For the few thousand with TV sets that could pull in the new station, the wait was excruciating.
On February 27, 1948, WBEN-TV started telecasting daily—but only a test pattern for several hours a day.
Eleven weeks later, on May 14, 1948, Buffalo entered the television era with the sign-on of Ch.4, WBEN-TV. The station was among the first 25 to sign on in the country.
“Edward H. Butler, editor and publisher of The Buffalo Evening News, stepped before a WBEN-TV camera at Memorial Auditorium on May 14, 1948—and a new era in mass communications and home entertainment began on the Niagara Frontier,” read an announcement from the station.
The station’s first-day, four-hour lineup offered a taste of what television would be like over the next couple of years in Buffalo—a little bit of everything.
After the somber address by Mayor Dowd and Mr. Butler, there was a Town Casino Variety Show, including the Town Casino chorus, acrobatic dancer Dorothy Deering, and network singing star and emcee Mary Jane Dobb.
And the show that would be the station’s most popular for the next decade was also on Ch.4 that first night —There was wrestling live from Memorial Auditorium.
“The marceled master of mayhem, Gorgeous George, will take over the spotlight when the tele-cameras shift to the auditorium’s wrestling ring at 9:30,” read Buffalo’s first TV program guide.
Just as radio had been a truly pioneering experience 25 years earlier– with no one exactly sure what to do because no one had ever done it before, the first few years of programming at Ch.4 were an exciting and sometimes weird hodge-podge of adapting things that worked on radio for television mixed with completely new ideas for the completely new medium.
South Buffalo’s Fred Keller, who first joined WBEN as an announcer in 1942, was the creative spirit behind many of the shows on Ch.4.
Remembered as a sportscaster from the day WBEN-TV signed on in 1948 through 1977, Chuck Healy was also Buffalo’s most watched TV news anchor on Ch.4 through the ’60s.
The versatile announcer was also a versatile athlete as a boxing and football star at Syracuse University.
Television’s first ever cop drama, “The Clue” was written and directed by Buffalo theater icon Fred A. Keller, and starred Evening News Radio-TV columnist Jim Trantor as Private Eye Steve Malice. It was as an actor on “The Clue” that Canadian radio announcer Lorne Greene—later famous as Ben Cartwright on Bonanza—made his first television appearance.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
This week we’re looking at the women who were the first to make their presence felt in what has traditionally been the male-dominated broadcasting industry.
Today– the women who were the first to grace Buffalo television screens.
Television came to Buffalo with Channel 4 in 1948, and the only women prominently featured in the ceremonial sign on of the station were the chorus girls from the Town Casino.
Some of the pioneering women in Buffalo TV were the same women who pioneered in Buffalo radio.
Sally Work was called “the dean of women commentators” by the Buffalo Evening News. She’d already been on the radio for 15 years by the time she took her act to the new medium of TV. When Channel 2 signed on, Helen Neville took her radio act to TV as well.
Of course, there were those who made their first mark in TV as well.
Starting in 1952, a beloved and strong woman made her debut on Channel 4.
Viewers watched Mildred Miller and her husband Bill cook and interview celebrities for 20 years on “Meet the Millers.
Doris Jones was first seen as a commercial model on Channel 4 when she was still in high school. She’d eventually host a women’s show on Channel 7, and become Buffalo’s first female staff announcer and weathercaster on Channel 2.
Paula Drew was the spokesperson for Niagara Frontier’s dairy farmers, and as Buffalo’s milk maid, she did weather forecasts wrapped around milk commercials. She was later the voice of Tops Friendly Markets.
While Paula Drew was at Tops, it was Joey at Super Duper in the 70s and 80s.