Conklin: TV viewing, from then to now


Since I am going to write something about TV, I will start from the first time I saw it. That unforgettable day was in 1947 when I went across North Sandusky Street into a little store.

The whole store was just one room that had been added on to a house. Ironically it was called “Morehouse’s.” There it was — a TV set that was turned on. It had a very small screen and was sitting on the counter near the cash register. The picture was very snowy, and the sound had a lot of static, but I could tell that a woman was talking to some puppets. It was called ‘Kukla , Fran and Ollie.’

What a miracle it was to first see it with my own eyes! As soon as my siblings saw it, we wished we had a TV, too. We could tell when anyone on our street got a TV just by looking at the roof of their house to see if they had a TV antenna. Those homes were also buying TV dinners and eating off of TV trays, so as not to miss a minute of anything that was on.

Fortunately, soon we had our own antenna on our roof. We were living high. Anyone remembering back that far will remember that TV stations didn’t come on the air until about 4 p.m. and signed off by either 11 p.m. or midnight.

Some people would be eating their supper in the kitchen, and leave their TV running in the living room. That’s because we were told it was hard on the TV tubes to be turning them on and off a lot. Speaking of those tubes, if the TV didn’t work, all we had to do was to look inside from the back, pick out the tube that wasn’t lit up, pull it out, run down to Moore’s Store on South Sandusky Street, get a new tube that matched the number on the old one, bring it home and put in where it belonged, and Voila’ the TV was working again.

Today, if your TV doesn’t work, you just buy a new one. That’s because we are told it would cost more to fix it, than to buy a new one.

So, what else was on except ‘Kukla Fran and Ollie’? Fifteen-minute segments of a Perry Como show come to mind. By 1948, Milton Berle, aka Uncle Milty, was on every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. with his show put on by Texaco. He was live, as most all shows were back then. Wildly funny, for sure.

I don’t like to be reminded, but late in the evenings, professional wrestling matches were on. The wrestlers had names such as Gorgeous George, Don Eagle and Kay Bell. I didn’t like that type of program at all. I went to work one day and mentioned to Judge Henry Wolf that I didn’t like that wrestler with the name of ‘Kay Bell.’ I lived to regret that I ever said that, because Judge Wolf called me ‘KayBell’ from that day on.

Other people who heard him call me by that name, started calling me that name, too. I don’t miss not being called that name anymore, but I do miss the people who used to call me “KayBell.”

A popular show of the week, that began in 1952, was “Your Hit Parade.” That’s where the top 10 songs of each week were played every Saturday at either 8 or 9 p.m. I think the song, “This Old House” sung by Rosemary Clooney, was number one for at least 10 weeks in a row.

I don’t have to write anything about how today’s TV is different from when it first come out. It was invented years before we ever heard of it, but I read that when Milton Berle came on every week, the purchases of TV sets skyrocketed. Soon the soaps started up, and the TV news shows got more competitive as time went on.

There were only 3 choices of stations: ABC, NBC, and CBS. (Recently, I read that the more choices you have of anything, the more bored you become. Could that be why TV remotes are so popular?)

Speaking of news, who can ever forget when Walter Cronkite took off his glasses, looked up at a clock and announced that President Kennedy had just died (and he gave the exact minute) on Nov. 22, 1963? And that was the first time I heard the expression that “everyone knew where they were and what they were doing at that minute.” I know I do.

To end on a much lighter note, I think that one of the best written 1/2-hour comedies was “Frasier.” (I just found that I can watch some old reruns of his show on my computer. I plan to do that very soon, since there’s nothing on cable that I like.)

Also, the series of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez shows were very popular. Even now, in 2017, their series of TV shows is said to be on TV somewhere in the world every hour of every day. I don’t think I’ll ever forget when Lucy and Ethel were working in a candy factory and trying to keep up with the conveyer belt as it was speeding by.

Just think, because of reruns, there are persons right now, somewhere the world, laughing because of Lucille Ball. (Or in my case, Kelsey Grammer, aka Dr. Frasier Crane.)

Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.

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