Happy birthday KTRE! This weekend our station, serving Deep East Texas, celebrated 60 years of broadcasting excellence and service to the community. Hundreds of East Texans, local and state dignitaries, along with KTRE staffers, both past and present, gathered at the studios north of Lufkin for a Texas-sized celebration.
A few families even camped out in the parking lot, hoping to be first in line to register for contests an get autographs from the news team. It proved to be a wise decision, as the winding line snaked across the lot and down the street. We carted folks across the Lufkin State-Supported Living Center campus in golf carts for a first-class arrival. The reward was worth it — hot dogs, snow cones, and all the fixings waited under a tent that felt like a big-top circus was in town. Bounce houses helped the kids burn off energy after pigging out on cookies, cake, and sweets.
This was an equally rewarding experience for all of us on the KTRE news team. Every day, you invite us into your homes for “coffee” or during dinner, so this was our opportunity to welcome you into ours. Never before has nostalgia set-in to this degree, soaking up stories of our viewers’ favorite local shows and news personalities through the years.
Ready to guide viewers on a walk down memory lane, a large photo collage was the first stop upon entering the station. I heard stories from two viewers who were in the same building on the day KTRE-TV signed on the air in 1955. In the early years, KTRE produced nightly newscasts, along with kids shows, live commercials, and ‘H-H Ranch Show,’ an East Texas favorite. Local talent Hank and Juanita Huggins entertained thousands of viewers with live music and stories each week for 15 years. The son of one of the band members told me about his father as he showed several photos he brought for the KTRE archives. The cast of “Bonanza” once made a stop at the KTRE studios, drawing people from across the region.
Our friends and neighbors also reminisced about the stories and events that have shaped local history — everything from the Shuttle Columbia tragedy, to the life and times of Congressman Charlie Wilson, and the success of local sports teams and pro athletes. It’s apparent that KTRE has earned a place in the hearts and lives of so many — a tremendous responsibility.
It takes a small army of journalists and broadcasters to bring you local news and entertainment programming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Throughout the day, visitors got a behind-the-scenes tour of the KTRE studio, even getting to try the TV-magic behind the chroma-key weather wall. Parked outside, our staff led tours of our satellite, microwave trucks, and our LiveU mobile backpack system. A “selfie station” was set up for folks to tag snapshots on social media and the kids really seemed to love the bubble machine, created by former KTRE staffer Havey Morgan.
Perhaps most significant about the celebration, it presented an important opportunity to give back to the community that has always supported its hometown station. Four nonprofit organizations were chosen to receive $15,000 advertising schedules on KTRE and KTRE.com.
KTRE first signed on the air August 30, 1955, and has continued to grow with the region. KTRE’s first news anchorman was Murphy Martin, who later became a local television newsman in Dallas and anchorman for ABC News. When I was anchoring the evening news at KTRE from 2008 to 2012, I used a variation of Martin’s sign-off as a tribute to journalism giant. Each evening, we ended our newscasts with, “That’s our time. Thanks for yours.”
Over the years, KTRE has aimed to be a good neighbor through community involvement and public service. The Texas State Forest Festival, Blueberry Festival, Pineywoods Fair, Downtown Hoedown and Angelina Benefit Rodeo are just a few of the area events in which we participate.
The pace of technological advances has me very excited about the future of broadcasting and I know KTRE will continue being a leader in local news over the next 60 years. I’m so proud to count myself among the KTRE family and love to represent both KTRE and KLTV each day on Good Morning East Texas. Cheers and congratulations to every person who has been a part of the past 60 years!