HOUSTON -- KHOU-TV has stood at the corner of Stanford and Allen Parkway just west of downtown Houston since the 1960s. But, the station actually got its start in Galveston in 1953 at the corner of 45th Street and Avenue P ½, an intersection originally marked by a wrought iron weather vane known as 45th and “Video Lane.”
"It was something new, the novelty of it all, how it was working,” said Frank Incaprera, 88, who was hired fresh out of the Army as a 28-year-old film editor when KGUL first went on the air.
The station eventually changed its call letters from KGUL to KHOU and moved to Houston.
Incaprera, like a lot of TV employees of his era, knew little about the job he was hired to do. He learned film editing on the job and eventually got to host his own show, “Teen Hideaway,” which became Galveston’s version of “American Bandstand.”
"Mostly everybody had the 10 top songs. We had 11 because this was Channel 11. The top 11 songs on Channel 11,” said Incaprera.
As Incaprera took us down memory lane that “Video Lane” sign, albeit a little bit rusty, is still standing at the corner of 45th and Avenue P ½. In fact, the original KHOU/KGUL building is still there too.
Originally designed to house Galveston’s first TV station, it’s now the Video Lane Professional Building and home to a dentist office, a chiropractor, a driving school and a barber shop: Louis’ Hair Studio.
Just a few feet away from KGUL/KHOU’s original front door, Louis Gonzalez now works inside the building he once toured as a star struck 10-year-old kid.
"A lot of people don't remember that but I do,” said Gonzales who has been working in the building for the last 10 years. "The fact is that you're just part of it. You don't want to leave. It's just part of your roots.”
Gonzales remembers the station’s original performers like “Utah” Carl Beach, a singing cowboy who became the station’s first live performer and a fixture with his own show for 14 years.
And Taft Broadcasting, the original owner of the station, had a megastar investor: Hollywood star Jimmy Stewart was a part-owner who traveled to Galveston from California for the grand opening.
Hank Williamson, who was hired as the original program director in 1953, was sent to the train station in Houston to pick up Stewart when he arrived.
"And he says, ‘Gosh, it sure is flat here,’” Williamson said imitating Stewart’s infamous drawl and stutter in a 2011 interview with DLJ Studios.
“It was just exciting to be in a grassroots brand new television station,” said Williamson who talked his way into a job at KGUL/KHOU the same day he drove by the station and stopped when he saw its grand opening sign.
"And I said, ‘Hold it. Stop the car,’” while on a trip through Galveston with his aunt and uncle. “We should go in and see what this new TV station is!"
That 2011 interview with Williamson was recorded in the same studio where he once worked 60 years ago. The original broadcast production studio of KGUL/KHOU is still intact at the southwest corner of the building and is now home to DLJ Studios, a modern video production facility. And DLJ Studios employee Anita Donatto says they sometimes joke about the ghost of Jimmy Stewart possibly still wandering the halls.
"If you do believe in that this place is probably roaming with ghosts,” said Donatto. "Every now and then you might just think you saw someone pass by, not really seeing any entity, but like something just moved here,” she said with a laugh.
When KHOU packed up and moved to Houston, Frank Incaprera stayed behind. He wanted to stay in Galveston. His four-year TV career was over. The Army-trained engineer and musician still plays occasional trumpet sessions at the San Luis Hotel and is the general manager of Galveston County Navigation District No. 1. Even being three-months shy of this 89th birthday, his TV memories are still vivid.
“For me it was fun. I enjoyed it because it was television,” said Incaprera.
Television born in Galveston at the corner of 45th and Video Lane is still going strong 60 years later.