In the past I have told some stories that were on the brink of unbelievable. Okay, maybe one or two fell off the brink. But I am now going to share a story that is completely true. And I really mean it this time! Are you ready? I actually lived in a time when there was no such thing as…television.
Back in the 40′s and 50′s we did not have television! Yes, it’s true! Not only did we not have a television, we didn’t even know there was something called television. This was a product still in its infancy. The only electronic device we knew and owned was called radio. In the evening that was our total entertainment. And, believe it or not, our radio entertainment was not necessarily music. No siree bob! We listened to soap operas, detective shows, sitcoms, and mysteries.
Back then we watched the radio. Yes, you heard me right. We literally watched the radio. While the dialogue was being heard over the crackling and sometimes weak broadcast signal…we stared at the radio. I know, we could have enjoyed the program just as well watching our fingernails grow, but for reasons not divulged, the best excuse being no one had an answer, we stared at where the voices were coming from. Yes, my mother would look at her knitting while listening, but us kids knew that was total stupidity and ignored her.
My parents did listen to the national and local news, and music on occasion. But our family enjoyment was Amos and Andy, Jack Benny and Rodchester, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Fibber McGee and Molly…the list went on and on. And there we were, our entire family huddled in a tight circle around this radio that was just a little smaller than a refrigerator.
I know it does seem strange a person could actually enjoy such programming without seeing the action, but we had a great substitute. Back then it was called….our imagination. Try to look at it this way.To those who have read and became totally engrossed in a good fiction novel, the more pages you turned, didn’t you picture in your mind’s eye the settings of the story, and each of the characters began taking on flesh, usually being someone you’re familiar with? Of course you did. I’ve did it countless times. It was the same watching radio. My mind’s eye was the television screen.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. “The movie wasn’t near as good as the book.” And the reason why? The film version disappointed what was imagined in your mind when you read the book.
The invention of television invaded our mind’s imagination. It really did. It now actually tries to think for us. Through canned laughter and other fictitious audience sounds it attempts to tell the viewer what is supposedly funny, sad, or any other human emotion. I’m sorry. That’s an insult to my intelligence.
Our Uncle Joe was the first person I knew to purchase this new-fangeld thing called television. Every Saturday night our whole family would load up in the car and drive twenty plus mile to his home to watch Saturday Night Wrestling on a small and grainy grey and white picture. And it was the highlight of our week. Finally we purchased our own television. A state-of-the-art 14 inch beauty. As far as I was concerned, we had died and gone to heaven!
At that time television went off the air at around midnight. It would end with a voice saying, “This is the end of today’s broadcast. We hope you will join us again tomorrow morning. Goodnight.” Then would come the playing of the national anthem while the flag waved and fighter jets roared across the grey and white screen. And then came the stationary picture of “the test tube.” This somewhat looked like a target, with the bust of an Indian chief in the middle. It was a still photo that did nothing but look back at me until programming returned sometime the next morning. And when we first had our new television, and when not on a school night …I would stare at that Indian chief for an hour or more, listening to nothing but the snowy sounds of the audio static. God’s honest truth! As is today, television mesmerized me.
Then came color television. In the beginning only a few programs were broadcast in color. And they would flaunt their opening introduction with a cartoonish peacock spreading a colored tail, and the announcer proudly saying, “This program is coming to you in living color!” Yeah right! The first color televisions had all the color clarity of a child’s water coloring, blotched and blurred. And there were other problems.
Because the color had a tendency to slide off to the bottom of the television screen, leaving behind a black and white picture, part of the purchaser’s package was a magnet that one put close to the television screen and slid across it, smearing the color back to its original locations. God’s honest truth! But blurry and unrealistic or not, we marveled at this scientific breakthrough. If one couldn’t afford a color television, which was quite spendy in its day, there was an alternative option. You could buy a plastic sheet that clung to the television screen. This transparent plastic had rows of different colors. Who cared that they didn’t have anything to do with the moving scenery and characters behind it…It was color on the television screen! If I’m liein, I’m diein!
The first televisions had a rabbit eared antennae. The roof mounted models came later. But the human mind is an ingenious object. We found if we hung wads of tinfoil on the ears of the antennae we got better reception. In some cases of severe bad reception we took turns holding the antennae which also seemed to add to picture quality, which, by today’s standards, wasn’t saying much. At best, most programs were like watching a picture through falling snow flakes, with a few zig-zag distortions thrown in from time to time. Adding to the problem, anything electrical being operated in the house, or maybe even the next door neighbor’s house could send the picture into conniptions. Some cars and trucks driving by outside could have the same effect. But this was all just something one lived with. Hey, it was the best technology we knew at the time!
Next true story….The Beginning Of Video Games!