Island History

The first satisfactory TV reception seen on Kaua‘i occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m., Oct. 9, 1952, at Iliahi, Caleb Burns’ house in the foothills above Lihu‘e.

The first person to actually see a television program on Kaua‘i was the Burns’ cook, Satoru Tanaka.

As Tanaka put it, he “turned it on and the cowboy picture came out.”

Although Mrs. Burns commented that “snow” caused her eyestrain (due to the weak signal transmitted to Kaua‘i from KGMB in Honolulu), the Burns and their guests persisted in watching TV most of the evening.

One guest named Mr. Cherry was able to improve picture quality somewhat by lifting the TV antenna off the lawn and holding it over his head and hoped for even better reception when the antenna would be permanently located on the roof of the house or on a pole.

Another visitor, Zenith factory representative Brian Mahronic, reported that reception for all of Lihu‘e would become available in a few days as soon as KONA-TV began its broadcasting, also out of Honolulu, with 6,000 watts of power — more than 10 times the power of KGMB.

Yet an RCA television engineer advised patience.

He told The Garden Island Editor C.J. (Mike) Fern Jr. that the best advice he had to offer residents was not to buy a TV until the signal transmitted out of Honolulu really became stronger and allowed for good TV entertainment, hinting that it could be quite some time off in the future.

As it happened, television reception remained chronically snowy for most Kaua‘i viewers until 1960, when Jack Wada led the effort to set up a UHF TV station on 3,089-foot Mount Kahili above Knudsen’s Gap.

Crystal-clear cable TV would not become commonplace on Kaua‘i until the 1980s.

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