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Margaret Elliott, a mathematics instructor at Washington University explains the solution to a problem during an evening broadcast aimed at college students on KETC-TV in March 1957. Most of the station's daytime programming was aimed at students in elementary and high schools, and evening broadcasts were aimed at adults. The station didn't begin broadcasting 24 hours each day until 1991. (Jack Gould/Post-Dispatch)
Sonny Fox, the "Finder," plays a guitar during a rehearsal at the studio shortly before the first broadcast. At right is Martin Quigley, station manager (KETC-TV archives)
Trustees of the St. Louis Educational Television Commission gather for the station's first broadcast at 9 p.m. Sept. 20, 1954. In the front row are (from left) Raymond Witcoff, Mrs. J. Wesley McAfee and Arthur Compton, commission chairman. In back (from left) are James Singer; St. Louis schools superintendent Philip Hickey; the Rev. Paul Reinert, president of St. Louis University; Malcolm Martin; William Akin and James Douglas. Compton spoke moments later during the broadcast. (Post-Dispatch)
Students at Dewey School, 6746 Clayton Avenue, watch an educational show on KETC-TV in December 1960 under the eye of their teacher, Anne Johns. KETC broadcast programs during school hours on science, spelling, reading and other subjects. (Louis Phillips/Post-Dispatch)
Steven Bloomer, the second "Finder" on KETC-TV, leads children along a platform at Union Station for their train excursion to Hannibal, Mo., on May 4, 1956. Bloomer replaced Sonny Fox, the station's original Finder. Bloomer's program took students, often literally, to places of interest. (William Dyviniak/Post-Dispatch).
Students from Dessalines School, 1745 Hadley Street, parade through their neighborhood just north of downtown on Sept. 23, 1953, in support of fundraising for KETC-TV. Organizers had hoped to be on the air by then, but the original cost estimates were optimistic. (Edward J. Burkhardt/Post-Dispatch)
Mrs. Clarence Meeker (right), a volunteer for KETC-TV, receives a donation from Mrs. Thomas Weaks, 5224 Delmar Boulevard, during a door-knocking drive on Sept. 24, 1953, to raise money for the station. The drive raised about $105,000. (Post-Dispatch)
Residents gather in the KETC-TV studio on April 5, 1957, for a live group discussion of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ran Lincoln, seated at the desk in the middle, served as moderator. The discussion was part of the station's Free Assembly series. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination, among other rights. (Post-Dispatch)
Students took part in a fundraising drive to keep KETC-TV on the air in June 1955. The station broadcast during part of school days and for two or three hours in the evening. It regularly ran short of money until it began the membership drives that continue today. The student representatives were gathered outside the station office, Millbrook and Big Bend boulevards at Washington University, to draw attention to the station's needs. They are, from left, Ann Hoeller, James Newcombe, Andrew Schwartz and Dennis Birke, all of Flynn Park School in University City; Stancil Cooper Jr., John Reichman and Stephen Schwartz, all of Hanley Junior High in University City; Robert Desloge of Our Lady of Lourdes Grade School in Clayton; and Victor Weisskopf of Flynn Park School. (Lloyd Spainhower/Post-Dispatch)
KETC's first office and studio were in a gymnasium in McMillan Hall at Washington University until a permanent home could be built at Big Bend and Millbrook boulevards. Arthur Baer, early and major booster of the station, financed constuction of the new building, which was named in honor of his parents, Julius and Freda Baer. Arthur Baer was president of Stix, Baer & Fuller, a department store in St. Louis. (Post-Dispatch)
St. Louis Mayor Joseph Darst (upper left, standing) addresses educators from 18 states who gathered in January 1952 at St. Louis City Hall to discuss creating local educational television stations. The mayor's own committee led to forming the St. Louis Educational Television Commission, creator and namesake of KETC-TV, Channel 9. KETC's first broadcast was on the evening of Sept. 20, 1954. (Lester Linck/Post-Dispatch)
Sonny Fox, known as the Finder in the early days of KETC-TV, shows one of the station's cameras in July 1954 to children in the summer day camp at Hamilton School, 5851 Westminster Place. The station had broadcast some closed-circuit programs the previous school year and was preparing to go on the air in September. The station's first studio was in a gymnasium in McMillan Hall at Washington University. Fox was the "Finder" because he traveled the area in a Corvette searching for stories of interest to young people. (Buel White/Post-Dispatch)
UNIVERSITY CITY • Eight men and a woman, all prominent residents, gathered on the temporary set at Washington University. As hot lights glared for the live camera, a voice told viewers, "You are watching KETC."
Public television made its debut in St. Louis at 9 p.m. Sept. 20, 1954, with a one-hour show. Seated among the introductory VIPs was Arthur Compton, chairman of the St. Louis Educational Television Commission, who called the station "a powerful means of education. It doesn't use books, it uses pictures and sound."
It had taken more than two years of planning and fund-raising to put KETC on the air.
Work began in earnest in April 1952, when the Federal Communications Commission announced it would take applications for 2,051 new TV stations across the country. Six were to be for St. Louis, including Channel 9, designated "non-commercial."
Back then, St. Louis had one station — KSD-TV (Channel 5), owned by the Post-Dispatch and on the air since 1947. A TV set cost a whopping $200, the equivalent of more than $1,600 today. For more perspective, women's cotton dresses were $4, chicken was 53 cents per pound and typists started at $160 per month.
St. Louis Mayor Joseph Darst pushed to form the local commission, led by Compton, the chancellor of Washington University. Other members included the Rev. Paul Reinert, president of St. Louis University, and city schools Superintendent Philip Hickey. The Ford Foundation and Arthur Baer, a local department store owner, made hefty donations, and 21 area school districts kicked in money. Call letters "KETC" stood for Educational Television Commission, although the group's first choice had been KNOW. The goal was to begin broadcasting in 1953.