Joking comment turned reality as WALB camera lands on display in Smithsonian

WALB camera at The Smithsonian

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A piece of WALB is in one of the word’s largest museums.

A RCA model TK42 color camera is on display in the Smithsonian Museum.

But, how did this camera get all the way from the Good Life City to the nation’s capital?

We believe this camera began its service as an NBC Network camera in the US House of Representatives.

From there, it was acquired by Pearly Epley, a director of engineering from a station in Louisiana, and he brought it to Albany to broadcast services from the First Baptist Church in color.

Prior to the arrival of the camera, worship services had been broadcast in black and white. The camera served in this capacity for several years.

A viewer with the WALB camera in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
A viewer with the WALB camera in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Around 1984, it became time to replace the camera’s capture tubes. It was decided at that time that it would be cheaper to just replace the camera.

One branch of Gray Communications at that time was a distributor of broadcast television equipment.

A Hitachi camera was purchased for the First Baptist Church services and the old RCA camera was brought to WALB and placed in just outside of the station’s master control.

People would walk by and look at it, many commenting on how pre-historic it looked compared to the newer cameras that were in use at that time.

Someone — laughingly — said “it needs to be in a museum.”

That sparked a thought and Tom Sabiston, a WALB employee at the time, called the Smithsonian and began a conversation with them. The Smithsonian said they would love to have it if it was in working order.

It was of course.

The door panels and a couple of other pieces were removed and repainted like new. On the inside of one door, a large white art card with signatures of all employees that wanted to sign their names was placed.

If you could open the door, the signed card should still be in there under a piece of plexiglass.

A joking comment became a reality.

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