On September 4th, 1969, Anthony LaCamera wrote in the Boston
Record-American that a new Boston UHF station would debut on September
28th, WXPO-TV Channel 50. Indeed the station, which was licensed to
Manchester, NH, clearly had designs on the much larger Boston market,
which at the time only had 2 commercial UHF's, WSBK and WKBG (now WLVI).
WXPO was in a race with Worcester's WSMW to see who would get on the air
first, and Channel 50 won the race by almost 3 months, but when Channel
27 hit the air on January 2, 1970, WXPO was already at "death's door".
WXPO was owned by Merrimack Valley Communications, a public company set
up to run Channel 50. The group was led by Neil P. Cortel, who at the
time was the owner of the Beacon Sports Network, which produced college
and some pro sports on radio in the Boston area. Cortel has a vision to
make Channel 50 a business channel by day, and sports at night. He was,
sadly, 25 years ahead of his time.
The station actually had two studio locations, the "primary" studio was
located at the transmitter building on Governor Dinsmore Road in
Windham, NH (by Exit 3 on I-93) to conform with FCC rules of the day
that the studio must be within 15 miles of the city of license. The
other studio, which was also the offices of the station was located on
Dutton Street in Lowell, Massachusetts (some 25 miles NW of Boston). The
Lowell studios was outfitted with nearly $2 million dollars in
"state-of-the-art" broadcast equipment, including 6 color studio cameras
(3 in each studio), 3 Ampex 2 inch VTR's, a Grass Valley production
switcher, 2 film chains and Gates audio boards and cart machines. It was
thought by the station owners that the studio would pay for itself as a
commercial production house, but that idea was doomed, right from the
Channel 50 was located less than 1,000 feet from the transmitter of
WLLH (AM 1400) and RF interference in the studio cameras made it
impossible to do any high quality production when the radio station was
on. Meanwhile the station's signal did not perform as well as expected,
and coverage was spotty in many parts of Metro Boston which further
hampered the station. Plus, the Lowell Sun newspaper made it known that
anybody who advertised on the new station could forget about advertising
in the Sun.
Still in early October 1969, WXPO signed on. The weekday schedule
looked like this........
NOON "INFO 50". A 3 hour and 15 minute show that was geared to Wall
Street. A NYSE and ASE ticker would run on the bottom of the screen
and the co-hosts (Gary Alexander and Gwen Loud) would deliver the
information. The show was produced in the smaller downstairs Lowell
3:15 "ROMPER ROOM"- Locally produced in the larger studio, the show
was hosted by Lori Lopez.
4:00 "WOODY WOODBURY"- A bad 90 minute talk show hosted by the man
who replaced Johnny Carson on Who Do You Trust.
5:30 "TREEHOUSE 50"- Hosted by Doug Wheeler and Paul Gettleman, the
show feature slapstick comedy and Warner Brothers Cartoons. The show
was probably Channel 50's most watched program as it developed cult
status with Boston area college students.
6:00 "BONUS BINGO"- Hosted by Don Hill, the show was bingo...players
could get game cards at local super markets.
6:30 "INFO 50"- Wrap-up A 30 minute stock market recap show, but
quickly became a "we will talk about anything" show.
7:00 "MIKE DOUGLAS"- The syndicated show from Philadelphia as the
idea was that people who worked in the daytime might watch. The
problem was the show was 6 weeks behind, to protect WBZ.
8:30 "DENNIS WHOLEY"- A very, very bad show from Cincinnati.
10:00 "NEWS 50"- New England's FIRST 10 PM newscast, (Channel 56 with
Arch McDonald didn't air until December 1st)..with Gary Alexander
(News), Don Hill (Weather), and Doug Wheeler (Sports)...but was
hampered with NO newsfilm.
10:30 "STEVE ALLEN"- Yet another talk show.
MIDNIGHT Racing from Suffolk Downs or Rockingham.
5:00 "ADVENTURES IN PARADISE"
6:00 "SECRET AGENT"
7:00 "JOHN GARY SHOW"
8:30 "PARADE OF BANDS" (from Chicago)
10:00 "WEEKEND IN HOLLYWOOD"
11:30 "PLAYHOUSE 50" (movie)
The station was also the first to have newsbreaks every hour, and
during the week this was done by John Foran from the New Hampshire
studio. The station also tried a couple of remotes, the 1969
Lowell-Lawrence High School football game, and the "Lowell Holiday
Festival" with mixed results. The station also had a "infamous" live New
Years Eve Show, which got a little "weird" around 1 AM.
With almost no advertising revenue coming in, the first ax fell in early
1970 when 90% of the staff was let go. Yet, many continued to work
unpaid as people believed in the station. But, by spring, the Lowell
facility was shut down and the station "limped" along from Windham. The
end came in June of 1970, when the power company shut off the power
during an episode of "Maverick".
There were a couple of attempts to bring the station back in the early
70's as a possible CBS affiliate, but nothing ever came of it and
finally the FCC deleted the license, in 1975.
Editor: WXPO-TV DID return to the air on July 17, 1973 for a 6 hour test
transmission, from midnight to 6 AM for testing purposes. After writing
to WXPO-TV that summer, I received a letter from a "Mr. Louis Ziddle",
regarding the prospects of Channel 50 returning to the air. He wrote
".....very definite plans are being made to return WXPO-TV 50 to the
air, sometime later on this year". That was in August, 1973. WXPO-TV
never did return to the air. Today's WNDS-TV50 is not related in anyway to
the late WXPO-TV. WXPO-TV's old tower site is now being used for ENG and
"two-way radio" purposes.
WXPO-TV history written Kevin Vahey, a
former WXPO-TV employee (and lived to tell us about it ;)... Thanks