Wirth Watching - New Year's Eve 1948

Remembering Utah's 1st live televised New Year's Eve Party

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - If you spent New Year’s Eve partying like it was 1948, you must have had a pretty good time.

How do we know? Well we have rare pictures of channel four throwing a live televised New Year’s Eve party to welcome in 1949 under the hot lights and homemade cameras.

Channel 4 was an eight-month old station on New Year’s Eve in 1948. And our counterparts sure did it up right with a band, magicians, dancers, and hot champagne under the hot lights.

It was the beginning of television here in Utah and pretty much elsewhere too. Channel 4 was the first TV station on the air between St. Louis and Los Angeles.  And the only one that wasn't owned by a network at that time.

So virtually all the programs were local. Although we can say we had a strong program lineup. The strangest program was a sewing program. Now I don't sew, but I would suspect it might be best to patch the old behind with said trousers not on the said backside.

But, of course, the greatest stuff came on during the holidays. We had just had Santa Claus break through the chimney on TV. Which brought in the puppet show. Which, in turn, brought in Santa hanging on strings. Which kind of left the kids a bit perplexed. And probably a bit scared. And who can forget the 5 foot tall doll show that capped off Christmas.

But hey we had a sponsor, back then, and that was swell.

But Channel 4, out did themselves, and really pulled out the stops for New Year’s. I mean a big New Year’s Eve party on live television. This one was for the end of 1948 and the start of the New Year 1949.

68 years ago, those lucky enough to have TV could see a party that lasted half the night. And it all was in their TV set. And all in the comfort of their living room.

Yes, folks were packed into the studio. This was the big show. It was party time in Salt Lake City. The audience had on their party hats. And a few people got to drink champagne that was a million degrees because of all of the hot studio lights.

And it was a show unlike Salt Lake had ever seen on TV. It all took place in the studio located in what is now City Creek above the old post office on Regent Street. Channel 4 music director, the maestro, Eugene Jelesnick played with the Channel 4 band. And it was magic. Yes, there was a magician right there in your living room party.

As the clocks got closer to midnight the mc started the countdown. It would begin a, grand, tradition of watching TV New Year’s Eve shows that we still observe to this day.

And the old spirit of 1948 was about to turn the year over to the little kid of 1949 right in front of you on Channel 4. The dancers were ready, maestro Jelesnick was playing, and midnight came.

But, hey, don't go to bed. However, on a side note, it is classy when your pajamas match your drapes. Anyway, stay up with Channel 4. Because the dancing was just starting. And oh my goodness that was entertainment. Your finest entertainment indeed.

We do know the New Year’s Eve show was the most popular show on TV that night. Channel 4 was the only station on the dial in Utah back then. So, we can say with all certainty it had 100 percent of the ratings.

I was lucky enough to have started the Utah portion of my career at Channel 4, 47 years ago, and learned television from some of the TV pioneers that put on that New Year’s Eve celebration.  In their memory, and with the spirit of fun that they all said they had back then. I say, ’Happy New Year.’

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