WTOK Celebration

"Good Morning I'm George Shannon and I have the pleasure of being the first voice to be heard on TV originating in Meridian."

Many of you might remember the day this announcement was made. On September 26, 1953, WTOK-TV officially hit the airwaves. At age 83, Al Rosenbaum is the only original investor still alive. Touring the station these days, he says many things have changed.

In the beginning he says sailing some on the idea of a TV station in Meridian was not easy.

"The banks in town would not lend us the money. They said a television station wouldn't go in this small market."

However, led by radio station owner Robert Wright, the 11 investors proved the naysayers wrong and started first by donating at least $10,000 a piece.

"We were scared to death," says Rosenbaum. I went to Philadelphia to the First Pennsylvania Bank and Trust Company that I had a casual relationship with and they said, 'You have a VHF permit in an area that's going to cover 400,000 people and the banks won't lend you money. We'll do it and we borrowed another $110,000 from them."

In the beginning it's said that finding a network that would take on a station in Mississippi wasn't easy either. However, CBS took the chance and WTOK remained a CBS affiliate until 1979 when it switched to ABC.

Meanwhile, even after the station was open for broadcast, Rosenbaum says things were still far from rosy.

"When we got started we didn't have any credit. In order to make payroll a business man in town would take our check and not cash'em or deposit'em until we had enough money to make the checks good."

Talk about how time can bring about a change. Now, 50 years later, the station has grown from a meager 10 employees and three departments to almost 60 employees and seven departments.

Wednesday we'll talk more with Rosenbaum and take a closer look at how you our viewers helped WTOK become and remain East Mississippi and West Alabama's news leader!