KPRC at 70: Here are 70 things to know about KPRC

KPRC2's current building on Southwest Freeway. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – On Jan. 1, 2019, KPRC Channel 2 celebrated its 70th anniversary as the first television station in Houston. 

But what don’t you know about our station? 

Here are 70 things to know about KPRC to celebrate our 70th year:

70. From 1949 until mid-1953, Channel 2 was the only television station in the Houston area.
69. When Channel 2 had signal difficulties in its early days, people thought it had something to do with their television set, so the declaration was “We are experiencing temporary technical difficulties. The fault does not lie with your set. Please stand by.”
68. The first words uttered on Channel 2 were, “There’s been trouble, plenty of trouble!”
67. The first broadcaster on Channel 2 was Paul Huhndorff.
66. Channel 2 was only one of 12 television stations in the U.S. when it began broadcasting on January 1, 1949.
65. KPRC stands for “Kotton Port, Rail Center.”
64. KPRC, first a radio station, was one of the first in the U.S. to establish its own full-time news department.
63. Paul Huhndorff and his team managed to get the station on-air for the first time with only the knowledge they gleaned from a technical manual and brief visits to a few operating stations elsewhere in the U.S.
62. Channel 2 started as KLEE-TV, named after its owner W. Albert Lee. Its call letters changed to KPRC when Gov. William and Mrs. Oveta Culp Hobby purchased the station for around $743,000 in 1950.
61. The first Channel 2 offices were a Quonset hut, a prefabricated building. 
60. The most popular live prime-time show on KPRC in its early days was “Curly Fox and Texas Ruby," a forerunner of “Hee-Haw.”
59. KPRC televised the first football game at Rice Stadium on Sept. 30, 1950.
58. The “Today” Show began broadcasting on KPRC on January 14, 1952.
57. The first camera used by Channel 2 was a GE studio camera with an optical viewfinder – not too different from the then-popular Kodak Brownie snapshot camera.
56. When KPRC was moving out of its first headquarters – on the way to the new studio – a driver from Dallas hit one of the station’s convoy trucks head-on as the vehicle made its last turn into the new studios. No one was seriously hurt and the equipment was not badly damaged.
55. The first color television program on KPRC was “The Voice of Firestone,” which aired on May 3, 1954. We were called the “Color Network.” Local news color programming began in September 1966.
54. KPRC is the first Houston television station to go “live” from a scene. It happened on Election Night in 1974. The producer was Larry Weidman.
53. KPRC had a homemade weather radar system in 1954, made from a war surplus Navy fire control system and modified to scan the weather starting at about 40 miles away. Some tinkering led to a range of about 150 miles.
52. Hurricane Carla in 1961 was the first hurricane tracked by the homemade weather tracker, which helped thousands of people evacuate low-lying areas in time.
51. In 1987, KPRC was the first station in southeast Texas to employ Doppler surveillance.
50. Pat Flaherty, a longtime KPRC TV and radio reporter and first news director, died while broadcasting on KPRC air. He suffered a fatal stroke while reporting the 7:45 a.m. newscast for KPRC radio. 
49. KPRC is the first Houston station to hire black TV reporters.
48. KPRC is the first Houston television station to hire female TV reporters.
47. KPRC is the first station to establish a full-time, fully staffed news bureau in Austin. 
46. During a riot in Moody Park in May 1978, veteran reporter Phil Archer along with fellow reporter Jack Cato were stabbed. Archer told the authors of “The Fault Does Not Lie with Your Set”: “I was wearing a pair of light blue pants that day, but you couldn't tell it. They were completely soaked with blood. The officers thought I had been stabbed in the crotch, so they laid me on the hood of a patrol car. A female officer who had been a nurse ripped open my pants and began checking to see if I’d be castrated. About that time, a cameraman from the ABC station showed up and began taping. His tape played on all the networks. My first network exposure was very compromising.”
45. Archer’s camera was returned to the station following the stabbing. According to a report in “The Fault Does Not Lie with Your Set,” the camera “was covered with blood and looked like it had been run over by a truck,” but it worked.
44. "The Candyman" Case: KPRC reporter Jack Cato caught the confession a serial killer on his microphone. Elmer Wayne Henley told his mother on the phone, “Mama, Mama, I’ve killed Dean.” Henley, Dean Corll and David Owen Brooks raped, tortured and murdered at least 27 young men over a series of several months. 
43. “The Eyes of Texas” -- the longest-running regularly scheduled television program in Houston, discounting newscasts -- began in 1969 as a fluke. The news director didn't want two of his reporters going to the border on a risky mafia expose, so he tabled the idea and gave them the half-hour show to produce. KPRC is proud to pick up the “Eyes of Texas” broadcast mantle again -- now in podcast form.
42.  The KPRC current building contains 275 miles of wiring and 11,000 square feet -- or a quarter of an acre of glass.
41. Courtney Zavala, now with Houston Life, went into labor on air during the midday news. She gave birth the evening of May 24, 2007, to her son, Andrew.
40. Neil Armstrong’s words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” was relayed to the world from the moon via KPRC’s signal. 
39. The design of KPRC’s tower at Blue Ridge, south of the city, is called a “Candelabra.”
38. A pilot once deliberately flew beneath one of the supporting cables on the Blue Ridge tower, between the cable and the KPRC tower. He did not hit anything, but the move could have killed him and toppled the tower.
37.  KPRC was the first station to have an on-camera traffic reporter -- Dominique Sachse -- in 1993. 
36. The “Salt Grass Trail,” prior to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, started as a KPRC project. Pat Flaherty, KPRC’s first news director, was the wagon boss.KPRC had the arrival of the first trail ride live on air.
35. KPRC broke the story of Wanda Holloway, the Channelview mother who hired a hit man to kill her daughter’s cheerleading rival. Watch it here.
34. An avid woodworker, veteran anchor Bill Balleza has designed and built rooms full of furniture, including a coffee table for a family that he and his colleagues at KPRC 2 sponsored for a Houston Habitat for Humanity build.
33. KPRC’s Bill Balleza and Dominique Sachse have been working together for nearly 25 years. 
32. In 2011, five anchors gave birth in a KPRC baby boom: Daniella Guzman (with daughter, Sophia), Rachel McNeill (with son, Hudson), Courtney Zavala (with son, Andrew), Amy Davis (with son, Jackson) and Lauren Freeman (with son, Harrison).
31. KPRC weathermen used chalk, chalkboards and Polaroid snapshots to share the news in the 1950s.
30. The 1,549-foot tower at Blue Ridge, south of the city, began telecasting in 1964.
29. KPRC’s current building is smaller than its predecessor built in the 1970s.
28. KPRC is the first Houston television station to hire female sportscasters.
27. KPRC’s first female sports reporter Anita Martini was the first female journalist allowed in a baseball locker room.
26. KPRC is the first Houston television station to have a comprehensive TV website, including videos. launched in March 2000 with four employees.
25. KPRC currently has 185 employees.
24. KPRC currently has 35 anchors and reporters.
23. KPRC has helped build six homes with Houston Habitat for Humanity.
22. KPRC is a subsidiary of Graham Media Group, which was once run by Katharine Graham. The movie “The Post” is about Graham, played by Meryl Streep.
21. The station has about 50 functioning cameras we can take to air, including our tower cameras.
20. Kay Bailey was the first female TV reporter at KPRC and in Houston.
19. KPRC was among the first to utilize digital imagery for print advertising around 1987. 
18. The News Department uses microwaves, satellites and bonded cellular to transmit live signals from remote sites.
17. Tex is KPRC’s second K-9 Mascot. Radar was the first.
16. The big “2” on the KPRC station tower along the Southwest Freeway can change color due to LED lights.
15. In 1989 during KPRC’s 40th anniversary, the station had more than a hundred typewriters. Today there isn’t a single typewriter that works in the station.
14. TEX has his own bank account.
13. KPRC currently has about 240 desktop and laptop computers to help us broadcast the news. 
12. Gone are the days of VHS tapes or film. Everything is digital at KPRC. That means, instead of having a broadcast fill of room of tapes, you can fit the media on a small hard drive.
11. In its early days, KPRC carried ABC, NBC, and CBS programming because it was the only station.
10. KPRC’s first weather mascot was Wilma the Chicken. 
9. Renowned Rockets commentator Bill Worrell was a former KPRC sports director.
8. John Quinones was once a reporter at KPRC.
7. KPRC cameras were there when AstroWorld opened its doors. Watch some footage of that day on June 1, 1968 here.
6. Sports reporter Craig Roberts started Sports Sunday at KPRC. The format was widely duplicated and still remains on-air at KPRC today.
5. All of the reporters and anchors at KPRC do their own hair and makeup and provide their own wardrobe.
4. The news desk is on wheels and can be moved as needed throughout our studios.
3. The longest working current KPRC employee is Phil Archer. He has worked at KPRC for 42 years.
2. In the late 1990s when there were computer technical difficulties, KPRC reporters and producers resorted to typewriters to broadcast the news.
1. The anchors run their own Teleprompters using a hand or foot control.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.