MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The recently re-discovered production bus used extensively by WSFA-TV in the 1950s and 1960s is older than we previously believed. After additional research and discovery of the vehicle's plate numbers, what we thought was a 1952 Flxible 30 passenger bus is actually a 1947 model, 29 passenger bus.
The Flxible Bus Company (pronounced like"flexible" but without the "e") was based in Loudonville, Ohio and built passenger buses until the late 1980s or 1990s.
The owners of WSFA-TV at the time, the Oklahoma Publishing Company, sent the bus to Montgomery, Ala. to bolster remote news and production capabilities with one of the few "remote studios" in existence at the time.
Only a handful of stations had these Flxible units, including WFAA-TV 8 in Dallas, Texas and WLW-AM Radio in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The location or existence of WLW's bus is unknown, however, WFAA's unit, called the Telecruiser, was recently discovered at a junkyard in Dallas. Under its own power, it was loaded onto a flatbed and whisked away for restoration.
WFAA's bus can also be seen for a short time in THIS RARE COLOR VIDEO CLIP (approximately 20 seconds in) showing it in use at Love Field on November 22, 1963. It was there to capture President Kennedy's arrival in the city. He was assassinated less than an hour later.
Much like those stations, WSFA had engineers to "homebuild" these buses into TV trucks.
The bus carried 3 black and white RCA cameras with 1300' of camera cable and a video switcher. There was also 1000' of audio cable with audio board and various supplies to support live productions.
The live signal would transmit from a large microwave dish engineers would attach to the roof of the bus, and through various relays make it back to the "Cloverland facility", WSFA's studios at 12 East Delano Ave.
The bus also supported WSFA-AM 1440 when needed for radio remotes, though the AM station was sold in the late 50's and never saw much action from the bus.
The bus televised hundreds of events in her life. Portions of the South Alabama state fair, various civic events, baseball, talk shows, beauty pageants, events at Maxwell AFB, church services and for many years produced the BlueGray Allstar Football Classic at Cramton Bowl for carriage around the Southern U.S.
She even served to televise some of the first NASA launches in the 1960's since so few remote trucks were around then.
She worked up until the mid 1970's when age and technology caught up to her. Videotape and color electronic news gathering cameras phased out her black and white cameras and technology.