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

Exactly 50 years ago today (at 6:30pm)!

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 5292 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Thursday, August 23rd 2012.
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Check out the technician fleeing the shot at 3:45 as the Camaro comes into view! Lucky his yellow shirt matched the car to help camouflage his exit...


Comment posted in WMAQ Channel 5 - NewsCenter5 - "Mount St. Helens" (1980) by OldTVNut on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 at 11:26am CT

Am I the only person who thinks that Jerry Taft should be surprised on his next birthday with this clip?


Comment posted in McDonald's - "We Do It All For You" (Commercial, 197?) by T.K. on Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 11:21pm CT

Can't beat the million-dollar sound of a jingle performed by the Ron Hicklin Singers. Even after 40 years, "At McDonaaaald's..." still sticks to the brain. It's been so long since a memorable uptempo jingle has been used in a national ad campaign, using one would stand out against all the maudlin and futuristic aural wallpaper used today.

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Comment posted in WGN Channel 9 - The 1985 Chicago Automobile Show Special (First 10 Minutes, 1985) by FuzzyMemories on Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 11:05pm CT

T.K. - You're correct - I hadn't noticed that, but this is the last regular appearance of Frazier Thomas on Family Classics that has yet been found. I don't have the opening for "The Black Swan" but I do have the last half hour or so including the complete ending, some of which you see here. I'll have to give this a proper posting at a later time.


Comment posted in WGN Channel 9 - The 1985 Chicago Automobile Show Special (First 10 Minutes, 1985) by T.K. on Friday, May 15th, 2015 at 10:37pm CT

Less than two months before the death of Frazier Thomas... am I right in that this is the latest of his regular appearances to have surfaced so far? (I'm not counting the clips used in the retrospective stories in April.)

The intro music to the car show sounds like it came from this catchy number used on the CHEK-TV Friday Night Movie in 1981. WGN's recording sounds like it came from someone holding a mic up to a record player in their basement, however. I'd love to hear it in full.


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She sounds as if she's doing an ad-lib news report on NPR's All Things Considered.


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Correct me if I am wrong BUT is that Dee Wallace at 0:29??


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The guy that does the V/O for Forensic Files?


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You're correct, Detroit4Chicago. The Ocean Catch was the name.


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