WOC-TV: A not so Spooky Anniversary

Something not so spooky, but pretty spectacular happened on October 31, 1949.  Without a ribbon cutting or speeches, another brain child of B. J. Palmer (of chiropractic fame) came to life.  On that day, a television signal from Palmer’s WOC-TV was sent into an estimated 3500 television-owning homes and businesses in the region (including the largest television-owning market at the time in Peoria, Illinois; the Davenport area only had an estimated 400 sets).

B. J. Palmer had successfully started the first television station in Iowa, creating another historic first for Davenport and the state.

Already the owner of WOC-Radio (which has its own fabulous story we will explore in the future), Dr. Palmer invested an estimated $500,000 to bring his new venture to life.  In 1948, he began work on the former Edgar Ryan residence, which had been previously converted into an apartment house known as The Oak Apartments and was conveniently located at 805 Brady Street—right in the middle of the bustling Palmer School of Chiropractic campus. Inside this handsome, turn-of-the century structure, he moved both WOC-Radio and WOC-TV.

B.J. Palmer remodeled and enlarged the structure to fulfill the needs of these industries of communication.  805 Brady would be home to WOC-TV until a larger, modern building was built for the station in 1963 right next to the Ryan building. The former Ryan residence was then demolished, but the new station retains the same address of 805 Brady Street today.

On October 31st, with two hours of television time to fill, WOC-TV began programming with the Kukla, Fran and Ollie puppet show at 6:00 p.m.  A half an hour later “Sightseeing at Home” took over air time for fifteen minutes.  The night finished with the 1935 movie “Waterfront Lady” starring Ann Rutherford and Frank Albertson.  By 8:00 p.m. television programming was over until the next evening. 

No live studio presentations took place that first week as newspapers reported the equipment needed to do such shows had not arrived in time.  This meant live coverage of the Davenport High – Moline football game and Augustana versus Carthage football game could not take place as expected.  On a brighter note, the Saturday, October 29 State University of Iowa versus Oregon football game had been put on motion picture film and was part of the Thursday, November 3 evening program schedule—in case you are wondering, Iowa came from behind to win 34 – 31.  

A grand opening was eventually held with the public invited to visit the studio during a weeklong Open House from November 5 – November 13, 1949.  Guided tours introduced visitors to the equipment and workings of the WOC television and radio studios. 

Live shows began airing on Sunday, November 6, 1949.  Soon programs such as “Mimic the Music” with local celebrity musician Marge Meinert and “Mr. Weatherwise,” a puppet show that gave the local weather forecast in apparently humorous fashion, began to be put into regular scheduling.

WOC-TV originally carried programs from all networks, even though it was an NBC affiliate.  In 1950 it began to carry NBC network programming.  The Palmer family owned WOC-TV until it was sold in 1986.  It was at that time the call letters became KWQC-TV, an NBC affiliate.

B.J. Palmer introduced his television station at the perfect moment.  How could Dr. Palmer have known that the same week WOC-TV televised its first show that State of Iowa Attorney General Robert Larson would start an anti-gambling crackdown that hit Scott County hard?  No longer were punchboards, barrels of fun, dice games and the like found in local taverns legally.  What was a bar owner to do to retain customers?  Many took to installing televisions and tuning into WOC-TV for sports coverage!

Happy 60th Anniversary to KWQC-TV (formerly WOC-TV)—still making history in the Quad Cities!        

(posted by Amy D.)

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5 Responses to WOC-TV: A not so Spooky Anniversary

  1. Ken Wagner Jr. says:

    Another live show that began airing the week of Nov. 6, 1949 was Ken Wagner’s “Comic Cutups.” Ken began a 25-year career in television that week, first at WOC-TV 1949-1960 then at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis 1960-1979. Following “Comic Cutups,” Ken produced “Cap’n Ken’s Cartoon Showboat” and “Grandpa Ken on the Farm.” Before television, Ken was a commercial artist, filmmaker, and author.

  2. Bryon Young says:

    I well remember the early days of television when there were only two stations: Channel 5 in Davenport began in late 1949 and Channel 4 from Rock Island in 1950. At that time the Quad Cities were first to get TV in Iowa. There was one TV station later (1950) in Ames, but the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids stations were delayed coming on the air due to a FCC freeze on new licenses because too many stations were coming on the air back then and there were serious interference problems with TV stations operating on the same channel. For instance, Channel 4 in Ames had to move to Channel 5, Channel 5 in Davenport had to move to Channel 6. In the summertime, probably 1951, WOC-TV rolled their cameras outdoors to do some afternoon shows. There was a coral fence in background close to the Ryan mansion studio of WOC-TV. Remember it was singing Cowboy Ken Houchins who opened his show w/ theme “My bunkhouse is open to someone like you.” As a kid I enjoyed Howdy Doody from NBC and a local marionette, Mr. Weatherwise, who did the weather forecast. Seem to remember he would open his little roll-top desk. TV was brand new then and changed our outlook on the world. I was living with my parents and brother in Wapello, Iowa.

  3. John Speas says:

    I had an Aunt And Uncle were to have performed on a contest show “Golden Opportunity” March 19, 1954.
    Any chance there’s an account of that?

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