John Rivers Jr. reflects on family's founding of Live 5

John Rivers Jr. reflects on family's founding of Live 5

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In the summer of 1953, the new innovation known at the television was a huge deal in Charleston.

"When your neighbor put a TV set in their living room, you joined the fun, even if there was no program to watch. I remember that we didn't have a television set. I remember we had to go to other friends' houses, and they were watching the test pattern," reminisces John Rivers Jr.

Rivers was a young boy when his father, John Rivers Sr., signed WCSC-TV on the air. The East Bay Street building became a hub for AM and FM radio, as well as the new TV station.

The Rivers family was one of many buying TV sets as Charleston businesses scrambled to meet demand.

Some of those models are still around today, in the John Rivers Communications Museum. Some of the first screens were as small as two inches, according to a museum employee, "You could add the magnifier and it would enhance the size of the screen."

Sets like these delivered a host of network stars like The Lone Ranger and Ed Sullivan.

All the local starts went live from the East Bay studios, while outside production was much more labor-intensive than it is now, with enormous 100-pound pieces of equipment needed to produce a remote shot.

Live 5 made it happen though. "This was a real novelty for television because it was all live; there wasn't any taping, "Rivers remembered.

Rivers spoke of when Charlestonians watched live as President Dwight Eisenhower paid a visit to The Citadel, "I was there with our news director, who at that time was Harry Gineris, and the president came up and said something like, 'young man, have you been in the business long?' I was scared to death, shook his hand and said, 'No sir.'"

That sheepish young boy would grow up in the business as it changed dramatically over time. Taking the reins from his father, "Junior" went on to lead the station to historically high ratings at the Lowcountry's newsleader.

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