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
shelawatts - 7/24/2014 10:57 PM
0 Votes
When my children were little, I took them in with me to get my driver's license and one of the examiners watched them while I did the driving part. It is not that hard if you cannot find a babysitter. Maybe people should have to take parenting classes before they are allowed to have children!

Phyl5 - 7/24/2014 10:40 PM
0 Votes
Please keep it open!!!!!

Hayrae - 7/23/2014 3:50 PM
0 Votes
Tried to call this number but no answer. I believe I may have seen this dog on lower river road two days ago. When I passed him, it was where the first guard rails are if you are going away from B and B to Loves. I think there is a White House right before it and a cut out from the trees with power lines. I went back 10 minutes later and did not see him. I have a feeling he may have gone into the woods to the left of the guardrails. I know it is a lot of woods but thought it may help you know where to look. Sorry I couldn't help more.

roxannefeiel - 7/23/2014 10:51 AM
0 Votes
Thanks for the heads up! If you're looking for your nearest place to take advantage of Hot Dog Day deals, check this out: www.placecodes.com/hotdogday

beccamarie08 - 7/22/2014 5:21 PM
0 Votes
How is it so hard for a parent to just TAKE THEIR KIDS WITH THEM?! It's not as if she was in a building kids were prohibited! If it was just because she was too lazy to deal with them in a public building, then she should either A- find a sitter B-Don't go anywhere or C-not have kids to begin with! It's that simple! Leave your kids or pets in a hot car and I will reward you with a free busted window!

mamac - 7/22/2014 3:42 PM
1 Vote
What is the matter with people? If you don't want ALL the RESPONSIBILITY of children then keep your legs CLOSED or take the pill. Kids don't ask for hardship they are innocent and just want to be loved.

Here2Opine - 7/19/2014 1:00 PM
0 Votes
Bound the victim and her husband. So, the husband isn't considered a victim?

DJ Mega - 7/19/2014 7:34 AM
0 Votes
As far as I am concerned, this is a great bill! More often than not, people drive with total disrespect knowingly blocking and slowing down traffic because they think that if they go to speed limit then they are abiding the law. Passing lanes are exactly for that, passing slower vehicles. Slower vehicles need to stay to the right! That said, I typically go the speed limit and always stay in the right lane and have total respect for those that need to pass me.

jasonod - 7/17/2014 7:35 PM
0 Votes
So World War III is about to start and WDEF doesn't show the second half hour of The CBS Evening News in order to talk about Bugtussle Whitfield county and other Bugtussle, GA and Bugtussle, TN meaningless stories for the 20 people that watch you guys stand because standing makes the boring garbage on that show mean more as does standing in front of a thousands of dollars monitor with 2 words on it. Ya know, those thousands spent so we can read a headline of the story you're talking about. As someone who was just a Neisen diary home a couple of months ago and put your 6 PM news in the diary because you were the least objectionable craptacular show calling it's self a news show in Chattanooga, you can count me out as ever being a viewer of any of your Bugtussle local reports again. Of course, you get 100% of the ad revenue for that craptacular show and don't for the National stuff so that's much more important than World War III. I just wonder how Democrats and Republicans alike live with themselves when they're all the exact kind of greedy whores that the people running WDEF are, everybody in what's alleged to be entertainment, news and sports are?

DawnParsons - 7/17/2014 11:49 AM
0 Votes
I think these two have also been spotted in Chickamuaga Battlefield yesterday.
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