WAY BACK WHEN: 60-year-old buddies

A Career Day field trip in 1964 of a group of students from Mesa Junior College. Helen Hanson, center, was the teacher leading the field trip. She taught speech at the college.

KREX-TV is one of those local icons that those of us who grew up here, grew up with.

Sentinel business reporter Greg Ruland recently wrote a story on Grand Junction’s first television station’s 60th anniversary. I wanted to take it one step further and share a few photos.

The studio photo was in my photo file, and I don’t know where I got it. I apologize to the owner. The outside photos are from old editions of The Daily Sentinel.

The interior photo is of a Career Day field trip taken by a group of Mesa Junior College students in the fall of 1964. Left to right is an unknown cameraman that maybe one of our readers will recognize.

Then you have Robert McMahan, who at the time this picture was taken, was the vice president of both KREX-TV and KREX Radio.

Helen Hansen is next. She was the teacher leading the field trip and taught speech at the college.

Sonny Chiaro is next to her. Sonny works with our sports department here at The Daily Sentinel and started delivering the paper when he was a boy. Sonny helped me identify the people and remembered the day well.

Mr. McMahan was telling the group how television was going to evolve. Tape recorders and the earliest computers were just coming out.

Jim Spehar is next to Sonny. Jim tells me, “This high school trip inspired me to change my career aspirations from forest ranger to broadcaster.” Jim spent nearly 30 years in the broadcast industry and is a regular columnist for The Daily Sentinel.

Next is Richard Weekley. Weekley lives in California and is a renowned poet and writer. He spent 40 years teaching creative writing.

I asked him for a quote and got, “Were ties really that narrow, and cameras really THAT humongous? KREX’s outreach reached me, I got a B.S. in communications, although now I’m mostly known for misplacing my cellphone or dialing the wrong number.”

The fellow on the far right and the little lady next to him are also unidentified.

For 25 years, KREX-TV reigned supreme as the only television station in Grand Junction. Broadcasting pioneer Rex Howell was persuaded by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce in 1930 to move from Denver to Grand Junction and bring his 4-year-old radio station, KFXJ, with him.

Originally broadcasting his radio signal from the St. Regis Hotel at Fifth and Colorado, Howell built his first studio in 1930 on Hillcrest Manor, one of the highest elevations in the Grand Valley.

In 1942, a stylish art-moderne version, built by the WPA, replaced the original and, in May 1954, the television station went on the air.

Shortly afterward, Rex Howell changed the call letters of both the TV and radio stations to KREX.

The new studios were state of the art with the original radio broadcasts coming from a cozy “living room” setting on the first floor. The basement television studio was added later.

In January 2008, a fire devastated the 1942 structure along with many of the archives.

After spending my formative years watching “Captain Kangaroo,” “Rawhide,” “Bullwinkle” and “Bonanza” on KREX-TV, I owe them a debt of gratitude.

If only I could turn on the boob tube and get nothing but those same shows, I’d be a happy camper.

Thank you KREX — together we’ll get through our 60th year.


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