Mountain Zone TV is the oldest family-operated business in Alpine, and one of the oldest in the region. In 1956, broadcast television was non-existent in the Trans-Pecos mountainous area of Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Presidio counties. And, the technology for rebroadcasting television signals did not exist yet. But that would soon change.
After being discharged from the U.S. Army in 1949, Wallace Neu and his Italian-born wife Janett moved to the Alpine area. As Wallace became successful working as a vacuum salesman, he and Janett settled down and started their family. Wallace enrolled at Sul Ross College where he soon discovered his love for technology, especially broadcast television.
By 1952, Neu was self-educated in the relatively new broadcast industry and began making plans to bring television to Alpine. He began to formulate a plan using a 30-foot tower, antennae and amplifier to capture and rebroadcast the signal of an area television station (KMID channel 2 out of Midland). However, the signal was too weak. The Neu family, and the rest of Alpine, would have to wait a few more years.
In 1957, KOSA-TV launched out of Odessa at three times the power of KMID, so the dream had a chance of becoming a reality.
Investors were brought together and the application for an ultra-high frequency translator was filed with the Federal Communication Commission. When approved, Neu had the means to bring CBS into Alpine homes!
In a brief history of Mountain Zone TV, Steve Neu, the eldest son of Wallace and Janett Neu and the company’s current chief executive officer, wrote, “Friends and neighbors would come over and stare at the TV set, mesmerized by the images on the screen! The obvious question soon followed: Can we get this at our house?”
Since Alpine is surrounded by mountains, the equipment would have to be situated above the horizon. Twin Peaks, at over 6100 feet tall and with a straight 1400 foot elevation change, was determined to be the best location.
There was no road or way to drive up the mountain. Getting materials up a steep, narrow trail would require many men and there was no money for that expense. Neu would once again have to be resourceful.
Enter the Sul Ross State College football team! Neu approached the head coach and pitched his proposal: instead of intense two-a-day workouts, would the coach be interested in having his boys hike the necessary materials up to the top of Twin Peaks?
It’s one thing to engage in a strenuous and steep climb, it’s another thing to carry bags of cement and containers of water 1400 feet to the top of a mountain. Neu’s second son, Michael, described the hike this way: “So they rigged up padded harnesses, and the entire team began hauling the materials. It was hot. It was hard work. And these guys were literally frothing under the straps, like a horse might under a saddle after a hard run. It was incredible!”
Nevertheless, the equipment was erected and Alpine residents had television! Arguably the first cable television in Texas.