Take a look at this photo of WRAL-TV taken in 1960.
WRAL signed-on the air December 15, 1956, but, there were no buildings at 2619 Western Boulevard. Live broadcasts came from a make-shift studio in a garage at the transmitter site near Garner while construction was underway at Western. It took about 18 months after sign-on for construction of the first building – the studio building seen on the right side of the picture – to be completed. On or about June 1, 1958 the entire WRAL-TV staff moved into the studio building. It was cramped quarters for about a year until construction of the administration building was finished in the summer of 1959. Finally sales, accounting, traffic, etc., could move from the over-stuffed studio building into their new digs.
Take a closer look at the 1960 photo. There was a time when people could drive their car around the fountain to the front entrance of the studio building and then continue under the overhang of the administration building and exit back into the parking lot. By the way, during the ‘80s, one news photographer didn’t realize how high the microwave equipment, even in its stowed position, stood up on top of the news van. Yep. She did it. She drove underneath the relatively low overhang of the admin building. Needless to say, when the stowed microwave mast and antenna merged with the overhang, it peeled back the top of the news van like a sardine can.
The fountain was originally in front of the administration building. The entrance to the studio building was very “plain Jane” underneath the breezeway compared to the current architecturally appealing entry. A few years later, the auditorium was added adjacent to the studio building, and the most recent big addition was several decades away – requiring the tower to be repositioned slightly northward. No signage on either building. No landing pad yet for SKY 5. See if you can find other differences.
Check out the four cars parked next to the Admin building. For those who are vintage American car aficionados, you might recognize the make and models. The second car from the left is a 1954 Oldsmobile which belonged to Scottie Stephenson, one of the founders of WRAL-TV and long-time CBC executive. WRAL-TV producer Scott Reid, Scottie’s nephew, said his aunt was always loyal to the Oldsmobile brand.
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.