TV, local residents wouldn't have to strain to pick up grainy Atlanta stations. It was the talk of the valley.

Viewers from all over the tri-state area wrote in to tell our engineers that they were picking up the signal, and would let them know what the quality was like. Some letters surprised our engineers more than others ... such as the Knoxville lady who was able to pick up our signal using only "rabbit ears".


Television in Chattanooga was now a reality, and things would never be the same.



The first studios were located in the Volunteer Life Insurance Building, and the power output was 105,000 watts.

Local programming would be Drue Smith's House Party, Miller Brothers' Style Show, and Henry C. Geiger's Children's Gospel Hour.

Other local shows included the children's variety show, Mr. Chickaroonie, Luther Masingill, Sports Review by Herschel Nation, Drue Smith's Party Line, the Weather Report by "Big Jim" Hill, world news by Mort Lloyd and Scenic Land News by Hal Seigel.

Network programming would include the Colgate Comedy Hour, Jack Benny, Milton Berle - Bob Hope, I Love Lucy, Red Buttons, Judge for Yourself, Eddie Fisher, Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, and I've Got a Secret.

With WDEF radio since 1941, Luther Masingill joined the staff of WDEF-TV. Luther had vowed to keep up his shenanigans in TV as he had in radio.

A staple of morning radio for over a decade already, Luther would bring his wit and warmth to television. Things like Chickaroonie, Mabel and "Stay in your own lane" were all "Luther-isms".

Luther was a stunt-master in radio. He was a source of diversion and amusement to Chattanoogans who listened to him.

For one radio contest, Luther agreed to serve as yardman and man of all chores around the house of the winner. He admits he didn't work hard.

For another occasion, he was rolled around in a wheelbarrow at the front of a parade by WDEF announcer Ernie Feagans.

And ever-so-often, he just wouldn't even show up at the studio, broadcasting his show from "home", wandering around the rooms listening to the crackling of bacon as Mrs. Mary Masingill cooked, or chatting with younger brother Charles.

One of the first locally-produced shows on WDEF-TV was Point of View. Still on the air, it is one of the longest-running local public affairs programs in the United States.

Other shows such as Drue Smith's House Party and Party Line were popular with viewers, for their innovative style and fresh attitude.


The 1970s brought change to TV news. WDEF was no longer the only television station in town, but it was certainly the leader.

With a team of seasoned broadcasters, and a brand new tool ... videotape ... Channel 12 was able to bring the Tennessee Valley the latest news, accurately and quickly.

Mort Lloyd was in the center of it all.

An unlikely hero in the world of TV, Lloyd was one of the most respected faces (and voices) in broadcast journalism.

The history of WDEF-TV is a rich and colorful one. From important leaders to strange personalities (even a wrestler or two), they have all wandered these halls over the years.

Shock Theatre: mixed horror, comedy & political commentary into late night programming in the 70s
Shock Theatre: mixed horror, comedy &
political commentary into late night
programming in the 70s.

We are proud of our history here at WDEF. It is a big part of Chattanooga's history, too. And we would love to hear about your memories, questions or memorabilia. Just drop us a line at News@wdef.com.


Latest Comments
Comments
Tim Horn - 12/17/2014 7:39 PM
0 Votes
So we have regulations for cabs but not for Uber. How more unequal can competition be? Either release taxis from regulation or regulate Uber. One way or another the field should be equal.

A Evans - 12/15/2014 11:26 PM
0 Votes
First, Cigarettes don't list ANY ingredients, yet we know there are thousands. 2nd, ALL juice manufacturers release mg nicotine/ml on their bottles. I have never purchased any that didn't. A rda with a normal quality juice, which is vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, flavors and nicotine, studies have shown that they produce an average of 2 parts/million of aldahydes, which is less than breathing the air around you and WAY less than OSHA safe standards. The research studies that reflect poorly on vaping is always done with big tobacco ecigs that, knowing big tobacco, has God knows what in it. This is brewed by fear and ignorance... makes me embarrassed to be a Tennessean.

GoldenVapors - 12/15/2014 9:29 PM
0 Votes
First and foremost, I think the Tn Dept of health needs to do a lot more reading on the detailed research that has been done at leading universities already. More and more data keeps coming in, showing how much less harmful electronic cigarettes are, than smoking tobacco. The purpose of the electronic cigarette industry is to help those who want to use these devices, to move their life into a more healthy and much less smelly, lifestyle. As for the ingredients, it is no secret like this article tries to tell us. There is PG, VG, Pharmacy grade nicotine if used, and food grade flavorings. Since the government seems only wanting to over-regulate, or not regulate, the industry has taken a stand to safeguard it's customers and self regulate in many ways. First, 99.9% of all vapor stores will not sell to anyone under 18, so quit playing the protect the children card when you have nothing else to say, or supporting evidence to your false claims. Oh, and to put it all to rest... It is NOT water Vapor. The vapor has a water content as the VG will billow in the presence of moisture in the air. That gives the person vaping, the sensation of seeing the cloud of vapor that mimics smoke. This, and the hand to mouth action, along with satisfying flavors are helping millions avoid going back to smoking cigarettes. Over regulation like what is being proposed by the FDA, which is being hounded by the big tobacco lobbies, will hand over the ecigarette industry to the exact companies that have been killing our fellow Americans for the last 100+ years. It only takes a few minutes to get on line and find real data supporting the use of ecigs over tobacco cigarettes. No burning toxins, almost no carcinogens, and the few that are remotely present are in such low amounts, there is no foreseen harm. Do long term studies need to be done? Yes We would like to know the long term affects also. Don't destroy the best thing to help us live better lives.

Journeyer - 12/15/2014 9:03 PM
0 Votes
Puritan fear mongers. It is pathetic how desperately some people need to control the lives of others.

WASHTUB JONES - 12/15/2014 5:44 PM
0 Votes
now instead of being known for our shootings every day,we can add child abuse to our list of why people would like to move here.

Nate760 - 12/15/2014 5:40 PM
0 Votes
When did "unregulated" become a synonym for "hazardous and probably deadly"? Remember when the federal government only regulated things when there was a clear and present need for such regulation, rather than proactively regulating things based on "potential" concerns over some bad thing that might happen? Remember when people, amazingly, were able to conduct their daily lives without someone in Washington DC holding their hand the whole time and keeping them safe from their own stupidity?

csandhollow - 12/15/2014 7:12 AM
0 Votes
I was proud to be part of this helping the kids

WASHTUB JONES - 12/12/2014 6:31 PM
0 Votes
come on people,give it a rest.you have no ideal about what you are even doing.because if you don't do what a police officer tells you,the same thing can happen to you.go home.

WASHTUB JONES - 12/12/2014 6:26 PM
0 Votes
do they not have security cameras?we have cameras that can read anewspaper or car tag from outer space.so whats the problem?i guess that would cost money.

mamac - 12/12/2014 9:51 AM
0 Votes
There is alot of money out there to the sheriff's department that they seize from drugs ect. And all we hear is we don't have enough money to go on, heck we don't have enough money to fill the cars up with fuel to go patrol. And then we hear seized $300,000 + ..But we hear well got to go the the council and get more money.. But then there is ALL this thieving going on and then we hear well you want see your stuff. But I have to say the deputy's did find some of the pieces of trash that was stealing and who lets them out of jail and there record is as long as there own body.The judge. I say hey judge if you are going to let the scum bags out of jail then you need to let your house insurance go and the scum come to your house not one time not two times but 5 times and take everything you got and you want get anything cause you don't have insurance. Then I bet you will put the scum under the jail. Cause when it comes to your door then it's a whole different ball game then.This is all the departments...
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