WPRI-TV 12 will celebrate its 56th birthday on Sunday. Don’t we look good for our age?
WPRI came on the air March 27, 1955 as WPRO-TV – apparently two years behind schedule after Rehoboth wouldn’t let us build a transmitter there and then Hurricane Carol destroyed the one we did build in Johnston, according to this insanely detailed Wikipedia article.
The station was started up by none other than Cherry & Webb – yep, the
furniture clothing store. That’s not as strange as it sounds now; our august competition in Cranston was the brainchild of the venerable Outlet Company department store. TV stations were just another way to sell sofas and apparel, I guess.
WPRI has had a total of eight owners in the intervening 56 years by my count. Happily for us, the days of getting passed around are long gone; our current parent, Providence-based LIN Media, has owned the station since 2001, the second-longest uninterrupted stretch of ownership in our history.
YouTube is filled with nostalgic clips of local stations back in the day, so I thought I’d take a look at what they had for us. The earliest video of WPRI is this quite welcoming morning sign-on clip from August 1982, during our ABC affiliate period:
Even better, though, is this little ditty from 1984 shown at the end of the broadcast day that sings, “We’re with you on Channel 12!” surrounded by some extraordinarily cheerful ’80s people. Check it out:
I wonder where all those big cut-out “12s” ended up? Maybe they’re in a closet somewhere here in the studio. I want one.
But of course, what really matters here at WPRI 12 is the news. Here’s Walter Cryan and Janice Glynn kicking off the late news after the 1987 Academy Awards:
(For the record, my posting of these clips is entirely journalistic and does not represent any sort of statement or endorsement of them and their being put online by LIN.)
Update: Mea culpa – earlier I described Cherry & Webb as a defunct furniture store, but a trusted reader informed me it was a women’s clothing store. And he, of course, is right. I feel like I vaguely remember an advertising jingle they had?
Suitably chastened, and with the help of my Twitter followers, I boned up on my Cherry & Webb history. It had grown to 35 stores in five of the six New England states by the time it filed for bankruptcy in March 2000; its merchandise was liquidated shortly thereafter.
Interesting, too: Cherry & Webb was apparently a division of the Outlet Company until it was spun off in a 1982 buyout, meaning Outlet started up both the first two TV stations in Rhode Island, WJAR and then us. Here’s how the Projo described the company a few years ago:
Designed as an alternative to mall department stores, Cherry & Webb carries an array of designer-brand professional and casual apparel for women, as well as cosmetics and accessories.
Founded in 1888 in Massachusetts, Cherry & Webb was owned from 1963 to 1982 by the Outlet Co.
The chain peaked with 65 stores in the late 1980s, when it began closing unprofitable stores. Since then, it has gone through several ownership and management changes, and even name changes. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, it was known as Cherry Webb & Touraine, after it acquired the Touraine chain in 1981.
Update #2: I take it back – if the Projo is right that Outlet bought Cherry & Webb in 1963, that means WPRI was started by the latter when it was still an independent business.