Seventy-five years ago this month, Rev. Julian S. Fayme of New York City was truly blessed. He was the winner of a new Philco television, and he had some channels that he could watch. When he received his windfall in January, 1940, there were three stations on the air in New York, W2XBS, W2XAX, and W2XAB. I previously wrote about one of those stations. W2XBS (later WNBC) came on the air on April 30, 1939. W2XAB and W2XAX were both licensed to CBS and later became WCBS-TV. And the DuMont station, W2XWV (later WABD) was soon to come on the air, as I wrote previously.
Lillian Russell of Quincy, Mass., was almost as lucky, since she was also a winner, and was within range of W1XG in Boston. Fayme and Russell were among the six winners of the set shown above, in the announcement of a quiz contest in the September 1939 issue of Radio Mirror.
But in the full list of winners is shown below (in the January 1940 issue), a problem is apparent.
The other four winners didn’t have anything to watch. There were no TV stations on the air in Portland, San Francisco, or Burlingame, California. And there certainly weren’t any stations anywhere near Hole Center, Texas, undoubtedly much to the dismay of Frances Rountree. Indeed, I can’t find any record of a town by that name, although there is a Hale Center about 30 miles north of Lubbock. But Hole or Hale, that new Philco wasn’t of much use to the Rountree family.
The TV stations on the air as of 1940 are shown on this excerpt from White’s Radio Log, Jan.-Feb. 1940. (This list includes three mechanical television stations operating on 2000-2100 kHz, which the more modern Philco wouldn’t have been able to receive. So winners in Irvington, N.J. or West Lafayette, Ind., wouldn’t have fared any better.)
It turns out that the four hapless winners weren’t totally out of luck, since the fine print of the contest rules did show some foresight: “And if, perhaps, you live in a section of the country where television programs cannot yet be received, this quiz still carries a prize for you. Any winning contestant can have, if he wishes, a de luxe Philco radio set instead of the television receiver.” So the winners in California, Oregon, and Texas, presumably gathered around their de luxe Philco console radios and dreamed of television, which for them would have to wait until after the war.