Although it has crossed my mind before I never had really allowed the fact to come through to me. Being in the early stage of the Baby Boomers I was one of the first to experience it. I was there when a plateau of technology hit a new high. Yes I was one of the first to have grown up by the light of the televisions’ screen!
Yep! I was there when the television became a permanent fixture in America’s living rooms. With the television I learned and saw almost all of what was happening in our world. The truth be told I was in front of the T V about as much as one could be. From when the stations began programming at six am until it went off the airwaves at one am.Yes American television had a period of time when it couldn’t be viewed. (Really?) All that could be seen was a test pattern featuring an Indian chief with a large headdress as the only sight on the screen.
I find it interesting in that in those days when it was in its infancy there were only three major channels on black and white screens and even then on a limited time in a day. During this time I feel I saw more television and in more variety than I see today when there is about a thousand channels and even though they are showing the programs in high definition I am seeing much less. Somewhere in this one will hear the word progress.
During the daytime the stations were limited to the local outlets. From there I saw Paul Dixon and Ruth Lyons. Both were shows that were aimed at the attention of the housewives but I saw some interest. In the midday there were Soap Operas. This was the time of the day when the television got some rest as I went outside to play. But after the evening news what was referred to as prime time began and there was no way I was going to miss this time. There were sitcoms, westerns, variety shows, and mysteries along with programs that fit in between the topics.
Just think. I would sit down to the T V along with my parents and sister and brother and we might watch an evening of Red Skelton, Cheyenne, Broken Arrow and The Andy Williams Variety Show. There was comedy, drama, adventure and entertainment. All in one evening and almost every night we got to watch it with a glass of Pepsi and a handful of potato chips or popcorn. I ask all of you. Just where would an evening as much fun be found for the price of nearly nothing and with your family at your side. In those days I had become hooked on the idiot box as some had called it. I found that statement a pure insult. Why even the chairman of the Federal Communications Commissions Newton M. Minow who was a powerful man for his time had called the Television ‘The Vast Wasteland” had attacked the new media and tried very hard to remove its popularity but to no avail. The world liked viewing it so much from their living room. I know I did.
I learned that Lucille Ball was the funniest woman on this planet and made sure I watched her every Monday evening. I learned that ‘Father really did know best as we saw in every episode. Ozzie and Harriet had the coolest kid in Rickey Nelson. The Maverick brothers were the slickest gamblers the west ever saw. Above all Red Skelton was and still is the funniest man to ever walk this world. But come Saturday evening at eight o’clock my dad would walk to the television and turn the channel to 12 so we could watch Perry Mason. All week he never acted as if it really mattered but when it came to this show there just was no questioning his decision. The show was a mystery and a who done it. Only at the end of a show did you find out who really did commit murder. Before that happened we all got to decide just who we thought did do it. Dad almost always picked the guilty culprit.
You know even though the television was in black and white and maybe the sets weren’t so real and the special effects weren’t so special we hung on every word and scene as the show would play out. Even as corny as 77 Sunset Strip seemed to us we hung on every syllable of the show. I mean Cookie was a cool dude who was loved by the girls and idolized by the guys.
You know even though I have a thousand channels to look through I really don’t watch near what I did when there was only three. The more I think about it the more I realize I was there when it began. We had moved from radio where we heard Ozzie and Harriet or Burns and Allen to actually seeing them every week. To add that extra dimension our world became nearer to us and we really did know the characters for who they were really were.
I remember that I got to see the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. Also got to stay up and watch the University of Cincinnati play and win the national basketball championships in 1960 and 1961. Now these days’ events like these would be shown on several channels and the population would not only expect to see them but demand to see them. But the events I speak of were a new event that America had never before seen and was more of a special event for us to see.
Yes technology has advanced to where all I have boasted about can now be seen on an iPad.
But think just how far we had come to see the world we lived in when never before had this been achieved. Yes Matt Dillon arrested every bad man he ever confronted and yes Perry Mason never lost a trial case. Television was in its infancy and as it was growing so were its viewers. We weren’t calloused back then we were actually and factually entertained.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.