Cable companies now offer service with hundreds of channels of all sorts, offering HDTV, stereo sound, and 24-hour broadcasting.  Reality shows, sitcoms, lawyers, cops and doctor shows – some running episode by episode, some keeping a story line going for an entire season.  That’s how TV is now.


However, that was not how it was for TV on the Range in the 1960s.


Every home had a spindly TV antenna rising above its roofline to pick up both TV channels.  That’s ‘both’, as in ‘two’.  Across the Range, we watched NBC via WDSM-TV on channel 6 (now KBJR), or turned the dial (by HAND, of all things) to KDAL –TV on channel 3 (now KDLH) to watch CBS.  Both originated from Duluth, so those antennas were pointing southeast like so many frozen synchronized swimmers to receive signals from 65 miles away – and most of it in black and white.


These stations also had their local list of shows and celebrities that added to the fun.


WDSM got us to hurry home from school to watch CAPTAIN Q.  The station’s weatherman, JackMcKenna, played the part as the Captain, who came down his ladder, greeted us from his pilothouse set, and introduced us to cartoons such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Little Lulu and Popeye.  Live actions episodes of The Little Rascals or The Three Stooges were sometimes mixed in.


Captain Q  had a very shy sidekick, known as Sparks.  We saw him only from the back, as Sparks was a very shy character who spoke very little.  Sparks was played by another weatherman, RayPaulson, who stepped into other shoes once Captain Q sailed off the air.


Those shoes belonged to Bozo the Clown.  RayPaulson became WDSM’s version of Bozo, entertaining us with orange upturned hair, a silly voice and many cartoons.  Kids could sit on the bleachers right in the studio with a chance to actually be on camera, wave frantically and mouth “Hi, Mom” to anyone who was watching.


Eventually, Bozo also came to an end.  WDMS, though, wanted to keep the show in some other form, so RayPaulson continued with another clown character of the station’s own devising named Mr.Toot. 


KDAL was not a kids’ channel.  It was a more serious home of such as WalterCronkite and local news anchor DickAnthony.  But, KDAL offered something no other channel could offer and that was Dotty Becker’s TOWN AND COUNTRY show at noon, Monday through Friday.


Dotty was everybody’s aunt.  Her show was recipes, books, visits with local important people.  Occasionally, the entire town of Mt. Iron tuned in her show because the Mountain Iron Boys’ Choir (60 angelic unchanged fifth and sixth grade boys) sang a few times on the show – a highlight for those of us who got to sing in that group.


And then, in the mid 1960s, it happened.  Two more stations were added to the load on those spindly antennas.


WDSE  – channel 8 joined the  Duluth broadcasters. But, I mean, really, ‘educational’ TV?  We kids just weren’t into that.  It was in elementary school in front of a TV in the gym where we learned German on WDSE from a lady named Dr.HeidiOplesch.  With a thick German accent , she taught us to how to say that we’re having fun in school, and how elephant’s ears are so large.  Little did we know that within just a few years, such programming would become huge national classics as Sesame Street and Mr.Rogers’ Neighborhood.


Our network experience blossomed with the inaugural broadcast of WDIO channel 10 out of Duluth, affiliated with the ABC network.  All those programs we had heard about added to our viewing habits – The Fugitive, Mod Squad, and the ultimate for kids of the day, the original Batman, with Adam West – and it was ALL in color.  WDIO came with a sister station, broadcasting out of Hibbing – our very first Range TV station, WIRT channel 13.  To put a cherry on the top for these stations, their news anchor man gave up his radio job at WHLB in Virginia.  DennisAnderson stayed for many years, finally retiring in May of 2011.  He became an idol of pride as one coming from our own ranks.


Within a few years, we had come from a two-station market to an area fully covered by all the major networks.  Life  nor culture would ever be the same – especially with larger antennas that allowed for real LIVING COLOR.Image