All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Maine Television Pioneer Dies

The man who brought television to Maine died Monday.

Walter L. Dickson started working for WABI radio as a technician in 1938, and was Chief Engineer when asked to set up a television station in 1952. On Jan. 1, 1953, the state's first television tower was erected in Holden.
"We didn't have much money in those days," Dickson said earlier this year in an interview with the Bangor Daily News. "Governor [Horace] Hildreth owned the station then and he gave me $100,000 to build a TV station. I paid a University of Maine professor $40 to design a support structure for the WABI tower on Copeland Hill." [Link]
Dickson retired in 1982 as president of WABI.

A Nov. 2, 1999, Bangor Daily News article discussed the key challenge to broadcasting in the early years.
The biggest obstacle was finding programming. Early entries included syndicated 16-millimeter film serials such as "Boston Blackie" and locally produced cooking, talent and variety shows.

Dickson himself was never on the air, but one of the avid fisherman's catches was. In 1953, he caught the presidential salmon, the first one of the year caught from the Bangor Salmon Pool.

"We took it to the studio, and got Bob Jones of Jones Fish Market to show us how he was going to pack it to send it to the president," he said. "We showed that on the air. That would never get on today."
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