Seattle’s First TV Broadcast Featured the Wenatchee Panthers

Nearly 13,000 cheering spectators filled Seattle's Memorial Field on Thanksgiving 1948. West Seattle High School, the champions of Seattle took on the best team from outside the city - the Wenatchee Panthers. Milt Bohart, team captain for Wenatchee, said (as quoted in a KING 5 article):

We were the underdogs coming from Eastern Washington and playing the big kids from Seattle and so it was very big for the team as well as the community.

The contest ended in a 6-6 tie.

MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)
MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)
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With the result, Jack Barnes's 1948 Wenatchee Panthers football team won their second football state title and an important footnote in broadcast history.

The story of Television's arrival in the state of Washington

A year before the historic Thanksgiving football game, the Federal Communications Commission was losing patience with Seattle’s KRSC AM and FM

Owners, Palmer K. Leberman, and Robert E. Priebe were granted an FCC license to start the first TV station in Seattle. The thrilling new medium of Television had made its way across the East Coast. San Francisco was the only TV station West of the Mississippi. 

Newspapers in Seattle promised the arrival of the exciting new technology.

The hype encouraged the sale of 600 TV sets at a listed price of - before any television broadcast had occurred. 

"Television places a whole new world of home entertainment at your very feet," teased advertisers, seducing families with Philco consolettes for $359.50 or Admiral's Triple Thrill model that included a radio and phonograph for $560 (Source: University of Washington)

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More stalling and foot-dragging caused the government to issue its final warning of withdrawing the license. In response, KRSC hired Lee Schulman as its first director of programming. Schulman, who had experience at NBC-TV in New York, quickly had the first TV transmission tower built, high above Queen Anne Hill.

KRSC TV Truck (MOHAI - Museum of History and Industry)
KRSC TV Truck (MOHAI - Museum of History and Industry)
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After a successful test in early November of 1948, KRSC told the Seattle newspapers that their inaugural Television broadcast be the Thanksgiving game at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.

November 25, 1948 

The West Seattle vs.Wenatchee football game was broadcast by KRSC AM, FM, and for the first time in Seattle, on Television - using two cameras to cover the action.

KRSC-TV cameraman Tom Priebe, Seattle, 1948 Courtesy MOHAI
KRSC-TV cameraman Tom Priebe, Seattle, 1948 Courtesy MOHAI
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The Television images on that historic Thanksgiving day were described as somewhat weak and grainy on the small 7-inch black and white TV.

Feedback from viewers was over-the-top positive.

 ‘One viewer, a local Stimson empire heiress Dorothy Bullitt, sent Leberman a bouquet of congratulatory flowers.’ - Delphine Haley, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt: An Uncommon Life

 

With not a lot of TV sets in the Seattle metro area and lack of the subsequent lack of ad revenue - Leberman and Priebe sold KRSC-TV to Dorothy Bullitt for more than $300,000. 

Dorothy Bullitt took over the Stimson family company with her father, C.D. Stimson, passed away in 1932. Dorothy not only had to raise three children but also ran the family business. 

 

When Dorothy Bullitt died in 1989, daughters Harriet and Patsy were suddenly in charge of KING Broadcasting. 

One year later - in 1990, Harriet and Patsy sold KING Broadcasting. They announced that the funds of the sale would help grow the endowment of the Bullitt Foundation. The family foundation has given more than $300 million to environmental causes in the Pacific Northwest.  

The Bullitt family’s love of Leavenworth - included a 300-acre property known as Coppernotch on the east side of Icicle Creek. It was on this site, that Harriet Bullitt developed the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in 1995. Harriet Bullitt lived in Leavenworth, until her passing - in April of 2022 - at the age of 97. Harriett's mission to serve was modeled by her mother Dorothy.

Dorothy Bullitt Served the community of Seattle

Dorothy Bullitt’s main mission for KING-TV was to serve the community. She wasn’t concerned with profit - she simply wanted to serve.

When KRSC changed its name to KING-TV. Dorothy and her television station was the only station in Seattle for nearly 4 years. The reason? The FCC put a “moratorium” on new FCC licenses. During these lean years - when buying a TV set wasn't quite yet mainstream - Dorothy's mission of serving the community kept KING broadcasting afloat.

In 1952 when licensing resumed, the Fisher Stations (Former one-time owner of KW3 Wenatchee)-- finally launched KOMO.

KIRO would make its Seattle TV debut in 1957 - nine years after the Wenatchee Panthers fought and battled West Seattle on Seattle's first TV broadcast at Seattle’s wet and cold Memorial Stadium.

MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)
MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)
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INFO: KING 5 Seattle, Historylink.org, The University of Washington Archives, MOHAI

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