Brings Color TV
by Michael R Dougherty
NBC Peacock 1962
Remember when color TV first arrived in Anchorage?
The following is from an interview with Al Bramstedt Jr, conducted by Hilary Hilscher.
Al Bramstedt Jr:
"It was in probably September or October of 1965. My dad came to me, and he said, “Alvin, something very big is coming to Anchorage next summer, (summer of 1966), very, very big. I'll tell you but" he said, "you must keep this a secret. You can't tell anyone, not even your best friend – no one – because it is confidential... We're bringing color television to Anchorage!”
"He (dad) said "the reason why I don't want you to tell anyone is I don't want Augie Hiebert (president of KTVA channel 11) to hear about it because Augie is, you know, in this business, and he would feel compelled to try to bring it on the air first. And it takes a lot of months to develop this, and we're working on it right now."
"So in early spring of 1966 (KENI-TV) got in the color film chain. Real complicated back in those days, a color camera. You actually projected the image from a machine, it was called a TP66 (film) projector, into the color camera. And there were three color tubes (in the camera) and each one had to be registered (adjusted) every day. I learned... that was one of my jobs later after they (KENI-TV) would sign off."
"So the very first broadcast was a special demonstration with a big color TV over at the Chamber (of Commerce) meeting. They had their Monday luncheon meetings even back then. This would have been in late May of 1966."
"And I remember that day, and I was talking to my dad later about how he did it. And I said, “So Dad...” He said, “Yeah, we did a preview for these business people. It was great. It went really well. We had this color TV, and we broadcast (a color show) over the air and (showed the) picture there at the Hilton Hotel." It was actually the Westward then. And he said "it was a big hit".
"I said, “Oh, so what did you broadcast?” He said, “Atom Ant” (a cartoon). I said, “So wait a minute. This was your first premier broadcast of (color) television (in Anchorage), all these captains of industry, and you broadcast Atom Ant?”
“Yeah.” “Dad, why Atom Ant?” He said - paused for a moment, “I don't really
know why, but it went well. I just - inside it was just...” That's incredible, Atom Ant for all these people."
"He (dad) flew to Seattle in May of 1966 and, because there was no live studio color cameras in Anchorage, and it was just the dawn of videotape, he flew to Seattle and filmed (him introducing the Anchorage audience to color TV) on 16mm color film."
"He had Mayor Sharrock too – it was videotape of Mayor Sharrock supposedly flipping the switch (from black and white) to color (in front of) a black and white camera and all of a sudden there was Dad (on the 16mm color film). So that was June 18, 1966."
"It was an incredible moment for him (dad) and really for the industry: going to color television."
"The presentation of going color (in Anchorage) was like six or seven in the evening."
"I talked to Augie (Hiebert of KTVA channel 11) later about that and Augie was just reeling from the earthquake. That summer in 1966 (he) was relocating (KTVA) to Spenard. So he was up to his gills in expenses and then, “Oh, Al has got this color TV” and he knew to be competitive he'd have to do that, and it wasn't cheap."
But you caught him by surprise. The secret didn't get out.
Al Bramstedt Jr:
"It didn't get out. I never told anyone. Nobody talked. Augie was totally surprised."
A Note from Anchorage Memories:
KENI-TV became the first television station in Anchorage to broadcast color TV.
The first color program presented to the Anchorage viewing audience on that day on June 18, 1966, was an episode of "That Girl" starring Marlo Thomas.
Hilary Hilscher Alaska Telecommunications History Project records and research files. Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.
Alaska Telephone Association, AT&T Alascom, GCI, Alaska Communications Systems and Augie Hiebert.