DENVER — Any journalist hunting for a good story has to be willing to do the kind of digging that gets your hands dirty.
It's been awhile since anyone from 9NEWS has been to the warehouse where the station stores its entire 16mm film archive. These reels from the 1950s, '60s and '70s remained untouched and unseen for decades.
As 9NEWS celebrates 70 years on the air, reporter Noel Brennan volunteered for a treasure hunt through history, to pick out a few old reels of film and rediscover stories told by journalists who came before.
Some of the footage had sound, and some didn't. The context of some of it was easy to figure out, and some of it was a mystery.
Here is some of what he found.
One mile above sea level
In 1969, Colorado State University engineering students surveyed the state Capitol and discovered that the inscription on the granite stairs with the words "ONE MILE ABOVE SEA LEVEL" was in the wrong spot, according to the City of Denver.
9NEWS captured the moment when the CSU students installed a new marker on the 18th step.
The subject came up again in 2003 when a new location was established and a third badge was placed 2 feet below the original marker, on the 13th step. That's the one that's recognized as the official 5,280 seal, but the earlier versions remain.
This footage is from a old film reel labeled "1965 flood." The footage shows what appears to be the aftermath of a flood, along with a huge dog.
The South Platte River flooded in June 1965 and caused extensive damage across eastern Colorado. It was one of the worst natural disasters in metro Denver's history.
Beyond that, the context of this particular footage is somewhat unknown.
Martin Luther King Jr.
On the same reel with the "1965 flood" footage was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham, Ala.
After finding the footage, Noel Brennan asked on Twitter: "Was this during the Selma to Montgomery marches [in March 1965]? Denver Post archives show Coloradans chartered a plane to Montgomery during that time. Was that this trip?"
Fort St. Vrain Generating Station
On the same "1965 flood" reel there was a story with sound from Channel 9 reporter Stewart Jacoby reporting on the construction of a power plant in Weld County.
The Fort St. Vrain Generation Station was originally built as the state's only commercial nuclear power plant and operated from 1979 to 1989. Construction started in the late 1960s near the town of Platteville. Today, it's a natural-gas powered electricity-generating facility.
Studying air pollution
On a July 21, 1969, reel, there was a full story on an air pollution study in Adams City.
What's more interesting than this story itself is the man who reported it: Fred Dressler, who died in 2007. After working in Denver TV news, Dressler went on to work for American Television and Communication's cable system, which was later awarded the contract to provide cable for Denver. ATC was bought by Time Warner, which Dressler worked at as an executive for decades.
Dressler was the founder of E! Entertainment Network, SunSports Network in Florida, SportsNet New York and the In-Demand Network. He was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2014.
Other Channel 9 footage
And then there were a few clips with no context but were interesting enough to share:
- A helicopter crash (the footage was on a reel dated May 12, 1969)
- Men smoking next to a no-smoking sign (also on the May 12, 1969, reel)
- The arrests of young people, possibly students, in Denver (on a reel labeled "1965 flood").
- Colorado's lumber industry (on the "1965 flood" reel)
Here's more from Noel Brennan on Twitter of his adventure with photographer Tom Cole into the 9NEWS archives:
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