AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- In our 70 years on the air, WJBF-TV has proudly brought you the most up-to-date coverage in local news and weather.
But, news isn’t the only thing we do. Dozens of local television shows have aired on WJBF over the years.
Shows like the famous “Trooper Terry,” “Very Vera,” and “Parade of Quartets” have all called WJBF home.
In the third of 4 segments of Hometown History honoring our 7 decades, I take a look at some of our TV Programs.
Since 1953, WJBF NewsChannel 6 has produced and aired some of the most popular local TV shows in the CSRA. Some shows were for children, some were spiritual and others were just plain entertainment.
In the early days of our station, the stars of these shows were major local celebrities.
From 1957 to 1973, “Top 10 Dance Party” aired on Saturday afternoons.
For 16 years, teenagers would tune in to learn about the latest dance moves and watch a dance contest.
One of the most well known hosts of the show was Georgia Cunningham. She was a dancer on the show and was named best dancer of the year. In 1963 she became a host at just 19-years-old and hosted until the show ended 10 years later.
Georgia was a part of the “Top 10 Dance Party” reunion show in 2003.
Sadly, her family and the WJBF family lost her on September 14, 2023, when Georgia passed away at home.
In 1954, a new variety show began airing on WJBF called “Today in Dixie.” It starred Jack Weidemann and the legendary, Flo Carter.
They sang and danced and performed skits for an hour every weekday starting at noon.
Flo said she was discovered while working at a diner called “Snappy’s” after her husband was laid off from his job.
One day, two local TV personalities, Jim Armistad and Lou Stratton, came in for lunch and she said, the rest is history.
“And Jim Armistad asked me that day, he said, ‘What do you do?’ And I said, ‘I sing.’ And he said, ‘Well, why don’t you come over to Channel 6.’ He said, ‘I have a show called ‘Talent Parade’ and I’d like for you to sing on there.”’ said Flo. “So when I went over there and sang on his program, Jack Weidemann, who was a producer of ‘Today in Dixie’ on Channel 6, called Jim and asked him to send me over there.”
Flo said she made about $25 a week on the show. Today that would be around $285. Not much for a weeks worth of work.
Flo explained that “Today in Dixie” was huge during its day.
“And it was shown every day on television sets around town. Things in Augusta, Georgia shut down at 12:00 (p.m.), because they were going to go out and watch the TV set. If you didn’t have one, you’d go and watch it in the store front window.”
Performing wasn’t the only thing Flo did on “Today in Dixie.”
“I was the cook on a Friday. I was sponsored by Lombard’s Mill and I cooked the fish and all the trimmings that went with it for the show. And the camera crew would all be standing out in front, waiting until I got through and we had a wonderful time on Friday,” she laughed.
Flo told me that eventually, Jack became very busy and she began looking for a new singing partner.
A young Jim Nabors, best known for his role as Gomer Pyle on the “Andy Griffith Show,” came in to audition. He got the job and was there for about a year and a half before moving on to Hollywood.
“Oh, he was a dream. I loved Jim. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do,” smiled Flo.
One of Flo’s favorite comedy skits involved Nabors.
“We were going to have a jungle and he was going to be my suitor. But I had left him and my name was Chloe. So, I was crawling across the stage and Jim was standing there with a pair of overalls and our jungle was one tree. We couldn’t afford anything. We had one tree,” she laughed. “And so, when I crawled over to Jimmy Nabors and he was singing ‘Chloe’ like that. And when he did that last note, I pulled his pants down and the overalls came down on the floor and I can’t remember what his shorts looked like. But I’ll tell you what. We went off the air real quick right then.”
Flo said the hosts were big local celebrities and even WJBF’s founder, J.B. Fuqua, and his wife, Dorothy, were fans.
“That was a plus for me. So, I think I told you that Dorothy sent fan letters to Jack about the show. It was sweet. It was so sweet. We felt like really special people, Kim.”
Flo left “Today in Dixie” to have a baby, but that wasn’t the end of her time at WJBF. She hosted a long running gospel show featuring her family band, “Sounds of Joy.” They were also long time guests on Parade of Quartets.
She went on to have a rich career as a singer, despite a medical condition that caused her to lose her voice for nine years.
She is a Georgia Music Hall of Fame-er and toured with “Sounds of Joy,” eventually making a music video.
WJBF had several programs for kids in those early days.
“Bwana John” was one. It aired every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and followed a jungle explorer. It was hosted by John Radeck, who started at the station as a salesman and later became General Manager and President at WJBF.
Perhaps the most famous local kids show was “Trooper Terry,” which ran from 1962 to 1982. It was hosted by beloved personality, Terry Sams.
The show had a live studio audience full of children. Over 20 years, more than 100,000 children appeared on “Trooper Terry.” Julie Bush was one of them.
“On Saturdays, you would get up and that would be one of the shows that you watched. He’d come on and interview people and show cartoons. And we’d watch it every Saturday. That’s what you’d do on Saturday morning,” explained Bush.
Children would sometimes have their birthday parties on “Trooper Terry.” Bush attended several of them and was on the show about 6 times. One of the things she remembers most are the contests.
“Every time I went, I won. Because I’m full of hot air,” Bush laughed. “It was a bubble gum blowing contest and he gave out ‘Bazooka Joe.’ And if you remember ‘Bazooka Joe,’ it was a little square of gum that was hard. And you had to break it down and be the first one to blow a bubble. And if you did, you won a loaf of Colonial bread.”
Bush didn’t have any “Bazooka Joe,” but she came prepared with a pack of “Hubba Bubba” and challenged me to a contest. It might have been her first loss, because I am also full of hot air.
Terry Sams held many other positions at WJBF including weather man, Vice President and General Manager. At one time, he was part owner of the station.
Evening anchor, Jennie Montgomery has fond memories of Terry.
“Terry had the most booming voice. And whenever Terry was in the building, if I turned down a hallway it would be like ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Jennie Montgomery,” she laughed.
Jennie told me Terry was “Trooper Terry’ to everyone, some people even flagging him down if law enforcement was actually needed. But, she said he loved it.
“Terry loved television. Terry loved his community. And he loved that, even as he was retired, people still referred to him as Trooper Terry.”
In 2013, Terry hosted a “Trooper Terry” reunion special and everyone in the audience was on his show as a child.
Terry Sams died in April of 2014.
Bush explained that his daughter married a college friend of hers and it made her look at him in a new light.
“It’s just neat to feel the connection and realize he was just a normal man, you know,” she said with tears in her eyes. “He was a star to us, because we knew him as Trooper Terry, but here was this young lady who had a dad who was this superstar to all of her friends.”
She said Trooper Terry was a hero to hundreds of thousands of kids who grew up watching him.
“Thank you so much for just giving us an opportunity to feel important, to be on TV. Because TV was still so new and it was just so much fun.”
For nearly 40 years, WJBF produced and aired a bluegrass gospel program with The Lewis Family from Lincolnton. Known as the “First Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music,” the Lewis’s appeared weekly and were picked up in syndication in other markets.
The Lewis Family eventually had to leave the show because their popularity grew and they toured all over the country, playing at famous venues like “Lincoln Center” and the “Grand Ole’ Opry.”
They continued to film Christmas specials for WJBF for a long time.
They are members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.
WJBF has the distinction of airing the longest continuously running gospel show in the United States, “Parade of Quartets.”
It was originally a radio show on WGAC. The show moved to WJBF and first aired on TV in 1954, hosted by Steve Manderson.
It aired for two and a half hours every Sunday morning, featuring African-American gospel groups.
Reverend Karlton Howard is the show’s current host and executive producer. He explained that, at the time, it was very commercial.
“The groups, when they came on, they had to have a sponsor. And that sponsor, they would advertise the sponsor verbally and with mentions,” he said.
When “Parade of Quartets” began airing, it was the height of the Jim Crow Era. Having a show on air, geared towards African-Americans in the south, at that time could have spelled doom for WJBF.
Karlton said as far as he knows there was very little backlash. He had the chance to ask our founder, J.B. Fuqua, about it and was surprised by his answer.
“Daddy told me don’t ask the question, but I said ‘I’m here. I need to know.’ And I asked him point blank. I said ‘In 1953, why would you put a black program on television in that era?'” Karlton said. “His exact words? ‘Because it was the right thing to do.'”
Howard told me that when Manderson retired, his father, Henry Howard, took over the hosting gig. Henry was a regular on the show as lead singer of “The Spirits of Harmony.”
“It was almost shocking for him as it was for me. He had like a two week notice. If we wanted the program to go on, somebody had to host. And they asked him to do it.”
“Parade of Quartets” changed quite a bit under Henry’s leadership.
“Back then it was more entertainment than ministry. My father, being a deacon and all of that stuff at church, he wanted it to be more ministry oriented,” Karlton explained.
Karlton’s beginnings as host of the show are almost comical. He had no interest in being a part of the show, until one day when he was given very little choice.
Henry’s mother died and he was trying to take care of funeral arrangements. He was able to find a guest host- but it didn’t go as planned.
“But about 11:00 Saturday night, my dad called me and said ‘Look, this guy said he can’t do it. You got to go on television. I had been in the television station one time in my life.”
Karlton said that even though his dad wasn’t in the station that day, he still controlled the show from home.
“He was on the telephone with Steve Brown for the whole two hours, telling me to stop rocking, do you have another shirt? That shirt looks like it has a wrinkle in it,” laughed Karlton.
Karlton ultimately stayed and co-hosted the show with Henry until his retirement. He continues to host it today.
The show has had several co-hosts, like Robert “Flash” Gordon and Betty Griffin.
Famous musicians and political leaders, like the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, were guests on “Parade of Quartets.”
Karlton laughs when he remembers how James Brown came on the show.
“There was one morning that we were getting ready and we normally have everything written out, how everything is going to be planned, or what’s going to happen that morning. All of a sudden, a bus was outside in the parking lot. It was James Brown. And he came in prepared, wanting to sing and perform,” Karlton said.
“When somebody came to you and said ‘James Brown is here and he wants to perform this morning,’ what was your reaction?” I asked.
“‘Daddy, you got a guest. I’m going to the break room,” Karlton laughed.
Flo Carter and her family band, “Sounds of Joy,” were monthly guests on “Parade of Quartets” for decades. She said it has been an honor to be a part of the show for so long.
“Parade of Quartets” has been a big part of the CSRA community for nearly 70 years and Flo thinks there is a reason for that.
“But I watch it every Sunday night. That’s why. It’s just…it’s real. The people are real. You know, you will watch a show where the people are real.”
Though most of these shows are nothing more than a memory, WJBF continues with its commitment to quality local television.
One of our current shows is “The Means Report.”
It started when Bob Young was an anchor at WJBF, as “The Young Report.” When Brad Means took over Bob’s seat in 1998, he also took over hosting the show.
“It was ‘The Young Report,’ as you mentioned when we began. Then it became ‘The Augusta Report’ after they hired me,” Brad recalled. “And finally, I went to our programming director, Georgia Broadcasting Hall of Fame member, Mary Jones, and said ‘Mary, could we call this ‘The Means Report’ at this point, instead of ‘The Augusta Report’?’ And she said yes.”
Brad told me that on ‘The Means Report,’ he is able to take a deeper dive into the big topics than there is time for on a newscast.
“We’ve always tried to focus on issues and people that shape our community. So Kim, if something is in the headlines, if it’s our top story at 6:00 (p.m.,) chances are, you’ll find out more about it on ‘The Means Report.'”
Brad dreamed of being a journalist since childhood, where he and his brother acted out newscasts for their neighborhood.
A graduate of the University of Alabama, he said that some of the stories he covered before he came to WJBF in 1998 shaped him.
One of them gained national attention, which Brad said was a bit overwhelming for a new journalist.
“Probably the most impactful story I ever did, was when I got called into work one Friday morning many years ago. I was working in Florence, South Carolina. At the time, my news director sent me up the road because a man’s body had been found and the body had been cremated and there was going to be some controversy,” Brad explained. “And so I went, and was the first person to meet with the coroner who oversaw the cremation. And it turns out that the body was that of Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan.”
Brad takes his responsibility to the community, as both an anchor and host of “The Means Report,” very seriously.
“No ‘Means Report’ is ever the same as the ones before and that opportunity to, kind of, hit the reset button every week, keeps me going. Because, I think, as people we always want to learn and grow, right? My guests on ‘The Means Report’ will allow me to do that. I feel like I’m better informed and know more about our community.”
Another popular show we air is “Jennie” hosted by evening anchor, Jennie Montgomery.
Jennie started at WJBF in 1995 as a video editor. Before long, she worked her way to a “fill in” anchor before taking the seat next to Bob Young in 1997.
7 years ago, leadership at WJBF decided it was time to start a new show.
“The idea was, a show focusing on women’s issues, family. It’s expanded. It’s a lot more than that now,” said Jennie.
Like Brad, Jennie feels her show allows her to really dig into more of the story and get to know the community better.
Over the years “Jennie” has featured artists, designers, and women’s health professionals, among many. I asked her who her dream guest is and she replied, “I’ve already had him.”
“Gino Vannelli. I had Gino Vannelli here in the studio.”
“So were you star struck? Did you freak out?” I asked, stunned.
“Well, I mean, since I was 15-years-old, Gino Vannelli has been my favorite singer ever, and my favorite musician. So, to actually have Gino here, yeah it was just…it was tremendous,” Jennie said.
Most journalists have a type of story they really enjoy writing about. Jennie is no different.
“I love my stories that I’ve done with astronauts. There was a time that there was a NASA collaboration with Fort Discovery, when it was down on the river, when we had the Fort Discovery Science Center. And I had an opportunity to interview Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic,” she said.
Jennie told me she feels like being a journalist is what she was put on earth to do, but in another life she may have been an English teacher.
“I really like writing. And I really like grammar. And I like helping people with grammar.”
Jennie hopes to continue her show for a long time and has some ideas for how it can evolve into something even better.
“If I could do anything with it, I would like to have a studio audience. I wish it could be a live show or at least taped with a studio audience. I would like to have questions. I would like to have people who want to ask questions too,” said Jennie.
We can’t forget about our other programs, like “The Dish” and “Local Living” hosted by Ana Christina, our newest show, “Your Hometown Road Trip” hosted by Brandon Dawson and of course the cooking show, “Very Vera, which is syndicated in 25 markets.
With a history like this, you can be sure WJBF will continue to produce quality local television shows for a long time to come.
That’s just part of your, and our, Hometown History.
Photojournalist: Will Baker.