Throwback Thursday: In 1952 Reno Gets Its First Glimpse Of TV

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Today it may be hard to imagine a world without television. But before September 1952, most people in Reno had never seen it.

The city itself was a much different place.

Two years before, the Census had counted barely 32,000 residents. Sparks added 8,000 more.

There were just a handful of TV sets in the valley, mostly owned by people who had moved here from elsewhere.

No signal reached the Truckee Meadows and without sets to receive a signal there was little pressure to change things, but some were thinking about it.

Jerry Cobb, who would later found Nevada's first successful FM radio station, tried as early as 1949 to bring a signal over the mountains via a self made relay system.

"He was a very curious man," remembers his son Neal. "He wanted to see if it would work."

His attempts delivered an occasional, unreliable picture from a Sacramento or San Francisco to the Cobb family living room in northwest Reno.

"Conditions had to be absolutely perfect or you didn't get to see anything," says Neal Cobb. "We never got to watch a whole half hour program. Seventeen, eighteen minutes was max. A lot of time we only got eight or nine minutes."

The one place in the valley with a reliable picture was a bar on Vista Boulevard.

"Across the street there was a barbwire fence," says longtime Reno resident Durward Yasmer, "and they ran the cable and hooked it into the barbwire fence and got a real good signal."

But in 1952 the rest of Reno would be introduced to television through a special closed circuit broadcast.

Equipment was brought in to bring the 1952 World Series to the Riverside. Dozens of TV sets were placed around the hotel, in the lounge, the corner bar and through viewing windows set up around the patio.

It was a big deal.

"Cars were double parked and the cops were having a heck of a time because people just wanted to see TV," remembers local columnist and historial Karl Breckenridge, then a young boy.

"it was a huge amount of people down there like there was going to be a parade or something," says Cobb. "People were standing outside looking through the glass."

Despite their youth neither Cobb nor Breckenridge missed the show.

"Toward the end some of the schools brought their kids down," says Breckenridge, "and we saw TV in downtown Reno."

The town was clearly intrigued.

"It was something that was completely new. Nobody in Reno had ever seen it," says Yasmer, then working at the Riverside..

"It was evident Reno had to have a station of its own. I mean they were hooked right now. Wow this is great," adds Cobb.

And that was the idea all along.

Among those who'd brought this special broadcast to Reno was an Arkansas based newspaperman, Don Reynolds. He had an idea that would lead to Northern Nevada's first television station, KZTV Channel 8.

We'll pick up the story there next week.