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WIIC Channel 11 - 6:30 News Roundup With Len Johnson (1962)

Exactly 54 years ago today (at 6:30 PM)!

Here's an incredible find - usually anything this old, if I am lucky to find it, is on a 16mm kinescope (remember, in 1962 Quad tape itself was only 6 years old). And even though it's from a Pittsburgh station, it has a very strong Chicago connection, as it is anchored by Len Johnson, whose voice (if not face) will no doubt be very recognizable to people who watched WGN in the 60s, 70s, and very early 80s. He was one of the ubiquitous staff announcers that did everything from local movie show openings, to kids cartoon bumpers, to editorial bumpers. Len was also heard for many years on WGN Radio - you can read more about his history here.

Tremendous thanks to Kevin McCarthy, who was a longtime friend of Len's, and who inherited some tapes of his after Len passed away - including this rare broadcast segment. He contacted us and we helped get the tapes transferred to DVD for the first time. One of them was completely unlabeled - even Len did not remember what was on it. Well, let's just say for now that it's of even more interest to Chicago TV viewers than this one is - and you will be seeing it here soon! :-)

Here's the local segment of the 6:30 News Roundup on WIIC (now WPXI) Channel 11 in Pittsburgh, PA - then as now, an NBC affiliate. The anchor was Len Johnson, who would go on to a long career at WGN Channel 9. This was from an original live 2" quad tape recording. Includes:

Opening of newscast (tape comes in during the middle), with shots of traffic, fireworks exploding and women in a local area beauty pageant, and sponsor billboard for the Natural Gas Companies including:

- Equitable Gas Company
- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.
- The Peoples Natural Gas Company

Len Johnson previews the following headlines:

- Traffic accidents, including one which was fatal
- Beaver County man held for murder
- More labor troubles hit Pittsburgh area

Commercial: Your Gas Company - for low-cost gas air conditioning - for sleeping comfortably on the hottest nights - featuring a gas company representative in bed who is awoken in the middle of the night by a call from a customer (voiceover by ??)

Len reads the following items, starting off with a rash of traffic accidents:

- Near Butler, PA on Route 8, Sandra Weigel, 20, of Butler, collided with another car on her way home from work and was dead on arrival on the way to Butler Memorial Hospital

- Near the New Stanton Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a New York-bound Continental Trailways bus collided with two trucks, with nine injured, of which three are treated at Westmoreland Hospital (none of whom were from Pittsburgh)

- In Forest Hills, a truck carrying cases of beer tipped over, spreading the contents along Ardmore Boulevard; driver Frank George (sp?) had lost control of the rig after a tie rod end broke, and had managed to crawl out without a scratch

In other news:

- Dennis Angle, 8, about to start the third grade at St. Luke's School in Carnegie, dies of suffocation after he climbed into a trunk in the attic of the family home; the trunk somehow locked after the lid fell, as his brother was playing outside; a film of Allegheny County Coroner Joseph Dobbs speaking of this and another death involving a child is shown (the other case was of a 9-year-old who was riding a bicycle without brakes and lost control); he urges parents to take their children's bikes to be serviced

Commercial for Natural Gas Companies - in which a lady envisions an airy, cool, modern gas kitchen - including a tap and gold star gas range with rotisserie inside for barbecuing and flame-kissed smokeless broiling, and a counter-top with stove (voiceover by Len Johnson)

Len reads more news items:

- In a report from State Health Department on coal miners brought out at Penn State University, Dr. W. Wayne McBride says 1 out of 10 Western Pennsylvania coal miners suffers from a potentially fatal lung disease caused by dust from the mines

- A search in the Ohio River halfway between Freedom and Rochester in Beaver County for the body of 62-year-old William Snyder who had gotten in a fight with 40-year-old Clarence Burroughs of Freedom, who was picked up by State Police after admitting he hit Snyder in the head with a rock during an argument and dumped his body in the river; Snyder had been missing 10 days (and his body was discovered on October 22nd in a wooded section of Rochester Township)

- In Huntingdon County, PA, 17-year-old John Robert Minemier of Franklin Township is charged with murder in connection with the death of his 13-year-old brother Charles; according to District Attorney Warren Yocum, John choked his brother into near-unconsciousness and then backed a tractor over his body

- In labor news, United Steelworkers Local 1531 to hold a special meeting in Lawrenceville to vote on a new contract offer from strike-bound McConway & Torley Corporation whose 260 workers were off the job since July 31 after the old contract expired; and at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in East Pittsburgh, 40 carpenters from Local 601 of IBEW (which Len refers to as the International Union of Electrical Workers) are handed disciplinary one-day furloughs after they staged a wildcat strike in protest of jobs being handled by other craftsmen, and the company has ordered the workers back on the job on Monday (the 27th)

- In the Ohio River between Emsworth and Athlon, thousands of dead fish are found floating in the area, and it is not known what killed them; investigators from State Health Department are checking into the cause

- Former President Harry Truman makes a brief stop in Pittsburgh en route to New York; while there, he says he has not tried to advise President Kennedy, noting that anyone who does try to advise the President is a fool who does not know all the facts

With this last item, Len closes the local segment of the news roundup, and the tape cuts out just after he segues to the weather report.

This aired on local Pittsburgh TV on Thursday, August 23rd 1962 from 6:30pm to 6:40pm. (Eastern Daylight Time)

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This clip aired on Thursday, August 23rd 1962, and is included in the following categories:

Viewer Comments

It was less than 15 years after this newscast that WIIC (now WPXI) had one of the most infamous moments in television - then-anchor Beverly Byer, on the August 19th 1977 newscast, intoning, "Groucho Marx has taken a turn for the worse - in fact, he died."

But as far as this amazing find, given that Len joined WGN soon afterward (based on one of the links), let's just say Chicago's gain ended up being Pittsburgh's loss. Or was it Pittsburgh's loss being Chicago's gain?

Comment posted by W.B. on Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 5:05pm.

I've never heard background music on hard news b-roll before this.
Comment posted by Szake on Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 5:14pm.

Sponsored by 3 Pittsburgh NATURAL GAS COMPANIES?
Comment posted by Dth1971 on Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 8:39pm.

Background music was a relic from newsreels ... John Cameron Swayze's Camel News Caravan used a lot of it.

It doesn't sound like they made much effort to match the tenor of the music to the stories here... a lot of it is pretty sinister sounding, like it should be used in a horror movie.

If only we could see a Paul Long or Bill Burns newscast from KDKA around this time!

Comment posted by T.K. on Thursday, August 23rd 2012 at 9:48pm.

I'm loving these classic news clips.
Comment posted by ChitownTVFan on Friday, August 24th 2012 at 7:45am.

Speaking of Paul Long . . . YT has some short clips of newscasts from him on WTAE Channel 4 with Don Cannon.
Comment posted by W.B. on Friday, August 24th 2012 at 10:55am.

Sounded like another happy day in Pittsburgh.
Comment posted by ArmitageNLowell on Friday, August 24th 2012 at 2:34pm.

What a great find. Thanks for posting it.
Comment posted by Erniebaud on Friday, August 24th 2012 at 6:05pm.

When did Len Johnson pass away?
Comment posted by VintageCanada on Saturday, September 1st 2012 at 5:51pm.

This aired on my mother's 30th birthday...she just passed her 80th.
Comment posted by TomServo56954 on Tuesday, October 9th 2012 at 5:56pm.

Happy 51st anniversary to this classic TV treasure! Thank you Rick & Kevin
for making this available!

Comment posted by Matt on Friday, August 23rd 2013 at 12:22am.

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This clip has been viewed 6604 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Thursday, August 23rd 2012.
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Comment posted in WWJ Channel 4 - "Partial Station Sign-Off" (1978) by AnnArborMI90 on Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 at 9:13am CT

Channel 4 must have switched to using the Moog "Star-Spangled Banner" not long after this. That happens to be my personal favourite rendition of it.

Comment posted in Primetime Live - "Chicago Cubs - Wait 'Till This Year" (1989) by W.B. on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 at 10:27pm CT

I'm certainly pullin' for the Cubbies to take the Series, for sure. Someone mentioned the Red Sox - one of the Cubs' execs who helped bring the team to their current position, was in charge at the Red Sox when they assembled the players that took home quite a few World Championships over this century.

Comment posted in WLS Channel 7 - Ending of Saturday Night Movie, Reflections and Station Sign-Off (1977) by W.B. on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 at 8:55pm CT

And New York's Channel 7, WABC, also tended to show badly worn color prints of old movies. One screening of "The Best of Everything" [1959] in the mid-'80's on their "Late Movie" (with Alan Parker's "Unlimited Love" as the theme) was especially yellowish.

As for the bad color on this film, one person on YouTube speculated it may've been due to this being an Eastman print, fading over time.

Can anyone say with certainty what kind of color slide WLS used for their 1974 test pattern (inaugurated the year they began transmitting from their circular polarized antenna atop the Sears [now Willis] Tower), based on the 1984 sign-on and the extreme fading and discoloration seen thereon?

And finally, can anyone envision in their head how the "swirling stars" would have fared with Walter Raim's "Big Show" theme as used for years on WABC's "4:30 Movie" and their other movie shows?

Comment posted in WLS Channel 7 - Ending of Saturday Night Movie, Reflections and Station Sign-Off (1977) by AnnArborMI90 on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 at 8:11pm CT

Our channel 7 in Detroit was also known for bad colour quality when they were showing old movies. I have a few movie recordings off of WXYZ from the early 80s, and "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" has particularly bad colour quality.

Comment posted in WTTW Channel 11 - Doctor Who - "The Max Headroom Pirating Incident" (1987) by Smctopia on Thursday, October 13th, 2016 at 8:17pm CT

I don't think this was asked elsewhere but since he first tried to hack in to WGN and the Channel 11 audio makes several WGN references, is it possible "Max" prerecorded this and wasn't broadcasting it live?

Comment posted in WLS Channel 7 - Ending of Saturday Night Movie, Reflections and Station Sign-Off (1977) by Smctopia on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 at 7:40pm CT

The woman in the AARP ad kind of sounds like Shirley Jones.

Comment posted in WLS Channel 7 - Ending of Saturday Night Movie, Reflections and Station Sign-Off (1977) by W.B. on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 at 8:59pm CT

Would anyone out there know what kind of color system was used on that print of "The Guns of Navarone" for the color to go so bad? I know that the print would've been 16mm . . . and what was it about one of the RCA(?) film chains for the blacks on the circle 7 logo to be dark maroonish and the whites almost beigeish? And people thought that no two color cameras of the same model produced the same pictures?

Comment posted in JFK's First Trip to Chicago - "Lost" 16mm Footage (1961) by FuzzyMemories on Monday, October 10th, 2016 at 10:11pm CT

Thanks for the compliments and info, everyone. Hopefully we can incorporate the info into the description at some point.

Comment posted in WGN Channel 9 - WGN Presents - "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" (Bumper Promo, 1984) by Burr-Rabbitt on Monday, October 10th, 2016 at 8:38pm CT

@69TH&STONY, that's what I'm talking about!!! I grew up in the IDA B.WELLS of of 37th st. With what you said to that added breeze that comes from the lake, especially on a warm summer night!!

Comment posted in JFK's First Trip to Chicago - "Lost" 16mm Footage (1961) by Tommy33 on Monday, October 10th, 2016 at 3:57pm CT

A little more info on this fascinating piece:
The motorcade is proceeding north on Dearborn in Downtown Chicago and it stops on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel where the CPD scuffle with a Secret Service Agent. You can see the Prudential Building (then the tallest building in the city) in the background. The protesters are demonstrating across the street from the hotel. That evening the President, Mayor Daley and the entourage leave the Conrad Hilton for the banquet at the Original McCormick Place which was totally destroyed by a fire in 1967. This footage is really something. Great find Fuzzy!

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