Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: KRLD

The JFK Assassination and Television Firsts — 1963

JFK_ruby-oswald_broadcasting-mag_120263_nbc-screenshot
Ruby shooting Oswald on live TV

by Paula Bosse

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was not only one of the most sobering moments in American history, it was also a turning point for broadcast journalism, particularly in the way television covers breaking news.

The Kennedy assassination and the later captured-live-on-television shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby put broadcast journalists to the test as never before. News coverage was a solid days-long block — with NBC devoting almost 72 straight hours to the assassination and its aftermath. The immediacy of live television and the ability to learn of breaking-at-this-minute news was something that had never been experienced by Americans before — and something which pushed radio and television news reporting to new heights. It was reported that CBS alone used 80 newsmen to cover the story. The Nielsen ratings estimated that an unbelievable 93% of American households with televisions were tuned in to watch live coverage of the President’s funeral procession.

Perhaps the grisliest “first” of this new era of TV news was that millions of Americans watched a murder happen live as they watched from their living rooms: when Jack Ruby lunged from the phalanx of reporters gathered in the parking lot beneath the Municipal Building to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as he was walking to an armored vehicle to be transported to the county jail, millions witnessed the shooting as it happened, stunned. NBC was the lone network to have broadcast live coverage of this unforgettable moment of 20th-century American history. The other networks followed soon after with recorded footage, but NBC got the scoop.

ad-jfk-assassination-NBC_broadcasting-mag_120263NBC ad in Broadcasting magazine, Dec. 2, 1963

Broadcasting — an industry trade magazine — devoted an entire 25-page “Special Report” on how television had covered — and shaped — JFK’s presidency and his assassination. Below is the article which specifically focused on the wall-to-wall broadcast news coverage, post-Nov. 22.

OSWALD SHOOTING A FIRST IN TELEVISION HISTORY

For the first time in the history of television, a real-life homicide was carried nationally on live TV when millions of NBC-TV viewers saw the Nov. 24 fatal shooting in Dallas of the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy two days earlier.

Less than a minute after the shooting occurred, CBS-TV telecast the episode on tape, which was made as the homicide took place. Network executives in New York viewed the tape and officially directed that it be placed on network immediately.

The setting for the live NBC-TV coverage of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin who died a short time later, was this: Oswald, flanked by detectives, stepped onto a garage ramp in the basement of the Dallas city jail and was taken toward an armored truck that was to take him to the county jail. Suddenly, out of the lower right corner of the TV screen, came the back of a man. A shot rang out and Oswald gasped as he started to fall, clutching his side.

UNBELIEVABLE

NBC News correspondent Tom Pettit, at the scene, exclaimed in disbelief: “He’s been shot! He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot!”

The TV screen showed shock on the faces of police officers as they swarmed over the back of the assailant, Jack Ruby, a Dallas night club operator. The coverage showed Ruby hustled away by policemen and Oswald being sped to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the same hospital to which President Kennedy had been taken.

CBS-TV’s coverage of the sudden shooting, relayed a minute after the episode, was reported by Robert Huffaker, staff newsman of KRLD-TV Dallas, the network affiliate. Mr. Huffaker cried: “He’s been shot! Oswald’s been shot!”

ABC-TV did not have live cameras at the scene, having moved them to the Dallas county jail in preparation for Oswald’s planned arrival there. But ABC newsman Jack Lord reported the news flash of the Oswald shooting. The episode also was recorded by film cameras and was telecast subsequently on the network.

JAPAN’S KILLING

Broadcasters were certain the episode marked the first time in 15 years of global television that a homicide was telecast as it happened. It was recalled that in October 1960 Inejiro Asanuma, a Japanese political leader, was knifed on a public stage in Tokyo. Tape recordings of this incident were played back on Japanese TV stations 10 minutes later.

The capturing by TV of the Oswald homicide was one indication of the extensive, though quick, preparations by the networks for coverage of the disaster. Networks had made arrangements for quick switching to Dallas, as well as other focal points of the developing story, and were able to pick up the homicide episode once they had been alerted that Oswald was being ushered out to the garage ramp. (Broadcasting magazine, Dec 2, 1963)


JFK_ruby-oswald_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963 (click to see larger image)

*

NBC was the only network to carry Ruby’s shooting of Oswald on live TV. The footage — as it was aired — can be watched in the video below (the Dallas footage begins at about the 5:00 mark).


*

KRLD, the local CBS affiliate, captured the shooting live, but it was not broadcast live. Here is the KRLD footage, helmed by Bob Huffaker (the shooting takes place near the 13:00 mark).


*

In 2007, Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, Wes Wise, and George Phenix — reporters for CBS-affiliate KRLD-TV news — recalled the blur of days on the beat following the assassination in their book When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963. Watch a panel discussion on those days, below, recorded at the Sixth Floor Museum in 2008. (I found Wise’s recollections, beginning at the 39:00 mark to be most interesting.) (RIP, Bob Huffaker, who died June 25, 2018.)

when-the-news-went-live_cover

*

ABC came in late, with reports from affiliate WFAA-Ch. 8 (about the 7:20 mark), but their coverage was certainly no less exciting — in fact, this might be my favorite reporting by local broadcast journalists that day.


*

Another “first” in these days immediately following that awful day in Dallas was the very first showing of 8mm home-movie footage showing the assassination of the president. The film was shot by Dallasite Marie Muchmore, who reportedly sold the footage — sight unseen (it hadn’t even been developed) — to UPI for $1,000 (roughly about $8,000 in today’s money); the film was then shown on WNEW-TV in New York on Nov. 26. (The short footage, restored in recent years, can be watched on the Associated Press Archive site, here.)

ad-jfk-assassination-film_UPI_broadcasting-mag_120263
Broadcasting, Dec. 2, 1963

***

Sources & Notes

A “Special Report” on the broadcast coverage of the Kennedy assassination and the shooting of Oswald by Ruby appeared in the Dec. 2, 1963 trade magazine Broadcasting; the issue may be read in its entirety here (pp. 36-61); the photo at the top of this post (showing Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald) is from that issue.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Kennedy assassination can be found here.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Santos Rodriguez, 1960-1973

david-and-santos-rodriguez_austin-american-statesmanDavid and Santos Rodriguez (via Austin American-Statesman)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the 45th anniversary of the tragic shooting of Santos Rodriguez, the 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head by a policeman as he and his 13-year-old brother David sat handcuffed in a police car. It shocked the city of Dallas in 1973, and it is still shocking today.

Santos and David had been awakened and rousted out of bed by Officers Darrell L. Cain and his partner Roy R. Arnold who were investigating a late-night burglary at a nearby gas station where money had been stolen from a cigarette machine — the boys matched a witness’ vague description. The boys said they had nothing to do with the burglary but were taken from their home as their foster-grandfather (an elderly man who spoke no English) watched, helpless, as they were handcuffed and placed in a squad car.

The boys were driven back to the scene of the burglary — a Fina station at Cedar Springs and Bookhout. Santos was in the front passenger seat, and Cain sat behind him in the backseat, next to David. Cain insisted the two boys were guilty and, in an attempt to coerce a confession, held his .357 magnum revolver to Santos’ head. He clicked the gun, as if playing Russian Roulette, telling Santos that the next time he might not be so lucky. The boys continued to insist they were innocent. And then, suddenly, Cain’s gun went off. Santos died instantly. Stunned, Cain said that it had been an accident. He and Arnold got out of the car, leaving 13-year-old David, still handcuffed, in the backseat of the police car — for anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour — alone with his brother’s bloody body. (It was determined through fingerprint evidence that Santos and David did not break into the gas station that night.)

More in-depth articles about this horrible case can be found elsewhere, but, briefly, Cain (who had previously been involved in the fatal shooting of a teenaged African American young man named Michael Moorhead) was charged with committing “murder with malice” and was found guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but ended up serving only two and a half years in Huntsville.

The killing of Santos Rodriguez sparked outrage from all corners of the city, but particularly in the Mexican American community. All sorts of people — from ordinary citizens to militant Brown Berets — organized and protested, persistently demanding civil rights, social justice, and police reform. If anything positive resulted from this tragic event, perhaps it was a newly energized Hispanic community.

**

I am ashamed to say that I was not aware of what had happened to Santos Rodriguez until I began to write about Dallas history a few years ago. This was an important turning-point in the history of Dallas — for many reasons (namely the Chicano movement, race relations, the fight for social justice, and an examination of Dallas Police Department procedure). Over the past week I’ve read a lot of the local coverage of the events of this case, and I’ve watched a lot of interviews of people who were involved, but perhaps the most immediate way I’ve experienced the events and emotions swirling about this case has been to watch television news footage shot as the story was unfolding. Thanks to the incredibly rich collection of TV news footage in the possession of the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU, I’ve been able to do that.

Below is footage shot by KDFW Channel 4, which has, most likely, not been seen for 45 years. Some of it appeared in news reports and some is just background B-roll footage shot to be edited into news pieces which would eventually air on the nightly news. The finished stories that aired do not (as far as I know) survive, but we have this footage. It’s choppy and chaotic and darts from one thing to the next, which is how a red-hot news story develops. Of particular interest is the short interview with 13-year-old David at 9:16 and the violent aftermath of what began as a peaceful march through downtown at 19:54.

A more comprehensive collection of the events — from just hours after the shooting, to the conviction of Darrell Cain — can be found in this lengthy compilation of WFAA Channel 8 news footage. Heads up to anyone considering a 50th anniversary documentary on Santos Rodriguez — this and the Channel 4 footage are essential sources.

*

santos-rodriguez-cropped_smuSantos Rodriguez (Nov. 7, 1960 – July 24, 1973)

***

Sources & Notes

Top photo is a family photo, from the Austin American-Statesman article “Is It Time For Dallas To Honor Santos Rodriguez?” by Gissela Santacruz, here.

My sincerest thanks to Jeremy Spracklen at SMU for alerting me to these two collections of important historical news footage from KDFW-TV/Ch. 4 and WFAA-TV/Ch. 8, both of which are held by the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. (All screenshots from these two videos.)

An excerpt from the 1982 KERA-produced documentary “Pride and Anger: A Mexican American Perspective of Dallas and Fort Worth” (the Santos Rodriguez case is discussed) is on YouTube here.

“Civil Rights in Black & Brown” is a fantastic oral history project by TCU. I watched several of the interviews focusing on Santos Rodriguez, but I was particularly taken with the oral history of Frances Rizo — her 2015 interview is in two parts, here and here.

More on the events surrounding the killing of Santos Rodriguez can be found at the Handbook of Texas History site, here.

My continuation of this story can be found at the Flashback Dallas post “Santos Rodriguez: The March of Justice” — 1973,” here.

*

Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

KRLD News Crews, At the Ready

krld_news-crews_early-1960s_akdartThey mean business: they’re wearing suits and ties…

by Paula Bosse

Early-’60s-era KRLD radio and TV mobile news crews are seen above, showing off their fleet and ready for breaking news. Behind them, the Dallas skyline, seen from an unusual vantage point: the Trinity levees. See this photo really big here, and explore the skyline, from the Republic Bank Tower on the northern edge of downtown, to the Dallas Morning News building on the southern edge.

***

Sources & Notes

Photo is from an interesting collection of “very old pictures from KRLD radio and TV,” presented on the website akdart.com.

*

Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Official Government Reenactment of the Kennedy Assassination — Nov. 27, 1963

reenactment_agent-at-windowAgent Howlett at window with “rifle” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Yesterday I received a comment on a previous post I wrote about the first official reenactment of the Kennedy assassination, and that got me to wondering if that film was online anywhere. The film was made as part of the Secret Service investigation and was filmed in Dealey Plaza and in the Texas School Book Depository; the motorcade sequence was filmed on November 27, 1963, just five days after the assassination. Even though my knowledge of the events of November 22 is fairly limited (and what I do know is mostly due to osmosis), just growing up here you kind of feel you’ve seen everything connected with the assassination. But I’d never seen this film or the one made a few months later with the production assistance of local TV station KRLD which included much of the same footage. Apparently the original film had not been made public until fairly recently.

It’s very interesting to watch, and the fact that there is no sound makes it appropriately eerie. I have to admit that I was most interested in seeing the footage of downtown streets. And the interior of the Texas School Book Depository beyond just the “sniper’s nest” we always see. (I can now say I’ve sneaked a peek inside the depository’s employee lunchroom.)

So here are the two films. The first one was made by the Secret Service, with the Dealey Plaza reenactment filmed on Nov. 27, 1963. It has no sound. I thought it was interesting, but a lot of people might find it a little dull and repetitive. Below this video is one which uses this footage to lay out the government’s findings, with lots of details and no-nonsense narration by KRLD’s Jim Underwood. (I’m not sure why — or for whom — this educational film was made. It doesn’t seem to have been screened for the public.) The silent film has more footage, but the narrated film is easier to follow. And below that are screenshots from the government’s “reconstruction.”

The 1963 film (silent):

*

And the one from 1964, made with the assistance of KRLD.

*

*

A few screenshots from the government footage (all of these are quite big — click for larger images). The one at the top shows Special Agent John Joe Howlett sitting at the sixth floor window, as if holding a rifle.

Below, Elm St. looking east from Dealey Plaza, with the white Records Building at center right.

reenactment_elm*

The one-car-two-motorcycle motorcade turning from Main onto Houston St. Looking south from … you know where.

reenactment_houston-st*

Houston St. looking  north, with the School Book Depository on the left and a disconcertingly empty space straight ahead.

reenactment_houston-st-north*

A nice artsy shot of the book depository and the old John Deere Building.

reenactment_tsbd-ext*

Camera with “scope” attachment.

reenactment_scope*

Windows, boxes, looking toward the west end of the building from the “nest” end of the sixth floor.

reenactment_tsbd-int*

A trip to the second-floor lunchroom, with its vending machines which are, apparently, important in Lee Harvey Oswald’s alibi. These images show Special Agent Talmadge Bailey walking past the vending machines and sitting at a table.

reenactment_tsbd-bldg-lunchroom1

reenactment_tsbd-bldg-lunchroom2

reenactment_tsbd-bldg-lunchroom3

***

See Dallas Times Herald photographs that were shot while the Dealey Plaza “reenacting” was going on in my previous post, “The First JFK Assassination Reenactment — 1963,” here. (As for the comment that started me off on this, I’m still not sure whether the cameramen in the car are KRLD employees or not.)

All pictures are BIG. Click ’em.

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Early Dallas Radio & “Verified Reception Stamps”

ekko_wrr

by Paula Bosse

Chances are you’ve never heard of “Verified Reception Stamps” which were issued in the 1920s by a company in Chicago called EKKO. I certainly hadn’t. The stamps (referred to by collectors as “Cinderellas”) were enthusiastically and obsessively collected in the mid-’20s — people were really into it. Basically, it seems to have been a clever form of advertising which banked on both the public’s fascination with early radio and the then-very popular hobby of stamp collecting.

How did it work? Briefly (see below for links to much more involved articles about this), the EKKO company printed these stamps for subscriber radio stations around the country (and later for stations in Canada, Mexico, and Cuba). Once the radio stations received them, they issued them to listeners who wrote in to affirm that they had, in fact, picked up their station on the wireless. The listener had to prove it by stating the time he or she had tuned in and then give a short synopsis of the program they had heard. Oh, and they had to enclose a dime. (The dime was probably the most important part of this whole fad — at least for the broadcasters.) In return, the station would check their logs and “verify” that the dime-sender probably DID hear the station, and one of these little stamps would be sent out post haste. The EKKO company also conveniently printed up albums for collectors to paste the stamps into. I’m not sure how one was expected to fill up the book (with pages devoted to each state), since there’s no way you’d be able to pick up the signals of all those stations, but I guess that’s what gets collectors’ blood racing. It’s the thrill of the chase. The verified reception stamp-collecting fad died out as the Depression set in, and it became hard to justify spending one’s precious hard-earned dimes on a frivolous hobby.

Verified reception stamps were issued by the five main stations in the Dallas area in the 1920s. WRR, at the top, was the first radio station in Dallas and one of the earliest stations in the country. It began broadcasting as a sort of early police radio in 1920 and received its official broadcasting license in 1922. It remains an oddity in the radio world as it is a commercial radio station that is owned and operated by the City of Dallas.

ekko_wfaa

WFAA signed on in 1922 and was part of the nascent Dallas Morning News media empire.

ekko_wbap

WBAP, a Fort Worth station, also signed on in 1922. Someone thought it might be cute if “WBAP” stood for “We’ll Be At the Party.” More serious-minded station people went with “We Bring a Program” which, really, isn’t much better.

ekko-kfjz

KFJZ (another Fort Worth station) came along in 1923. Its founder sold the station five years later for a good chunk of change and then went to work for WBAP.

ekko-krld

KRLD began broadcasting in 1926 and was acquired by The Dallas Times Herald a year later.

ekko-texas-stations

A sample page the “Texas” portion of the official EKKO stamp album.

ekko_wrr-globe

The EKKO company had some competition in the PM Bryant Co. Bryant stamps required no “verification” — you just sent them your dime and got a stamp. Their stamps had no eagle, but they DID have transmitter towers and the essential lightning bolts.

And now you know!

***

All of the above stamps come from a bewilderingly jam-packed page of thousands of these stamps. It’s pretty cool, but the page takes FOREVER to load. Find it here. (There is a page with with links only — no pictures. It loads a lot faster. Find it here.)

There are several articles about EKKO stamps out there — check out one here, and one here. One on Bryant stamps is here.

An incredibly comprehensive history of Dallas radio is the DFW Radio Archives site — its main page is here. The pages dealing with the stations broadcasting in DFW in the 1920s are here and here. I highly recommend reading the very interesting account about how WRR evolved from an experimental police communication transmission tool to a full-fledged entertainment station.

*

Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

KRLD’s Beautiful New Transmitter — 1939

krld_transmitter_1939

by Paula Bosse

RADIO STATION KRLD
This beautiful building houses KRLD’s new super-power 50,000 watt transmitter. In the background you see a part of the massive 475-foot towers used in broadcasting KRLD programs. The transmitter is located between Dallas and Garland. You are invited to keep your dial on 1040. KRLD is the home station of the Stamps Quartet.

Such a beautiful art deco building! And, I believe, it’s still in use. My favorite aside about the early days of KRLD was that when it began broadcasting — from a small room in the Adolphus Hotel in 1926 — the station was on the air for only six hours a day, “except on Wednesdays when the station closed down to make repairs and recharge the batteries.” Also, according to the KRLD website, the station was “the first radio station in the world to sell commercials.” Of course it was — leave it to Dallas to invent the radio ad.

***

For a history of KRLD and a photo of what the transmitter looks like today, see here.

For an aerial view of the transmitter in 1949, see here (from the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University).

Photo from Souvenir Album, 2nd Annual All-Night Broadcast, KRLD–Dallas: July 1-2, 1939 (Dallas, Stamps-Baxter Music & Ptg. Co., Dallas, 1939). This was a souvenir program of a gospel extravaganza held at the Cotton Bowl, with the Stamps Quartet as headliners, broadcast live on KRLD. The frenzied text describes the sudden downpour that threatened the show and the ensuing mad scramble to figure out what to do, with repeated, panicky refrains of “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!” (…The show went on.) (Click picture for much larger image.)

*

Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: