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Tuned In

All of us have memories of our “firsts:” our first kiss, our first love, our first job, etc. A happy memory of mine is the day we got our first TV, in 1955.

The back story: my parents, frugal as always, were the last people in the neighborhood to get a TV. Luckily, the Edmonson’s, up the street, bought the first one. Long-suffering Mrs. Edmonson had to wade through a sea of kids in her Living Room who were engrossed in Boston Blackie or Lassie every night. Sometimes she made popcorn, and at least one of us would create a popcorn avalanche on her rug. She was probably as happy as we were when the neighbors began to get their own sets.

Fast forward to my return from school one fall afternoon when our new Philco TV, costing $219, arrived. I could hardly contain myself as the deliveryman wheeled in the monster console, almost as big as our fridge. Since my dad had thoughtfully hired a tall antennae tower installed in our side yard, we didn’t need hardware on the roof or rabbit ears on top of the set. So the delivery man wired it to the tower, plugged in the set, turned it on, and “Captain Video” appeared, as he would every weekday at 4 pm.

I was in heaven! Suddenly my world grew bigger. Maybe one day I’d have the beautiful dresses that Loretta Young whirled around in as she welcomed us to her show. Or maybe I could be funny like Betty White on “Life with Elizabeth.” I knew I didn’t want to get into the scrapes that Lucy did, angering Ricky, even though we thought them hilarious.

My dad reigned supreme as he watched “Saturday Night at the Fights.” Mom and I sat there, bored to tears, as he dozed in his chair. Like a commando at war, I’d sneak up quietly and switch the channels to something we wanted, like Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music-Makers. I especially liked the beginning, with all the bubbles onscreen while he polkaed away. The only problem: changing the channels made a loud clicking sound which always woke Dad. “What are you doing?? I was watching that.” “Okaaay,” I’d sigh and change the channel back.

Eventually we found programs we all liked: Gunsmoke, Palladin (Have Gun, Will Travel) and Dragnet with Joe Friday: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Although I never stayed up that late, both of our stations signed off at midnight, after playing the National Anthem, with the flag waving onscreen. Then came the test pattern followed by snow.

That Old School memory of our TV joy will always be with me, despite the sophisticated fare and extensive choices we have today.


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