This is what happened when Channel 5 invited the community to an open-house July 13, 1958. Gridlock! They came by the car loads!
As you can see, the WRAL parking lot was packed. Actually we see one space available, but battling for that spot would have been quite a challenge. The “Tele-News Letter” from August 1958 states that the picture shows only a portion of the traffic nightmare. Parked cars, yes PARKED cars, stretched for almost half-a-mile along Western Boulevard. As you can see in the picture, the cars are parked on both shoulders of the roadway.
It was estimated that between 5,000 to 8,000 people strolled through the broadcast building that Sunday afternoon. Those who made it into the station were able to see NBC News anchor David Brinkley and NBC game show host Carl Cordell. Both were invited to WRAL to be on hand for the dedicatory telecast from the new building. It was a bit of a homecoming for Brinkley who was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and went to UNC-CH, as well as Vanderbilt and Emory. Chet Huntley was paired with David Brinkley on October 29, 1956 to form the hugely successful evening newscast on NBC titled “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”
As you can tell from the traffic jam, many chose not to fight the parking problem. To accommodate those who wanted to tour the station on another day, WRAL opened its doors to the production building from 2 to 5PM each Sunday, according to the Tele-News Letter. We don’t know how many Sundays that lasted.
Just for fun, can you can ID some of the makes and models of the cars in the parking lot? If so let us know!
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.