Former Resident Reminisces About Early Personalities From WCYB-TV

I received several written correspondences from Frank Santore, a former resident of Bristol, with strong memories of several WCYB-TV personalities of the 1960s.

Frank first mentioned the “Looney Tunes” broadcast that was aired at 4:30 pm on Channel 5. He wonders if any Press readers remember this show. “Ed Spiegel was the host of the program,” said Frank, “which had a rotating crew of sponsors that included Foremost Milk. He would have a bunch of kids on live and would interview them in a peanut gallery like studio in between Popeye cartoons.”

The former Bristol resident recalled his late father taking him to the old WCYB studios on Cumberland Street in Bristol on Nov. 9, 1965 to appear on the program on his 6th birthday. This event coincided with the memorable New York City blackout.

Frank remembered a joke he told on live television: “Knock, Knock. Who's there? Dwayne. Dwyane Who? Dwyane the bathtub, I'm dwouning.”

Santore continued: “I remember that this program ran for many years and one of the people who contributed to one of your articles, Don Sluder, took over from Ed Speigel.”

Frank said his six-year-old eyes couldn’t believe seeing Evelyn Booher, WCYB newswoman in person that day. After the show, his father took him to one of (Jack) Trayer's Restaurants in Bristol to eat.

Somehow, I just knew that Frank would mention the legendary Eddie Cowell and he did: “Eddie Cowell hosted Klub Kwiz on Monday nights at 7 pm on Channel 5.

“Ed Spiegel had Klassroom Kwiz on Wednesdays at the same time and Art Countiss emceed Kiddie Kollege on Fridays. Art was the only guy I know who grew more hair as he got older.”

Frank further mentioned Jack Mallon on Channel 5, and Don Bagwell, Don Garland and others on Channel 11. He also noted some television programs such as “Nick Carter's Furniture Time,” “The Kathryn Willis Show” and “Memo from Ilo.” 

Santore was delighted to read Dr. Herb Howard's feature story in the Press. He took some graduate courses in Communications under the former WJHL-TV news and weather announcer at UT and became well acquainted with him.

“I wonder if anyone could recount in detail the history of Walter Crockett?” Ed inquired. “As youngsters, we always used to run around doing our Walter Crockett impressions in a gravelly voice, importuning viewers to place their litter in waste baskets, and other ‘scintillating’ subjects.

“Mr. (Berlin) Benfield (“Pecos Ben”) had left Channel 11 in Johnson City by the time I was born. Merrill Moore knew my father and, I think, my grandfather, John Armstrong. He was an attorney here for many years and had a penchant for colorful dress such as fire engine red suits with bow ties. 

“John Thomas may have been WCYB’s first ever full-time sportscaster. He was on ETSU radio after Dick Ellis and for years was the play-by-play voice of the Tennessee High Vikings on WOPI. A salesman, Tom Gentry, worked for WCYB Radio for a year in the mid-60s.  He is now general manager of WMQX-FM in Charlotte and a family of associated AM stations in the Charlotte area.”

I can imagine that Frank has spurred some remembrances from area readers by mentioning the names of so many WCYB television personalities. I welcome your comments. Next week, I will extend this discussion by featuring comments from WCYB’s news anchor, Johnny Wood, who provided additional remembrances after reading Frank’s letter.