History of WCBD News 2

About WCBD-TV — NBC 2 – Charleston, South Carolina

WCBD originally signed onto the airwaves in 1954 as WUSN-TV in what was then a very remote portion of Mount Pleasant. (See the Legend of Susie Q further down for a step back in time.)

In 1983, WCBD went from producing one hour of local news to producing three and one-half hours of news weekdays. WCBD became an NBC affiliate in 1996.

WCBD celebrated it 50th Anniversary in 2004.

WCBD’s call letters stand for C=Charleston, B=Berkeley, D=Dorchester — the three main counties it serves.

The news operation uses the latest technology to gather information from throughout the Lowcountry and the region. The main studio is located in a totally digital facility with office, technical, and studio space in Mount Pleasant (just at the foot of the Arthur T. Ravenel Jr. Bridge). In addition to our main facility, News 2 also operates a news bureau located in Columbia. Our main tower facility is located in Awendaw which services viewers in Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Williamsburg counties.

News 2 is equipped with two microwave live trucks, a mobile satellite truck, several portable microwave live units, and a fleet of news vehicles. Our news department has access to more than 50 remote cameras located throughout the Lowcountry via the South Carolina Department of Transportation Traffic Cameras as well as our very own Sky View 2 (tower cam) overlooking the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the Charleston Harbor.

The Legend of Susie Q

It’s one of the great head-scratchers in local television history. An elephant as a station mascot. Channel 2 not only had one, but she lived right here on the station grounds. Her name was Susie Q. But as News 2’s Brad Franko explains, once upon a time, Susie Q was the target of a classic college prank that goes down in Citadel legend.

Back in the mid 50’s when we were WUSN-TV, to say that Channel 2 was different, is putting it mildly. In fact, a former news anchor once said “you didn’t have to be crazy to work at WUSN, but it helped”, the words of the late Ed Webb, our first anchor here at the station. Now, I myself have been here for a few years and have heard some stories. But I came across some old anecdotes that Webb wrote in TV Guide. In them, Webb describes WUSN as a zoo and he had a point.

Among the every day, dogs, cats and exotic birds, a donkey, kangaroo, and an alligator patrolled the grounds. But stories about them seem to slip through cracks, because of the indelible memories of Susie Q. The beloved elephant came to the station for one simple reason: the station manager thought it would be a good idea to have an elephant, so he bought one. Susie Q provided years of enjoyment for people in the Lowcountry. Parents would bring their children to the station to ride on Susie’s back.

Susie Q was about to become part of Citadel History. In the center of it was two Citadel cadets at the time…

Bobby Schwarze, Citadel class of 1959, was inducted into the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Schwarze was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but opted for marriage and the US Marine Corps.

Jim “Wheatie” Jeffrey, Citadel class of 1959′ was a member of the Citadel tennis team and was a South Carolina State Doubles Champion (1958 & ’59). He was the team’s co-captain and MVP in 1959′. After college Jeffrey went on to be the Vice President of the Allstate Insurance Company.

Great friends in college, but their paths went separate ways. However, as it seems for most people that spend any amount of time here. All roads lead back to Charleston, but the real funny story, which brings us back to Susie Q, took place 42 years ago, in the fall of 1958.

“We were trying to think of something that we could do to get the corps fired up for the VMI game.” – Bobby Schwarze

They needed to because the Citadel Bulldogs football team was struggling through a 2-4 season. Plus the Keydets were riding a 17-game winning streak.

“What I remember is VMI had come down a year before and stole General Mark Clark’s jeep and took it back to VMI and painted it red and yellow.” – Jim Jeffrey

So in an effort to get the corps stirred up, and thereby creating a rowdy atmosphere come game day, the three stars of our story come together…

“We were trying to think of something we could do to get the corps fired up for the VMI (Virginia Military Institute) game.” – Bobby Schwarze

“And Susie Q popped into our minds as the most ridiculous thing that we could do” – Jim Jeffrey

On November 13, 1958, Susie Q, was minding her own business. Just hanging out like all good mascots do, totally unaware of what was about to happen.

“We proceeded to go to the pen that was out front of the station, and it was unlocked, and that was unusual.” – Jim Jeffrey

The duo proceeded to load Susie Q on to the trailer that was already there and hook her to the back end of a 1950 Ford Car.

“I guess the thing that made me most weary was the way the car sat with the trailer on it… I knew we would have to drive across the grace with the car at this angle.” – Jim Jeffrey

Oh yeah, he’s talking about the Grace Memorial Bridge; the one we affectionately call the “Old Cooper River Bridge”. And remember now, in 1958, this thing accommodated two-way traffic. So picture it, a car with a trailer on the backhauling an elephant.

“The fear of God took over, if the wheels of that car were touching, then it was just barely… And this trailer was going back and forth… And we said, oh my god what have we done.” – Bobby Schwarze

Having dodged that bullet, they had one more hurdle to jump. Not having any special permission to be off-campus, they had to get back on without being seen.

“I still remember the night watchmen as we came in the front gate, the trailer was open and you could see Susie Q… He took one look at us and he hopped on his bicycle and he was peddling faster than I’ve seen him pedal in all my life.” – Bobby Schwarze

News 2 asked if he was to stop you, what would have happened?

“He wasn’t going to stop us, that was never a question… That was the plan to keep going.” – Jim Jeffrey

They did it, safely making it to the barracks. Susie Q was chained up outside to await her trip to the football game on Saturday afternoon; where she made her first public appearance since the incident. Avoiding punishment, the two look back on the events of 46 years ago with a certain amount of pride.

“It was kind of gutsy to do that your senior year… Because a lot could have gone down the drain on that dark night.” – Jim Jeffrey

“I think it accomplished exactly what we wanted to accomplish. Everybody was excited, and to make a long story short… We beat VMI.” – Bobby Schwarze

In a bizarre coincidence, the two are now neighbors, living on the Isle of Palms. Attention all IOP residents; lock up your elephants, something tells me they’re up to no good.

“We sure as hell aren’t going to tell you what we have planned for Channel 2!! We’ll try to get your next 50 started off right.” – Bobby Schwarze

Now in case you were wondering; the management of Channel 2 were good sports and once they found out Susie Q wasn’t in jeopardy, they allowed her to stay on campus until the game was over.