June 15, 1948, was a Tuesday and — according to contemporary accounts in New York — an iffy one. "Scattered showers," according to one city newspaper. The New York Giants were in second place, the Yankees in third. The Dodgers — still in Brooklyn, of course — in sixth. A New York TV station was also born that day.
This particular station was destined to become (well) colorful. Not exactly a foundling, its parentage was nevertheless remote — in faraway Chicago — which allowed it to eventually chart its own course, and personality. Both would be quirky. For example, the station weatherman, Joe Bolton, wore a policeman's uniform by day to become Officer Joe, host of shows featuring the Little Rascals or the Three Stooges. There was a wonderfully hallucinatory afternoon show, "The Magic Garden," filled with giggly flowers and a talking squirrel. On Christmas Day, starting in 1966, the station aired an endless loop of a burning log, the so-called Yule Log.
Meanwhile, "The Honeymooners" — which lasted just 39 episodes on CBS in 1955 — arrived here three years later, and has never left. It too has been in an endless loop cycle for nearly 60 years.
WPIX — which we know and love just as PIX — has played a unique regional role these past 70 years. Beginning this week, the station will remind viewers of all that and more.
"PIX has a legion of passionate fans who adore our programs and traditions, and their lives are entwined with those traditions," says station historian Rolando Pujol, who is also PIX's director of digital and social strategy. "If for some reason we don't air 'March of the Wooden Soldiers' on Thanksgiving Day, we'll hear about it from them."
This week's spread of specials, outtakes and long leisurely strolls down memory lane, he says, is mostly for them.
On Saturday, June 16, for example, "PIX11 Celebrating 70 Years" — filled with clips that Pujol located in various PIX archives — will air at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.
But on the big day, Friday, June 15, PIX comes to Long Island, where "PIX11 Morning News" will originate from Veterans Memorial Park in Levittown, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. (Levittown welcomed its first residents in 1947.) The stars of "The Magic Garden" (which ended in 1984), Carole Demas and Paula Janis, will perform and meet fans.
Why Levittown? "We were thinking about the early days of television and all those homes going up, and people installing their aerials," says Pujol. "We felt there was a certain affinity between our story and theirs."