Seventy years ago, the on-switch was flipped at KTTV Channel 11, a television station founded by Times Mirror Co., then the parent company of the Los Angeles Times, in partnership with CBS.
Now owned by Fox, KTTV has mined its archives to revisit the stories that have been told by its local news teams — an operation that started as a five-minute program from the Los Angeles Times’ newsroom.
Some of the stories preserved on 16-millimeter film — long stored in humidity-controlled salt mines in Hutchinson, Kan, — are airing on the station throughout its 70th-anniversary year. “It was like being a kid in a candy store,” said longtime KTTV correspondent Hal Eisner, who combed through the archives to help compile footage for the anniversary and found reels dating back to the late 1940s.
KTTV shared some photos and memories of the people, programs and historic moments that established the station as a fixture of Los Angeles life.
Rose Parade | 1949
After two years as an experimental, closed-circuit station based at the Pasadena Playhouse, VHF station KTTV signed on Jan. 1 with coverage of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl football game between USC and Northwestern. L.A. Times Sports Editor Paul Zimmerman provided postgame commentary.
L.A. Times newsroom | 1950
In the early years of KTTV, local news ran five minutes and originated from the Los Angeles Times newsroom. The “TTV” in the call letters stood for “Times Television.” The Times’ parent company owned the station until 1963, when it was sold to Metromedia for $10.3 million. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. took ownership of KTTV when it acquired Metromedia in 1986.
George Putnam | 1951
Newscaster George Putnam was KTTV’s biggest star in the 1950s and ‘60s. “He was earning Walter Cronkite money as a local newscaster,” said Mitch Waldow, archive manager at KTTV. “It was unheard of.” Putnam was also the rare TV correspondent allowed to offer commentary and even candidate endorsements (his catch phrase was “One reporter’s opinion”) before it became a common practice on cable news. Putnam was staunchly conservative, but he maintained that he was an FDR-loving Democrat. His stentorian delivery was said to have inspired Ted Knight’s pompous newsman character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
John Rovick | 1952
John Rovick joined KTTV as a staff announcer when it first signed on. After the station acquired some old cartoons, Rovick put on a white hat and a khaki uniform and became the beloved on-air kiddie host Sheriff John. His shows “Lunch Brigade” and “Cartoon Time” were both staples of baby boomer childhoods in Los Angeles. In a far more innocent time for children’s TV, Rovick opened “Lunch Brigade” with the Pledge of Allegiance and would also lead viewers in a nondenominational prayer before sitting down to a sandwich and a glass of milk.
‘Divorce Court’ | 1958
KTTV producers created the first iteration of the series “Divorce Court,” in which actual divorce cases are reenacted. A year later the one-hour weekly program became the first series shot on videotape to be nationally syndicated. The format has been revived several times and still runs today in Los Angeles on KCOP.
Vin Scully | 1958
KTTV was the first TV home of the Dodgers after their move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958 but only after a deal to air on a proposed subscription TV service collapsed. During the team’s early years in Southern California, the station carried only road games against the San Francisco Giants. Future Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully called the action on KTTV, which aired the games locally until 1992.
Sammy Davis Jr. and the ‘Stop Arthritis Telethon’ | 1958
Throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s, KTTV annually turned over 16 hours of airtime over a single weekend for its “Stop Arthritis Telethon.” Hollywood starlets answered phone calls from viewers who pledged funds for patient care and research devoted to sufferers of rheumatic diseases. Many of the top performers in entertainment, such as Sammy Davis Jr., contributed their talents to the program.
Don Lamond & Barbra Streisand | 1963
Don Lamond hosted the early evening movie on KTTV. He was the son-in-law of Three Stooges member Larry Fine and even made promotional appearances with the act. As Hollywood’s hometown station, it was typical to to see drop-ins by big-name celebrity guest. Barbra Streisand stopped by in 1963 to promote her second album.
John Lennon | 1966
Major show business news stories were also local for KTTV. The station was on hand for an August 1966 news conference at Capitol Records headquarters in Hollywood where John Lennon apologized for saying the Beatles “meant more to kids than Jesus” in an interview. The remarks had led to boycotts, death threats and protests where the band’s records were burned. “If I’d said, ‘Television is more popular than Jesus,’ I might have gotten away with it’” Lennon quipped.