Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
March, 1954; America and Russia were racing each other to get a satellite in orbit.
Here, radio powerhouses WDSM and KDAL were racing to bring network TV to the Northland.
"They were both building Towers at the same time. It was a brand new technology. A good analogy would be switching from a cell phone to a smart phone." said Larry Erickson.
Larry Erickson has been a TV engineer for nearly 40 years.
He says the early days of television here provided daily lessons because the radio people getting the signal out knew little about the new broadcast format.
"I was part of the crew that built the station and nobody knew anything about it in those days so we played it by ear and got it on the air." said
Bob Peterson of Duluth was the engineer who signed KDAL Channel 3 on the air on March 14th, 1954.
They lost the race to be first to WDSM Channel 6 which signed on March 1st.
A year later, the station celebrated its first birthday.
"Channel 3; one year ago today. First birthday today, Mr. Tolliver!" said singing cowboy Eddie Williams and Herb Taylor as Mr. Tolliver from the Tolliver's Travels TV show in 1955.
The next challenge for Channel 3 would be the switch to color from black and white.
"I remember in 1960 we went on the air with Red Skelton in color. That was a big event. We weren't sure the old transmitter was going to handle color but it was no problem." said Bob Peterson.
By 1964, the station was ten years old and home to favorite personalities like Dotty Becker, Bill Krueger, Earl Henton, Dick Anthony, Marsh Nelson, Herb Taylor and Carl Casperson.
"We'd like all of our friends who contributed so much to our success the last ten years to join us at our partly." said Herb Taylor and Carl Casperson at the station's 10th anniversary special from 1964.
By the mid 60's, Duluth's Gateway urban renewal project meant Channel 3's original station had to go.
A new one was built on Superior Street next to the Radisson Hotel.
"The Broadcast Center was an amazing thing. It was 1968 or 69. It was a beautiful building in its day." said Larry Erickson.
In 1979, the station's owners changed the call letters from KDAL to KDLH.
Through the 1980's, people like Pat Kelley and Michelle Lee helped inform people with news and weather.
In 2009, the station made the switch from analog to digital signal.
Coming out of retirement for a day was sign on engineer Bob Peterson who then turned the transmitter off after 55 years of service.
Today, Jennifer Walch keeps people informed in an era when there are other ways than TV to get information.
Larry Erickson feels, though, that Northlanders will always turn to a Northland source to learn about their friends and neighbors.
"There'll always be a place. You have to have local news." said Erickson.
In Duluth, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.
Despite their race to get on the air first, Channels 3 and 6 were not the very first TV stations to air in the Northland.
UHF Channel 38 was on before 1954 but failed quickly.