Happy birthday to – us! WPRI 12 turns 57 years old today.
As I related a year ago, WPRI came on the air as WPRO-TV on March 27, 1955, with the backing of the old Cherry & Webb clothing store. The station has had eight parent companies in the intervening years; our current parent, Providence-based LIN Media, has owned WPRI since 2001.
Last year at this time the oldest YouTube clip of WPRI was this groovy 1982 sign-on, but now the Wayback Machine has served up a short station ID from 1978 (plus the tail end of a spray creme commercial):
And here’s a terrific compilation of three station promos that aired on June 23, 1990, during a Saturday night telecast of “The Man With One Red Shoe” on ABC, our network at the time. The promos feature Walter Cryan, Karen Adams, the Bristol 4th of July Parade and Almacs – how Rhode Island can you get?
WPRI-TV 12 will celebrate its 56th birthday on Sunday. Don’t we look good for our age?
WPRI came on the air March 27, 1955 as WPRO-TV - apparently two years behind schedule after Rehoboth wouldn’t let us build a transmitter there and then Hurricane Carol destroyed the one we did build in Johnston, according to this insanely detailed Wikipedia article.
The station was started up by none other than Cherry & Webb – yep, the furniture clothing store. That’s not as strange as it sounds now; our august competition in Cranston was the brainchild of the venerable Outlet Company department store. TV stations were just another way to sell sofas and apparel, I guess.
WPRI has had a total of eight owners in the intervening 56 years by my count. Happily for us, the days of getting passed around are long gone; our current parent, Providence-based LIN Media, has owned the station since 2001, the second-longest uninterrupted stretch of ownership in our history.
YouTube is filled with nostalgic clips of local stations back in the day, so I thought I’d take a look at what they had for us. The earliest video of WPRI is this quite welcoming morning sign-on clip from August 1982, during our ABC affiliate period:
Even better, though, is this little ditty from 1984 shown at the end of the broadcast day that sings, “We’re with you on Channel 12!” surrounded by some extraordinarily cheerful ’80s people. Check it out:
I wonder where all those big cut-out “12s” ended up? Maybe they’re in a closet somewhere here in the studio. I want one.
But of course, what really matters here at WPRI 12 is the news. Here’s Walter Cryan and Janice Glynn kicking off the late news after the 1987 Academy Awards:
(For the record, my posting of these clips is entirely journalistic and does not represent any sort of statement or endorsement of them and their being put online by LIN.)
Update: Mea culpa – earlier I described Cherry & Webb as a defunct furniture store, but a trusted reader informed me it was a women’s clothing store. And he, of course, is right. I feel like I vaguely remember an advertising jingle they had?
Suitably chastened, and with the help of my Twitter followers, I boned up on my Cherry & Webb history. It had grown to 35 stores in five of the six New England states by the time it filed for bankruptcy in March 2000; its merchandise was liquidated shortly thereafter.
Interesting, too: Cherry & Webb was apparently a division of the Outlet Company until it was spun off in a 1982 buyout, meaning Outlet started up both the first two TV stations in Rhode Island, WJAR and then us. Here’s how the Projo described the company a few years ago:
Designed as an alternative to mall department stores, Cherry & Webb carries an array of designer-brand professional and casual apparel for women, as well as cosmetics and accessories.
Founded in 1888 in Massachusetts, Cherry & Webb was owned from 1963 to 1982 by the Outlet Co.
The chain peaked with 65 stores in the late 1980s, when it began closing unprofitable stores. Since then, it has gone through several ownership and management changes, and even name changes. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, it was known as Cherry Webb & Touraine, after it acquired the Touraine chain in 1981.
Set your DVRs – my pal Tim White’s big half-hour TV special on the 1975 Bonded Vault robbery airs at 5:30 tonight on WPRI 12. If you missed it earlier in the week, check out my story about how Tim wound up finishing this project begun 35 years ago by his famous father, Jack White.
And while we’re on the topic, a word of praise for John Villella, WPRI 12′s investigative photographer, who was Tim’s right-hand man in putting the special together.
John has worked at WPRI since 1998, and took over as investigative photographer three years ago. Last spring he shared a well-deserved Emmy Award with Tim and our investigative producer, Nick Domings.
John filmed everything you see in the half-hour (except the archive film) and over the past couple weeks he’s put in untold hours in an editing booth creating the finished product. Among other things, that involved sifting through dozens of hours of interviews and other footage.
“It was a monster,” John laughed when I asked him about the project yesterday. He went on to say he’s proud of how it came out and grateful he gets to partner with Tim.
John also got an assist from another one of our colleagues, Jason Rule – congrats to all of them on a job well done.
My colleague Karen Adams just announced she’s going to retire from the anchor chair at the end of this year. (I won’t say how old I was when she started anchoring the 6 p.m. news here, but suffice to say I grew up watching her.) Although we’ve only worked together for a little while, I can already say she’s a lovely lady who will be missed here in the newsroom.
There will be lots of tributes to Karen’s long career between now and her last broadcast on Dec. 30 – she started out in TV during Walter Cronkite’s CBS heyday, and is leaving in an era when two of the three major network anchors are women.
But for today, I thought it would be fun to take a look back using that modern marvel YouTube. Here are some vintage videos of Karen and WPRI through the years.