WSAZ History | The Decades / 1970s
History Information | The Decades / 1970s

New Home

In 1971, Huntington notified WSAZ that the studios at 201 Ninth Street would be demolished as part of the Urban Renewal Project. The blocks closest to the river were razed. Click on the picture for a better look.

WSAZ purchased the GMAC building at 645 5th Avenue and began an ambitious remodeling project.

The walls go up on the addition. This area houses the studio. Note the supports for the antennas.

Bos Johnson inspects the site.

Assembly begins on the new tower.

Here is the final result.

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Much like the day President Kennedy died, many West Virginians will never forget where they were when Marshall University's football team died in the worst disaster in U.S. sports.

Marshall's plane crashed just short of the airport near Huntington, W.Va., on Nov. 14, 1970, killing 37 players, eight coaches and 30 others. It took the greatest toll of any crash involving U.S. sports teams.

Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated in November 1972 in memory of the crash victims. The water stops flowing every fall on November 14 -- the day in 1970 when the plane went down. There is also an annual memorial service to ensure new generations will "never forget."

The Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated in November 1972 in memory of the crash victims. The water stops flowing every fall on November 14 - the day in 1970 which the plane went down. There is also an annual memorial service to ensure new generations will "never forget."

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Buffalo Creek

February 26, 1972 was a nightmare for the residents of Buffalo Creek Valley, West Virginia. More than 125 people were killed and thousands more were left homeless when a coal company's refuse pile dam collapsed, dumping millions of gallons of water and waste materials on sixteen small communities in the mountains of Logan County, West Virginia. Many of the men, women and children, awakened by the sounds of screams and roaring water, did not have time to escape from the deadly black waters which lifted houses, cars and everything else in its path.

The Buffalo Creek disaster was not an ordinary coal-mining accident. It was caused by the irresponsibility of the dam's owner, the Pittston Company, sole stockholder of the Buffalo Mining Company. This corporation had carelessly constructed the dam which gave way, violating federal safety standards and jeopardizing the surrounding mining towns. This dam was made of tons of slate and rock and coal waste left over from the coal cleaning process.

For years, the coal company had dumped this refuse along Middle Fork Hollow to filter the liquid waste, another by-product of the coal cleaning. By the time of the disaster, the refuse pile was almost 60 feet high and 450 to 500 feet wide.

Because the dam was not equipped with an emergency spillway, it failed during heavy rains, releasing the impounded black waters. The Buffalo Creek disaster was one of the worst man-made disasters in the history of the United States. Investigators determined illegal surface mining practices to be the cause of the disaster. Over 600 of the survivors sued the Pittston Company for the loss of their homes and possessions as well as for their mental suffering. More than two years after the disaster, the plaintiffs ended up settling for $13.5 million, approximately $13,000 a piece after legal costs.

Although the state sued the coal company for $100 million, Governor Arch Moore negotiated a $1 million settlement, while the state eventually paid the federal government $9.5 million in clean-up costs and interest.

Governor Arch Moore temporarily banned journalists from the area to prevent what he called "irresponsible reporting." He complained, "The only real sad part is that the state of West Virginia has taken a terrible beating that is worse than the disaster."

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The local news department best reflects the commitment of the television station to its community Bos Johnson, News Director and immediate Past President of the national Radio and Television News Directors Association, leads the most progressive broadcast newsgathering organization in the area -- a dedicated group of professional reporters, photographers, and writers. The WSAZ television 3 early evening newscast is one of the highest rated local news programs in the country, and is seen by more than a quarter million viewers each weeknight.

In the photo below, Bob Brunner reports from Huntington.

Full-time news bureaus in Huntington and Charleston -- with ''live" early and late evening newscasts from studios in both cities -- make WSAZ television 3 the only two-city, hometown station in the area. With the 1974 addition of a 24-hour news bureau in Parkersburg, the station widened its news base to provide more complete coverage of the fast growing Mid-Ohio Valley region.

News from outside the major metropolitan areas is covered by the WSAZ television 3 Regional Reporter, and the entire news staff travels thousands of miles annually to provide coverage of events throughout the region. The station pioneered this "regional reporting'' concept.

Twenty-six correspondents throughout the viewing area report on events that WSAZ television 3 News cannot routinely cover. This combination of fifteen professional news people and strategically placed correspondents enables WSAZ television 3 to provide the most complete and comprehensive regional news possible. *

* Excerpted from "Twenty-Five Years of Service", George Andrick, 1975

WSAZ was first in the region with lightweight handheld videotape recorders.

WSAZ television 3 responded to changing audience sophistication with the introduction of the Vidicam. The Vidicam system used a fully portable color camera and videotape recorder to provide fast coverage of latebreaking news events, and was used in the Huntington and Charleston news bureaus.

The newest recording media, videotape, advanced in the seventies. Even though WSAZ had already purchased an Ampex 2” video tape machine, the day-to-day news coverage was still done with film. This all changed with the purchase of the VidiCam. This was the first system that used a fully portable color camera and videotape recorder to provide fast coverage of late-breaking news events.

Below, Bos Johnson uses one of the new cameras.

Bill Cummings, who would later become WSAZ's News Manager, uses the Vidicam in the photo below.

The commitment to providing the lasted news events jumped by leaps and bounds with the purchase of the first portable microwave system.

Engineer Warren Woody sets up at the Huntington Civic Center.

This system, which included a large dish and tripod, was carried up the stairs of the West Virginia Capitol dome by WSAZ staff to provide live coverage of the West Virginia Legislature.

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WSAZ continued its commitment to political coverage in the '70s. People have come to expect in depth, accurate political reporting from us.

Town Hall: Decision '74 was the second broadcast of its kind and the three-and-a-half hour, live and unsponsored telecast featured fifteen candidates for major political offices in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

In this photo is Jerry Sander, flanked by Jay Rockefeller and Gaston Caperton.

Co-produced by WSAZ television 3 and the League of Women Voters, Town Hall provided viewers the opportunity to meet candidates in an informal manner prior to making election decisions.

Charles Ryan reports local election results in the photo below.

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In the mid 1970s WSAZ installed its first color RADAR. This was the first color RADAR in the WV region and it allowed the forecasters to provide accurate, real-time tracking of weather in the area.

Here is Jule Huffman on the set with the new radar over his right shoulder.

DJ Schroeder with an old weather display...

... and DJ with the new setup.

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MDA Telethon

WSAZ took community fundraising activities to new heights in the 70s. Our viewers responded enthusiastically and contributed generously. Today, The Jerry Lewis MDA telethon is a major event each Labor Day weekend.

In the photo below, volunteers are at the WSAZ studio answering phones for the telethon.

Jerry Sander was one of the hosts of the telethon in the 70s.

In 1975, Jerry Lewis raised a record $18,868,499 in the Labor Day Telethon against Muscular Dystrophy. The telethon was carried on almost 200 stations across the U.S. and handily beat 1974's total of $16.1 million.

The 2009 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon was another great success, with $60.5 million in pledges and contributions, despite the tough economy. Thanks to everyone who helped make this a great year for "Jerry's kids."

In the photo below, Bos Johnson is hosting an Easter Seals drive.

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There are too many people to possibly thank for making the 70's a successful period. Here are just a few:

WSAZ's 25th Anniversary Party

Todd Andrick runs the camera during a live broadcast of the Bob Braun Show from Ritter Park in Huntington, 1979.

Jim Foy at work.

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Bos Johnson was the first president of the Radio and Television News Directors Association from a small market. This was a prestigious appointment. The photo below shows him after getting the good news.

As president of the RTNDA, Bos asked the lead-off question at the last press conference Richard Nixon ever gave. Within a few months, his administration was embattled over the so-called "Watergate" scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President.

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Mr. Cartoon

Mr. Cartoon was an afternoon staple for children of all ages wherever WSAZ reached. The character was started by George Lewis but the show reached its widest acclaim under the stewardship of Jule Huffman.

We follow Mr. Cartoon's career over the next thirty years in the words of his son Marvin:

Growing Up with Mr. Cartoon
By Marvin Huffman

The first full decade of Jule Huffman’s tenure as Mr. Cartoon coincided with a tumultuous time for WSAZ's viewing area.

With the Marshall plane crash and the Buffalo Creek disaster bringing a somber and emotionally trying reality of the precious nature of life Jule's natural leadership and love of children, as well as his basic attitude of being a survivor was key in the rising popularity of Mr. C.

(Merlyn was played by Jule on the "Steamboat Bill Show")

Going to the people was the backbone of Jule’s power of celebrity. I was on many of these trips to the communities served by WSAZ, as Beeper or just as a son spending time with his father.

The lessons I learned from Jule in regard to handling people are invaluable to me, in every aspect of my life. Respect and understanding. These are the qualities that Jule built Mr. Cartoon on. As well as a love of children, and their right to a fun and loving childhood.

Mr. Cartoon was Jule Huffman as much as Jule was Mr.C.

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Beeper was the perfect mascot and sidekick for Mr. Cartoon. Many people have donned the costume over the years, including WSAZ photojournalist Jim Backus, former photojournalist Dave Kinder, Jule's son Marvin, and even John Marra.

Merlyn the Monster was Beeper's predecessor. Played by Jule Huffman, he accompanied Steamboat Bill on his journeys. Here, they plan their itinerary with Tom Garten.

Although semi-retired, Beeper still comes by the station once in a while to pick up mail and see old and new friends.

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  • Station sold for $18 million by Capital Cities Broadcasting to Lee, Enterprises. George R. Andrick named General Manager.
  • 16mm color film processors purchased -- placed in Huntington and Charleston. This allowed news be processed in house and hit the airwaves faster.
  • Urban Renewal notified WSAZ that the studios at 201 Ninth Street would be demolished as part of Urban Renewal Project. WSAZ purchased the General Motors Credit Building at 645 Fifth Avenue and began an extensive remodeling campaign. The result: a state of the art television production facility, which is still in use today. The relocation also gave the station a chance to provide parking for its employees.

  • WSAZ moves to new $1 million facilities at 645 Fifth Avenue to fit expanded operations. Ampex VS-600 installed before move. A new tower was constructed at the new site for a microwave link between studio and transmitter which would allow Charleston and Huntington studios to be interconnected.
  • WSAZ weekly public affairs program "At Issue" honored by West Virginia Associated Press.

October / November
  • WSAZ invites political candidates from three states to appear on three-hour "Town Hall" telecast. Representatives from League of Women Voters question candidates on issues. Station originates "live" on election night from campaign offices of both West Virginia candidates for Governor.
  • Merlyn the Monster was Beeper's predecessor. Played by Jule Huffman, he accompanied Steamboat Bill on his journeys. Here, they plan their itinerary with Tom Garten.
  • For the first time since Huntington Publishing Company owned WSAZ-TV top management positions were held by local people:
    • George Andrick, General Manager
    • William Watts, Sales Manager
    • George Curry, Programming Manager
    • Lewis Click, Business Manager
    • John Clay, Engineering Manager
    • C. Bosworth Johnson, News Director

  • FEBRUARY: News Department open third full-time news bureau in Parkersburg, West Virginia with Don Benson as correspondent.
  • OCTOBER: News Department introduces first lightweight, portable, electronic video camera and recorder to market. News Stories can now be played back directly from portable.
  • RCA TCR 100 - Automated commercial playback machine. Used 2” videotape carts which were loaded by a roller assembly. It was replaced in 1988 by the Sony BetaCart Machine, which used 4 beta format tape machine that were loaded by a robotic arm. The Sony BetaCart Machine was replaced by the Tektronix Profile in 1997. The Profile is a hard drive computer base machine that plays the commercials back via its hard drive.

  • WSAZ purchased improved videocams and portable microwave.

  • Charleston Bureau moved from a second story studio to facilities on Dickinson Street to new facilities on Columbia Avenue.
  • 13 GHz mobile microwave used in remote news broadcast. This large dish was carried by WSAZ personnel up in the dome of the WV capital building to broadcast live out of the Capitol building.

  • WSAZ purchased its first digital color radar -- the first in West Virginia.

  • Installed Grass Valley Production Switcher in Huntington and Ampex Switcher in Charleston. This made WSAZ an all digital switching facility.

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