MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - If you remember WSFA 12 News' coverage in our early years of production, you'll probably remember the large bus we sent out to events like the South Alabama Fair, political events, baseball games and more.
During the 1950s and 1960s while the bus was in service, the NBC Network even borrowed the state-of-the-art unit a few times. Some of the early space shots seen around the country that were to viewers' homes by NBC were produced, edited and rolled out of the bus.
Needless to say, it was the crown-jewel of WSFA's fleet. Large letters proclaiming "WSFA-TV Remote Unit" were brandished on its side, making it impossible to miss.
It was a mobile TV station, equipped with everything needed to put a show on air. It was a pre-cursor to today's live trucks, although on a much larger scale!
The station sold the production vehicle decades ago, replacing it with newer, more efficient units as technology advanced.
What happened to the bus after the sale was unknown. It may have taken on a new life on the road, been relegated to a storage bin for junk or even found itself at the top of a scrap heap. No one ever really knew.
What we do know is that there's been a quiet search going on for years, led by long-time WSFA employee and News Operations Director Jeff Harrison. Now, his search is over.
It all happened with a phone call to the station from the couple who own the behemoth. It had been in the same hands since it was sold in the mid-1970s. It made a trip to Texas at one point and for most of the rest of its life, it sat in the same spot.
The bus, built by the now-defunct Flxible Company, was in a pasture in rural Autauga County,
Time took advantage of the once spotless vehicle. Rust took away most of the paint, and most all identification that it was once the vehicle that performed a technological feat of its day - broadcasting live events on the go - into the homes of many rural Alabamians.
The faint appearance of what appeared to be the "W" and the "S" from the station call letters could be seen in the photo, though they didn't quite line up with the letters shown on the new bus as displayed in a large, framed photo hanging in the lobby of the TV station to this day.
WSFA 12 News found the bus in August of 2011 and shared photos of it with viewers of the WSFA 12 News' Facebook. Many viewers showed a strong desire that WSFA purchase and restore the vehicle, some even offering to set up a fund to restore the bus!
WSFA 12 News and the owner of the bus spoke about the station possibly reacquiring it, with some talk about using it in area parades and for special occasions.
Unfortunately, the bus, while structurally sound, would have required significant work that was cost prohibitive. A recent check of the vehicle's status came with information that the owner has since passed away. The iconic bus was eventually cut up for scrap metal.
While WSFA 12 News was unable to save the bus, we are very appreciative of the owner and owner's family for allowing us to see it again and for their hospitality as we looked back at a piece of our history.
Thanks to all the viewers who showed interest in the bus, and thus WSFA's history. We are grateful to all those who watched us in the heydays of the old bus and who continue to watch us to this day!