Television comes to Glenwood Springs in 1956
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“Television is comparatively new. Its developments are so swift that those closely connected with the industry know not what the future holds. What is impossible today may be simple tomorrow.”
” Glenwood Post,
March 29, 1956
When Scottish engineer John Logie Baird transmitted the world’s first television picture in 1926, he changed how we would receive information and entertainment. However, 22 years would pass before television could be embraced by American culture. The economic boom following World War II allowed for advances in technology, and provided the financial means for the purchase of television sets. By 1948, nearly 5 million American homes contained a television. However, in Glenwood Springs, television was still a novelty.
That novelty stemmed from Glenwood Springs’ location. The mountains surrounding the town prohibited the reception of clear and continuous signals. However, by 1956, Glenwood Springs had waited long enough. On March 29, a group of local businessmen announced the formation of a television committee.
The committee initially consulted with a local television expert. This expert felt topography prohibited Glenwood Springs from ever receiving a clear television signal. The committee then investigated bringing Grand Junction television to Glenwood Springs. This proved cost prohibitive. However, the committee pushed on to bring television to the community, believing the Glenwood Springs television system should be community owned, and every business and resident should contribute monetarily to the construction of the system.
Undaunted, the committee’s search for signals continued. In the summer of 1956, signals for KOA Channel 4 and Cheyenne Channel 5 were located east of Glenwood Springs. Through the construction on Lookout Mountain of a temporary booster station powered by a gasoline fueled electric generator, Glenwood Springs received its first television transmission, Cheyenne Channel 5, on Aug. 27, 1956.
The electric generator proved labor intensive and unreliable. The push for an electric transmission line to the Lookout Mountain booster station began quickly, with an urging to have the line completed in time for baseball’s World Series. In September, the line was installed with the assistance of the Glenwood Springs Electric Department. Simultaneously, a second booster station was located on Iron Mountain behind the Hotel Colorado. Work continued to bring KOA Channel 4 to Glenwood Springs.
Overall, the system was far from reliable. The first week of December 1956, Cheyenne Channel 5 disappeared from the airways, and “all furor broke out to get television back.” Channel 5 was restored around Christmas. On Dec. 27, the first watchable Channel 4 transmission came to Glenwood Springs. It soon disappeared from the airways due to bad weather, and power and technology problems. These problems plagued the system for the entire winter.
Criticism plagues visionaries, and the television committee caught wrath over inconsistent service for many months. How soon we become accustomed to modern conveniences and how quickly we forget we lived without them not long ago.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448. “Frontier Diary” appears the first Tuesday of every month.
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