KGUN-TV has been informing and entertaining Southern Arizonans for more than 67 years.

To get a true appreciation of KGUN 9’s Absolutely Arizona legacy, you have to go back to the beginning: June 3rd of 1956, when television was still in its infancy.

For nearly 70 years, KGUN 9 has been a fixture in the Tucson community. But when the station signed on in June of 1956, the call letters were actually KDWI-TV, using the initials of owner D.W. Ingram. He built his TV studio on 6th Avenue, with a contingency plan.

“A big, big studio but in the center of the studio there’s this big H. Ever go get your oil changed, and you get raised on one of those? He was figuring that this building would ultimately have another use if television didn’t become a thing,” says former General Manager Scott Vaughan.

Within a year, Ingram sold the station, never realizing that television would ‘become a thing.’

A fan of westerns, the new owner changed the call letters to KGUN-TV on March 14, 1957. That’s also when Channel 9 became an ABC affiliate, and when the wildly popular kids show ‘Marshall KGUN’ debuted.

“It has a very small set and a little background that said ‘Marshall KGUN’s Circus’. And it had some bleachers and maybe a dozen kids would be at every show,” Vaughan tells me.

Vaughan began working at KGUN in 1961, running camera for the Marshall KGUN show. That’s also the year Bob Love moved from his role as Pepper the talking horse to playing Marshall KGUN.

“Came out in front of the camera and for about two weeks my hands shook so hard that I would have to actually physically hold them. But everything was spur of the moment. Kids never knew what I was going to do, they just loved it.” ~ “Marshall KGUN” Bob Love

Love entertained kids across Southern Arizona in his role as Marshall KGUN from 1961 until the show went off the air in 1967.

“It wasn’t a job. It was something that he enjoyed and he was really good at it. He was great with kids,” remembers Love’s daughter, Nancy Love Barrett.

And there were perks to being the daughter of Marshall KGUN in Tucson.

“Right after school we’d come home and watch dad. He’d come home and bring all the things that he’d sponsored like our Rainbow Bread and Hostess Cupcakes,” says Love Barrett.

It was also a treat for kids in the live studio audience.

“Oh my god I was so excited,” says Vicki Housley Wolf, who appeared twice on Marshall KGUN.

Like most kids in the audience, Housley Wolf was celebrating her birthday at the Marshall KGUN kiddie show in 1961.

Pat Parris: “Do you remember being in awe, or what the reaction was?” Housley Wolf: “I don’t think the studio meant that much to me. I don’t think I got that excited til I saw Marshall KGUN. Because he was like, you know, a star.”

There was one obvious downside to being in-studio, however.

“I don’t think we could see the cartoons very well,” Housley Wolf tells me. “That disappointed me. I think they had a little screen. So you’re sitting in the stands and you’re like ‘wait a minute’. Or I might have even thought the cartoons were going to be real when I got there.”

Channel 9 played cartoons on the Marshall KGUN show during the day, and movies at night for the grown-ups.

With KGUN-TV’s emphasis on local programming, another Tucson television staple was bornthanks to the imagination and theatrical ability of then-program director Jack Jacobson.

“We’ll do a chiller movie Saturday night. So I came up with the character Dr. Scar.” ~Jack Jacobson

I asked Love Barrett if she remembered watching Dr. Scar: “You know, if my parents would allow us. But usually, until we got a little older, we usually could not watch it because it was sometimes a little scary.”

Love Barrett’s father and JacobsonMarshall KGUN and Dr. Scar, as they were known to viewerseventually became fishing buddies. The pair also routinely made public appearances together for KGUN.

“The two of them together, I thought that was kind of a funny combinationthe Marshall and Dr. Scar,” says Love Barrett.

“The community really caught on to both shows, in a way that these were local celebrities,” says Vaughan.

KGUN 9 also had a late-night talk show in the 1960s called Lights Out, hosted by long-time KGUN personality Larry Schnebly. His first guest was legendary ABC Wide World of Sports host Jim McKay, in town to cover the Rodeo.

And while these local celebrities were entertaining Tucsonans, Mac Marshall was keeping them informed.

A pioneer of TV news, Marshall anchored early KGUN newscastslaying the groundwork for anchors like Guy Atchley and myselfduring the 1960s, the decade that established KGUN 9 as an “Absolutely Arizona” part of this community.