Black and white TV

November 25, 2013

I was watching a TV broadcast yesterday and one of the men on the show was talking a bit about what television was like when he was a kid. It made me recall all sorts of things that I want to remind you of if you are of the age. First, everything was in black, white and gray. It amazes me now to hear people talk about watching the parades on Thanksgiving when they were kids… we didn’t seem to notice that you couldn’t see any color. All the flowers, floats and massive balloons were… GRAY!

We had a console television that was more a piece of furniture than it was a TV… that being said… I have no memory of it ever working. We watched the “portable” television that sat on top of the console. I know, I know… why didn’t we get rid of the broken one… or get it fixed? I can only surmise that it was not the thing to do back then. I only think that because I have talked to too many folks who also had a “piece of furniture console” that didn’t work. And “portable” was a misnomer! It was “portable” like your refrigerator is portable.

Like most families in the U.S. back in the 60’s we had a pair of pliers beside the television. Why? Well to change the channel and turn it on and off when the buttons broke… which they inevitably did. We also had the rabbit ears with the obligatory aluminum foil that worked particularly well when someone actually stood beside the television and held the “ears.”

Do you remember “horizontal control”? Yeah me too! That maddening phenomenon with televisions back then that caused the picture to scroll from bottom to top or vice a versa. You had to have a micrometer to adjust the control button so that it actually stopped scrolling and didn’t just go in reverse.

We got 5 stations where I lived… well let me qualify that… we got 5 stations when the weather allowed for it, when the planets and stars were in alignment, when someone held the rabbit ears, when the ice cream man wasn’t playing some tune that would disrupt our reception… There were the 3 main networks, channel 13 which is now usually referred to as “public television” and something called UHF which no one in my house ever watched. Well, we didn’t watch “public television” either. (Sorry, Mr. Rogers.)

Saturday morning was kid time – Cartoons, Tarzan, Roy Rodgers, Rin Tin Tin, Sky King, Fury and others. I spent many hours of my youth watching these shows while eating graham crackers mashed up with milk… my sisters and I called it “mush.” It was a staple of my childhood. I’m guessing Nabisco sent my mother a “thank you” note each month. J

I’m not a big fan of television consumption. I still watch more of it than I would like or like to admit… mostly old shows Ellen and I get on Netflix. But I have to confess… some of my greatest and most comforting moments were spent sitting in front of a television set with my family. Like most folks in the U.S. we watched The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan with Mary Martin every year. My father and I watched Paladin religiously. I can remember like it was yesterday the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 and my dad making all sorts of snide remarks… I think it might have been the beginning of me moving away from his thoughts and values… I mean, how could someone not like the Beatles?!?!

And of course I, like the rest of the country, sat in front of our television for days, transfixed, after the assassination of President Kennedy. We were glued to the screens wondering what sort of information would be uncovered next… or whether the Russians were really going to invade. We watched live as Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down in the police station in Dallas, Texas. (It was Sunday morning… my family didn’t do church back then)

I remember the first time I saw a color television. I was spellbound! My grandfather was visiting a friend in Mt Lebanon and I was with him. He and his friend were playing pool in the basement and I was sitting on the steps waiting. I was probably 9. I could hear the television at the top of the steps so I crept up to take a look through the partially opened door. I was stunned to see color! I knew color televisions existed but to actually see one! I didn’t “get” the reference to “a horse of a different color” in the Wizard of Oz until I was an adult and saw the movie in color for the first time. Black and white has its limitations. J

You may have guessed from these ruminations, if you read them regularly, that I like to reminisce. I’m not sure why. I tend to have a decent memory for things… partly because I am a story teller and I recall events regularly.   I wonder in the context of Christian faith… what sort of things do we remember.

  • Do we remember the first time God was “real” to us? I mean outside of childhood faith where everything is “real”… God, monsters, fairy tales…
  • Do we remember times when there was no doubt in us as to the existence of God?
  • Do we remember very clear intimate moments with God?
  • Do we remember Sunday School teachers who discipled and cared for us? Teachers who were maybe our first examples and models of Christian adults?
  • Do we remember friends who allowed us to feel our first tinge of “Christian community”?
  • Do we remember youth groups that made us feel like we were a part of “something.”?
  • Do we remember committing to reading our Bibles every day? J
  • Do we remember praying and knowing “someone” was listening?
  • Do we remember thinking pastors were…well…uh… strange? Truth be told… they ARE!

Well, this list could go on and on… Take some time to recall your history in the faith. You might remember some things that will inspire you.

Blessings and have a memorable Thanksgiving!!

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