This article was originally written as a foreward to an article by Dwight Hunter forJuly 2003 edition of "Lore" published by The Pueblo County Historical Society
There were many television pioneers whose contributions to the early industry are clouded because the enterprises they established did not survive. One such pioneer was Allen B. DuMont. Working in his garage laboratory, DuMont developed a Cathode Ray Tube. DuMont’s tube was both economical to manufacture and could operate for extended periods of time. That opened the door for electronic visual display and ultimately led to the picture tube used in Television Receivers.
This led to an interest in Television Broadcasting. In 1942, DuMont was operating an experimental television transmitter in New York. That station was licensed in 1944 as WABD, Channel 5. By 1946, he was also operating WTTG, Channel 5, in Washington DC. That same year, he connected those two stations to announce the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
One year later the DuMont Television Network was officially born as the first Television Network in the United States. The major Radio Networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, were still considering the best way to implement their Television Networks and investigating what type of programming to present. Once they entered the field, DuMont was at a disadvantage. The newcomers had revenue from their Radio Networks to help support their fledgling Television Networks. They also had programs and personalities that they could introduce to television. The DuMont Network struggled but eventually folded in 1956.
There are many reasons why the DuMont Television Network failed. But, I believe that the major reason was the Freeze of 1948. Not a weather phenomenon. In 1948, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) froze all applications for Television Stations. That freeze was not lifted until 1952. During the initial growth spurt of network television there were too many networks chasing two few Television Stations for affiliation. DuMont lost out in the competition. By the end of the freeze, it was too late.
There is in interesting parallel with a Southern Colorado Television pioneer, Dee B. Crouch. I don’t think Crouch was an inventor, but he did put the first Television Station on the air in Pueblo. That station probably carried a few DuMont programs in its short period of operation. But its luck was no better.
In 1947, Crouch led a group who formed the Pueblo Radio Company and put Pueblo’s third radio station, KDZA-AM, on the air. That station survives today as KKPC. In 1953, the FCC granted the Pueblo Radio Company a Construction Permit for Channel 3 in Pueblo. A Construction Permit, also known as a CP, allowed you to build and do limited on air tests in preparation for a license. KDZA-TV received a license and went on the air with regular programming March 18, 1953.
In today’s world most homes have more than one Television Set. In 1953 Pueblo, a one Television Set home was a rarity. A television signal had only been available in Pueblo for about 3 months. That signal was from KKTV transmitting from Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs and required a good roof antenna. Getting an audience was not a matter of transmitting the most popular programs. It was promoting the sale of TV sets. In three months, KDZA-TV would have help in that from KCSJ-TV; but it would also have to share the available revenues. For each station, revenues from the sale of advertising would be slow in coming. While the expenses of running the station were immediate.
What every new station required was a cheap source of programming. KDZA-TV had a contract with ZIF Television for some syndicated programs that were delivered to it on film. KDZA-TV also had access to the free libraries of travelogue and promotional documentaries, but it required some network affiliation for a source of cheap programming. To accomplish this, KDZA-TV built a transmission relay in Black Forest. That provided the station with access to network programming from Denver. While not a witness to KZDA-TV operation, I am told that it provided a very clean, watchable signal.
Looking back is where I see the second parallel with DuMont. There is no longer a DuMont Television Network and there is no Channel 3 in Pueblo. While the Freeze that contributed to the demise of the DuMont network was not a weather phenomenon, the Storm that effectively ended KDZA-TV was.
A television license carried with it the requirement for a minimum number of hours of programming every day. About a year after KDZA-TV began broadcasting, a storm in Black Forest severely damaged the relay tower. KDZA-TV was without its network signal. I suspect that they tried to carry on totally from the studios, but found that impossible. I do not think the station had sufficient funds to make repairs. KDZA-TV went dark on April 21, 1954. Its license reverted to Construction Permit status and was deleted on September 17 of that same year.
While both DuMont and KDZA-TV came to a sad end, there were happier times for both. DuMont gave us Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners sketches on the “Cavalcade of Stars.” Reruns of “Life is Worth Living” with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen can be seen on cable’s Eternal Word Television Network. And, I still remember hurrying home from school to watch the adventures of “Captain Video.”