East Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- It was October 1962 – 50 years ago this fall -- when NewsChannel 9 first took to the airwaves in Central New York.
A month after Colorful Channel 9 signed on the air, they were ready to welcome Central New York in to say hello. And what a party they threw. Hollywood sent some of its biggest stars, including Troy Donahue and Bob Conrad.
Sports director Carl Eilenberg emceed the Red Carpet arrivals outside the Shoppingtown studios. And a thousand people turned out, dignitaries and business leaders and viewers who were thrilled to finally get the ABC Television Network on a full-time basis.
The station took over the Kallet Shoppingtown Theater, next door to the TV studios for a star-studded gala. Syracuse mayor William Walsh and county executive John Mulroy welcomed the new station. Dick Bennett was behind the only camera inside the packed theatre when the glamorous but somewhat subdued star of "Hawaiian Eye" spoke.
“I remember Troy Donahue. I remember him, and that's all I'll say, because he had a good party before he got here, I think,” said Bennett.
General manager Bill Grumbles spoke for the station's ten ownership groups, community leaders worked together to get the station on the air in record time.
“He was good at isolating the boardroom from the workroom, so to speak. He kept...anything that we needed to get the job done, he made sure we got it,” said Dick Albro.
And the highlight of the night was a surprise for the crowd.
"Hawaiian Eye's" Robert Conrad would become one of TV's all-time tough guys, on "Wild Wild West" and then "Black Sheep Squadron." But on that night, as Syracuse welcomed Hollywood and Hollywood Welcomed Channel 9, Bob Conrad sang a tune. And he was pretty good!
“The theater was packed. Outside they had searchlights and the theater marquee was all built up and everything like that,” Bennett said.
And these are just some of the memories for our viewers who’ve been watching over the last 50 years. We’ll share many more as we continue to celebrate our golden anniversary.