It amazes me sometimes to think about the things we take for granted in today’s world. We talk, text or email people around the world from a little device we carry in our pockets. We scroll through hundreds of channels looking for a show to watch on television. Or to DVR so we can watch it later.
But it wasn’t always so. . . .
The first time I saw a television was in 1948. I was five years old, and the family of a friend of mine from kindergarten got one. I don’t even remember his name, but they lived in the next block down from us, so I went down to see what it was all about.
He took me to their living room, which was in the back of the house, and showed me a big boxy piece of furniture. He pulled a lid in the top of it up to a 45 degree angle, and I saw a mirror on the underside of it. Then he showed me a glass thingy (screen) built into the top and aimed straight up.
My friend turned the machine on, and a picture appeared in the mirror. We actually watched whatever was on in the mirror rather than on the screen. I’ve never seen another one built like that.
I remember sitting there looking at the image in the mirror and wondering how they got the people inside that box. It was all so new and confusing.
My Dad brought our first television home on my sixth birthday. I think the reason for that timing was that my mother was in the hospital, having delivered my brother Bill the day before, and Dad snuck the tv into the house when she wasn’t watching.
The television above looks somewhat like our first one, but the picture is incomplete. We had no cable or satellite back then. In fact, we didn’t even have an antenna on the roof.
We had rabbit ear antennas sitting on top of the set. They were bulkier and more cumbersome than the ones shown here, and we constantly had to move them around trying to get them in an optimum position to receive a picture.
Of course, there was no such thing as a remote control back then. We got up and walked over to the set to turn it on or off or change channels or turn the volume up or down. There was no mute, no pause.
What we did have that televisions are missing nowadays were a couple of dials for horizontal and vertical control. Ugh! Frequently the picture would just arbitrarily begin to scroll up or down. Then we’d have to get up and go fiddle with the vertical control knob, which was conveniently placed on the back of the set so you couldn’t see the picture while you adjusted it. Don’t know whose idea that was.
Horizontal control wasn’t quite as big a problem. For some reason the picture liked scrolling up or down much more than sideways.
When we first turned the set on, we got to wait for all the tubes to warm up before we got any picture. That wait was eliminated by solid-state equipment, but guess what—my new hi-def television has to warm up or something for a few seconds before it shows a picture. Well, that’s a different story.
Once we got the picture to come on, if we were too early we got to watch a test pattern until the station signed on for the day. I don’t remember the hours, but they were not 24/7 like these days.
We didn’t mind the inconveniences all that much, because we didn’t know any better. To us, it was a fantastic invention, but one we didn’t use all that much at first.
There were usually neighborhood kids around wanting to play football or softball or ride bicycles or something. After supper, we’d go back outside and play Red Rover or Mother May I or catch lightening bugs. Who had time to watch television?
Except for Saturday mornings. Then we had Don Winslow, The Lone Ranger and Sky King. Flash Gordon was in there somewhere, but I don’t remember when it was on.
We were really deprived back then—but fortunately we didn’t know it.
Ø What are some of your favorite childhood memories?
Ø What television shows did you watch growing up?
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Ah, the good old test pattern. Every time I see a picture of a bulls’ eye I think of that. I recall the television party that Mimi let us have … must have been while Mom was still in the hospital … don’t know about that. She even bought some of those maple nut candies for our party, and the neighborhood kids were delighted, as were we. I think Dad had a pattern of doing sneaky things while Mom was in the hospital giving birth. He sent out my birth announcements without consulting her …. so she had no choice in my name.
Always good to get your slant on things we both remember. Thanks.
Ah, those memories rattled my own cage. That vertical movement drove me nuts! My parents bought a tv in 1949. I can still see the bull’s eye for the testing pattern. It’s a shame that tvs are so complicated now that I have to have my husband assist me when using it. Keep up the interesting blogging, David. Love you – Wife
Always looks like I’m commenting on my own blog when you use my email address. Oh, well.
Nice nice post. I remember our first color television. Second grade, came home from school and the parents–silly things–had it turned on, and didn’t say a word to us about getting it. I remember so well walking in and first odd thing was my dad was home. WHAT? Dad not at work? He never took off. And then I saw it! OH MY GOSH! WOW! I have a picture somewhere of me with it that day, just staring and staring….
Ahh, the good ol days!!
Thanks, Carolyn. Memories from youth are sweet for all of us.