KID television in Idaho Falls came on the air with programming on Sunday, December 20, 1953. Since I was four it’s remarkable that I remember anything at all about the first television broadcast in southeastern Idaho. But, how could one forget the flamboyant Liberace?
We were watching at my aunt and uncle’s house in Idaho Falls. Pop hadn’t yet sprung for a TV set, though it wouldn’t be long before we had one. I remember the camera panning over the audience and Pop making a comment about some bald guy having less hair than he did.
One of the first mentions of the new TV station came on April 29, 1953, when CBS announced that KID would become its 111th affiliate. The release said they expected to start broadcasting on June 14. Technical issues kept pushing that date out.
With the 100,000 watt transmitter for KID located on one of the Twin Buttes, they expected to get their signal into Twin Falls and the rest of the Magic Valley. Technically, they did, but it was never a signal to brag about.
That didn’t stop stores from stocking televisions in Twin Falls. The Times-News also ran frequent ads suggesting that television repair had a promising future and helpfully giving the address of a school in California.
In Pocatello, they formed the Pocatello Television Dealers Association in anticipation of the big day, listing the programming a week ahead of the first broadcast to entice buyers to come in and shop.
In Blackfoot, Peterson’s, “The store that serves you best,” sold my folks a 17” Philco that seemed like a miracle to me. I watched whatever was on, at first, eventually growing more selective. My favorite was “Disneyland,” which started with Tinkerbell tapping her magic wand to set off sparkles and the opening of stage curtains. After the requisite sponsor blurbs, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” began playing. Other favorites came along, such as “The Cisco Kid,” “Maverick,” and “Sky King.”
KID’s first programming came a dozen years after the first commercial broadcast. That was in 1941 in New York City. But the eastern Idaho event had something earlier broadcasts did not. They had the inventor of television as a guest. Philo T. Farnsworth, who as a freshman at Rigby High School had come up with the concept for the cathode ray tube, helped KID TV celebrate its first broadcast.
IMAGE: When KID TV first went on the air in 1954 the inventor of television was there to help them celebrate. Philo T. Farnsworth had come up with the idea for the cathode ray tube as a freshman at Rigby High School. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.