John In Montana


Channel 2 TV Station Photos from the John in Montana Collection


KOOK-TV Channel 2 Billings, Montana 1961 Print Ad

KOOK-TV print ad from 1961.

KOOK-TV: KOOK-TV Channel 2 Billings came on the air November 9, 1953 at 6 PM as Billings' first TV station and Montana's 2nd TV station. J. Carter Johnson and Charles Crist, who started KOOK Radio three years before, made the magic happen. Joseph S. Sample became a part owner when Crist wanted to sell his interest in channel 2. Garryowen Corporation was the name of the company under Sample's ownership. Garryowen is in reference to the US 7th Cavalry Regiment and the tune played before the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

News played a part from the first broadcast day. That early form of rear screen projection was accomplished by running a film projector in the control room pointed through a hole in the wall to the screen next to the anchor.

The news set photo and the weather production photo were taken at the Coburn Road studio site in the 1950's.

Remember "Four Star Final News" which was the title for channel 2's newscasts for a number of years?

Sometimes news broadcast were fully sponsored by one company. The print ad from 1961 at the top of this page mentions Carter Oil had been a sponsor for 3 years. "The Carter Reporter" anchor pictured is Cliff Ewing. Look at that "news set" with all the logos. If you were wondering, Carter Oil was part of the Humble Oil Company which was purchased by Enco which later became Exxon.

Early KOOK-TV personalities included Cliff Ewing, Ed Peiss, Red Welsh, Bud Clark, Billie Leseur, and Vic Miller.

Cliff Ewing is pictured at the top of this page. He later became General Manager at KRTV in Great Falls. He died December 31, 2008.

Bud Clark is pictured at the news desk in the 1950's.

Red Welsh is pictured in the weather set. No computers and satellite photos back then. The chalk board ruled. Note Montana Power was an early sponsor.

Billie Leseur hosted a very popular Monday through Friday afternoon live broadcast, "Yours Sincerely, Billie" which ran for a number of years. She is pictured here interviewing "Whirlybirds" TV stars Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill.

Vic Miller later became General Manager at KOOK-TV. While now retired, he is still seen on the air on KTVQ with his weekly commentaries. These usually are about his friend Slab Marble becoming involved in a current news related topic.

Here are some early KOOK-TV Channel 2 Billings IDs.

The one showing the KOOK Building is an on air ID from early 1963

The other on air ID is from 1969.

The ID with the horse and rider carrying a flag is from the mid 1950's.
The one with the trees is from the 1960's.
For some reason, the older IDs are more impressive.
The ID at the top of the page says "Channel 2, The Better View." KOOK-TV was the only view until 1958.

When KOOK-TV started, the studios, offices, transmitter, and tower were all located on Coburn Road southeast of Billings atop the south rims of the city.

The photo of the building and tower is from 1972, however, this is how it looked back in the 1950's.

The sign above the entrance door wasn't very impressive, but served to welcome visitors, including myself in 1955.

The building isn't that large, but there were spaces for the studio, control room, transmitter, and offices. Here are a couple of photos from the early days.
The photo of the RCA transmitter and control area are from early 1972.
This RCA transmitter was used full time until 1978 and then became a standby transmitter which was used until 2004 when it was removed to make way for the digital transmitter.

In 1958 a new broadcast building was built at 3203 3rd Avenue North in downtown Billings. This building is still the home to the station today.

The large solid metal sign on the building was very impressive.

The next photo, from early 1972, looks east. Note the large CBS Eye logo on the microwave dish.

In the early 1970's the Montana Television Network "MTN" branding was used for a statewide news broadcast. This concept was not well accepted by viewers as reflected in ratings during the 1970's and was abandoned in the mid 1980's resulting in number one ratings which continue to this day.

Station ID's and print ads included the MTN branding.

Montana Television Network News Ad KOOK-TV print ad from 1972.


KTVQ Videos:

On September 5, 1972 the KOOK-TV call letters were changed to KTVQ and the "Q-2" branding was born. The idea for this was based on KHQ-TV Spokane's branding "Q-6" and quickly became popular with the viewers. However, for many years some people still called the station "cook" (KOOK-TV). That wonderful metal sign shown above was removed for a cheap looking plastic sign.

In 1975 the building was remodeled. The parking area changed. The wall around the parking area was removed and a planting area was built. Note the horse and rider statue. This is again a reflection of The Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The first ID aired for KTVQ is pictured. On air ID's told the viewers that KOOK-TV was now KTVQ.
It wasn't long before new ID's started to air.

Long time viewers will remember seeing these two ID's for quite a few years until animated and scenic video IDs became common.

On November 9, 1978 Channel 2 celebrated their 25th anniversary with special on air promotions, broadcasts, and this ID.

The next photo of the news vehicle is from around that same time.

The news sets used by KTVQ changed over the years.

In the mid 1970's the set was mostly a simple desk and plain background.

Even interview sets were on the plain side.

Interviews have always been part of public service programs, news segments, or used for the "Today In Montana" local morning program in the 1970's.

In 1994 the station purchased a news set that had been used by WJAR-TV, Channel 10 Providence, Rhode Island. Weatherman Bob McGuire, anchor Gus Koernig, anchor Laura Thornquist, and sports anchor Jim Connors are pictured on the set.

On June 1, 1995 KTVQ hosed a President Bill Clinton "Town Hall Meeting" which was broadcast live on KTVQ and nationwide on C-SPAN.
Gus Koernig anchored the broadcast. President Clinton answered questions from the studio audience.
The control room was filled with Secret Service people along with a full KTVQ staff. John is pictured at the Grass Valley board along with KTVQ News Director Jon Stepanek. John was Technical Director for this broadcast.

Going back a few years, here's John at the controls in 1972.

That RCA video switcher gives you an idea of how things have changed over the years.

Film and slides played an important part in TV broadcasting well into the 1970's. Programs as well as commercials were played throughout the broadcast day.

Channel 2's film chain took up a good portion of the control room. Two RCA TP-66 16mm film projectors and an RCA TP-7 slide projector were fed into the RCA TK-27 color camera via an RCA TP-15 multiplexer mirror system. Viewers would sometimes see mirror changes during long film programs. Some commercials consisted of slides and separate audio. Perhaps you recall seeing one of those spots and noticing a slide was upside down.

In 1974 KTVQ was one of the first broadcast stations in the northwest to purchase an Ampex ACR-25 video cassette system to play commercials.
This control room photo is from the late 1970s. An Ampex VR-1200B is pictured next to the ACR-25. The photo of John loading a video cassette into the carousel is from 1995. Each commercial, ID, or news element was on its own 2" video cassette. The KTVQ video cassette library was numbered well into the 1000's. The ACR-25 used a pneumatic system that moved tape out of the cart. It could load and unload fast enough to playback 10 second spots back to back. The Ampex ACR-25 was used for over 20 years before being replaced by a computer based video server. The "ACR" acronym was chosen by Ampex because it was "RCA" reversed.

For a number of years KTVQ used 2" video tape equipment to delay CBS programming from New York by one hour to fit into the Mountain Time Zone schedule.
The tape delay room consisted of two Ampex VR-1200B's and one Ampex VR-2000 machines. This photo is from 1993.
Eventually 1" video tape equipment replaced the 2" machines.
"Nash Bridges" was being delayed when this photo was taken in 2000. Master Control Operator Jeff Lowenthal is pictured in front of the monitor wall. Eventually 1" tape delay was replaced by digital DVC-PRO equipment for a few years, and then to a computer based server.
In 2005 the control room was remodeled to make way for new digital equipment. This control room photo is from 2006. That's a Ross Synergy video production switcher in the center.

The next photo is of the Harris Nexio server system computer monitor. Harris Nexio based server equipment is used for all commercial, program, and news story playback at KTVQ. Master Control uses two Harris Nexio IconMaster™ master control switchers. The one pictured here is for KTVQ and KTVQ-DT 2.1. The other, not pictured, but the same, is for the Billings CW channel 2-2.
On air ID's included the digital identification KTVQ-DT until June 12, 2009.

At 9:00 AM, Friday, June 12, 2009 the analog channel 2 transmitter was shut down by Chief Engineer John Webber ending 56 years of broadcasting on channel 2.


KTVQ-DT started broadcasting on March 17, 2004. While KTVQ-DT actually broadcasts on VHF Channel 10, digital TV sets map the channel to 2-1. This is done to reflect the station's current broadcast channel. Programming is either up converted standard definition or HD, high definition.
KTVQ-DT 2-1 airs all CBS TV HD programs in the full 1080p 16:9 format. Non HD programs appear in the 4:3 format.
One of the benefits of digital transmission is the ability to broadcast more than one station on the same channel.
KTVQ-DT 2-2 offers CW network programming and some local programming such as sports events on The Billings CW. The two on air ID's pictured are from 2008.
Digital TV transmission required a completely new transmitter.

John is pictured at the controls of the Harris digital transmitter in 2009. The physical location of this unit is where the old RCA transmitter, shown above, was located.

In addition to the transmitter, a new antenna was required. The old Channel 2 tower wasn't designed for this, and a second tower was erected.
The photo of the old transmitter site sign is from 2006. This sign was removed a year later. You can see the 2nd tower behind the sign.
Both towers are identified by a numbering system set up by the FCC in efforts to promote air traffic safety. Towers over 200 feet have the ASR, Antenna Structure Registration, numbers. This photo of the Coburn Road transmitter and towers is from 2008.

In addition to KTVQ Channel 2 (now off the air) and KTVQ Digital the building houses transmitters for KBBB FM 103.7 and Montana State University PBS KBGS Digital transmitter on channel 16. There is space in the building for more transmitters.

KTVQ Billings, Montana Transmitter and Towers from the air.

JohnJohn In Montana

KOOK-TV Channel 2 Billings, Montana - November 2, 1953 Print Ad

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KTVQ Channel 2 Billings, Montana 1988 Print Ad

Vic Miller Commentary

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