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
NickAndros423 - 4/15/2014 8:54 PM
0 Votes
"Freedom of speech is ok but when you talk about hate and all this it shouldn't be allowed,", lmao (rolls eyes). It's a little better than "ok"... and it's a critical right, obviously. And for it to exist at all, you have to give dummies the same right to it. I don't like the idea of those (alleged) jerks coming here, either; however, that they can speaks well for everybody's rights in the bigger picture. It's amazing, and kind of scary, that the only locals to ever be interviewed are the 'blinders on' people.

amandawa - 4/10/2014 2:42 PM
0 Votes
BO IS STILL MISSING AS OF 4-10-2014!!

NickAndros423 - 4/10/2014 1:38 PM
0 Votes
"Leash law", lol... what a joke. We have a leash law within city limits here in Chattanooga, for all the good it does. The whole situation is pretty pathetic on all fronts. Firstly, of course, are all the selfish, inconsiderate dummies who disregard it; and secondly and thirdly, calling animal control and/or the police when there's a problem is roughly akin to dialing 1-800-USELESS. Nine times out of ten, when calling animal control, you just get a recorded message stating they're not available at the time. Then, when you call the police, they just tell you to call animal control... a never-ending loop of incompetence, lmao. In my experience, dog owners are generally a selfish, inconsiderate lot to begin with. Well over half of them aren't in a situation to even responsibly own a dog, as far as providing for it--not just food, but with the proper attention given and space provided. But they do it anyway, and infringe their selfish stupidity on those around them. Since this has been allowed to become the status quo, tragedies like the one in this story are going to ultimately occur. I can't even imagine what the parents are going through... what a terrible thing to endure.

lmurphy - 4/10/2014 11:26 AM
0 Votes
Love you guys bunches!!!

ninakyle - 4/10/2014 7:53 AM
0 Votes
what does he look like?

Animaluv - 4/7/2014 12:37 PM
0 Votes
UPDATE: This dog has been returned to the owners from whom she had wandered. They had recently adopted her, and she is slated for a vet visit and grooming today!

David - 4/7/2014 6:38 AM
0 Votes
Once again, the NAACP is trying to create a problem where one does not exist. The VW employees voted against the union because they did not feel that any benefits the union might provide were necessary nor worth the dues the union would charge them. Go away NAACP. You’re trying to kick down an open door.

gregwood02 - 4/6/2014 3:25 PM
0 Votes
Ecstasy is not a cloudy crystal. You guys need to do some better field research. Or use Google.

mikejo28 - 4/4/2014 10:26 PM
0 Votes
I hope she gets hired as soon as possible ! Someone, give her a break! From what I hear, the hospital is very close to the school, so it wasn't a big deal.

Reid340 - 4/3/2014 2:59 AM
0 Votes
Tyler, this teacher received the Golden Apple award. So why must you post stuff that you know nothing about? Something tells me that you were not in her class and that you're just a liar.
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