21 February 2012

[pdx_liff] The Bits Of PDX Broadcast History You'll Find In Hawthorne Junk Shops

2783We are now the proud owners of a sign. But this is not just any old sign.

Portland's Channel 2, KATU-TV, signed on in 1962. It became an ABC affiliate in 1963.
The wooden shadowbox backing up this bit of translucent plexi (or Lucite, maybe) denotes it as having a vintage of 1958, though that's when Fisher Broadcasting (then Fisher's Blend Station, Inc) received a construction permit for KATU. Don't know if they knew that was when they were going to get the network affiliation. The provenance for the objet is still rather shrouded in the mists of time.

The sign looks like thus:

The translucent plastic sign can be slid out because of the missing bit of metal frame on the right. A small 40-watt appliance bulb lives in the box and looks about as old as the rest of the sign. The crafting and cutting out of the plastic forms used to create the logo's forms is as precise and immaculate as you'd want to see. This was a labor of love.

This appears to be a sign that could have hung in an office window or been mounted on a wall somewhere. How this might have occurred is far from evident. The only idea of provenance we have is the sticker, whose date must be held in some doubt. However, the design of the sign looks identical to the logo design on the television cameras I've seen in historic shots of it. It might not actually date from 1958, but it could easily have dated from around 1963 or so.

The station, KATU, is owned by Fisher Communications. Back in The Day™, it was known as Fisher's Blend Station, Inc. Kind of an awkward name for a media conglomerate. As I understand Fisher's history, though, the company that evolved into Fisher Communications began life as the Fisher Flouring Mills in Seattle, circa 1910 or so. Their most popular product was Fisher's Blend Flour. If you had a Fisher's Scone … a yummy little number made of a piping hot biscuit made of Fisher's flour with warm jam spread inside … at any Pacific Northwest State Fair through the sixties and/or seventies, then that was from the same company. And, early on, Fisher's Flouring Mills apparently realized the value of broadcasting in spreading the word about their signature product … Fisher's Blend Flour …via the new medium. One thing probably led to another, and the next thing you knew, Fisher's Blend was a broadcasting company too.

Fisher Communications have come a long way from their flouring beginnings. Fisher's flour is still made and Fisher Fair Scones are still served, but they do not seem to have a connection to the communications company any more. C'est la guerre, mon cher. 

On the way home there was some discussion over where it might go. Being broadcast graphic design, I felt very possessive about it and thought about some way it could come to the basement to live in the studio with me. But The Wife™ made an excellent gestalt case for it living upstairs in the living room, where everyone we'd have over might see it. And we'd get a chance to brag, of course, thought I to myself, thought I.

So it now occupies a position of honor in the main room upstairs, less than three feet from the TV screen, on which we watch KATU (well, as long as the digital signal will let us). And, in the dark, why, it looks so very warm and nostalgic …

Warms my heart to have this under my own roof, it does. I am a lucky person, in a way.

While I was writing this, The Wife™ sent me a link to a picture of DX reception of KATU from about 770 miles distance. The newsman in depiction is Rick Meyers, a newscaster I liked quite much, when I was a little tiny guy: http://www.johninmontana.com/oregon/katu-id.jpg.

And, as long as Shadowhouse's loss is my gain, might I suggest that you all keep an eye on http://www.shadowhouse.net, Shadowhouse's web page. They still got great stuff there, it's almost all half-off to reduce the wear and tear of moving it, and when they get a new location, that's where you'll find out about it. 


Benjamin Lukoff said...

Nice! I want one for KOMO.

Samuel Klein said...

If only! Reading about the history of the Fisher net has been an interesting thing, if only because it's kind of hard to find. For a long time I didn't realize that KOMO and KATU were sibling stations, or that the company that provided me scones at the Oregon State Fair was the same one that provided me approximately 1/3rd of my TV viewing.

I keep thinking I'll send an email to KATU saying "look what I found! Can you help me tell its story?" but I keep fearing that they'll figure that it's still theirs and they want it back. I'm mulling doing that.

J. R. Miller said...

What a find! I remember that sign, and I believe it was mounted on the wall in the K2 lobby near the switchboard. This and all of the early signage, such as on the sides of the studio cameras, was created by our founding chief engineer, Bill Vandermay. I began at K2 in 1974 and am coming up on 40 years here! No more Fisher, though. We are now part of Sinclair Broadcast Group as of yesterday.

Anonymous said...

In 2013, Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland bought out Fisher Communications.