Nostalgia Corner: Exploring the best of South Lane TV channel

Hosts Rodney Miller and Jann Carl visit small towns across the country, and often end up finding great places to eat, too. PHOTO PROVIDED

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series.

A review of the early TV history of South Lane County might be helpful in following this article. 

In 1957, two businessmen built the translators on Hansen Butte, just east of Cottage Grove city limits. They were in the business of selling TV sets in their stores. It was very difficult to receive a clear signal from KVAL in Eugene due to the signal bouncing off the surrounding hills. They erected antennas to receive clear signals from KVAL and Portland. These signals were rebroadcast to the valley. This signal was called analog at the time.

A few years ago everything was changed out to digital equipment, but in the analog day the signal was confined mainly to south Creswell and CG surrounding area due to low power regulation by federal law. Each translator must be licensed by the FCC. Today, with the digital system, the signal reaches into Springfield, and occasionally Lebanon. Creswell and most of Springfield is well covered. The Federal Government issues only so many licenses to translator facilities. South Lane Television is maxed out, but unlike analog, where one signal per license may be transmitted, with digital, multiple signals may be transmitted off one license. This accounts for channel numbers such as 44.3, 44.4, etc. 

South Lane TV transmits 41 channels from Hansen Butte. This is totally free television to the viewing public. All you need is an antennae trained to Hansen Butte. Most of the areas within the city limits received fine signal strength with rabbit ears. Creswell and Springfield may need a little larger sophisticated antennae. It has been estimated that one-third of the viewing public view free tv off the translators. This is very important for low-income and those citizens on fixed incomes.

Translators throughout the United States were a very common item in the 1950s-1970s. There are many areas today who continue to have translators for over-the-air services, such as CG, Florence, Madres, Powers, etc. Citizens of West Lane and South Linn counties are very fortunate to have one of the top quality translators in the United States. The translator is paid for through rental of the towers to radio stations, police, fire, and other commercial uses. The four towers on Hansen Butte are the property of South Lane Television. The TV stations that transmit their signals through the translators pay South Lane to broadcast their signal through the valley. South Lane TV has two satellite translators, one at London Springs and one at Dorena. There are less stations broadcast from the two satellites, due to lack of license, but they are digitized. South Lane Television Board of Directors decided years ago that their goal was not to make a huge profit but to keep a rainy-day fund to keep the equipment updated and free TV for the public. The Board of Directors are all volunteer except for the attorney who serves as the business agent and negotiates contracts.

For the newcomers to Cottage Grove who may not have viewed TV without dish or cable, up until around 1978 or ’79, there were no cable systems in the area. Falcon Cable came to the rural areas about ’78. There was a franchise issue within the city of CG. Cable did not come to CG city limits until about 1980 or ’81.

I am writing about three shows that are considered magazine or travelogue human interest TV programs broadcast from Hansen Butte over South Lane Television.


“Small Town Big Deal”


The first is “Small Town Big Deal.” The best way to find this program is to turn to the TV guide on translator 47.4. The program is broadcast on Channel 5, out of Medford, Channel 43 off the satellite, Heartland, Channel 16, and other channels. The times vary.

The program premiered in 2012 with Rodney Miller as host. He was raised in Illinois. His parents were fourth-generation farmers and Rodney, still today, owns a farm in Georgia and one in Illinois. He says today that his greatest accomplishment is his devotion to the Christian faith and his love of the United States and the wheels and mechanisms that drive the economy, mainly the people who turn these wheels. These programs are free of political agendas and are filled only with Americana.  

In 2013 he was joined by Jann Carl. Many of you remember Jann Carl on Entertainment Tonight. For several years she anchored the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy marathon. Lewis chose her as co-host for several of the TV programs. Carl was raised in Missouri, graduated from the University of Missouri, married, with children, as is Rodney, also married with children.  He graduated from Rend Lake College in Illinois.

These hosts visit American farms and industries, talk with the owners and the workers, and truly get a handle and a feeling of the good and the positive in the United States.

On a recent visit to the Tabasco headquarters and factories, they visited the field where the peppers are grown, followed to the wash area, the chopping, adding ingredients to the vat, and the amazing thing was the warehouse was full of oak barrels that this solution is stored in for three years!

It will ferment through two hot summers in the warehouse in oak kegs. At the end of 3 years it is pressed, strained, bottled and sold worldwide. Thousands of bottles per day are shipped.

Jann and Rodney visit one or two factories, industries and festivals per program. They have well over 100 programs in the can that are being broadcast. The ones filmed this year are now running, but the older ones pop up occasionally. They are very well-scripted, and production and camera work are excellent. The two hosts work very well together. The last one I saw, they visited Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas. They did the story on the 12 Cadillacs buried nose down as a tourist attraction. A million people a year stop, and many spray-paint their names. In some cases the paint is now an inch thick. In the heat and wind, chips fall off, and the chips are made into jewelry – ring settings, necklaces. They also visited the Volkswagen graveyard, where they are buried, nose down, as a tourist attraction.

The two highlights of the episode were visiting and interviewing people at ghost towns along Route 66. They became ghost towns when the freeway went through a few miles away.

The last visit was with the proprietor of the Big Texas Steakhouse. They advertise a 72-ounce steak, free, if you can eat the entire meal in an hour. A 72-ounce steak is 4 ½ pounds. The show ended with each of them with a 72-ounce steak in front of them, and a big take-home box! The record is held by a woman, who in one sitting, ate two full steaks and challenged the restaurant that if she could eat a third one, in a third hour, they would put up $5,000. The Steakhouse manager, in the interview, made the statement: “We lost $5,000 that night!”  

Another show I was very impressed with – a few weeks ago they visited the Hunton Farm, a wheat and grain ranch southwest of Junction City. This ranch has 2,700 acres, owned and leased by the third generation of the Hunton family. Multiple grains are grown – red wheat, winter wheat, soft and hard wheat, plus other grains. There is an old grist mill with two stone wheels on the property grinding flour the way our forefathers ground grains into flour. The modern method – a rolling mill – separates parts of the grain out, such as wheat germ. The antique flour mill is one of the very few left in the west.

The flour is sold throughout the west under the name Camas Country Flour.

In this program, they also gave the story of the Alvadore 100-plus-year-old one-room school. Mrs. Heaton is a retired school teacher, and when the Alvadore school was abandoned, and deteriorated, she bought the building and had it moved next to the bakery. The building is completely restored, as original, even moving many of the foundation rocks to the new location. The unique thing – the interior walls have signatures of students from the 1920s and 1930s, written on the inside of cloakrooms, etc.

In the program they interviewed one or two very senior citizens who had their signatures written on the wall of their one-room country school. 

Another program of interest was a visit to Phoenix, Ariz., and the Cactus League. This is where the professional baseball teams throughout the U.S. go for spring practice. I believe there are 7 ballparks in the Phoenix area. They are well-attended, and each has its own mascot food item, such as chili dogs, and a unique Apache Indian fried bread sandwich. In 2019, there were 15 professional baseball teams in spring training in Phoenix. Very interesting and educational.  And well worth the investment in TV viewing time.

One other visit I would like to mention: Jann and Rodney visited the gravel cycling event in Kansas. As the name implies, bicycle races are confined to graveled back roads. Your choice of 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, or 300 miles. The last ride had over 3,000 riders. A big event for the tourist trade in Kansas. And as the story unfolds, many flat tires!

This is, in my view, a highly recommended view of America in a positive light. It is professionally done. The script is written by Jann and Rodney – they of course decide what they are going to cover, such as lighthouses, pie-eating contests, and the like. These are the folks next door.   They participate, riding the bobsled, eating the steak, etc.


Part II, next week: A look at the show, “California Gold.”



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