About the series

Northeast Oregon History explores the area’s unique ties to historical events and phenomena. Do you have a question or photo for this feature? Email news@lagrandeobserver.com .

The answer, to the best of our knowledge, is 65 years ago this month.

Television signals were first received in La Grande in January 1953, according to an article by Anne Hanford Olson and Marcia Hanford Loney, “Some Recollections of Early Grande Ronde Valley Television,” on the Blue Mountain Translator District’s website, www.bmtd.org.

Olson and Loney are the daughters of Earl Mark Hanford, a local television pioneer. Olson and Loney credit their father with picking up signals from KHQ TV in Spokane, Washington, in early January 1953, not long after the station went on the air in December 1952.

Hanford, who then owned a La Grande radio and electric motor repair business, knew that KHQ was set to begin broadcasting because he had subscribed to a Spokane newspaper in an effort to learn when the station was going on the air. Hanford soon also began picking up KXLY TV of Spokane, which first hit the airwaves less than a month after KHQ.

Hanford reported that the reception of KHQ and KXLY was not good in a statement published in the Observer on March 7, 1953.

“It is our opinion, that at the present time, television in La Grande is not satisfactory as an entertainment medium,” said Hanford in an ad in The Observer. Hanford wrote that the reception of the two stations was good only about 10 percent of the time.

The situation changed dramatically when a cable television system carrying KHQ and KXLY began providing service to La Grande on Sept. 30, 1954, and apparently providing much better images.

About eight retail stores including those selling furniture were among the first subscribers. Many had televisions operating in the display windows, and curious people went downtown to see the televisions in operation, according to an article in an early October 1954 edition of The Observer.

The article said many workers were spending their breaks and lunch hours watching televisions outside store display windows with televisions. The story was headlined “Time for Tea? Maybe Teevee.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer

19286358