Throwback Thursday: Now A Word From Our Sponsors

A typical hour long newscast will contain six commercial breaks, totaling about 16 minutes.

It's those 16 minutes that pay for the rest of what you see.

Those businesses get their money's worth.

Television's track record as an effective advertising medium is long and indisputable.

But it wasn't always so.

Before Channel 8 signed on the air in 1953, local advertising dollars were divvied up between two daily news papers and four radio stations.

The newspapers especially weren't excited about the arrival of a new competitor.

"They felt they'd lose advertising," remembers Dick Colon, Channel 8's first sales manager. "Well, they were right."

But that was hardly apparent as we signed on. Colon was tasked with selling something that was unproven, hadn't even been seen in Reno before.

"Some people bought time from me just to help us out."

And gradually, everyone learned TV worked.

Those producing the commercials had limited ways of getting their product on the air.

"Remember every thing was live," says veteran Reno ad man Don Thompson, a former KOLO 8 salesman. "There was no video tape. So you couldn't combine things and package them. You had to do everything on the spot."

That required a stable of on air talent. They came from radio, entertainment circuits, local theatre groups. The job required stage presence, a flexible schedule and an ability to connect with the audience.

"We just had to get by on our own ingenuity and creativity," says Thompson.. "And frankly, I think we were as good as some of these people today."

While most sponsors relied on these hired spokesmen and women, a few did it themselves. Some did it better than others and those that didn't found the camera never blinks, like the time a local car dealer was demonstrating the top on a new convertible with the help of an attractive, but untrained model.

"She pushed the button," says Thompson. "The top didn't go down.
He said 'Honey, push the button. Push the button!' And he started swearing. Cut! This was live TV."

But at least one local businessman parlayed a winning personality into a successful career on and off the air. Jim Henderson opened Keystone Owl Drug in 1958, and quickly became a presence on Betty Stoddard's afternoon movie.

His gift of gab served him well.

"I bought three minute spot on Betty Stoddard's show and if I didn't get 10 or 12 minutes on the air I felt I got cheated," he said in a 1996 interview. "And I paid $75 dollars for the three minutes."

In fact, Henderson got good enough that he sometimes filled in as host.

But then a chance meeting with an up and coming comedy team got him the kind of exposure you can't buy.
Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were driving to Elko, lost a water pump, wandered into Henderson's drug store. He loaned them $100. It was the beginning of a life long friendship and eventually led to plugs like this on their hit network show "Laugh-In"

Rowan: Where have you been? I've been calling you all week.
Martin: I was up in Reno shopping, doing my drug store shopping.
Rowan: Uh-oh you went up to see Henderson.
Martin: Old Jim Henderson Keystone Owl Drug.
Rowan: Does he still have that great Chap-Stick sale going on?
Martin: Oh yes. 450 Chap Sticks for a dollar.
Rowan: Did you bring me one?
Martin: I brought you 450.

By the way they paid Henderson back for the $100 loan and for years, could be seen on local TV giving a sales pitch for a Reno drug store. All due to a broken water pump and the loan of a hundred bucks.

KOLO 8 has reported six decades of news in northern Nevada, but on one night in March of 1977, we were the story and we were unable to cover it.

That story next week.

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