Your Town Wausau: WSAW was the city’s first TV station

Your Town Wausau
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 3:57 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Since October 24, 1954, NewsChannel 7 has been on the air in central Wisconsin.

“Wausau’s first TV station. Actually one of the first five stations in the state,” said WSAW general manager Al Lancaster.

Then known as WSAU-TV, the station broadcast from the Plumer Mansion its first 16 years.

“It was a sight to behold, as it’s written in other places,” said Bob Becker, historian. “Probably the most biggest, most luxurious building in the area at the time.”

The mansion was also known as “The Castle.” In an effort to distinguish NewsChannel 7 from other stations, founder Dick Dudley had an idea.

“He had his graphics guy, Sid Kyler, actually draft a little mascot-type person, which was Sir Seven,” Lancaster said.

“Dudley and those guys thought this is great,” said Becker. “So he did some of the first caricatures of it and, and, you know, since then he probably did 100 of them.”

Lancaster added, “The only mascot in our entire Gray company. There’s not a mascot at another TV station. It’s unique.”

Today, you’ll mostly see Sir Seven on station apparel, and on the sign greeting you to the studio. WSAW has called this building on Grand Avenue home since 1971. 2003 brought the next evolution in broadcasting. The station put a digital antenna on the top of Rib Mountain allowing it to expand its horizons.

“From analog to digital, we have more streams of broadcasting,” said Lancaster. “So I can provide more channels to the public free of charge than we ever could.

WSAW has 10 channels broadcasting shows across its digital platforms. From its early beginnings in the 1950s and throughout the decades, viewers have watched the station evolve with each set and new anchors. But one thing it’s always tried to do, is be a staple in the Your Town Wausau community.

“At the heart of Dick Dudley days, was making Wausau a great community to live and do business,” Lancaster said. “And I think we’ve continued that and he’d be proud of the job we’ve done.”

“And they all told us a station in Wausau, Wisconsin just wouldn’t work,” said Dudley in an interview from 2004.

There was an effort to save the Plumer Mansion after WSAW left, but they were unable to raise the $50,000 needed to preserve it. It was torn down in April of 1972. Becker says that lead to the creation of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.