The good old days of early TV |

The good old days of early TV

Gary Lindstrom

I think I am not old until the conversation turns to life before television. Most of you can’t remember it.

Television did not come to the remote parts of Iowa until around 1950. I am sure it existed somewhere in Iowa before then, but we did not have it where I lived.

My first recollection of TV was the one set in town at the appliance dealer’s. It seemed as if the entire town would go to his showroom to see this modern miracle. We would gather with the large crowd on Saturday nights to watch wrestling from Chicago. Gorgeous George and Vern Gagne were two of the favorites. This was when we all were naive and still believed it was real. Not set up. Not planned with a winner and loser predetermined.

Later, when the very wealthy people in town had sets, we would go to their doors and ask if we could come in to watch TV. They would oblige every time and allow several dirty, sweaty and sticky kids to sit quietly on the floor of their living room in front of the set. I was way into adulthood when I finally realized the gift they had given me.

I had Boy Scouts on Tuesday night and, after the meeting, we would all stay to watch Milton Berle on the “Texaco Hour”. Black and white with the sound and picture that would fade in and out constantly. The station was more than 100 miles away, in Ames.

It seemed like it was many years later when a TV was finally in my own house. It was not, of course, but it seemed that way. We had a TV in the living room in the same place for nearly 40 years. The same place we watched “American Bandstand” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

I remember going outside to turn the antenna on the pole while my dad yelled instructions. It was a mystery to me, because the transmitter did not move, and neither did our house. Why would you turn the antenna to get a better picture?

Both of my parents smoked, and they had their places in front of the TV. My mother was always at the end of the couch with her cigarettes and ashtray, and my dad was always in his recliner with his cigarettes and a floor ashtray close by. Both would be glued to the TV most of the time. My mother would deny she ever watched TV but could tell you every plot of every show.

I remember my dad watching cartoons on Saturday morning until he died at age 76. TV was about all there was for my dad for many years. It was his alpha and omega. His beginning and end each day.

Today I view television as a large toilet. Considering my childhood, you would think I would feel different. I never watch any prime time network shows. I will watch news programs, CNN, CSPAN, PBS, Discovery Channel, History Channel and the Travel Channel.

I have not watched a football game or a sports event in many years. I am just not interested. Reminds me of a critic who once said the popularity of “The Beverly Hillbillies” was the result of its being mindless. You did not have to think to watch it. You could literally shut off your brain and watch it.

I am an information sink and probably could talk intelligently about almost any current event.

I am one of those irritating people who will have three TVs on at the same time, with all of them on different news channels.

Maybe it reminds me of mom and dad.

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