February 17th…“TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOWS AS A CHILD”
I was just hooking up the last suspender of my bib overalls as I approached the old black and white television set that sat in the corner of our little Living Room on our farm in southern Minnesota. You young folk might wonder what I mean by the term, “black and white”. Well, that’s the only two colors that TVs could emit in those days. Color televisions were still in their infancy and only the rich folk could afford those.
Matter of fact, in my finite childhood mind, I thought life must have been pretty dull in the old days, since I only saw life depicted as just “black & white” on the television’s screen. Back to the story. As I turned the knob, in the upper corner, you could hear a click and then a series of electronic groans, zoinks and crackling could be heard inside the appliance as it came to life and eventually would produce a visual image on the screen. The knob to the left corner was the channel selector. Even though there were usually about 12 numbers on the dial, I seem to remember that we had only about three television stations in our area to choose from.
Contrary to today’s high technology, the only way we could get a picture to the television set was via a very tall metal pole antenna that stood even higher than our two story farm home. The pole was attached by metal clamps to the side of the house so that we could use a handle (on the pole) to swing the sky high antenna one direction or another. There, on the south side of the house, if you turned the pole of the tall roof antenna just to the right direction, you’d be lucky to get a half decent image to come across the television screen there inside the Living Room. On many occasions, either myself or sister would be sent outside to turn the tall pole antenna while one of our parents would yell instructions from inside the house to turn the antenna “more to the left, or more to the right” till they were satisfied with the television’s picture quality.
It wasn’t just the marvel of electronic wiring inside this appliance box called television that fascinated me, instead, it was the magic of what awaited me on the screen of this device that drew me to adventures of fantasy in my favorite cartoons, other children’s programming and on into the parental favorites of my dad’s Western shows and family variety shows like “The Ed Sullivan Show” or “The Lawrence Welk Show”.
It just wasn’t Saturday night without the family tradition of enjoying “The Lawrence Welk Show” together. Sometimes, Mom would even bring out the TV trays and we’d all settle into the Living Room so that we could eat our supper and be entertained at the same time by Lawrence and his “musical family”. Wholesome entertainment, at its best, was the music and dancing brought to us each week there in our cozy farm house. Many years later, when our family lived in Washington State, I’d go over to Mom’s retirement apartment every Saturday evening to have supper, reminisce and watch one of the great reruns of the Welk Show that were then being broadcast over PBS (Public Broadcasting System).
Long before Sesame Street (and other children’s programs) ever aired, there was the fun of “The Captain Kangaroo Show”. The “Captain” had giant pockets in his suit jacket, so that’s where the “kangaroo” part of his name came into play. He would pull amazing things from those pockets for either a “show and tell” or to illustrate a story he was about to read to us. There were puppets to watch, craft projects he’d do, cartoons to see (like “Tom Terrific”). Of course, Captain’s good friend, “Mr. Green Jeans” was always there to engage in the playtime, as well. The mythical clubhouse this all occurred in was known as the Captain’s “Treasure House”. Even the program’s theme music (called “Puffin’ Billy”) still sticks sweetly in my mind to this day.
On another of our father’s favorite TV shows, Marshall Matt Dillon, in all of his tall, male elegance, is seen slowly walking and stalking down the center of a wide street in Dodge City, Kansas. As the intro music intensifies, the steeled look in his eyes tells the viewers that, at the other end of this street, there is a villainous character threatening the peace of this western town. At the peak of tension-filled music, Marshall Dillon uses lightning speed to pull his six gun and fires at the evil figure to end this gun fight and start another episode of “Gunsmoke”. Our dear father, Russell, was transfixed with all that had to do with the Old West. Therefore, it was another television tradition to watch “Gunsmoke” every Saturday night together as a family.
This list of favorite television shows could go on and on, but I want to take an opportunity to say “THANK YOU” to our local TV man, Mr. Jim Engebretson, for supplying our sweet hometown with televisions and repair services over many of my young years!!! Whereas, my brother and sister’s generation had enjoyed old time radio, it was my generation that was weaned and preened by the new medium of television and all it held for being the imagination station for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.