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|06-28-2010, 02:56 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 13, 2003
Location: Carthage, NC
Rabbit Ears and 12-Inch Screens: Black-and-White TVs Ushered in a New Culture
Kids playing in the streets were seldom seen after television was introduced to our neighborhood in the 1950s. Even the adults gave up their early evening porch-to-porch banter when television came into their homes.
Some families had the deluxe, console floor models. Others, short of living room space, opted for the smaller table-top sets. No matter what the size, the black-and-white viewing screens were only 12 inches, and they all came with a weird-looking contraption called "rabbit ears."
Quite often, a local thunderstorm would interrupt the television air waves, and the picture had to be refocused. A designated finagler would adjust the flexible rabbit ear antennas up or down, right or left, as the viewing audience reported the reception results — move by move.
Interference from trucks
I don't know why, but our television had a demonic aversion to Ford trucks. Whenever one passed our house, the television screen was attacked by a blizzard of snow and buzzing static. A trip to the rabbit ears was required to rid the set of its evil spell. Fine-tuning the picture was a nuisance, but we were so enthralled with television that we just considered it a necessary step.
It was unusual for all of us to sit in one room and not experience loud chatter and sibling spats, but silence prevailed when the television's dial was twisted to "on." In the beginning, we could not argue about which channel to watch because there was only one broadcasting station, and a hypnotizing test pattern appeared on the screen at 10 p.m. to signify the end of the day's broadcasting.
By the time we had television, cowboy shows dominated Saturday mornings. We would watch the adventures of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Wild Bill Hickok and the Cisco Kid. Back then, we had our very own Triple Cities pseudo-cowboy hero: Bill Parker.
TV Binghamton style
He hosted the "TV Ranch Club" at the Arlington Hotel television studio. He told funny riddles to his young guests and made them feel at ease before the huge camera and blinding lights beamed in on their nervous faces. When the cowboy phase waned, Mr. Parker became our respected "Officer Bill," and every scouting group was hoping for a special invitation to join him. And long before late-night television talk shows became popular, Ralph Carroll was reporting local tidbits and conversational opinions on his mid-morning show. His relaxed manner and wry humor earned him a profound respect from his peers and the first slot as a local newscaster.
Adults no longer gathered around the radio to listen to "The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour" and "The Arthur Godfrey Show." Television brought them as live guests to their living rooms. Dads claimed the television set when the "Friday Night Fights," wrestling and baseball games were aired.
Local connectionsShows for kids
At one time or another, every age group had a favorite show. Little tykes watched the first cartoon show, "Tom and Jerry," "The Howdy Doody Show" and "Captain Kangaroo." Grade-schoolers would get frustrated if the television acted up and they missed the sing-along "M-I-C-K-E-Y- M-O-U-S-E choral introduction, while waiting for the next adventure of "Spin and Marty." Teenage dancers had their 15 minutes of fame on Channel 12's version of TV Bandstand, and soon-to-be-graduates of high school could preview the latest formal gowns on Drazen's "Fashions for Milady" program.
The first comedy and variety shows were family events in our house. After "The Life of Riley" came "Our Miss Brooks," Jackie Gleason's "Honeymooners" and Milton Berle and Red Skeleton's "Clem Kadiddlehopper." Prerecorded taping had not been invented and all the guffaws and controversies of the shows elicited a few laughs or national news. A slip of the tongue, a fallen prop on the "I Remember Mama" show and the disagreement between Mario Lanza and Arthur Godfrey definitely humanized the broadcasts.
Big news ran rampant in the newspapers when "The $64,000 Question" scandal broke and everyone watched mesmerized when "I've Got a Secret" featured Binghamton pediatrician Dr. Mary Ross' feat of delivering over 1,000 babies. Of course, Binghamton son Rod Serling's, "Twilight Zone" was a must- see television show.
Black-and-white television technology improved every year, and fussing with the rabbit ears was no longer an hourly requirement — until new frequencies were added to the television air waves.
First-generation television owners had to purchase rabbit ears with an attached "converter box" contraption. Viewers had to turn a switch from one frequency to another to tune in on the multiple channels and then fidget with the rabbit ears to catch an available wave. Competition among the channels gave us a variety of programs, and it wasn't long before the peace and quiet our mother once enjoyed turned into squabbles over which channel to watch.
One TV for all
Taking turns became the rule of the house before anyone could place their rickety, metal TV trays — loaded with bowls of stovetop, butter-slathered popcorn — in front of the TV. By the time color television was invented, we had kids of our own and no longer had to fuss with antennas. Instead, we spent hours trying to explain to them why green grass was blue, and blue skies were green.
Grandparents of today could have never imagined 24-hour broadcasts, oodles of cable programs, vivid colors and staying on the couch to choose a channel. Although one thing is for sure, we can relish the fact that we were the first to see little Ricky Ricardo's birth event, Bill Cullen as the first host of "The Price is Right," Jack Benny's miserly ways, the first political debate and a man landing on the moon.
We may not be able to recall what year a television show ran or on what network, but I bet most of us can name all the cowboys' horses. There was Roy and Trigger, Dale and Buttermilk, Gene and Champion, Hopalong and Topper, Lone Ranger and Silver, Tonto and Scout, Wild Bill and Buckshot and Cisco Kid's Diablo.
"It's the way things are. A big tree falls and a new one grows right out of the same ground. Old animals die and young ones take their places. Even people step aside when it's time."
(R.G. Armstrong as the Contractor in The Twilight Zone episode "Nothing in the Dark")
|06-28-2010, 11:15 AM||#2|
God Bless Val
Join Date: May 29, 2006
Location: Bewitched in Ohio
I still remember our old TV with the rabbit ears.
"Jesus loves you and He approves this message."
"I'm alive. I'm feeling good. I'm trying to live every moment as much as I can." - Valerie Harper, March 2013
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