TV viewing habits have changed dramatically over the past 60 years. Today, there are hundreds of channels that can be watched from a plethora of types of TVs, streaming devices, computers, cell phones, and more.
We can view programming at any time of the day or night, and movies, podcasts and videos can be streamed on demand. News programming is often based on political persuasion. Programming can be found for most areas of sports, arts, nature, medicine, types of movies, and more. It seems that today there is a channel for every topic imaginable.
Most viewers have widescreen high-definition color sets with surround sound. Signals reach us via Wi-Fi, cable and satellite dishes. Few young people even understand how an antenna works.
Now let’s go back in time to the 1950s. Our family’s first television was a 19-inch black-and-white Admiral television.
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The TV had a rounded picture tube and sometimes took several minutes to warm up before the screen showed any light. This television was the pride of our region since it was one of the few available.
My dad traded in a yearling steer for the 1952 Admiral Console model television. The television had an antenna commonly known as rabbit ears. Unfortunately, our house was at the base of Hogan’s Mountain, and only one channel’s television signal reached the rabbit’s ears. Our attempts to tune to other channels resulted in varying degrees of black blurring that moved with a static background.
My father and grandfather were big fans of Friday night boxing matches. Alas, the boxing matches were broadcast on a different channel from the one our station received.
Not to be outdone, we went to Hickory to buy an antenna. The antenna was mounted on three lengths of metal pipe. A flange was fitted to the side of the house and the base of the pipe was inserted into a larger pipe which allowed the antenna to be turned by hand. We even had a pair of gloves to wear to ward off the metal cold in the winter. You had to roll up the window and yell at the person turning the pipe to let them know when the chain was visible.
Later we bought a device called Alliance Roto Tuner which automatically rotated the antenna to align with the direction of the TV channels. I still remember the hum as the box made “grow and click” sounds to align with the direction of the TV station’s signal.
I guess you could say we had TV nights on our farm. Since we were one of the few families with a television, people came to visit our farm just to watch television shows.
My parents were very confident at the time. If we had visitors watching a show and my parents wanted to go to bed, they would get up and tell the person to turn off the TV and close the door when they left. They would then go to bed with people who were still watching their televisions.
When there was a historical or special program, seating in the lounge was limited. I remember people standing outside watching the program through the window.
The oldest television program at the beginning was the test model. For the uninformed, the television channels did not broadcast in the wee hours of the morning. I remember the voice of Jim Patterson saying welcome at the start of our viewing day on WBTV, Channel 3, in Charlotte broadcasting in “such and such” megahertz from the top of Crowder’s Mountain.
Each member of the family had favorite TV shows. The boys’ favorites were shows such as ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘Davy Crocket’, ‘Route 66’, ‘Leave It to Beaver’, ‘Lassie’, ‘Howdy Doody’ and ‘Have Gun – Will Travel. ”
We will never forget the opening bars of the William Tell Overture and the announcer saying, “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a warm Hi Ho Silver!”
Davy Crocket and his raccoon skin hat created a marketing frenzy for young boys who just had to have a hat like their hero. The “Route 66” soundtrack also called the boys on the adventure of the open road and sporty cars.
Older men liked “Gunsmoke”, “Rawhide”, and “Bonanza”. The sound of the whip in Rawhide rolling these “doggies” made the heart race for the open spaces. Ms. Kitty, Chester, Matt Dillon and Doc provided early west character studies. Ben Cartwright’s character provided skills to address the energy imitated by young men.
The ladies loved the shows featuring Art Linkletter, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan and Betty Feezor. The kids really said the “craziest things”. Red Skelton’s characterizations brought a lot of laughs on the long winter nights. Ed Sullivan brought all kinds of varied entertainment. The Beatles scandal and their appearance on his show fueled many sermons about the degraded moral development of youth. And who can forget Elvis’ swinging hips! Betty Feezor has provided ladies with wonderful recipes to improve their cooking skills.
It may be time for TV moguls to revise programming to include shows of similar quality to those of the 50s and 60s. The tastes of today’s viewers are likely precluding a return to those early days of programming. .
And who would want to go out to change the TV signal or even get up from their chair to change the channel?
Warren Hollar is a retired Alexander County Schools Administrator.