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KOOK's first broadcast in 1953 leads to KTVQ and Montana Television Network

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Posted at 11:26 PM, Nov 09, 2023

Seventy years ago on Nov. 9 marked the beginning of what would lead to the Montana Television Network.

KTVQ TV, which was first called KOOK TV in Billings, started in 1953.

The first broadcast did not happen in the current MTN building at 3203 3rd Avenue North, but was actually in a building on Sacrifice Cliff.

Some of the former general managers here say through all the changes, television, and more specifically KTVQ, has made a connection with the community since the beginning.

As it happened across the country, the first day of KOOK TV brought the new technology to Billings.

"The first day of television was a very exciting day for people, most of whom had never seen a television picture before," said Vic Miller, former KTVQ general manager. "And they would watch anything. They'd sit there and watch the test pattern."

Miller was working for KOOK radio in 1953.

Eight years later, he moved over to KOOK TV, eventually rising to the position of general manager.

He says the station's owner and founder Joe Sample, who died last year, used the Billings station to start the Montana Television Network and changed the call letters to KTVQ.

"At one time, they considered KCMR," Miller said. "Too close to Charlie M. Russell in Great Falls."

Two other former general managers, Monty Wallis and John Hurley, also came to the station on Thursday and talked about the TV beginnings.

"I do remember the station actually going on the air," Waillis said. 'I remember the National Anthem that was played every night when they signed off."

"When this station went on the air in November of '53, I was living in Minot and my dad had just signed on at KXMC (TV)," Hurley said.

"Television is a unique vehicle," Wallis said. "It brings sight, sound and emotion. It brings people together."

Hurley,who led the station after Wallis agrees and in 2013, he wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of KTVQ as it went into digital and high definition.

"I thought it was pretty important to celebrate, especially all the people," Hurley said.

"The overall philosophy of the station to serve the community is still here," Wallis said. "And that's really the important thing."

"People work to somehow get it done and put it on the air right now when it matters," said Hurley.

"The impact from day one was tremendous," Miller said. "It changed everybody's life."