January 24, 1966: Duluth’s WDIO-TV broadcasts for the first time

(Image: northpine.com)

On this day in Duluth in 1966, WDIO-TV went “on air” for the first time. According to long-time WDIO news anchor Denny Anderson, “Frank Befera, the owner of WMFG-Radio in Hibbing and WHLB Radio in Virginia, spearheaded the drive to form Channel 10 Incorporated. Actually, another group of investors began building a different Channel 10 company in Duluth a few years earlier. Unfortunately for them, they started building before getting FCC approval, which is a no-no in the world of radio-television. The new Channel 10 got the license and changed Twin Ports broadcasting. With Befera at the helm, several investors came aboard, breaking ground in the fall of 1965. Not too many people in the broadcast industry believed Befera and his boys could make their completion date, but they did. The work was done under the guidance of chief engineer George Woody. Barking orders with his West Virginia drawl, Woody, as he is called, got his staff cracking and did the impossible. Their first broadcasts were a little shaky, but they were on the air.” WDIO was an ABC affiliate from the start and its initial slate of evening national programming included “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” ”Combat,” “F-Troop,” “A Man Called Shenandoah,” “The Fugitive,” “Ben Casey,” Bewitched,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “McHale’s Navy,” “The F.B.I.,” “The Addams Family,” and “Peyton Place.” Anderson also recalled that, “WDIO was unique from the start, making a strong commitment to news. Dick Gottschald was hired away from WEBC-Radio to become Channel 10’s first news director. …Dick Wallack was hired to anchor the news, Jack McKenna came back to Duluth from the Twin Cities to be the station’s weatherman, and Lauren ‘Sandy’ Sandquist became the station’s booth announcer and first sportscaster.” Denny himself began at WDIO in 1967 as the anchor of the Saturday night news. Zenith City Press proudly publishes Denny’s memoir, Good Night, Everybody…and be Kind, which you can preview here.

2 Responses to January 24, 1966: Duluth’s WDIO-TV broadcasts for the first time

  1. I remember the day they went on the air very well well. I believe it was a Sunday and I was the reporter manning the Duluth News Tribune newsroom alone. Managing editor Jack Fein issued orders to pull the one TV we had in the building at the time from the executive editor’s office and set it up in the newsroom to watch the first broadcasts and do a story for the next day’s paper. I did it, and I guess that story is in the archives somewhere.

Leave a reply