On September 15, 1955, Bend TV Cable flipped the switch and lit up the first TV cable system in Bend.
The first iteration of BendBroadband, called Bend TV Cable, was headquartered where you now find the Drake Park parking area, just left of Bend Burger company. The large rock & concrete light post could almost be called the marker for this historic site. The actual address was 734 NW Franklin.
Bend TV Cable started preparing for the big event during the summer of 1955 and the inauguration of Bend’s first cable TV system coincided with the annual Fall Show. Bend T.V. Cable was the brain-child of the local Piggly-Wiggly grocer, Fred Hartman and the investor group consisted of former Chief of Police Everett Rambo; the owner of East Lake Resort, George McCormick; dentist George Blinn; auto electrician A.E. “Gus” Schumann; local business man Lloyd Robideaux; and Dr. J.C. Vandevert.
The company’s first office manager, Vi Douglass, remembers the cost of hooking up cable to your home: A $145 installation fee and a monthly charge of $3.69. The first channel lineup consisted of KOIN-TV (CBS), KLOR-TV (ABC) and KVAL-TV (NBC). Bend T.V. Cable’s president, Fred Hartman, made the following remark to Bend Bulletin after the switch was thrown: “The three channels available here will provide the finest in television.”
With a population of approximately 12,000, Bend was considered a small rural town in the mid-Fifties. Few were fortunate enough to catch the wayward TV signals that came over the Cascades from Eugene and Portland. Fred Hartman was confident that he could find a place to place an antenna large enough to pull down the faint TV signals.
Thanks to the hard work of local TV repairman, Don Ries of Ries Radio and Fred Hartman, the company finally managed to find a suitable place. The heart of the new cable TV system was a 70-foot community antenna erected on the Larry Keown’s property close to Deschutes Market Road. From there, co-ax cables were run into Bend and spread throughout town.
Within the first weeks of the official launch, Bend TV Cable had signed up more than 1,000 customers. Even Bend’s City Commissioner, Walter T. Thompson, came out to vouch for the new cable TV company when people complained that they had to wait too long to get cable access: The local T-V [sic] group is “doing a very fine job.”
Throughout the last 58 years, the local cable TV company has seen its fair share of changes. The company introduced Internet to its lineup in 1999 and phone followed in 2006.
Happy Birthday, BendBroadband! We wish you all the best in the future.