From this day forward the TV set would be a vital piece of living room furniture. A family may wait even a year or two to get one—but they eventually got it.

The facility called the Armory-Auditorium in those days was Charlotte's main venue for indoor events. It is now called the Grady Cole Center.

History | WBTV's First Day

The Charlotte Observer, July 15, 1949

Video at Armory, WBTV signs on air


A crowd estimated at 5,000 persons welcomed television to Charlotte for the first time at the Armory-Auditorium last night when WBTV went on the air at 7 o'clock.

They came from this city and many neighboring cities for the opening of the Carolinas' premier television show.

Men and women by the hundreds stood or sat in chairs before the screens of the scores of receiving sets in the 12 booths. A moment of silence swept the crowd as the 66 television receivers flashed into action. Football stars raced the ends and tackled hard in Collier's All-American football game. Airplanes took off with the usual roar and monkeys and dogs cavorted across the screen.

The show was on.

The 12 different makes of television receivers nestled like jewels in the beautifully decorated booths. Each of the booths had its individuality, yet the 12 as a whole gave a glittering, rich appearance. Great quantities of velvet, gold and silver cloth, cut flowers, wall to wall carpet, and spotlights were used in the decorations.

The visitors to the show saw six Zenith receivers displayed in the Allison-Erwin company's booth, five of which were in operation. This booth drew many compliments, both upon its merchandise and its decorations. Using a red, white, and blue patriotic motif for a background, the booth was unique and different.

Other Models

The Westinghouse Electric company had on display 10 different models of Westinghouse television receivers. Five of these sets were in operation. This booth was one of the most attractive in the show. Aqua velvet was used extensively as a background with gold lettering placed in the foreground.

Eight different Stromberg-Carlson sets were shown in the Chapman-Wilhelm company's booth. All eight sets were receiving television programs. This display was built around a Chinese Classic set in the center, flanked by several different sizes ranging from a table model to a large console. This exhibit was most attractive In its setting of red velvet, silver cloth, handsome mirrors, and beautifully cut flowers.

Seven models of Stewart-Warner receivers were shown by the Hough-Wylie company. Five of these receivers were hooked up to the outside antennae and were in operation. This booth stood out from the rest because of its ultra­modern decorations. It was done in midnight black and silver.

Visitors to the McClain Distributing company's booth saw 11 different models of Admiral receivers. Five of these receivers were in operation. One large, handsome console occupied the center of the exhibit, and there were all sizes of sets Four of these sets were in operation.

Six RCA sets were shown in the Southern Radio Corporation's exhibit. Four of the sets were in operation.

Southern Appliance, Inc., had on display eight different models of Capehart television receivers. Four of the receivers were receiving WBTV's television programs. Many of the visitors were heard to compliment the beauty of this booth Gold leaflets were used profuse on the walls, with a fluted-paper background of dark maroon.

A.K. Sutton, Inc., had on display eight models of Philco television receivers. All eight sets were in operation. This booth was different in appearance from any in the show. A large billboard poster formed its background.

The visitors to the show enjoyed the varied television program which included Collier's All-American Football Game, 1949 New Year's Bowl Games, "What Makes Sammy Run," Musical Novelties, travel films, television demonstration films, and WBTV telenews.

The show, a three day event, is being staged in conjunction with the coming of television to the Carolinas.

The doors to the Armory-Auditorium will open tonight and tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. and will close each night at 10:30 p.m.

The Charlotte Observer and The Charlotte News agreed to co-sponsor the show, along with WBTV and the Charlotte Radio and Appliance Distributors association.


From The Salisbury Post, July 15, 1949

Television Makes Its Salisbury Debut; Reactions Are Varied

Television Debut-This filming of the call letters of WBTV marked the start of telecasting in North Carolina. The preview show was held last night, and regular programming starts tonight.

Television bowed in last night in Salisbury.

Sizeable groups at several of the furniture stores saw the initial programs televised by WBTV in Charlotte. The programs were also seen in Jimmy Blackwelder’s and in several homes where sets have been installed.

The Salisbury reaction to the instrument which is expected to revolutionize entertainment ranged from indifference to enthusiasm.

One furniture man called the reception of the Charlotte programs “fair,” another said it was “better than we expected,” and a third said the programs came in “beautifully.”

The programs consisted of a collection of films depicting such diverse activities as hunting, baseball, football, the Wilmington Azalea festival and scenes extolling the virtues of Charlotte.

Last night’s show was a preview to open the television show at the Charlotte Armory. The regular programming will begin tonight with the video broadcast continuing from 7 until 10:30.

Such programs as the Cliff Edwards Show, the 54th Street Review and a play with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March will be seen. These are televised from WBTV from film. The live shows in New York are filmed and the films are flown to Charlotte.

Salisburians with televison sets will probably have more of a selection than TV fans in Charlotte. Greensboro’s TV station is expected to come in next month, and Winston Salem probably won’t be too far behind.

According to Ted Ritchie, who has done much of the installation work here, probably about a dozen sets are now in use or will be soon be in use here. But, he says, a great deal of interest is being shown, and he expects that television sales will be brisk now that the programs have started.

Clipping courtesy Mike Cline